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SPECIFICATIONS
  • 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • English PCM Mono
  • English subtitles
  • 1 Disc
FEATURES
  • Making "Badlands," a new documentary featuring actors Martin Sheen and Sissy Spacek and production designer Jack Fisk
  • New interview with editor Billy Weber about director Terrence Malick's unique approach to editing
  • New interview with producer Edward Pressman
  • "Charles Starkweather," a 1993 episode of the television series Great Crimes and Trials, about the real-life story on which the film was loosely based
  • Trailer

Badlands

Blu-ray
Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: Terrence Malick
Starring: Martin Sheen, Sissy Spacek, Warren Oates
1973 | 94 Minutes | Licensor: Warner Brothers Home Entertainment

Release Information
Blu-ray | MSRP: $39.95 | Series: The Criterion Collection | Edition: #651
RLJ Entertainment

Release Date: March 19, 2013
Review Date: March 9, 2013

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SYNOPSIS

Badlands announced the arrival of a major talent: Terrence Malick. His impressionistic take on the notorious Charles Starkweather and Caril Ann Fugate killing spree of the late 1950s uses a serial-killer narrative as a springboard for an oblique teenage romance, lovingly and idiosyncratically enacted by Martin Sheen and Sissy Spacek. The film also introduced many of the elements that would earn Malick his passionate following: the enigmatic approach to narrative and character, the unusual use of voice-over, the juxtaposition of human violence with natural beauty, the poetic investigation of American dreams and nightmares. This debut has spawned countless imitations, but none have equaled its strange sublimity.

Forum members rate this film 8.8/10

 

Discuss the film and Blu-ray here   


PICTURE

After finally making a deal with Warner Bros. Criterion releases Terrence Malickís first film, Badlands, on Blu-ray in the aspect ratio of 1.85:1 on this dual-layer disc. The new high-definition transfer is presented in 1080p/24hz.

Warnerís original DVD (a single-layer flipper disc containing the widescreen version on one side and an open matte version on the other) was one of their early DVD releases and has not aged well over the last decade-and-a-bit. The transfer is heavily compressed, littered with noise, pixilation, edge-enhancement, and a variety of other issues.

The film was in dire need of a new presentation and thankfully Criterion has gone all out. This new one, taken from a new 4k transfer of the original 35mm negative, delivers on all fronts. The image is far more natural looking, very filmic, all issues found in the previous Warner DVD now gone. Objects present clean edges and excellent definition without any sign of edge-enhancement or any other sort of artifact. Film grain is present, getting a bit heavy in places, and is rendered cleanly. The colour tone is a little cooler here in comparison to what I remember from the DVD, but colours are cleanly rendered, with some particularly striking greens and absolutely gorgeous blue skies. A couple of ďmagic hourĒ shots also deliver some perfect oranges and reds.

The film has also been beautifully restored and little damage remains, limited only to a few minor marks that you really have to be looking for.

Overall itís gorgeous, and the long wait for a new presentation (on Blu-ray no less) was well worth it. An absolutely astounding job.

9/10

All Blu-ray screen captures come from the source disc and have been shrunk from 1920x1080 to 900x506 and slightly compressed to conserve space. While they are not exact representations they should offer a general idea of overall video quality.

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AUDIO

Warnerís DVD presented both a Dolby Digital mono track and a new Dolby Digital 5.1 surround track. Criterion has stuck to the original mono for this release, presenting it in lossless linear PCM, dropping the 5.1 remix. Iím more than fine with this since I donít recall the 5.1 track offering much of an improvement. At any rate this new mono track actually offers a significant improvement in terms of quality over both of those tracks. Though dialogue can be a little muffled, an issue that has always been there and more than likely inherent in the source, the track as a whole is very crisp. Music is especially striking, delivering excellent range and fidelity despite the limited nature of mono. Thereís a surprising amount of power there and it never comes off truly flat. Quite impressive.

7/10

SUPPLEMENTS

Considering what a huge coup it is for Criterion to get their hands on this title I was a little stunned to see there wasnít an awful lot here, with barely 2-hoursí worth of material on here, but all of it is at least of excellent quality.

First is a new 41-minute documentary called Making Badlands, which features interviews with art director Jack Fisk, and actors Martin Sheen and Sissy Spacek. The participants, all recorded separately, talk about Charles Starkweather at first, the spree killer who influenced Malick to make the film, and the two actors then talk about being cast and what it was like working with Malick. Fisk talks about the look and design of the film, and how he works to help the actors build their characters. He talks about Malickís visual sense and how he had to work around that, even attributing some of Malickís traits (like randomly filming stuff) to his lack of experience, though, of course, thatís just how he works. Everyone shares some anecdotes (Sheen on wearing a hat, and Fisk talking about confronting a rattlesnake) and Sheen talks a little more about his character. The three fondly recall everything about making the film, all participants obviously proud at having been a part of it.

Criterion then includes another interview, a 12-minute one featuring producer Edward Pressman. Pressman covers how he got the funding for the film, having to dig into the credit line for his familyís toy business, and then talks about the shoot itself, getting into more detail about some of the problems encountered. These problems included how they ended up going through three cameramen, or how some of the seasoned pros who worked on the film didnít like Malickís style of directing. Distribution also proved to be an issue, despite the fact Warner Bros. ended up picking it up. The film had bombed initially, though a re-release years later proved to be more successful. Pressman also mentions other films he was involved with at the time, like Sisters and The Phantom of the Paradise before moving onto the studio contract he eventually picked up. Itís the shortest feature on here though no less enlightening.

Yet another interview is included, this time with editor Billy Weber, who also appeared in the supplements on Criterionís releases for both Days of Heaven and The Thin Red Line. Weber has talked about Malickís style and what itís like to edit a film with/for him, but here he talks about the formation of what would become the directorís style. He mentions the use of the voice over (influenced in part by Truffautís The Wild Child) and montages, and how all the random footage Malick would shoot was edited into the film. Weber also covers the filmís music, the technical difficulties that arose, and an interesting trick that was employed around the animals that appear in the film (which I never, ever noticed before.) They also pulled some footage used in the film (like shots in the clouds) from some unlikely places. Informative and fairly surprising in places itís another excellent contribution from Weber on Malickís work.

Probably feeling the need to add some contextualization for those unfamiliar with who Charles Starkweather is (heís mentioned all throughout the supplements) Criterion has included a 1993 episode of American Justice about the killer and his murderous spree with girlfriend Caril Ann Fugate. It covers the murders and the manhunt, complete with photos and archival footage. It then covers the trial, Starkweatherís execution, and Fugateís fight to prove her innocence. I always liked the show, hosted by Bill Kurtis, because it never exploited the cases it covered and was intent on just delivering the facts in a journalistic manner; it never relied on cheap reenactments that other similar shows relied on. For those unfamiliar with Starkweather or the incidents that influenced Badlands this is a great primer on the case, and Iím happy Criterion licenced it for this release. It runs around 21-minutes.

The disc closes with the filmís original theatrical trailer. The included booklet features an essay by filmmaker Michael Almereyda, who writes about Malickís work, this film, Starkweather, and Flannery OíConnorís ďA Good Man is Hard to Find.Ē

Disappointingly itís a little slim compared to Criterionís other Malick releases, but Criterion has gathered together a great set of interviews and the inclusion of the Starkweather piece is also an excellent touch.

7/10

CLOSING

An absolutely gorgeous presentation of Malickís first feature-length film, accompanied by some strong supplements, all make this release a must own for all admirers and fans of the film. It comes with a very high recommendation.


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