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The Deer Hunter (SE)
DVD disk
Oct 4, 2005 By: Jason Coleman
The Deer Hunter (SE) order
Director:
Michael Cimino

Actors:
Robert DeNiro
Christopher Walken
Meryl Streep

Rating:
Movie:
Extras:
Overall:

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WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
Its the saga of a group of friends, as we see them before, during and after the Vietnam War, and how it affects each of them. A dark story of innocence lost.
IS IT A GOOD MOVIE?
Thats like asking if THE GODFATHER is worth a nights rental. THE DEER HUNTER is a powerful piece of work that differs from other classic films about the Vietnam War. PLATOON dealt with personality conflicts of the characters. FULL METAL JACKET took you right into the heart of a soldier. But this film takes a more isolated (just like the characters) approach, bringing us into the fold of just a few friends. You care about the story, because you care about them, which also makes the 3hrs 4min running time go faster. Of course, everyone remembers the russian roulette scenes, which are still unbearable to watch even today. But there are also many other memorable scenes; the quiet moments of the wedding before they go off to war, rolling down river on a tree in hopes of rescue, and the funeral scene at the end. (I dare anyone to not be affected by that one!)

Of course the performances are amazing; DeNiro, Walken, and a low key but brilliant Meryl Streep early in their careers, always solid. But there are so many performances that are smaller, but just as powerful. Like John Cazale as hothead Stanley and George Dzundza, as the sensitive yet goofy friend John. But my favorite performance is that of John Savage, an actor who is rarely seen anymore. Going from joyous (getting married), to completely loosing his sanity (captured and tortured), to withdrawing from everyone (refusing to leave the hospital) is the best work in the film. It is inspired and riveting to watch. The movie may be long and depressing to some, but if youve never seen it, youre missing out. (And if youre a film fanatic and have never seen it, shoot yourself in the head!)
THE EXTRAS
Let me just say, Universal should have their ass removed (or at the very least be ashamed) for the total lack of any quality and quantity of extras on these discs. I saw more features on their goddamn 50th version of THE MUMMY with Brendan Fraser! The second disc has a menu with only three features on it. Why have a second disc at all, for the fun of it? These are not extras, hell, their not even table scraps, their nothing.

Disc 1:

Commentary (with cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond and film journalist Bob Fisher):First off, whenever I dont see a director or any of the actors on a commentary, I smell trouble. In this case the two commentators are Zsigmond and Fisher, the latter whom just asks questions. But being just a cinematographer, Zsigmond has little insight (great director, great actors, real cabin) into the dynamics of the actual film. (My film fanatic father has more interesting stories on this film than old Zsigmond does.) He doesnt even have insight into some camera questions, like why is he shooting at such a low angle? Answer: Because Im so short, I dont know. But the commentary is heavy with talk of camera and lighting jargen, yeah, just what a fan of the film wants! The good news is that 3 hours of this will cure insomnia. (pauses galore!) In any case, I prefer to hear things from the horses mouth, but to no avail, because Director Cimino is nowhere to be found in this conversation.

Disc 2:

Deleted and Extended Scenes (16:56):I saw plenty of extended scenes, but look for no deleted scenes here, Universal lied. There is tons more footage of the first russian roulette scene and some extra Christopher Walken and John Savage freak out, but thats all folks. What a jip!

There are only two other features on this disc, an Original Theatrical Trailer, which is old, grainy, and full of too many critical quotes, and 10 quick pages of Production Notes, that is interesting, but would be nice to hear in person from the people quoted. Are all these extras better then nothing, not likely! Same to you Universal!
FINAL DIAGNOSIS
To give an Academy Award winning film a special edition is a must. What Universal has done with this Legacy Series edition is a slap in the face to everyone involved in the making of THE DEER HUNTER and the fans who love it. This one is only worth renting, just to watch the film itself, then put it back on the shelf. There is no Legacy in owning this edition.
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