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A garbage collector (Martin Sheen) and his impressionable girlfriend (Sissy Spacek) kill her father when he disapproves of their relationship, and embark on a homicidal trail of destruction across the Midwestern United States. Based on the true case of 1950s killers Charles Starkweather and Caril Ann Fugate.
For more about Badlands and the Badlands Blu-ray release, see Badlands Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on February 17, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Director: Terrence Malick
Writer: Terrence Malick
Starring: Martin Sheen, Sissy Spacek, Warren Oates, Ramon Bieri, Alan Vint, Gary Littlejohn
» See full cast & crew
Badlands Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, February 17, 2013
Terrence Malick's "Badlands" (1973) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Criterion. The supplemental features on the disc include the film's original theatrical trailer; new documentary featuring interviews with actors Martin Sheen and Sissy Spacek and production designer Jack Fisk; new video interview with producer Edward Pressman; new video interview with associate editor Billy Weber; and a 1993 episode of the television series American Justice. The release also arrives with an illustrated booklet featuring an essay by filmmaker Michael Almereyda. In English, with optional English SDH subtitles for the main feature. Region-A "locked".
South Dakota, the 1950s. Shortly before he is fired, 25-year-old garbage collector Kit Carruthers (Martin Sheen, Apocalypse Now) meets 15-year-old Holly Sargis (Sissy Spacek, Carrie, 3 Women). He asks if she wants to take a walk with him and she agrees. Later on, after they get to know each other, Kit meets Holly's father (Warren Oates, Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia), a lonely sign-painter, to let him know that he likes his daughter. But he fails to express himself properly and instead ends up killing the old man. After they set his house on fire, Kit and Holly hit the road.
While Kit drives Holly reads True Romance magazines. Occasionally she remembers her father, but the majority of the time her mind is busy trying to figure out Kit - he looks like James Dean but from all of the girls in town, some far better looking, he chose her.
For a while Kit and Holly hide in the forest, in a tree-house. There isn't much to eat, but for the first time in her life Holly feels happy. She also feels secure being with a man like Kit. Eventually, three bounty hunters discover the tree-house and try to capture Kit. He kills them and they hit the road again.
Somewhere up north, Kit kills more people, including an old friend who used to collect garbage with him. He tells Holly not to think about the dead because "as long as you're playing for keeps and the law's coming at you, it's considered okay to shoot all witnesses".
For a while Holly remains quiet, but then she begins thinking about the future and comes to realize that there may not be too much time left for her and Kit to spend together. In the badlands of Montana, Kit agrees with her.
Terrence Malick's Badlands may well be one of the most impressive directorial debuts in the history of American Cinema. Violent, raw, and indescribably beautiful, the film is a time capsule which has immaculately preserved the spirit of the '70s.
Badlands loosely chronicles a true story – that of Charles Starkweather and Caril Ann Fugate, who in 1958 went on a two-month killing spree across Nebraska and Wyoming. Both were eventually captured. Starkweather was executed via electric chair, while Fugate was given a life sentence.
In Badlands, however, the killings are not the focus of attention. Kit is just a simple guy madly in love with a young girl who seems to be the only person who truly understands him. He is a rebel heading down the wrong way, not a mass murderer who wants to leave a lasting legacy.
Malick does not attempt to get inside Kit's head either. His camera simply observes him from afar while Holly calmly explains how she felt about Kit and the things they did together. Then, as the lovers head up north, Malick begins spending more and more time observing nature.
The film's lack of interest in attaching some sort of logic to the madness is arguably the key reason why it works so well. It does not glamorize or condemn the killings; it simply witnesses them and then moves on, marveling nature and life. Unsurprisingly, viewing Badlands is quite the surreal experience – it is difficult to embrace the film but it is absolutely impossible not to admire it.
For a variety of different reasons, Badlands was lensed by three different cinematographers - Tak Fujimoto, Stevan Larner, and Brian Probyn - but it looks remarkably seamless.
Note: In 1974, Badlands won Golden Seashell Award for Best Film at the San Sebastian International Film Festival.
Badlands Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, Badlands arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Criterion.
The following text appears inside the booklet provided with this Blu-ray release:
"Approved by director Terrence Malick, this new digital transfer was created in 4K resolution on a Northlight film scanner from the original 35mm camera negative. Thousands of instances of dirt, debris, scratches, splices, warps, and jitter were manually removed using MTI's DRS and Pixel Farm's PFClean, while Image Systems' Phoenix was used for small dirt, grain, noise reduction, and flicker.
Transfer supervisor: Emmanuel Lubezki, Maria Palazzola.
Colorist: Brian McMahan/Technicolor, Los Angeles."
Beautifully restored in 4K, director Terrence Malick's first feature film looks gorgeous on Blu-ray. Virtually all close-ups boast tremendous detail, allowing one to see even incredibly small objects (see screencapture #3). The large panoramic shots, and especially the ones from the second half of the film, also look quite remarkable. Depth, clarity and fluidity in them are truly exceptional. Viewers who watch their films on large screens, or better yet project them, are guaranteed to be impressed by the stability and wonderful organic qualities of the new high-definition transfer - there isn't even a whiff of sharpening corrections or annoying encoding anomalies. Arguably the greatest improvements, however, are in the area of color reproduction. The 4K restoration has produced an entirely new range of remarkably natural colors - blues, greens, browns, reds, and even grays look excellent. Lastly, there are absolutely no damage marks, cuts, warps, or stains to report in this review. To sum it all up, if you enjoy strong organic presentations of classic films, I guarantee you will be enormously pleased with Criterion's Blu-ray release of Badlands. (Note: This is a Region-A "locked" Blu-ray release. Therefore, you must have a native Region-A or Region-Free PS3 or SA in order to access its content).
Badlands Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There is only one standard audio track on this Blu-ray disc: English LPCM 1.0. For the record, Criterion have provided optional English SDH subtitles for the main feature.
There are sequences where the lossless track surprises with excellent depth, one that one would typically associate with modern big-budget films. One such sequence is the long chase at the end of the film where the state troopers and Kit fire at each other. Elsewhere random nature sounds also make an impression with great crispness and clarity. George Aliceson Tipton's excellent soundtrack also adds to the surreal atmosphere. The dialog is consistently crisp and stable. Also, there are no pops, annoying background hiss, audio dropouts or distortions to report in this review.
Badlands Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Badlands Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
I truly hope that you will choose to own many of these beautiful Blu-ray releases that are coming via the Criterion Collection lately. Elia Kazan's On the Waterfront and now Terrence Malick's Badlands are amongst the greatest films of their generations, they are part of American history. Recently restored, these films now look the best they ever have. Support these releases, folks, so that more of these important films are restored and made available to see as their creators intended. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
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