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Category:    Home > Reviews > Epic > Swords > Battles > Thriller > Heist > Comedy > Crime > Caper > Bank Robbery > The 300 Spartans (1962/Fox Blu-ray)/Thunderbolt & Lightfoot (1974/United Artists/MGM/Twilight Time Limited Edition Blu-ray)

The 300 Spartans (1962/Fox Blu-ray)/Thunderbolt & Lightfoot (1974/United Artists/MGM/Twilight Time Limited Edition Blu-ray)

Picture: B/B+ Sound: B/B- Extras: C-/B Films: B-/B

PLEASE NOTE: The Thunderbolt & Lightfoot Blu-ray is limited to 3.000 copies, issued as a limited edition is now only available from our friends at Twilight Time and can be ordered from the link below.

Here are two exceptional films that happens to also make exceptional use of the widescreen scope format...

Rudolph Mate's The 300 Spartans (1962) is the precursor to the two 300 films (and counting?) Warner Bros./Legendary Pictures has had big box office success with, but tends to be far more realistic and is up there with the best of the original cycle of these films that include Kubrick's Spartacus (1960). We first reviewed the film on DVD at this link:


A fine upgrade to the DVD, the film is a must-see for fans of those films and current TV hit equivalents like Games Of Thrones, Rome and the like. Deserving serious rediscovery, TV Spots and a Trailer are the only extras.

Then we have Michael Cimino's Thunderbolt & Lightfoot (1974), one of the remaining Clint Eastwood films not to hit Blu-ray until now, though the catch is that it is a limited edtion Blu-ray, so only 3,000 copies are being pressed and they are already selling high. Cimino had co-written the underrated Douglas Trumbull sci-fi thriller Silent Running (1972, reviewed elsewhere on this site) and Eastwood was enough of a fan to give this film project to him as his directorial debut as he was trying to court a relationship with United Artists for his Malpaso Company. This combination of heist film, road trip film, comedy and buddy picture that holds up very well, showed Cimino as a major directing talent and though Eastwood (like De Palma would be on Carrie in 1976) was not happy with UA on how they handled the film, it was a critical success if not the blockbuster it should have been.

Eastwood (in one of his best-ever films) first shows up (intentionally amusingly) as a priest preaching the word of the Lord when a hitman ends the mass early and chases him down to kill him, but a young, crazy & wild guy who has just stolen a flashy Trans-Am (Jeff Bridges, rightly nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Academy Award) saves him at the last moment. We find out he calls himself Lightfoot (this is discussed in the make-up of his character and energy of his sexuality, but it is often forgotten that the name also references his connection with nature in general and hints at the idea that he might be Native American or subversive in the respect of underlying truths) and is out for a good time.)

Thunderbolt (Eastwood) stole some big money with some frienemies and they want their share and then some, but the money may not be where even he thinks it is, but that won't stop them (George Kennedy and Geoffrey Lewis, two of the great character actors of all time giving two of their greatest supporting performances of all time) from going after him. Add a sexy turn from a young Catherine Bach, amusing one from Vic Tayback, unexpected early appearance by Gary Busey as Lightfoot's boss in a side landscaping job and a stunning supporting cast (is that Beth Howland as the oppressed, shocked mother?) make this a rich film from scene one that never lets up until the final scene.

Outside of any issues of domestic life as a trap, sexuality overspill and the like (read more about it in Robin Wood's landmark film book Hollywood From Vietnam To Reagan... And Beyond, reviewed elsewhere on this site) this is just a great thriller with amazing pacing, hints of Noir, suspense and a great capturing of 1970s Americana. If you have never seen this film, consider Thunderbolt & Lightfoot a must-see. For serious film fans, it is mandatory viewing!

Extras include another nicely illustrated booklet on the film including informative text and another solid Julie Kirgo essay, while the Blu-ray disc adds a great feature length audio commentary track by Kirgo, writer Lem Dobbs and film scholar Nick Redman and an Isolated Music Score in lossless DTS-MA 2.0 Stereo including some sound effects, Paul Williams' theme song and the score itself by Dee Barton (Play Misty For Me). Too bad Cimino (who is excellent on his commentary tracks) and/or some of the surviving stars could not have also had a commentary here, but this top treatment for such an underrated film is long, long overdue.

As noted, these are exceptional widescreen films and though both films have prints with some color and age issues in a few parts, they are great-looking scope films and the 1080p 2.35 X 1 AVC @ 38 MBPS digital High Definition image transfer on Spartans is better than its old DVD version which my fellow writer liked more than I did despite it looking good for the format. There may be some age issues that need to be gone over with the print, but it holds up very well and was a shoot that was superior for the genre for its time and still is. Note the color and compositions alone, plus editing is much more mature than most of the flashy wanna-bes we see today. It even compares well to Ridley Scott's Gladiator, and not just because it's Blu-ray is such a disappointment.

The 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on Thunderbolt has some grain in the credits and despite some color issues in the beginning, like the recent James Bond Blu-rays that had some of the same issues of not all the time, when the picture is at its best, it is jaw-dropping, stunning, demo quality, one of my favorite Twilight Time color Blu-rays to date, offers a true challenge to the best HDTV & Ultra HDTVs around and shows how Cimino immediately established a superior use of the widescreen scope frame that would become more advanced in his follow-up films including The Deer Hunter, Heaven's Gate and Year Of The Dragon. This film used Panavision lenses, which are even better than the CinemaScope of Spartans, but both epitomize the possibilities for their respective formats.

As for sound, the DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix on Spartans is a nice upgrade from its original monophonic sound and the lossy Dolby 5.0 mix on the DVD (our writer only covered the 2.0 sound on the DVD) and uses the music in stereo to help fill out the mix. This was professionally recorded and 52+ years later, it shows. The same can be said for the DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 2.0 Mono lossless sound on Thunderbolt, well recorded for a film of its time, sounding better than it ever did. The actual isolated music is in DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 2.0 Stereo lossless sound making one wish the actual film could have been upgraded like Spartans. Either way, it is a sonic pleasure.

You can order the Thunderbolt & Lightfoot limited edition Blu-ray while supplies last at this link:


- Nicholas Sheffo


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