Hard Times (1975)

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Released 18-Jul-2001

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Action Theatrical Trailer
Biographies-Cast & Crew
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1975
Running Time 89:38
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Walter Hill
Studio
Distributor

Sony Pictures Home Entertain
Starring Charles Bronson
James Coburn
Jill Ireland
Strother Martin
Case Soft Brackley-Transp
RPI $24.95 Music Barry De Vorzon


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (192Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (192Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (192Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (192Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.40:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
French
German
Italian
Spanish
Dutch
Arabic
Czech
Danish
Finnish
Greek
Hebrew
Hindi
Hungarian
Icelandic
Norwegian
Polish
Portuguese
Swedish
Turkish
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    Hard Times was originally released in Australia as a movie called The Streetfighter. I initially offered to review this thinking that it was an adaptation of Charles Dickens' novel by the same name, but was stoked to find that this wasn't what it was. Being a real Charles Bronson fan made this all the more pleasurable, even though this movie is over 25 years old, although I did have fears that the transfer wouldn't hold up that well on DVD.

    During the 70s, Bronson was in his heyday making movies. His nickname was 'old stone face' and even though he wasn't the greatest actor in the world, he could dish it out with the best of them when it came to acting the tough guy on screen. In this movie, he is paired with James Coburn, another stylish actor from this era and along with Walter Hill in his debut outing as director, they have put together a movie that stands the test of time due to its simplicity, not only of form but of word.

    Speed (Coburn) is a self-styled promoter of illegal street fights, bare knuckle contests held in warehouses or down by the docks. Chaney (Bronson) is a drifter who's just gotten into town and is down on his luck and looking to make a few bucks before he moves on. A chance encounter after a fight offers Chaney a chance to make some money the best way he knows how - with his fists. For Speed, Chaney is just another bum but he takes a chance after his original boxer is severely beaten.

    After a convincing single punch knockout, Speed realises he's onto something and a partnership begins, Chaney to earn himself enough money to be comfortable, and Speed a chance at redemption against the man that has sent him broke three times already. As the movie progresses, it becomes obvious that Chaney only wants the one big pay-day but that Speed is a gambler in every aspect, and after falling in foul with some money lenders Chaney becomes Speed's only chance to keep on breathing.

    Hard Times isn't a cerebral movie that's going to challenge you intellectually, but for the full 90 minutes it will entertain you with its unyielding simplicity.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The transfer is presented in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and is 16x9 enhanced

    Sharpness is fairly good with some fine detail noticeable in the background, but it isn't up to the quality of more recent vintage movies. There was some minor edge enhancement noticed, but nothing that would catch the eye of the less discerning. Grain was omnipresent as usual with these older movies but wasn't too obtrusive. With a lot of night time and darkly lit shots on offer, the shadow detail is okay at best. There was some low level noise visible but again, given the age of the movie that was to be expected.

    The colour palette used was fairly faded and washed out, as befits a movie set in the depression era. The colours used were mostly drab browns and darker colours, although when brighter colours were in evidence there appeared to be some slight red oversaturation, giving skin tones a slightly sunburned look, but nothing too distracting.

    The initial ten minutes of the movie had lots of small but noticeable film artefacts, mainly little white and black flecks. There were a few other notable film artefacts. At 6:17, the right side of the screen is badly faded. At 6:14 and again at 76:22 there appears to be a burn mark on the lower portion of the print. At 40:04 there is a marked pause as a door closes which lasts about a second (possible frame loss). At 63:29, Poe's hat exhibits some minor pixelization. At 74:11 and 76:18 there was a definite wobble in the transfer.

    There was a nice selection of subtitles to choose from. Since I don't understand any other language besides English I can't attest to their accuracy but they were white on mostly dark backgrounds and very visible without intruding overly on the on-screen action.

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

Audio

    The soundtrack descriptions on the cover slick of this DVD indicate that the soundtracks are Dolby Digital 1.0 mono soundtracks, but they are in fact Dolby Digital 2.0 mono soundtracks. Even so, there isn't much of a sound experience to be had with this disc, seeing as everything comes at you from the front, but overall it wasn't the worst soundtrack I've ever heard considering the age of the movie.

    There are 5 soundtracks on offer on this disc; English, German, French, Italian and Spanish all with a bitrate of 192kb/s and all Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono. I sampled all the tracks on offer and found no problems with the quick sample I made, but for the most part I stuck with my native tongue of English.

    The dialogue in the movie is actually quite minimal compared to other movies I've seen, and is very easy to understand. There was no apparent problem with audio sync that I could detect.

    The music was very apt for a movie set in this era. Even considering the lack of surround support, the use of some ragtime and blues music sets the scenes up very well and gives a solid front soundstage. As with the dialogue, the music was used in a minimalist fashion ideally suiting the on-screen action and was never overpowering.

There was no surround or LFE channel usage on this disc

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

Extras

Theatrical Trailer

    Running 2:24, it is shown in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 with excerpts from the movie in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1 non-16x9 enhanced. There are lots of grain and film artefacts visible and the overall look is very blurry.

Biographies-Cast & Crew

    Standard fare including profiles of Walter Hill, Charles Bronson and James Coburn.

R4 vs R1

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

    There doesn't appear to be any difference between the Region 1 version of this disc and the Region 4. I'd probably go on price in this case and seeing as this is being released at the very affordable price of $24.95 (or less if you shop around) the R4 is probably the disc of choice.

Summary

    Hard Times is definitely a movie that anyone who likes a good action movie can enjoy. There is nothing cerebral about this movie, it's just good old fashion brutality with a good cast and an excellent storyline.

    I doubt that we'll see an improved copy released in the near future so we are stuck with this version. It's not the best quality I've seen and has some major flaws but for the most part it is watchable.

    The audio is never going to sound that magnificent without some major money spent on it, and that will never happen so what we get is okay for the price.

    The extras are again lamentable, but at least the disc is at a very nice price.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Carl Berry (read my bio)
Tuesday, July 24, 2001
Review Equipment
DVDLoewe Xemix 5006DD, using RGB output
DisplayLoewe Xelos (81cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderRotel RSP-976. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationRotel RB 985 MkII
SpeakersJBL TLX16s Front Speakers, Polk Audio LS fx di/bipole Rear Speakers, Polk Audio CS350-LS Centre Speaker, M&KV-75 Subwoofer

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Comments (Add)
Hard Times (1975 Bronson/Hill) - Mike from US (New Jersey)