The Deer Hunter (1978)

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Released 8-Aug-2001

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Menu Audio
Theatrical Trailer
Production Notes
Rating Rated R
Year Of Production 1978
Running Time 176:01 (Case: 183)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (85:27) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Michael Cimino

Universal Pictures Home Video
Starring Robert De Niro
John Cazale
John Savage
Meryl Streep
Christopher Walken
Case ?
RPI $36.95 Music Stanley Myers

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.30:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

    One of the many advantages of collecting DVDs is the ability to view films that you have been unable to see in the past for whatever reason. The Deer Hunter is one film that I have long had in my "top-ten" must-view list and just hadn't got around to seeing. I was only eight years old when it was first released, so I was much too young to see it theatrically. I do remember members of my family going to see it and it having quite an impact on them, especially the much-discussed Russian Roulette scenes. I had two lasting memories of this film, even though I hadn't seen it. Firstly, it won the Best Picture Oscar at the 1978 Academy Awards. Secondly, it was directed by Michael Cimino, the man best known for practically bringing United Artists Pictures to its knees by creating the biggest movie flop of all time with the bloated and over-indulgent 1980 effort Heaven's Gate. The latter effort was even mentioned in the Guinness Book of World Records.

    The Deer Hunter is set over a period of several years during the Vietnam War. It tells the story of a group of  Pennsylvania steel workers and their friendship before, during, and after their tour-of-duty. Robert De Niro plays Michael, the defacto leader of the group. Christopher Walken, in his Best Supporting Actor role plays Nick, and the just-married Steven is played by John Savage. Other support is provided by Meryl Streep playing the love interest of two of the friends and John Cazale as Stan, another of the group of friends who doesn't go to Vietnam. The first hour sees the group attend the wedding of Steven and his pregnant bride, Angela. The wedding reception is treated as a combined wedding and leaving celebration for Michael, Nick, and Steven before they head to 'Nam. The three finally arrive in Vietnam, but are soon captured by the Vietcong and this is where they begin to take different paths after their experiences at the hands of the enemy leave varying degrees of scarring upon them.

    Much has been said and written about this movie. Some see it as the seminal Vietnam experience movie, portraying the angst and differing responses from the people that were forced to endure it. Others describe this as an overwrought and incredibly over-long melodrama. I fall somewhere between the two. It has some incredibly gripping moments - the first time that Michael, Nick, and Steve are captured by the Vietcong and forced to play Russian Roulette against each other is particularly disturbing and makes a definite impact. At other times, the well-known tendency of director Cimino to over-wring scenes and simply not know when to stop is also evident. Watch the incredibly long wedding scene in the early part of the film or note the fact it takes over an hour to introduce the characters and actually get the boys off to Vietnam and you'll understand.

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Transfer Quality


    Although the transfer was far better than I was expecting, particularly in respect to the sharpness level, it suffers from some poor shadow detail and a couple of distracting MPEG artefacts.

    The transfer is presented in an aspect of 2.30:1 and is 16x9 enhanced, much to my relief. The last couple of reviews that I have done on similar aged material that wasn't 16x9 enhanced has shown just how much a picture can suffer because of it.

    The image displays a nice overall sharpness with only a couple of instances of edge enhancement noticeable. Shadow detail is the biggest problem area. Many of the earlier scenes are shot in the dim interiors of bars or at night. Once the action moves to Vietnam things improve, though there are several scenes shot at night in Saigon that also suffer the same fate with many faces almost not visible. Contrast is also somewhat of a problem, exacerbated by the poor shadow detail level. When the characters move from the dim interiors of the bar to the outside, the light seems unnaturally bright and glare is a persistent problem in the mountain hunting scenes.

    Colours are not particularly vibrant, but then this would probably have been the intention of the film-makers. It is not a bright and vibrant subject, after all. Skin tones are suitably natural and there is no evidence of bleeding or oversaturation.

    There are several instances of macro blocking throughout, and though of a relatively minor nature, the most glaring example is at 60:23 on the vegetation in the background during a hunting scene in the mountains. There are only a trivial number of aliasing problems, which makes a nice change.  The most noticeable of these is in the early scenes at the steel works on the various rails and car grilles. The print is relatively clean of film artefacts with only a handful scattered throughout. The notable exception to this is the news file footage of the evacuation of Saigon that is used. In addition to being of a completely different film style and colour to that which makes up the majority of the film, it is incredibly grubby, grainy, and possesses copious quantities of specks and scratches.

    There are no subtitles available on this disc.

    This is an RSDL formatted disc with the layer change occurring at 85:27. While noticeable, it is on a scene change and is not overly disruptive.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    Although I was mildly surprised with the quality of the video, the same cannot be said for the audio.

    There is only one soundtrack on this disc, that being surround-encoded English Dolby Digital 2.0.

    Overall, the dialogue is very ordinary. It seems all over the place in terms of mixing. At times it is thunderous, and at others you can barely make out the mumbling that is going on. There were no audio sync problems noted. The effects in the steel mill and in Vietnam are engaging but also overly loud and become annoying when trying to listen to the dialogue.

    The musical score is by Stanley Myers and is generally understated with a suitably melancholic feel to it.

    Surround use is kept to a minimum, with only a few helicopter effects towards the end of the film making notable use of the surround channel.. There was no subwoofer use.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


Main Menu Audio

    The main menu is 16x9 enhanced and comes with a looping snip from the closing credits theme.


    The usual biographical details for the five main cast members. Interesting to note that the director is missing. At least these are starting to get presented in a font that is very easy to read and is pleasing to the eye.


    Presented in an aspect of 2.35:1 and featuring 16x9 enhancement. Running for 2:57 minutes, it comes complete with a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack. The trailer actually encompasses the entire story and viewing after watching the main feature made me notice that it does tend to give away a great deal of the plot.

Production Notes

    The usual stuff again. Provides some idea on the thought processes of Michael Cimino when he was directing those overwrought and overlong scenes.

Photo Gallery

    The usual stuff again. Twenty photos from the film presented on ten pages. Quite small and don't really contribute much value.

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 disc misses out on;

    The Region 1 disc misses out on;

    A clear win to the local product here.


    Having now seen The Deer Hunter, at least I've been able to remove one of the films off my "top-ten" must-view list, even if the experience wasn't all that I hoped it to be. The Deer Hunter takes a while to get off the ground and gain your interest, but the result in the end is worth it.

    The movie is presented on a just-above-average DVD, with the picture quality far exceeding the audio quality.

    The extras are very basic.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Darren Walters (It's . . . just the vibe . . . of my bio)
Wednesday, July 18, 2001
Review Equipment
DVDToshiba 1200, using S-Video output
DisplayLoewe Calida (84cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationHarmon/Kardon AVR7000.
SpeakersFront - B&W 602S2, Centre - B&W CC6S2, Rear - B&W 601S2, Sub - Energy E:xl S10

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Region 2 version -
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