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A squad of National Guards on an isolated weekend exercise in the Louisiana swamp must fight for their lives when they anger local Cajuns by stealing their canoes.
For more about Southern Comfort and the Southern Comfort Blu-ray release, see Southern Comfort Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on May 10, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Director: Walter Hill (I)
Writers: Michael Kane, Walter Hill (I), David Giler
Starring: Keith Carradine, Powers Boothe, Brion James (I), Fred Ward, Franklyn Seales, Peter Coyote
» See full cast & crew
Southern Comfort Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, May 10, 2013
Walter Hill's "Southern Comfort" (1981) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of British distributors Second Sight Films. The only supplemental feature on the disc is the exclusive new documentary "Who Will Live, Who Will Die". In English and small portions of French, with optional English SDH subtitles for the main feature. Region-B "locked".
The year is 1973, the location Louisiana. Nine members of the National Guard enter the Louisiana bayou for a training session and soon after that get lost. While trying to find their way back to the interstate, they discover a couple of boats and decide to 'borrow' them. When the owners, a group of Cajun trappers, appear, one of the soldiers fires blank rounds at them, completely unaware that the locals don't have a sense of humor. The trappers fire back and kill their leader (Peter Coyote). Then they begin hunting them.
With only a box of real bullets, the soldiers go deep into the bayou, hoping that eventually someone will figure out that they are missing and send reinforcements to help them out.
Walter Hill's Southern Comfort can be deconstructed in two different ways. The first, which makes more sense, suggests that it is an allegory for America's experience in the Vietnam War. During the shooting of the film Hill apparently warned the cast not to approach it as such, but it is virtually impossible not to draw parallels between the dilemmas the soldiers face in it and those the young men in Oliver Stone's Platoon do. Despite the different locations, the mental degradation the soldiers suffer in the two films is indeed the same.
The manner in which the enemy is filmed is also quite similar. Like the Vietcongs, the Cajun trappers are mostly shadow figures who deal with their opponents in a variety of unconventional ways. The soldiers are better trained, but in the bayou their knowledge is worthless.
The stress and desperation that eventually begin destroying the soldiers from the inside out is also familiar. Up to a certain point there is a sense of purpose behind their actions, but then most of the men suffer serious nervous breakdowns and begin collapsing. A very large portion of Platoon chronicles exactly the same process.
If one chooses to ignore the obvious similarities noted above, then Southern Comfort can be viewed as a thriller possibly inspired by John Boorman's Deliverance. In this case, it is simply a film about a terrible journey.
The first film is definitely better. But it could have been even more convincing if the finale did not bring closure to its story. It would have forced to viewer into a guessing mode and made the film far more unsettling. The overall intensity is still quite good, but the feeling that at the end the good guys will find a way to prevail makes most of their struggles look somewhat artificial.
The cast is great. Keith Carradine and Powers Boothe are both very convincing as the seasoned soldiers. Brion James has only a couple of lines in the entire film, but his character is one of the best in the entire film.
Southern Comfort was lensed by cinematographer Andrew Laszlo, who also assisted Hill on his cult films The Warriors (1979) and Streets of Fire (1984).
The film's atmospheric soundtrack was created by legendary guitarist Ry Cooder (Wim Wenders' Paris, Texas, Wong Kar Wai's My Blueberry Nights).
Southern Comfort Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, Walter Hill's Southern Comfort arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of British distributors Second Sight.
The high-definition transfer appears to have been struck from a dated source, and more often than not it clearly shows. While some close-ups with plenty of natural light look decent (see screencapture #12), the darker footage tends to look quite rough (see screencapture #4). Occasionally, noise and compression artifacts affect clarity and image depth (see screencapture #18). The grain is also frequently mixed with noise, though there are large sections of the film that still look rather good. Colors are stable but do not always look healthy. Edge-enhancement is not a serious issue of concern. Some light halo effects, however, are occasionally easy to spot (see screencapture #2). Post-production degraining corrections have not been performed, but as mentioned above there are indeed various limitations which the transfer has inherited from the dated source. Finally, there are no large cuts, damage marks, debris, or warps to report in this review. All in all, I was hoping that the presentation will be similar to the one Scanners received, but obviously this isn't the case here. Still, there are no serious issues that will dramatically affect your viewing experience. (Note: This is a Region-B "locked" Blu-ray release. Therefore, you must have a native Region-B or Region-Free PS3 or SA in order to access its content).
Southern Comfort Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There is only one standard audio track on this Btu-ray disc: English LPCM 2.0 (with small portions of French). For the record, Second Sight have provided optional English SDH subtitles for the main feature.
Dynamic movement is quite limited. Even the shootouts do not impress with any sizable intensity. The music score by the legendary Ry Cooder (Paris, Texas) sounds marginally fuller and better rounded that it does on the R1 DVD release, but depth is limited. On the other hand, despite the the fact that the film was shot under some unusually rough conditions, the dialog is crisp, stable, and easy to follow. For the record, there are no pops, cracks, audio dropouts, or distortions to report in this review.
Southern Comfort Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Southern Comfort Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
I have to speculate that at some point Walter Hill's Southern Comfort will appear on Blu-ray in North America. However, until such a release materializes, this Region-B "locked" release should be treated as the film's best presentation on the home video market. It is not as pleasing as Second Sight's presentation of David Cronenberg's Scanners -- there is plenty of room for sizable improvements -- but it represent an upgrade in quality over previous DVD releases of the film. It also features a very good new video interview with Mr. Hill. At the moment, this release is easy to recommend.
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Southern Comfort Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Walter Hill's Southern Comfort Prepped for Blu-ray - August 2, 2012
Independent British distributors Second Sight Films have revealed that they are preparing a Blu-ray release of director Walter Hill's Southern Comfort (1981), starring Keith Carradine, Powers Boothe and Fred Ward. The release is expected to arrive in shops before ...
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