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"The Deer Hunter" - (UK Import) - {Blu-ray}
Taylor Carlson
Studio: StudioCanal
Release Date:
Special Features:

Presentation by Mickey Rourke, Vietnam War: Unknown Images, Realizing the Deer Hunter, Shooting the Deer Hunter, Playing the Deer Hunter, Commentary, Trailer, Booklet


The Deer Hunter is directed by Michael Cimino. The film stars Robert De Niro, Christopher Walken, John Cazale, Meryl Streep, John Savage, George Dzundza, and Rutanya Alda. The musical score is by Stanley Myers and features classical guitar played by John Williams (the classical guitarist, not the film score composer.) The film was originally released in 1978. ***

The Deer Hunter is the story of working-class men of Russian ancestry, living in an Eastern United States factory town. Following the marriage of one of the men, and a deer hunt in the woods with their friend Stan (Cazale), they set off on a tour of duty in Vietnam - one that will forever change their lives. Nick (Walken) is traumatized by war, and disappears deeper into the country, joining in a shady Russian Roulette club. Steven (Savage) returns home from the war a cripple, but remains in a military hospital, unable to return home and face his wife. Only Michael (De Niro) returns home with no injuries or mental trauma, but even he finds himself unable to readjust to life. Upon hearing Nick is still alive in Vietnam, Michael sets out to find and bring his friend back safely. ***

In The Deer Hunter, Michael Cimino beautifully captures the negative effects the Vietnam War had on human beings. Cimino's film is set apart from other movies covering Vietnam because, rather than focusing on the political elements of the war or the gore and violence on the battlefield (even though there is still some of that to go around), he focuses on the people involved directly. We see these characters, get to know them well, and get to see them thrown into hell - and the aftermath. ***

The cast picked for the film is top-notch as well. Savage, De Niro, and Walken are superb as the three soldiers the film revolves around - who we gradually see descend into their own personal forms of hell. A comparison of the scenes early in the film before our heroes set off to war and the scenes that follow the horrific battles show just how much their lives are forever changed by the hell that was Vietnam. Also noteworthy is the supporting cast, which includes Meryl Streep and the severely-underrated John Cazale in his final role - sadly, he died of bone cancer before the film was completed. ***

The musical score, composed by Stanley Myers, and played on classical guitar by John Williams, beautifully captures the mood Cimino so accurately depicts. The is a sad, somber musical score that paints a picture of what our main characters are feeling following their life-changing experience overseas. It is also one of the greatest scores ever composed and used in a feature film. ***

In the end, The Deer Hunter shows the effect that war has on soldiers, and the difficulties they have in subsequently returning to a regular life. The subject is nothing new to the world of film (and it wasn't even a new subject for movies in 1978, when first released), but no movie depicts it as well as this one. The movie has more in common with dramas than conventional war films, which serves as its greatest strength. ---

Image And Sound:

The Deer Hunter is yet another one of those long-awaited movies on Blu-Ray I wanted in HD so badly, I had to bite the bullet and import the disc. The transfer on this disc should not disappoint fans. While certainly not perfect, it is in all ways a step up from the DVD versions. Detail and contrast get a much-needed boost, and there is hardly any annoying print damage or the like to speak of. The scenes of stock footage look a little rough, though this is to be expected. Most issues with the transfer are few and far between, though - and most viewers won't even notice… or care. ***

The audio is available in both English 5.1 and 2.0 tracks (as well as several other foreign language tracks though I didn't bother listening to these.) Both English tracks are solid and get the job done. I have heard some complaints about the pitch of the audio on the 5.1 track, although I couldn't notice anything out of the ordinary. Both tracks tend to be front-heavy, but that is to be expected of a film this vintage. Ultimately, the movie sounds as good as it looks.

Special Features:

Several featurettes appear on the disc, and thankfully, they actually play in American players - unlike a lot of imports I have picked up. There are featurettes that take you behind the scenes with cast and crew, plus a good deal of Vietnam War footage that is definitely too violent to put in your typical made-for-TV documentary. Also appearing from the DVD is director Michael Cimino's commentary track - a must-listen for fans.

Final Words:

This classic is not available on Blu-Ray in the United States, but this British disc from StudioCanal comes highly recommended. The transfer is a nice step-up from the DVD, as is the audio. The bonus features being playable in an American system doesn't hurt either. Oh, and if I hadn't said so already, the movie is pretty good too (a masterpiece, actually.) If you own a Blu-Ray player, import this disc.


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