The Long Riders (1980)

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Released 8-Aug-2001

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Western Theatrical Trailer
Rating ?
Year Of Production 1980
Running Time 95:15 (Case: 98)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (54:29) Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Walter Hill
Studio
Distributor

Twentieth Century Fox
Starring David Carradine
Keith Carradine
Robert Carradine
Randy Quaid
Dennis Quaid
James Keach
Stacy Keach
Case ?
RPI $36.95 Music Ry Cooder


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (448Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 2.0 (448Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 2.0 (448Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 (448Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 (448Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
English for the Hearing Impaired
German
German for the Hearing Impaired
French
Italian
Spanish
Dutch
Swedish
Norwegian
Danish
Smoking Yes, would it be a western without it?
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    I will state up front that I came to do this review of The Long Riders with no idea what the movie was about, only knowing that it was a Western. What we have here is an interesting retelling of the exploits of the James-Younger gang headed by the infamous Jesse James (James Keach). The gang was made up of three families of brothers, and that was the direction taken with the casting for The Long Riders. Frank James is played by Stacy Keach. Cole, Jim, and Bob Younger are played by David, Keith, and Robert Carradine respectively. Ed and Clell Miller are played by Dennis and Randy Quaid. Finally, just for good measure, Bob and Charlie Ford are played by Nicholas and Christopher Guest. The decision to go with real-life brothers has its downside in James Keach, who is simply not charismatic enough to carry the role of Jesse James. I certainly would not be following him into the perils of robbing banks and holding up coaches.

    There is very little in the way of actual story to The Long Riders, being more a collection of events that happened to various members of the James-Younger gang, both together and apart. This does not mean that it is uninteresting, or that it lacks for pace, but at times it does seem somewhat strange. The movie opens with the gang in the middle of a bank hold-up, when Ed Miller looses his nerve and unnecessarily kills a clerk. It is the fallout from that act that, over the course of the movie, leads to the downfall of the James-Younger gang, and the eventual death of Jesse James. Something else I should state here is that director Walter Hill certainly does not shy from showing real violence, not cutting away before bullets impact. On a somewhat different note for a Western, there is not one desert in sight in this movie, with much action taking place in heavily wooded forests.

    Overall, The Long Riders is a good but flawed movie. It is certainly interesting enough to warrant watching, but the lack of story prevents it from ever being overly engaging, while James Keach's inability to draw a sympathetic side to Jesse James removes any care viewers may have for the gang and its members.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The transfer we have here is of generally good quality, albeit let down somewhat by the opening sequence and poor shadow detail.

    Presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 this transfer is 16x9 enhanced.

    This transfer is lacking somewhat in sharpness. There are a very few scenes that appear very sharp, but for the most part the appearance is a little soft. It is not helped, especially early in the feature, by the appearance of vast amounts of grain. The opening sequence is particularly badly affected, with the entire sequence between 0:22-2:15 being extremely grainy, and highly noticeable. As the movie progresses, the grain tends to abate, but it does return from time to time, such as in the sequence from 40:28-40:40. The shadow detail is also quite poor, with most things that are black or in darkness being just solid black with little discernible detail. There was no low-level noise present in this transfer.

    Colours are a little muted, but suffice well enough. Most costumes consist of browns and greys, and there are very few highlights to render, so aside from the forest scenes, the colours come across well.

    The only MPEG artefacts were some small cases of pixelization caused by the excess grain. Aliasing was never a problem, most likely due to the overall soft appearance. The transfer exhibits a veritable plethora of film artefacts, and again the opening sequence is probably the worst affected in the entire film. The worst would be the vertical lines visible at 1:40. The artefacts that appear throughout the transfer are of both black and white types, meaning that even in the darker scenes they are still visible. Apart from the opening sequence however, they are infrequent enough and small enough to not draw significant attention.

    Subtitles are very close to the spoken dialogue, and for the time I followed them only dropped a very few words. This lead to a number of very full screens of text, but the generally slow pace of dialogue meant this never really became a problem.

    This is an RSDL disc with the layer change taking place at 54:29 during Chapter 10. This change takes place during a scene, and is extremely noticeable. No dialogue is disrupted however, so the change does not cause as many problems as it could have.

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

Audio

    The audio presented here is quite poor, even given the original soundtrack was only mono.

    There are five audio mixes present on this disc, being the original English dialogue, and dubs in German, French, Spanish and Italian. All sound tracks are presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 mono, at the very high (for a 2.0 soundtrack) bitrate of 448Kbps.

    The dialogue was generally poor, often being unclear and difficult to understand. The worst example is when Bob and Charlie Ford are asking to join the gang at 24:00. Despite watching the sequence a number of times, I eventually had to turn on the subtitles to understand some of the words. The main problem seemed to be the score being mixed in at too high a level, often drowning out what was being said. As the movie progressed, the dialogue quality seemed to improve, although that could have simply been my ears adjusting. There was also one occurrence of an annoying background hum, during the short sequence from 2:16-2:20.

    The audio sync was generally good, although there are a few words at 53:43 that appear to have been re-dubbed from something else. The issue is not helped by what seems to be an audio drop-out at the same time.

    The music is credited to Ry Cooder, who had a hit song with Little Sister, and I'm sure there were others I am not aware of. The music is entirely what you would expect from a Western, being guitar pickin', fiddle playin' country style. It is quite effective, and suits the on-screen action well. The problem, as mentioned above, is that the music is mixed in at a very high level and often drowns out the dialogue.

    Being a mono soundtrack, there was obviously no use for the surround channels.

    The subwoofer sat unused for the entirety of the movie, receiving no re-directed bass from my decoder at all, despite many occasions where some bass could have been included into the soundtrack.

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

Extras

    The only extra present on this disc is the theatrical trailer.

Menu

    The menu is static and 16x9 enhanced, featuring a still from the movie for background.

Theatrical Trailer

    This is of fairly poor quality, and it is a wonder anyone went to see this movie based upon it.

R4 vs R1

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

    As far as I can ascertain this disc appears to be identically featured in R1, although it appears as if the R1 is a single layer disc. For the sole reason that the R4 has more room to play with, I would go for that over the R1.

Summary

    The Long Riders is an interesting but flawed movie presented on a flawed DVD.

    The video quality is good, if a little soft and afflicted by grain and film artefacts.

    The audio quality is quite poor, with hard to understand dialogue, and no lower end.

    The only extra is a poor quality trailer. Not even worth thinking about.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Nick Jardine (My bio, it's short - read it anyway)
Sunday, September 23, 2001
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-535, using S-Video output
DisplayRCA 80cm. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-DS787, THX Select
SpeakersAll matching Vifa Drivers: centre 2x6.5" + 1" tweeter (d'appolito); fronts and rears 6.5" + 1" tweeter; centre rear 5" + 1" tweeter; sub 10" (150WRMS)

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