The Day of the Jackal (1973)

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Released 14-Feb-2001

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Thriller Production Notes
Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1973
Running Time 136:38
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (64:48) Cast & Crew
Start Up Programme
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Fred Zinnemann
Studio
Distributor

Sony Pictures Home Entertain
Starring Edward Fox
Alan Badel
Tony Britton
Cyril Cusack
Michel Lonsdale
Eric Porter
Delphine Seyrig
Case Soft Brackley-Transp
RPI $36.95 Music Georges Delerue


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 1.0 (96Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 1.0 (96Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 1.0 (96Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 1.0 (96Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 1.0 (96Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
Not 16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
Portuguese
Danish
Finnish
Dutch
German
Swedish
Norwegian
Polish
Czech
French
Greek
Turkish
Hungarian
Bulgarian
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits Yes, during credits

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Plot Synopsis

    If there is one thing that I remember about seeing The Day of the Jackal as a child (probably a Saturday afternoon television movie) is that I didn't like it. Over the years, though, it has somehow engaged my curiosity, so that when I was given the opportunity to check out the DVD release, I was happy to learn that my taste in movies has changed since times when I had not many other options than to watch television on a rainy weekend.

    The story is set in France, in 1963. President Charles De Gaulle has granted independence to the former French colony of Algeria. This has angered many in France, in particular, some sections of the military, who lost many men in the fight over Algeria. An extremist group, the OAS, has decided that the President must pay with his life, however, all assassination attempts to date have failed, mainly because of intelligence leaks. The hierarchy of the OAS decide that there can be only one way to success: hatch a plan that only the three leaders of the organization know about. The plan involves importing an anonymous assassin, and the man they recruit is an Englishman only known to them as The Jackal (Edward Fox). The Jackal remains without identity, but as he meticulously prepares his plans, the best detective in France (Michel Lonsdale) attempts to get onto his trail, with the resources of the entire French government at his disposal.

    What follows is a brilliantly executed game of cat and mouse as the ruthless killer and the devoted detective both single-mindedly seek their respective goals. They are both solitary men, but there are a host of minor characters moving in and out of the movie, kind of like a series of vignettes, as the action seamlessly moves from one location and situation to the next. Director Fred Zinnemann (High Noon) beautifully paces the action as the tension mounts to the inevitable finale: there are no lingering shots on actors' reactions or the like, but rather, character is revealed through the very attitude with which the participants take to their various tasks.

    The Day of the Jackal is based on the Frederick Forsyth best-seller of the same name, and the movie certainly does the novel justice, establishing itself as a classic in its own medium. As a footnote, The Jackal (made in 1997, and only very loosely based on the original) starring Bruce Willis in the title role has none of the style and finesse of the original, and consequently, should be avoided in favour of the 1973 classic.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    Considering the age of this movie, this was a rather pleasing transfer despite its lack of 16x9 enhancement. It is presented in the original aspect ratio of the film, that is, 1.85:1.

    This was a reasonably sharp and detailed transfer: in fact, surprisingly so. There was a little grain on display at times (such as at 3:20-3:38, 5:20-5:30, 27:28 and 88:54) but this was no doubt a feature of the source material rather than the transfer, with almost all of the movie being shot on location, and quite a bit of it in places that were difficult to light. I did not see any low-level noise.

    The colour palette was typical of films made in the seventies: a little muted, with browny tones dominating. Age would have also dulled the source material a little, however there were some lush reds on display in some of the offices of the French officialdom. Blacks were a little on the greyish-brown side, and the countryside was not as vibrantly green as you could hope, but all in all, the palette was represented quite naturally bearing in mind the age of the movie.

    MPEG artefacts were absent, however, there were many instances of aliasing. These were caused by the usual suspects such as cars (0:55-1:03 and 84:56), trains (40:30), and shutters (89:05). There were also a number of instances of moiré effect on various patterned items such as at 7:33 and at 83:07. There was a jittery kind of effect that I noticed at 39:17, and then subsequently at another couple of points, but I concluded that these were not related to the transfer, but rather, to the fact that this movie was filmed prior to the introduction of Steadicam, and the instances all involved the camera following a character on foot in places where it would have been impractical to lay tracks for it. Film artefacts were a prominent feature of the first five minutes or so, but they seemed to decrease in regularity as the film went on. They were mostly in the nature of black and brown flecks of dust. I also noticed a couple of missing frames at 83:16.

    This disc is RSDL formatted, with the layer change occurring at 91:06. It is mid scene, however it is cleverly placed at a static and silent shot of a doorbell, thereby minimizing the distraction.

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

Audio

    There are five audio tracks on this DVD: English, French, German, Italian and Spanish. All are Dolby Digital 1.0. I listened to the English track. For Dolby Digital 1.0, it wasn't bad, however, age tends to take away some of the brightness and bass from the sound leaving most of the track in the mid-range of the tonal spectrum.

    The dialogue was reasonably clear, though at times some of the various accents on display made the occasional line a little difficult to understand. Audio sync was not a concern, but occasionally (such as at 41:08) dialogue spoken in exterior locations was obviously relaid.

    The Georges Delerue (Platoon) score consisted of no more than a few minutes over the opening credits and some marching band stuff toward the end, however, it served the movie well. The only other real instances of music were a number of renditions of the French national anthem, which was understandable as a central part of the plot was the various public appearances of the French president.

    Being a Dolby Digital 1.0 track, the surrounds were silent. I was a little surprised, though, to hear the subwoofer spring into action on a couple of occasions - namely in various scenes involving trains and fast driving - however this was the exception rather than the rule.

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

Extras

Menu

    Somewhat cruelly, the menu is 16x9 enhanced where the feature is not. It contains a static rendition of the cover art, and is silent.

Production Notes

    Not all that detailed, and quite brief.

Theatrical Trailer (2:03)

    Presented at 1.33:1 with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound (although I only detected sound from my centre speaker) the trailer is a little softer than the feature, and contains many more film artefacts in the nature of dust.

R4 vs R1

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

    The Region 4 version of this disc misses out on;     The Region 1 version of this disc misses out on;     As biography and film highlight information can be found from many reliable online sources, the only issue seems to be the audio bitrate, and the Region 4 PAL versus Region 1 NTSC - take your pick, although I'd take the PAL transfer.

Summary

    The Day Of The Jackal is a classic old-syle thriller that relies on situation and character rather than special effects to generate tension and excitement. The video has scrubbed up pretty well, and the audio was as good as can be expected from a Dolby Digital 1.0 track. The extras could have done with some more thought, but I'm just glad that great old films like these are being released on DVD.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Anthony Curulli (read my bio)
Monday, March 12, 2001
Review Equipment
DVDToshiba 2109, using S-Video output
DisplaySony Trinitron Wega (80cm). Calibrated with AVIA Guide To Home Theatre. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with AVIA Guide To Home Theatre.
AmplificationPioneer VSX-D608
SpeakersFront: Yamaha NS10M, Rear: Wharfedale Diamond 7.1, Center: Wharfedale Sapphire, Sub: Aaron 120W

Other Reviews NONE
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