Border (The) (Blu-ray) [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray B - United Kingdom - Powerhouse Pictures
Review written by and copyright: Rick Curzon (4th February 2018).
The Film

Jack Nicholson (The Last Detail, Wolf) gives one of his finest and most subtle performances as a hard-working but deeply disillusioned Mexican border-guard in this tough thriller from renowned British filmmaker Tony Richardson (Look Back in Anger, A Taste of Honey).

Video

Meandering, slowburn thriller-drama from Tony Richardson isnít as good as it wants to be. Happily, Nicholson gives a superb, incredibly subdued performance in a not entirely sympathetic or unsympathetic role. Much of his characterís problems are of his own doing due to his laid back complacency. The pace picks up a notch for a brief action climax which is welcome and Ry Cooder contributes a good, lowkey guitar-based score that ticks away, complementing the films sedate charms. On the whole this is a solid, not entirely successful socially aware drama.

The image for this release is generally very pleasing with a nicely warm, saturated colour palette which has been faithfully reproduced in the transfer; emphasising browns and other earthy colours. This was shot in anamorphic Panavision and as such has a certain slightly soft quality when compared to films shot flat in 1.66:1-1.85:1. There is plenty of lovely grain which is consistently encoded with no holes

An older master has been used here created by Universal some years ago, but itís a good master; as per usual for a minor film like this. However as is also usual, Powerhouse Films have afforded it a generous bitrate and a good quality encode and thus we have a strong transfer that could really only be bettered by a brand new 4K scan and a subsequent UHD Blu-ray release. Unlikely to be happening any time soon with the costs of creating such discs being prohibitively expensive for small independent labels and forgotten films like this are not likely to sell enough to justify the expense.

Black levels are very good with no signs of serious crush and detail where required is present. Much of the film is set during the bright daylight and consequently looks superb in those scenes being beautifully shot by Vilmos Zsigmond and Ric Waite. Contrast is very good with no blown out whites. I could detect no compression artefacts and virtually no signs of damage with only the odd speckle.

1080/24p / MPEG-4 AVC / 2.35:1 / 108:21

Audio

English LPCM 1.0
Subtitles: English HoH

A decent mono track typical of the period with good fidelity and a nice balance between sound effects, score and dialogue which is always clear when needed to be. Ry Cooderís excellent, lowkey guitar-based score is used sparingly and comes over well. I was somewhat surprised that a film of this stature didnít warrant a Dolby Stereo track: There are action elements, plenty of opportunity for ambient sounds and we have big stars like Nicholson and Keitel; a highly respected arthouse drama director which youíd have thought would have guaranteed a hefty budget. There are subtitles for those who need them which is always a big plus.

Extras

Audio commentary with Nick Pinkerton

Iím not familiar with Pinkerton but he is a dab hand at this kind of thing; a film journalist who knows his subject. He takes us through the film and fills the track with plenty of production related trivia; there is rarely a quiet moment.

ďThe Guardian / BFI Tribute to Tony RichardsonĒ 1992 National Film Theatre Lecture (plays as an audio commentary over the film (57:22)

Typically excellent audio track of a Q&A tribute to the late director who had then only recently died (in 1991). The talk is moderated by Sight & Soundís Phillip Dodd and has Richardsonís former partner Vanessa Redgrave, their daughter the late Natasha Richardson. Also on board are directors Lindsay Anderson (Britannia Hospital) and Karel Reisz (Saturday Night and Sunday Morning), historian Kevin Brownlow and stage designer the late Jocelyn Herbert who worked on the stage with Richardson.

Theatrical Trailer (1:47)

Decent trailer sells the film well playing on highlights and I never tire of seeing the Jack Nicholson ďI donít cross this lineĒ scene.

The Border Image Gallery: Original Promotional Material (30 images)

Effective collection of stills both behind the scenes and for publicity purposes including lobby cards and posters.

32-page liner notes booklet with a new essay by author Scott Harrison, Tony Richardson on The Border, screenwriter Walon Green on Jack Nicholson and The Border, an overview of contemporary critical responses, and film credits

We have a great overview by journalist Scott Harrison which covers the careers of the principle creatives and Nicholson. The excerpt from Richardsonís autobiography about the film. H e discusses the writing process and working with Nicholson in fair detail. Cowriter Walon Green on collaborating with the other writers, Nicholson and richardson. A contemporary review that feels the film isnít entirely successful as it stands and Iíd have to agree.

Overall

An interesting big budget failure ($22 million budget in 1981) in itís day The Border is probably a much better film these days as itís themes are still more relevant than ever. However, itís still a far from perfect mix of arthouse and mainstream sensibilities. The typically superb treatment afforded it by Powerhouse Films as part of their wonderful Indicator series (#69) means we get a topnotch transfer and encode with great image and sound. the extras package is as good as we can expect.

The Film: B- Video: A Audio: A+ Extras: A+ Overall: A

 


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