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The Wild Bunch Blu-ray

United States
Warner Bros. | 1969 | 145 min | Rated R | Sep 25, 2007

The Wild Bunch (Blu-ray)
Large:


Video
Codec: VC-1 (18.06 Mbps)
Resolution: 1080p
Aspect ratio: 2.42:1
Original aspect ratio: 2.35:1

Audio
English: Dolby Digital 5.1 (640 kbps)
French: Dolby Digital 2.0
Spanish: Dolby Digital 2.0

Subtitles
English, English SDH, French, Spanish

Discs
50GB Blu-ray Disc
Single disc (1 BD)

Playback
Region free

Price
List price: $14.98, Price history
Amazon: $8.98 (Save 40%)
New from: $4.21 (Save 72%)
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Movie rating
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
8.1
/10
185
ratings.


Blu-ray rating
Video 4.1 of 54.1
Audio 3.6 of 53.6
Extras 4.4 of 54.4
Based on 9 user reviews

Movie appeal

 
Drama100%
Western24%
Adventure-
Action-

90%
popularity
2568
collections
72
fans




The Wild Bunch

 (1969)

The Wild Bunch Blu-ray delivers great video and solid audio in this exceptional Blu-ray release

After a bloody holdup attempt at a railroad depot, a notorious gang of outlaws rides south to Mexico pursued by bounty hunters. The outlaws are led by Pike Bishop, a tough man weighed down by age, regret and the knowledge that his way of life is over. The bounty hunters are led by Deke Thornton, Pike’s former partner, who has been bailed out of jail by the railroad on condition that he bring back Pike, dead or alive. Thornton would rather join Pike, but he gave his word. In Mexico, Pike’s gang takes a job stealing weapons to supply a Mexican war lord, but is this really the kind of work they want to do?

For more about The Wild Bunch and the The Wild Bunch Blu-ray release, see the The Wild Bunch Blu-ray Review published by on where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.

Starring: William Holden, Ernest Borgnine, Robert Ryan, Edmond O'Brien, Warren Oates, Ben Johnson
Director: Sam Peckinpah

» See full cast & crew


The Wild Bunch Blu-ray, Video Quality

  4.0 of 5

Warner's reissue of The Wild Bunch in a new Blu-ray + DVD package provides an occasion to look back at this early entry in the Blu-ray market. Technology, production capacity and, perhaps most importantly, consumer expectation have progressed substantially since then. How does The Wild Bunch hold up?

Pretty well. The 1080p, VC-1-encoded transfer reproduces the substantial detail of Lucian Ballard's "deep focus" photography, which is essential to Peckinpah's visual storytelling. Natural-looking film grain remains visible throughout the film, which leads me to wonder why there are persistent complaints of DNR. Surely if the film had been subject to heavy grain reduction, then the grain would be gone. It's possible that the presence of certain shots with a soft focus has been mistaken for the presence of DNR. It's also possible that we are seeing the effects of the digital "massaging" that accompanies any restoration where multiple sources of varying quality must be melded together. Such a process was necessary with The Godfather, and it was certainly necessary with The Wild Bunch, as anyone who saw the appalling state of the director's cut when Warner released it to theaters in 1995 can attest.

Black and contrast levels are quite good on this transfer, as is shadow detail. The colors have been a subject of controversy, at least on the Blu-ray.com forum, but to my eye they were generally accurate. Still, I'm not as willing as some to trust my recollection of color values from over forty years ago, when the film was first released (yes, I saw it then), or even sixteen years ago, when Warner released the director's cut in a badly damaged 70mm blow-up. It's worth noting, however, that Robert Harris, a Blu-ray.com insider, has pronounced the Blu-ray image to be an accurate representation of the film based on his ownership of a 35mm roadshow dye-transfer print, which he has donated to AMPAS. Mr. Harris' experience puts him in a better position than anyone else I know to pronounce on the accuracy of the transfer.

I did spot the occasional appearance of some red edging, always in the lower portion of the frame. An example appears in the included screenshot of the bunch sitting on a wagon surrounded by General Mapache's soldiers. I suspect that it's this phenomenon that has prompted reports of "edge enhancement" in the transfer, but I do not believe that to be the case here. In every case I've seen, the artificial sharpening known as "edge enhancement" results in white outlines, because it's essentially an attempt to create an illusion of detail by boosting contrast at edge separations. Moreover, when such sharpening has been applied, it usually affects the entire frame, and this "red edge" is limited to small areas. While I am happy to be further educated on this subject by anyone with direct access to source materials for comparison (or hands-on knowledge of telecine techniques), these artifacts appear to be something akin to the bluish edges that appear around certain bright objects photographed at night with older lenses. In other words, they appear to be source-based. (In the commentary, the Peckinpah scholars discuss the fact that Lucian Ballard was one of the last of a generation of cinematographers who were unafraid of the challenges of working "hot" in intense direct sunlight. Of course, today's DPs have the safety net of a digital intermediate.)

Could the image be improved? Of course. A new 4k scan using the latest technology might reveal new depths in the frame, but as Mr. Harris has often noted, every restoration brings its own new set of problems that would require time and resources to address. Warner has a huge library to work through, and those resources could be better devoted elsewhere. The current version of The Wild Bunch is more than adequate; it's a pleasure to watch.


The Wild Bunch Blu-ray, Audio Quality

  3.5 of 5

The disc's DD 5.1 track has been dismissed by some, because it isn't lossless. As is often the case, what is being dismissed is a spec, not an audio experience. If one sits and watches the movie, the 5.1 track provides an involving and enjoyable experience of The Wild Bunch as it was meant to be heard, which is to say that it's a front-oriented mix with the dialogue in the center, Jerry Fielding's distinctive and dramatic score spread across the front, and the occasional sound effect thrown into the rear speakers. Bass extension is fairly modest, because, with rare exceptions, that's how movies sounded then. The common assumption that older movies mastered for Blu-ray will suddenly acquire ringing gunshots and room-rattling explosions is a misconception.

An additional note: The DD track on this Blu-ray is mastered at 640 kbps, which is the highest available rate for Dolby Digital and higher than one will find on the DVD (or, indeed, on most DVDs). It would therefore be inaccurate to say that the Blu-ray features "only DVD" sound. Moreover, I don't subscribe to the notion that a Blu-ray without lossless audio is not fully "HD" or that only lossless audio is "HD sound". The term "HD sound" has become a popular term that expresses a legitimate preference, but it's nothing more than a hobbyist's term. It's not a standard established by any official body -- and certainly not by the BDA, which considers a Blu-ray sufficiently "HD" with a lossy DD or DTS soundtrack.

I review tracks for their sound, not their spec, and this one sounds damn good. It might sound better in lossless. Then again, given the source, it might not.


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