Legends of the Fall: Collector's Edition (1994)

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Released 6-Nov-2001

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Main Menu Audio & Animation
Dolby Digital Trailer-City
Isolated Musical Score-(51:11)
Audio Commentary-Edward Zwick (Director) & Brad Pitt (Actor)
Audio Commentary-John Toll (Cinematographer) & Lilly Kilvert (Prod Designer)
Deleted Scenes-3 +/- Director's Commentary
Featurette-Production Design (4:41)
Featurette-Behind The Scenes-(5:59)
Biographies-Cast & Crew
Theatrical Trailer-1.33:1, not 16x9, Dolby Digital 2.0 (2:13)
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1994
Running Time 127:26
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (61:44) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Edward Zwick
Studio
Distributor

Sony Pictures Home Entertain
Starring Brad Pitt
Anthony Hopkins
Henry Thomas
Aidan Quinn
Julia Ormond
Case Soft Brackley-Transp
RPI $36.95 Music James Horner


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Isolated Music Score Dolby Digital 5.0 (384Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
German
Dutch
Arabic
Bulgarian
Czech
Danish
Finnish
Greek
Hebrew
Hindi
Hungarian
Icelandic
Norwegian
Polish
Swedish
Turkish
German Audio Commentary
Dutch Audio Commentary
German Audio Commentary
Dutch Audio Commentary
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment are continuing their slow troll through their back catalogue and re-releasing Collector's Editions in place of the original bare bones DVDs they first issued. The programme has now reached Legends Of The Fall, a grand sweep of an epic that is thoroughly deserving of the lavish package now put together by Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment. The original release boasted just a bog-standard DVD trailer, whereas the package now contains a much more satisfying array of extras worthy of an Oscar winner.

    The film is broadly about the Ludlow family as told through the eyes of One-Stab (Gordon Tootoosis), an Indian chieftain who has befriended the wildest of the three Ludlow boys in Tristan (Brad Pitt). The epic sweep of the drama takes us basically from the Indian Wars through World War One and into the era of Prohibition. Patriarch Colonel William Ludlow (Anthony Hopkins) has resigned his commission in the Army in protest of the treatment meted out to the Indians and has moved his family to a ranch in Montana. Unfortunately, his wife Isabel (Christina Pickles), is not a frontierswoman and soon leaves the ranch and her husband, leaving the Colonel to raise their three sons as best he can. Alfred (Aidan Quinn), the oldest son, is an intelligent man who eventually sees that he has to escape the family home to seek his place in the world. Tristan is the middle son and the most frontier-type of the three, although prone to bouts of wildness. The youngest is Samuel (Henry Thomas), a scholar who returns to the family home with fiancé Susannah Finncannon (Julia Ormond) in tow. What follows is the epic of a family coming to terms with the changes in the world, particularly war and the increasing industrialisation of America. The idealism of life on the ranch is destroyed when the three sons head over the border to enlist in the Army and head off to the battlefields of Europe. Despite the best efforts of Tristan, his younger brother is killed in action and his elder brother is severely wounded. All Tristan can do is go slightly off the rails, whilst sending Alfred home with Samuel's heart for burial.

    The lovely Susannah is left to ponder what would be as she rejects Alfred's advances in favour of awaiting the return of Tristan from his world wanderings. Alfred heads off to Helena, Montana to set up in business, at which he is extremely successful, to try and escape from the grip of his love for Susannah. Tristan eventually sends word to Susannah telling her to seek marriage elsewhere, so she ends up marrying Alfred - who becomes a congressman, and one who votes in favour of Prohibition. Eventually Tristan returns home to discover his father has been struck down by a stroke, Susannah has married Alfred and that the little girl he knew when he left home, Isabel Two (Karina Lombard), has grown into a beautiful woman, whom he marries and has two children with. Tristan also sets up a decent bootlegging business, but one that ultimately has devastating effects upon his family.

    This really is a grand epic of a drama the likes of which we do not see often nowadays. When people do attempt them, they usually fall deadly short of the mark as they forget the need to have strong characters. Aside from the grand sweep of the location of the film (the magnificent Canadian Rockies of Alberta), which inspires some of the finest cinematography that has ever been brought to the silver screen (and a very deserving Oscar win for John Toll), this film thrives because of the strong characters - and the performances that bring them to life. You would be hard-put to find as good a collection of performances as here and even though Anthony Hopkins is utterly superb as the patriarch, both Brad Pitt and Aidan Quinn are by no means overshadowed. Even the occasionally maligned Julia Ormond does a fine job here and across the entire main cast you would be hard-pressed to find any disappointment at all. This is the sort of film that you can sit down to watch time and time again just to revel in the quality of the performances. Matching the superb cinematography is some wonderful production design (which also earned Lilly Kilvert an Oscar nomination) and you would rarely see sets of the calibre of the Montana ranch house in Hollywood films of the last twenty years. The whole production reeks of an authenticity that is rarely seen from Hollywood, and the setting just rounds out the whole film magnificently.

   A grand epic drama coupled with superb performances, magnificent cinematography and brilliant production design, this is a terrific film that really is one of those that should be in every DVD collection. The original release on DVD was let down by a lack of extras and this re-release overcomes that in every way. Even the video transfer holds up pretty well despite the passage of three years since the original release. Highly recommended.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    Back in 1998 with the original release, one of issues with the video transfer was the fact that it contained more film artefacts than was hitherto the case with Columbia TriStar releases. In all other respects it was a generally very good transfer. Well, this re-release would appear to use the exact same video transfer and therefore those comments remain valid here.

    The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and it is 16x9 enhanced.

    The transfer is reasonably sharp, albeit not as sharp as a more recent transfer, and thankfully this sharpness is achieved with no obvious resorting to edge enhancement. The whole video transfer is very natural looking as a result and is quite wonderfully detailed throughout. Indeed, you can just immerse yourself in the gorgeous detail that is brought out here, be it interior or exterior scenes. Shadow detail is wonderful throughout, with never any hint of loss of detail even in scenes intended to have a dark framing. This is a wonderfully clear transfer that is only really hampered by the occasional lack of depth to the field of vision, which of course is not the fault of the transfer.

    The colours are gorgeously rendered throughout and have a lovely tone to them. The exquisite nature of the tones can be seen in particular in the house interiors and especially the gorgeous wooden furniture. When called upon, the depths of the blacks are especially noteworthy. The whole palette has a nice vibrancy to it and there is hardly any fault to be found here.

    After four consecutive viewings of the film, I would be fairly certain in saying that any issues in the way of artefacts, other than film artefacts, are quite minor indeed. There did not appear to be any issues with MPEG artefacts, whilst the extent of the film-to-video artefacts are a few instances of rather minor aliasing here and there: some minor aliasing in the railway carriage at 9:09 and some aliasing in the rifle at 87:55 are the sorts of issues we are dealing with here. All of which makes the abundance of film artefacts all the more noticeable - and some of those black marks are indeed very noticeable. This is the one disappointment with the transfer, especially in light of some of the clean transfers I have seen lately of older films.

    The DVD is an RSDL formatted DVD, with the layer change coming at 61:44. It is not too bad an effort, although just a little noticeable.

    There is a veritable smorgasbord of subtitle options on the DVD. The English efforts are well presented but are not as accurate as I would have expected - too often little chunks of dialogue are missed out which slightly changes the tone of the meaning of the dialogue.

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

Audio

    There are five soundtracks on the DVD, being an English Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack, a German Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack, two English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 surround encoded soundtracks and an Isolated Music Score Dolby Digital 5.0 soundtrack. The only thing that I did not listen to was the German soundtrack.

    Generally speaking, the dialogue comes up well in the transfer and is quite easy to understand. It should be noted however that there are a couple of occasions when the dialogue level is a little low, quite intentionally, and greater concentration is required. There did not appear to be any audio sync problems in the transfer.

    The original score comes from James Horner. Now my abhorrence of this gentleman's work, especially his more recent stuff, would generally be well-known from previous reviews, so that probably heightens the fact that I find this a very good effort that supports the film beautifully. Certainly the quality of the soundtrack is heavily evidenced by a very listenable, albeit partial, isolated music score.

    The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is a beauty, one of the more enticing efforts I have heard recently. Whilst the film obviously lacks a lot of immediately identifiable audio highlights (that is, explosions and the like - really only during the war scenes), where this soundtrack excels is the wide range it presents in a very subtle way. There are plenty of lovely ambient sounds coming from the rear surround channels and these complement very nicely the nice, open front surround use. The bass channel kicks in with nice support where required, again mostly ambient other than during the rather nicely handled war scenes.

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

Extras

    Whilst the original release was blessed with a virtually non-existent extras package, this package is very deserving of the Collector's Edition banner. Talk about chalk and cheese!

Menu

    Some nice audio and animation enhancement makes these menus nice, classy efforts indeed.

Dolby Digital Trailer - City

    Since it has been a while since I reviewed a Columbia TriStar DVD, I had almost forgotten how much I hate this thing.

Isolated Music Score (51:11)

    The great shame about this is the fact that it is not a full isolated music score. However, even this fifty odd minute effort is infinitely better than nothing at all - yes the score is that good. One of those genuinely rare occasions where the composer's style suits the film to the hilt.

Audio Commentary - Edward Zwick (Director) and Brad Pitt (Actor)

    The first of two audio commentaries on the DVD, this is in some respects the poorer of the two and in some respects is the better of the two. Sitting down to watch the film for the first time in some time, the result is at times a little more languid than I would like, but overall they do manage to provide some nice insights into the making of the film - including some of the fights the two had for motivation purposes. They do have a nice little rapport going after a while and Brad Pitt in particular proves to be a little droll. Worthwhile listening to once but I don't know if you would return to it again. Both audio commentaries come with the option of German and Dutch subtitles.

Audio Commentary - John Toll (Cinematographer) and Lilly Kilvert (Production Designer)

    The second commentary is to my mind a much more interesting effort, mainly because you get a chance to hear about some of the work that went into creating the great design and cinematography of the film. It is also interesting to hear their reactions to certain aspects of the film, which again they probably have not seen in a while. The talk tends to be interspersed with lengthy silent periods as the film goes on, but I never found this less than interesting. It is also nice to hear John Toll extolling the virtues of the widescreen format on DVD! Some idiots from Toshiba ought to sit down and listen to it!

Deleted Scenes (3)

    Judging by some of the comments passed during the audio commentaries, there were a heck of a lot more than three scenes deleted from the film! Still, these are the only three that we get: The War (1:22), The Asylum (1:20) and Grandfather Ludlow (2:31). Apart from a high level of film artefacts, and some shimmer and moiré artefacting in the third effort, the quality is very reasonable indeed. The reasons for their excision from the final film are fairly obvious, and they were rightly so excised. All three are presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, not 16x9 enhanced and with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. They come with optional commentary from the director.

Featurette - Production Design (4:41)

    With commentary from Edward Zwick and Lilly Kilvert, this is an interesting enough, albeit rather short, look at some of the work undertaken to transform a street in modern day Vancouver into Helena, Montana in 1915. Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, it is not 16x9 enhanced and comes with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. It suffers somewhat from aliasing but is otherwise quite reasonable from a technical point of view.

Featurette - Behind The Scenes (5:59)

    Basically a typical six minute electronic press kit type of presentation with some interviews with cast members, interspersed with excerpts from the film and some behind the scenes footage. Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, it is not 16x9 enhanced and comes with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. Nothing wrong with this from a technical point of view but not the most enthralling featurette I have ever seen.

Biographies - Cast and Crew

    Decent if not especially complete efforts for the main cast and crew.

Theatrical Trailer (2:13)

    Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, it is not 16x9 enhanced and comes with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. Nothing terribly memorable and in general not worthy of the quality of the film.

R4 vs R1

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

    There is no substantial difference between the Region 1 and Region 4 releases.

Summary

    If you happen to have a copy of the original release of Legends Of The Fall in your collection, is there any reason to indulge in this new Collector's Edition? Put it this way - I normally hate extras and would not bother buying another copy of a DVD just to get extras. This is one instance where I would do so. A terrific film, given a decent video transfer and an excellent audio transfer, coupled to an excellent extras package. Well worth adding this to the collection.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ian Morris (Biological imperfection run amok)
Sunday, December 30, 2001
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-515, using S-Video output
DisplaySony Trinitron Wega (80cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationYamaha RXV-795
SpeakersEnergy Speakers: centre EXLC; left and right C-2; rears EXLR; and subwoofer ES-12XL

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