The Day of the Jackal
In 1971, Frederick Forsyth shot to bestseller status with his debut novel, The Day of the Jackal taut, utterly plausible, almost documentarian in its realism and attention to detail. Two years later, director Fred Zinnemann (High Noon) turned a gripping novel into a nail-biting cinematic experience.
August 1962: the latest attempt on the life of French President Charles de Gaulle by the far right paramilitary organization, the OAS, ends in chaos, with its architect-in-chief dead at the hands of a firing squad. Demoralized and on the verge of bankruptcy, the OAS leaders meet in secret to plan their next move. In a last desperate attempt to eliminate de Gaulle, they opt to employ the services of a hired assassin from outside the fold. Enter the Jackal (Edward Fox, Ghandi): charismatic, calculating, cold as ice. As the Jackal closes in on his target, a race against the clock ensues to identify and put a stop to a killer whose identity, whereabouts and modus operandi are completely unknown.
Co-starring a plethora of talent, including Michael Lonsdale (Munich), Derek Jacobi (The Odessa File) and Cyril Cusack (1984) and featuring striking cinematography by Jean Tournier (Moonraker), The Day of the Jackal remains one of the greatest political thrillers of all time.
Arrow ports their UK Blu-ray edition of Fred Zinnemann’s The Day of the Jackal over to North America, presenting the film in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 on this dual-layer disc. The film receives a 1080p/24hz high-definition encode and comes from a master provided to Arrow by Universal, which came from a scan of a 35mm interpositive.
It’s an older master but I still felt it looks pretty good for what it is; it’s quite pleasant on screen. The image is quite sharp and very detailed, even long shots looking pretty strong. The colour scheme is a bit muted but they’re at least saturated well and have a more natural hue to them. Black levels are a little iffy: though solid most of the time crushing can be a bit of an issue.
Film grain is rendered well enough, though looks noisy in some of the darker shots. The restoration work has cleaned up the image nicely, and I don’t recall many marks or flaws, but there can be a bit of pulse with colour fluctuations, and the frame jumps around on occasion. But outside of those issues it ends up looking fairly good, offering a rather noticeable improvement over Universal’s previous DVD.
The film comes with a lossless PCM 1.0 mono track. The soundtrack is fairly busy and it manages to offer some decent range in its music and some effects. Gun shots can be a bit flat. Still, fidelity is very strong and I didn’t notice any severe damage.
I usually try to refrain from commenting on the film in question, but I do like this film a lot and think it deserves a rather stacked special edition, yet Arrow disappointingly only supplies a few on-disc supplements. The biggest feature, and the only new video feature found here, is an interview with author Neil Sinyard. It’s a fairly significant feature, running around 41-minutes, with Sinyard offering a staggering amount of detail about the book on which its based and then the film’s actual production. He also talks about the film’s rhythm, the performances, the level of detail present, his favourite scenes, and even compares moments in the film to what is in the book, including one moment that takes pages to describe in the book but is presented in a few quick shots in the film.
The interview proves to be a good one but it’s really the only significant thing here. Arrow does pull some stuff from the archives, including something called a Location Report (which looks at the location used for the film’s climax) and a brief interview with director Zinnemann. Both are 3-minutes long.
The disc then closes with the film’s theatrical trailer.
Making up for some of the slack, though, is one of Arrow’s excellent booklets. Mark Cunliffe first provides a fair sized essay on the film and its background, adding some more detail to Sinyard’s offering, followed by a fantastic article by Sheldon Hall on the filmmakers’ negative reaction to a television broadcast that excised a little over 3-minutes from the film.
The interview and booklet are both wonderful offerings but in the end I’m still fairly shocked how little material there is on here.
Arrow’s special edition proves a little disappointing thanks to the lack of features. But the presentation, despite the use of what appears to be an older master, still offers a solid upgrade over Universal’s older DVD.