Pale Rider (Blu-ray) (1985)

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Released 3-Mar-2009

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Western Theatrical Trailer
Trailer-Unforgiven
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1985
Running Time 115:46
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Programme
Region Coding 4 Directed By Clint Eastwood
Studio
Distributor

Warner Home Video
Starring Clint Eastwood
Michael Moriarty
Carrie Snodgress
Christopher Penn
Richard Dysart
Sydney Penny
John Russell
Case Standard Blu-ray
RPI $19.95 Music Lennie Niehaus


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1
English Dolby TrueHD 5.1
French Dolby Digital 1.0
German Dolby Digital 1.0
Italian Dolby Digital 1.0
German Dolby Digital 2.0
Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio 2.40:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
English for the Hearing Impaired
French
German
German for the Hearing Impaired
Italian
Italian for the Hearing Impaired
Spanish
Dutch
Spanish
Portuguese
Danish
Finnish
Norwegian
Portuguese
Swedish
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

     The storied career of Clint Eastwood would make a fascinating subject for a biopic. One film he made in the mid-1980s, Pale Rider, is a fascinating subject in and of itself.

     Based upon remarks about proposed bans on hydraulic mining, Pale Rider has been dated in terms of setting in the 1880s, just before the landmark decision in Edwards Woodruff v. North Bloomfield Mining and Gravel Company (1884), which declared that hydraulic mining was "a public and private nuisance". After a scene in which a mob of rogues terrorise a group of pan miners, a fourteen year old girl living among them, Megan Wheeler (Sydney Penny) delivers one of the best manglings of the Lord's Prayer I have heard in my lifetime. And I speak as a boy whose peers creatively did this every week at school.

     Megan's prayer boils down to begging for intervention, that someone will come along and put right the fact that a big businessman from town, Coy LaHood (Richard Dysart) is seemingly allowed to harass and shoot at the community without reprisal. So as the pan miners' leader, a stubborn man by the name of Hull Barret (Michael Moriarty), goes into town, an answer to Megan's prayers comes along. As several of LaHood's thugs come and attempt to beat Hull down, a tall man who ends up known only as "Preacher" (Clint Eastwood) comes along and knocks a few bells out of the thugs. Hull offers Preacher a place to stay as a token of his thanks. As Hull debates the merits of offering sanctuary to a gunfighter with Megan's mother, Sarah (Carrie Snodgress), the Preacher joins them for dinner in attire that makes it clear that he really is… a Preacher. After Coy's son Josh (Christopher Penn) comes to check the Preacher out with a thug called Club (Richard Kiel) in tow, and the Preacher beats the latter away with a couple of quick but well-placed hits, the pan-miners rally around the Preacher. When Coy comes back to town and asks for a report on how successful the efforts to drive the pan-miners away have proven, however, things escalate.

     This story is pretty straightforward even for a Western, so I will describe the rest in as little detail as I possibly can. The main drive for the rest of the story is that Coy, after a discussion with the Preacher, offers a thousand dollars in exchange for each of the pan-miners' claims. He issues a counter-threat that if the pan-miners are not gone within twenty-four hours, he will hire a corrupt Marshal by the name of Stockburn (John Russell) to clear them out. The miners argue about it, ask the Preacher for advice, and after he and Hull both make it pretty clear what this story is actually about, elect to stay in spite of LaHood's thuggery. Several scenes of showdowns as only Clint Eastwood can direct follow.

     With today's climate of big business fighting for their "right" to act like thugs at the expense of everyone else, especially the most vulnerable amongst us, Pale Rider is at least as relevant now as it was when first released. It was a success both at the box office and on home video, with the North American theatrical gross being very slightly more than six times its shooting budget. Critical praise for the film was also very high, with Roger Ebert even closing his review by stating that "he |that is, Eastwood| understands so well how he works on the screen that the movie has a resonance that probably was not even there in the screenplay". Then there is the disc it is presented on…

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Transfer Quality

Video

     Pale Rider is presented in the aspect ratio of 2.35:1 within a 1920 by 1080 progressive window.

     The transfer is sharp. It shows every one of its now twenty-seven years, that is for sure, but close-ups of actors like Eastwood, Penny, and Russell reveal an amount of detail you will not find on any other medium. Shadow detail is pretty average, and grain appears in night-time shots to a moderate degree. Noise is not really evident in the transfer otherwise. The colours in the film follow a pretty natural palette. The transfer renders this accurately, tending toward undersaturation. No bleeding or misregistration is evident.

     The transfer is compressed in the VC-1 codec. The IMDB's technical information page has it that the film was shot in Panavision's anamorphic process, so the blurring of backgrounds appears to be natural. Aliasing is not a problem, although one shot involving the side of a train at 59:57 does threaten to break out in this artefact for a fraction of a second. Telecine wobble occurs early in the opening credits, and throughout the closing, but is otherwise not evident. Film artefacts are small in size and frequency, with the worst occurring in the opening and closing credits.

     Subtitles are offered in English and English for the Hearing Impaired. The latter are pretty accurate to the spoken dialogue.

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

Audio

     Seven soundtracks are offered with this disc. The first, and default, is the original English dialogue in Dolby Digital 5.1, and the second is the original English dialogue in Dolby TrueHD with 5.1 channels. I listened to parts of the first for comparison, but there simply is no comparison. Although this film is very much a product of the mid-1980s, the separation of dialogue, music, and Foley in the TrueHD soundtrack puts it head and shoulders above the other effort.

     Dubs are also offered in French Dolby Digital 1.0, German Dolby Digital 1.0, Italian Dolby Digital 1.0, German Dolby Digital 2.0, and Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 (the latter two were stated by the player to be stereo). The packaging states that dubs are available in both Latin and Castilian Spanish 2.0, but obviously only one is actually present. Whether the Spanish soundtrack on this disc is Latin or Castilian, I cannot say, but it certainly cannot be both.

     The dialogue is remarkably clear and easy to understand for the most part in the TrueHD soundtrack. Occasional words or parts thereof become obscured at times, but this is a very minor qualification.

     The music in the film is credited to Lennie Niehaus. It is an extremely subtle beast. I was hardly aware of any music during the film itself, aside from less subtle phrasings during Megan's prayer, but the piece heard during the end credits is really something else. It sounds a lot like it belongs on a good Black Sabbath record as an intro or interlude.

     The surround channels are used sparingly for environmental sound effects, gunshot echoes, and other effects. They are not worked especially hard. The closing credits state that this film was presented theatrical with Dolby Stereo audio, so this does not come as a great surprise. The subwoofer is a little more active, picking up with a vengeance during scenes of violence. The sequence in which the hydraulic mining equipment is dynamited towards the end of the film receives the most support from the sub, but anything with gunfire gets a good helping, too. Although it stands out for infrequency, the subwoofer is well integrated with the rest of the soundtrack.

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

Extras

     The extras are extremely sparse, to say the least.

Menu

     Although a Top Menu exists, it is a single still page with only links to the trailers on this disc and a text address for Warner Bros.' Blu-ray Disc page. The Pop-Up menu is quick to respond, but the sheer number of soundtrack and subtitle options does get in the way to an extent.

Theatrical Trailer

     Presented in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio, this seventy-two second trailer is about as close a match to the actual tone of the film as a Patsy Biscoe song.

Trailer - Unforgiven

     Presented in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio, this one minute, fifty-five second trailer is a match closer match in tone to the film it was created to advertise.

R4 vs R1

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

    This is a Warners disc, so a look at the High Def Digest review did not reveal any surprises. Except that there even appears to be more soundtrack and subtitle options on offer in America. The second Spanish soundtrack appears on the Region A disc, as does a Japanese dub. Japanese subtitles also appear on the Region A disc. Ultimately, the decision as to which version of this title represents the best value for money rests with the viewer. Amazon.com does have a special at the time of this writing, with the list price being a mere eight dollars, so it is worth considering.

Summary

     I am torn in two directions when assessing Pale Rider. It is a very slow starter, and until John Russell appears in the beginning of the third act, the central hero is without any real credible antagonist. Despite this, great performances on the part of Russell and Sydney Penny as Megan lift this film well above the standard for Westerns, especially the kind that Eastwood himself helped to put out to pasture twenty years prior. The story Pale Rider tells is one of the kind that needs to be told at least once a decade.

     The video transfer is excellent, especially relative to the film's age. The audio transfer is very good, although more reflective of the film's age.

     The extras are barely a step above non-existent.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Dean McIntosh (Don't talk about my bio. We don't wanna know.)
Wednesday, February 22, 2012
Review Equipment
DVDPanasonic DMP-BD45, using HDMI output
DisplayPanasonic TH-P50U20A. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-SR606
SpeakersYamaha NS-45 Front Speakers, Yamaha NS-90 Rear Speakers, Wharfedale Xarus 1000 Rear Speakers, Yamaha NSC-120 Centre Speaker, Wharfedale Diamond SW150 Subwoofer

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