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“Dead Poets Society-Special Edition”
Reviewed by: Wayne Klein
Genre: Drama
Video: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1
Languages English, French
Subtitles English, Spanish
Length 129 minutes
Rating NR
Release Date 1/10/05
Studio Touchstone
Commentary: Director Peter Weir, Cinematographer John Seale and Writer Tom Schulman
Documentaries: None
Featurettes: A Look Back, Master of Sound, Cinematography Master Class
Filmography/Biography: None
Interviews: None
Trailers/TV Spots: Previews, Trailer
Alternate/Deleted Scenes: Raw Takes: A Collection of Uncut, Deleted Scenes (1 scene)
Music Video: None
Other: None
Cast and Crew:

Robin Williams, Robert Sean Leonard, Ethan Hawke, Josh Charles, Norman Lloyd, Kurtwood Smith, Carla Belver, James Waterston

Written By: Tom Schulman
Produced By: Tony Thomas, Paul Junger Witt and Steven Haft
Directed By: Peter Weir
Music: Maurice Jarre
The Review:

While Peter Weir’s highly successful “Dead Poets Society” is far from his best work the craftsmanship and stellar performances save the day preventing the script from becoming a trite cliché. John Keating (Robin Williams) is the new unconventional literature professor at Welton Academy prep school. It’s 1955 and parents are sending their boys to the school not to become sensitive artists but businessmen and politicians. Keating encourages his students to “seize the day” and follow their heart vs. their parent’s dreams which puts him into conflict with boththe head of the school and many of the parents as well. ***

Like all of Weir’s films since his breakout film “The Year of Living Dangerously”, “Dead Poets Society” was nominated for a rash of awards but, oddly, won for it’s weakest link Tom Schulman’s screenplay. It’s probably one of Weir’s least memorable American films but still manages to charm and be moving because of Weir’s wonderful direction and the winning performances of Williams, Ethan Hawke and Robert Sean Leonard. ---

Image and Sound:

This re-release features the film in anamorphic widescreen for the first time. The colors are rich and blacks are solid. While the image quality is crisp throughout most of the film there are a number of sequences that looked a bit soft to me. Nevertheless, this is a major improvement over the previous release and the picture looks remarkably good overall. The audio uses the 5.1 format well and dialogue is crystal clear throughout the film. The music also has better presence than in the previous edition as well with the memorable score sounding terrific here. ---

The Extras:

“A Look Back” is a thirty minute retrospective documentary featuring many of the actors that appeared in the film although Robin Williams is curiously MIA. We also get a five minute deleted scene but that’s the only one. “Cinematography Master Class” give us a glimpse into the difficult art of lighting and how important it is to a film with the film’s cinematographer John Seale. “Master of Sound: Alan Splet” is a short featurettte highlighting the sound design of the film. The late Splet had worked with everyone from Terence Malck to David Lynch and, of course, Weir (on “The Mosquito Coast”). It’s a nice tribute to a talented artist. We also get a number of promotional trailers. ---

Commentary: Peter Weir’s first (to my knowledge) commentary track is done in collaboration with writer Tom Schulman and cinematographer John Seale. Weir is a quite thoughtful man but provides plenty of interesting comments about making films. His dry wit occasionally comes up during the commentary track which helps keep the track entertaining. Putting him with the writer and cinematographer on this commentary track is wise as Weir pays strict attention to the screenplay and look of his films and this highlight the collaborative process as well. ---
Final Words:

Although this is far from my favorite film by Weir (for all its flaws I feel “The Mosquito Coast is a superior film), “Dead Poets Society” features the stunning visual sense of Weir and Seale as well as strong performances. If Schulman’s script is flawed, Schulman wisely doesn’t dig into over sentimental side of the story opting instead to focus on the drama events that change everyone’s lives in the movie. While double-dips are rarely worth it, “Dead Poets Society” is one of those exceptions with a rich transfer, a noteworthy commentary track from Weir, Schulman and Seale and a couple of strong featurettes on the making of this classic movie.


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