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A wealthy rancher, Frank Carter (Ralph Bellamy), hires four tough gunslingers to rescue his wife (Claudia Cardinale) who is being held captive by Captain Rasa (Jack Palance), one of Pancho Villa's most desperate revolutionaries, in this dynamic and hard-hitting Western set against the backdrop of the Mexican Revolution of 1917. The wild West commando team consists of a dynamite expert (Burt Lancaster), an ex-revolutionary and munitions expert (Lee Marvin), a horse specialist (Robert Ryan), and a tracker (Woody Strode). On their mission to return Carter's highly prized wife, they track the Mexican revolutionaries through rough and rugged desert terrain, determined to outsmart, outshoot, and outride anyone they come across--until they meet the the charismatic Rasa and discover that Carter's seductive wife is in love with the Mexican outlaw and has no intention of returning with the band of "professionals."
For more about The Professionals and the The Professionals Blu-ray release, see the The Professionals Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on June 9, 2008 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Burt Lancaster, Lee Marvin, Robert Ryan, Jack Palance, Claudia Cardinale, Woody Strode
Director: Richard Brooks
» See full cast & crew
The Professionals Blu-ray Review
Should 'The Professionals' infiltrate your Blu-ray collection?
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, June 9, 2008
'Jesus.' What a name for the bloodiest cutthroat in Mexico.
If your tastes in movies tend to gravitate towards the revered "guy" movie, a genre in and of itself that encompasses the Western, Action, or Sports movie, you're bound to enjoy 1966's The Professionals. Starring one of "Guy Movie's" biggest names, Lee Marvin (The Dirty Dozen), alongside the venerable Burt Lancaster (Run Silent, Run Deep), Robert Ryan (The Longest Day), Woody Strode (The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance), the legendary Jack Palance (Young Guns), and the seductive Italian actress Claudia Cardinale (The Pink Panther), The Professionals is a movie that isn't all about the action. Trust me, it is there, in large and regular doses, but this movie is deeper than superficial violence and action; there is a meaningful plot with a fantastic twist, completely human characters (as opposed to two-dimensional figures that spout random lines and look good shooting a gun or riding a horse), and a story that is easy to get lost in, all to be found in a wonderfully acted, beautifully shot and handsome-to-look-at picture. A true classic in the Western genre, The Professionals is the ultimate guy movie for an audience that doesn't mind a bit of thought and intelligence amidst their action.
The Professionals are a group of four rough and tumble men hired by one Mr. Grant (Ralph Bellamy, Pretty Woman) to rescue his wife Maria (Cardinale). The group, which consists of its leader and machine gun instructor Rico Fardan (Marvin), a demolition expert named Bill Dolworth (Lancaster), an expert tracker and marksman with bow and arrow, Jack Sharp (Strode), and an ex-cavalryman and wrangler, Hans Ehrengard (Ryan), will be paid a then-handsome sum of $10,000 each ($1,000 now, $9,000 upon the safe return of Maria to her husband) for their troubles. Maria's been kidnapped by a Mexican rebel leader by the name of Jesus Raza (Palance), a ruthless leader of more than 150 men. She's being held in a heavily fortified encampment. How do four men assault such a position and make it out alive (without the help of John Matrix, anyway)? Easy: create such a diversion as to make Raza's men believe they're under attack from the Mexican Federales. When things don't go according to plan (and not as you might expect), our quartet of heroes must not only escape with their lives, but listen to their consciences as a wrinkle in the rescue brings out the importance of that age-old question of just what it means to love.
Here is another Western with remarkable cinematography and dozens of well-composed and meaningful shots. Like Broken Trail some 40 years later, The Professionals is a nonstop showcase for what first-rate cinematography is all about. Only a master craftsman (Conrad L. Hall, in this instance) behind the camera filming a Western can make dusty, dead terrain look as good as it does here. The Professionals and Broken Trail offer two distinct shooting locations, both of which are a testament to the epic-quality of the Western. While Broken Trail took place in mostly bright, sunny meadows, fields of fertile grass, flowers, streams, and countryside as far as the eye can see, The Professionals is filmed in mostly dusty, dry, perhaps best described as "dead" environments where only the occasional weed is to be found amidst the red clay and dirt of the Mexican terrain that we see depicted in the movie. Each film showcases the beauty and vastness of the American West -- testaments to the greatness of the genre that is perhaps the most storied in Hollywood history.
One thing I love about movies like The Professionals and The Great Raid is that they assume the audience is intelligent and let us in on the finer details of mission planning and the tediousness of waiting for the right moment to strike, rather than going into a situation blindly with guns blazing from the get-go. There is nothing at all wrong with the guns blazing approach (after all, I did love Commando), but a change of pace in a film like this is most welcome as well. Another thing this movie has going for it is the solid acting. While none of the performances will stir the soul and become the icon of the Western like Gary Cooper in High Noon, Clint Eastwood in Unforgiven or John Wayne in The Searchers, the performances in The Professionals are honest and true. Jack Palance is completely convincing as the Mexican rebel leader and gives one of the finer, yet decidedly more understated, performances of his career. Marvin and Lancaster are, well, Marvin and Lancaster, and audiences take away from their machismo performances exactly what's to be expected of them in a film like this one.
The Professionals Blu-ray, Video Quality
The Professionals brings it's decidedly professional cinematic look and feel to a beautifully rendered 2.35:1, 1080p high definition Blu-ray presentation. This vintage picture holds up very well. The charming, old-time look and feel of the movie translates very well to high definition. Colors are, in a word, astounding, and the film's technicolor process looks fantastic. Much of the film takes place in harsh desert locales with red, tan, and orange rock faces, dirt, clay and other various chunks of debris with some naturally green weeds scattered here and there providing only one of two contrasts to the earthy tones of the land, with the bright, clear, and clean blue sky representing the other. Detail is excellent. Dirty faces, worn clothing, and ridges and crevices in rocks all offer visual reality. We can even see every bead of sweat as it glistens on each actor's face under the hot Mexican sun (see chapter 4). Grain is present over the entire film, and once again, it adds a truly wonderful cinematic feel to the picture. There are a few random hairs on the print, but it's otherwise remarkably clean and free of any other major blemishes. Flesh tones look great in technicolor, and black levels hold up remarkably well. For as good as Blu-ray is to the modern, slicker movies, for my money it does wonders with, and maybe even benefits more, the classic pictures of yore, and The Professionals is another classic film that truly stands out and shines on Blu-ray high definition.
The Professionals Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Although the film's Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundtrack doesn't sound quite as good as the image that accompanies it, The Professionals still sounds fantastic on Blu-ray, and this track brings out the best of the film's classic score and sound effects. With a good old-fashioned, "classical" score that might very well be the quintessential Western theme, The Professionals makes its presence heard from the film's opening seconds. Many of the elements are a bit harsh and dated (especially the gunshots, explosions, and the like), but this is exactly how we expect a western from the mid-1960s to sound. Gunshots ring loud but, like I mentioned earlier, have a decidedly harsh and somewhat undefined tone. However, there is a nice ricochet and "bang" that accompanies many gun shots, and it seems that, as one would naturally expect, the more chaotic the battle (and they get progressively more exciting as the film moves along) the more opportunity the sounds of a classically staged shootout have to shine. The film's score (courtesy of Maurice Jarre, The Longest Day) blends into the rear channels for a pleasing, all-encompassing experience, but the first gunfight of the movie didn't offer up much in the way of surround presence or heavy bass. The second battle, which is much more sustained and heavy, fares better sonically, with some fine sound placement across the front soundstage, and a slightly undefined but more noticeable rear presence. Then again, this soundtrack is more than 40 years old, and it sounds terrific for what it is, and in the context of its era. This one won't blow the roof off or rattle the fillings out of your teeth, but it's an exciting, authentic listen nevertheless.
The Professionals Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The Professionals won't have you riding off into the sunset after the credits roll without offering the opportunity to view a few bonus materials. 'The Professionals' - A Classic (480p, 6:27) takes a short look at the critical reception of the film and the reasons why the movie works. Burt Lancaster: A Portrait (480p, 12:39) is next, and is, obviously, a look at the life and times of the famed movie star. Memories From 'The Professionals' (480p, 23:21) features interviews with actress Claudia Cardinale, who recalls her memories of working on the film and with the various cast and crew. The film's director of photography, Conrad Hall, actress Marie Gomez, and Lancaster biographer Kate Buford also chime in from time to time. Rounding out the supplemental features are 1080p trailers for First Sunday, 21, and Starship Troopers 3: Marauder.
The Professionals Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Director Richard Brooks' (Cat on a Hot Tin Roof) The Professionals is another of the true classics in the Western genre, a genre with perhaps more than its fair share of timeless films, but then again, I ask which genre has captured the heart and spirit of Americana since the inception of film more so than the Western? The very first movie, in fact, was 1903's The Great Train Robbery, and the Western hasn't looked back since. With a video quality that is excellent considering the age of the film, an adequate audio mix that sounds as good as you'll ever hear it, and a few interesting supplements, The Professionals is a hard-to-resist Blu-ray disc, and it, along with Broken Trail, will make a fantastic one-two-punch Father's Day gift to go along with that snazzy new Blu-ray player you're (hopefully!) buying your Western-loving dad for Father's Day. Recommended.
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The Professionals Blu-ray, News and Updates
• A Trio of Westerns Come to Blu-ray (Updated) - March 31, 2008
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment has announced that a trio western films are being released on Blu-ray, all due to hit store shelves on June 10th, just in time for Father's Day. First up is the 1966 Burt Lancaster film 'The Professionals'. Video will be presented ...
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