Dead Man (Directors Suite) (Blu-ray) (1995)

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Released 15-Mar-2011

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Western Main Menu Audio & Animation
Deleted Scenes
Music Video-Neil Young's "Dead Man Theme"
Theatrical Trailer-Dead Man
Teaser Trailer-Madman Trailers
Rating Rated R
Year Of Production 1995
Running Time 121:05 (Case: 115)
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Jim Jarmusch
Studio
Distributor
Fortissimo Films
Madman Entertainment
Starring Johnny Depp
Gary Farmer
Crispin Glover
Lance Henriksen
Michael Wincott
Eugene Byrd
Case Standard Blu-ray
RPI $39.95 Music Neil Young


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Unknown English Linear PCM 48/24 2.0 (4608Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

"It is preferable not to travel with a dead man" - Henri Michaux

     Way back in September 2005, I reviewed the Madman Director's Suite DVD edition of Dead Man here . Now, some six years later, Madman has released a new edition of the film - this time in the glory of 1080p on Blu-ray. The following synopsis has been taken from the aforementioned DVD review.

     The films of Jim Jarmusch are generally multi-layered reflections of differing aspects of humanity. His films have a subtle and gentle humour that seems to ride well with his philosophical tales and poetic visions. The deliberate pacing and ambiguity of his films are generally not embraced by mainstream audiences, but are devoured by lovers of art house cinema. The fact that Jarmusch had ventured into the western genre surprised many in 1995 with the release of Dead Man, although upon viewing the film you realise quickly that Dead Man is much more than a simple stereotypical western. This tragic tale of a young man's decent into personal oblivion is rich in black humour, visually stunning and is highly intelligent filmmaking. Renowned cinematographer Robby Müller again uses black and white to perfection. The surreal and haunting atmosphere he creates with the camera in Dead Man is every bit as alluring as his black and white cinematography in a previous Jarmusch film Down By Law.

     William Blake (Johnny Depp) is the prominent figure on a train bound for the end of the line, the town of Machine. Dressed impeccably in a smart suit and carrying a stylish briefcase, he is definitely the odd man out on this train. In a series of clever fade outs, Jarmusch introduces a myriad of bizarre and contrasting characters to the audience while the landscape outside the train becomes increasingly barren. This important scene is played out without any dialogue, until the train's fireman (Crispin Glover) offers William a cryptic prophecy. William arrives in Machine to take up an accounting position with Dickinson's Metal Works. However, he is informed by manager John Scholfield (John Hurt) that he is one month late and the position has been taken by one Mr Olafsen (John North). William demands to see Mr Dickinson (Robert Mitchum), the owner of the company, in an effort to sort out the misunderstanding. To the great amusement of the office staff, William is forced from the office at gun point by Mr Dickinson. Down on his luck, William hits the saloon and subsequently meets Thel (Mili Avital) who makes and sells paper roses. William is invited to Thel's room, where her ex-lover Charlie Dickinson (Gabriel Byrne) interrupts their romantic interlude. A violent exchange of gunfire ends with Charlie and Thel dead and William badly wounded. The mild mannered accountant from Cleveland is now a wanted man.

     Furious at the death of his son, John Dickinson hires three notorious killers, Cole Wilson (Lance Henriksen), Conway Twill (Michael Wincott) and Johnny "The Kid" Pickett (Eugene Byrd) to track down William Blake and present him to Dickinson, dead or alive.

     William wakes from his unconscious state to find a large Indian sitting over him, trying to remove the bullet lodged in William's chest. The Indian introduces himself as Nobody (Gary Farmer) and the two quickly establish a trusting relationship. Nobody is convinced that William is actually the spirit of the dead poet William Blake, and believes he must help deliver him back to the spirit world. Wanted posters begin appearing across the countryside and bounty hunters join the hunt for William. Apart from this, he also faces danger from three deranged possum hunters, played with great vitality by Iggy Pop, Billy Bob Thornton and Jared Harris.

     The transformation from meek accountant to hunted outlaw is emphasized by the weight of the wounds William carries, both physically and spiritually. His world becomes increasingly distant and he becomes ever more reliant on his Indian companion. The obscure prophecy of the train's fireman becomes clear as William's fate is realised.

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Transfer Quality

Video

Disclaimer: Please note that this disc has a video resolution of 1080p. It has been reviewed on a display device with a maximum native resolution of 1080i. More information can be found here.

     The Madman DVD edition of Dead Man presents the film in the correct aspect ratio of 1.85:1. Unfortunately I couldn't accurately measure the Blu-ray image. But when compared directly against the DVD, the Blu-ray frame is slightly more open, horizontally.

     This Blu-ray transfer does great justice to Robby Müller's superb black & white cinematography. As you would expect, the Blu-ray delivers greater clarity and contrast over the DVD. I still rate the DVD as a very good SD transfer, but the difference in definition between the two is obvious. Naturally, the Blu-ray exhibits a cleaner range of mono-tones, with fine shadow detail. However at times I did consider this transfer to lean slightly on the dark side. There were no MPEG artefacts. I didn't notice any of the minor film-to-video artefacts, which were evident on the DVD and film artefacts weren't an issue.

     English subtitles for the hearing impaired are available on this disc. They are in bold yellow and contrast well against the black & white image.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

     There is one audio track on this Blu-ray edition, LPCM English 2.0 (48kHz).

     Dialogue quality was excellent. I had no problems with clarity or comprehension throughout the film. There were no obvious problems with audio sync. The music score by rock legend Neil Young is a superb accompaniment to the film. Gentle acoustic and electric guitar melodies are combined with aggressive distortion to create a truly unique and interesting music score. Although it may not appeal to all tastes, Young's score is a huge asset to the surreal nature of Dead Man.

     The surround channels carried subtle ambient sound. Combining this with the spread of the music score over all channels produced a pleasant listening experience.

The subwoofer kicked in to emphasise bass elements in the score and the occasional effect.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

     Unfortunately, this Blu-ray edition contains exactly the same extras as the Madman Director's Suite DVD edition and they are all presented in standard definition.

Menu

     The menu is animated with scenes from the film and features a sample of Neil Young's score.

Outtakes / Deleted Scenes (13:06)

     This is the same collection of scenes which are included on the DVD, however they have been placed in a different running order on the Blu-ray. Most are quite poor in image quality.

Neil Young Music Video to Dead Man Theme (3:29)

     This music video features Neil Young playing guitar (mostly with his back to camera) with a selection of grabs from the film which have been integrated into the video. If you're a first time viewer of Dead Man it's worth seeing the film before you view this music video. The incorporated footage from the film could certainly be classed as spoilers.

Original Theatrical Trailer - Dead Man (2:41)

Madman Propaganda

Censorship

    There is censorship information available for this title. Click here to read it (a new window will open). WARNING: Often these entries contain MAJOR plot spoilers.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

     At the time of writing this review I could not locate a US or UK Blu-ray release of Dead Man. There is, however, a BAC French Blu-ray release of the film. This edition was released in November 2008 and features English / French audio tracks in Dolby Digital 2.0, 48 kHz / 224 Kb/s. The French Blu-ray does not contain any extras.

Summary

     Dead Man is one of the standout films in the increasing filmography of Jim Jarmusch. The surreal atmosphere is greatly enhanced by the superb black and white cinematography of Robby Müller and the music of Neil Young. The performances from the entire cast, including those in smaller cameo roles, are excellent.

     It goes without saying, the Blu-ray image is a clear improvement over the DVD release. The audio transfer is faithful to the original source.

     Unfortunately, the selection of extras is basic and offers nothing new from the DVD. Madman has presented the film nicely on Blu-ray, but it's hard to recommend a thirty dollar grade to anyone but a devotee.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Steve Crawford (Tip toe through my bio)
Tuesday, June 14, 2011
Review Equipment
DVDPanasonic DMP-BD35 Blu Ray Player, using HDMI output
DisplayHitachi 106cm Plasma Display 42PD5000MA (1024x1024). Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080i.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with THX Optimizer.
AmplificationPanasonic SA-HE70 80W Dolby Digital and DTS
SpeakersFronts: Jensen SPX7 Rears: Jensen SPX4 Centre: Jensen SPX13 Subwoofer: Jensen SPX17

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