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Category:    Home > Reviews > Western > Revenge > Spaghetti > Spy > Action > Thriller > Crime > Neo Noir > A Bullet For Sandoval (1970/UMC/MVD/VCI Blu-ray)/Mission: Impossible Dead Reckoning, Part One 4K (2023/Paramount 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray)/Palmetto (1998/Castle Rock/Warner Archive Blu-ray)

A Bullet For Sandoval (1970/UMC/MVD/VCI Blu-ray)/Mission: Impossible Dead Reckoning, Part One 4K (2023/Paramount 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray)/Palmetto (1998/Castle Rock/Warner Archive Blu-ray)

4K Ultra HD Picture: B+ Picture: B-/X/B- Sound: B-/B+/B- Extras: C+/B-/C- Films: C+/B-/C

PLEASE NOTE: The Palmetto Blu-ray is now only available from Warner Bros. through their Warner Archive series and can be ordered from the link below.

Now for the latest thrillers, including updates of two older features...

Julian Buchs' A Bullet For Sandoval (1970) is a Spaghetti Western that has always been a curio because it co-stars Ernest Borgnine, who was doing several such rough and gritty films at the time in the face of his comic performance on the hit McHale's Navy TV series (heavily in syndication for a long time) and his Oscar-winning turn in Marty (1954) and the fans always followed. VCI has had the rights for decades to the film and we covered a basic DVD edition a good while ago at this link:


No, the film is not a classic of the genre and has its issues, but the crazy story of a soldier (George Hilton) getting revenge on the father of his dead, pregnant girlfriend is bold and intriguing enough to keep one watching, no matter the flaws or limits of the film when it ultimately concludes. It is ambitious and one of the better such westerns of the cycle by default, reminding us of how raw these films could be versus their many bad imitators then and especially now.

You may have mixed results in seeing it or even re-seeing it, but everyone should see it at least once and this new Blu-ray upgrade is now the best way to watch it outside of a mint, scope film print.

This time we get extras that include the Original U.S. Theatrical Trailer and a feature length audio commentary by superfan, film scholar and filmmaker Alex Cox.

Christopher McQuarrie's Mission: Impossible Dead Reckoning, Part One 4K (2023) is the seventh feature film with Tom Cruise as disguise and spy expert Ethan Hunt, who we first met back in 1996 where many felt the title referred to how impossible it had become for Paramount Pictures to revive the classic late 1960s franchise, a TV classic whose first three seasons feature what remains some of the most complex TV ever made, especially U.S. TV. The first four films were very impressive, then the series had to find new ground. This is the most elaborate and ambitious of the films yet in plot and scope, going for a two part film.

This one runs nearly three hours and starts with a Russian nuclear submarine utilizing a new computer system with advanced computer technology (dubbed A.I. here too, the series had a laptop many years ago with Ving Rhames' Luther character saying it was customized with something he called an A.I. chip) to battle any other kind of sea-going or underwater vessel in the world, but something goes very wrong and and the sub is undone.

Hunt old boss Kittridge (the always effective Henry Czerny in his first appearance since the original Brian De Palma film) contacts him to accept this mission and investigation, but has some personal antagonism and reminder's of Hunt's darker past to throw in. Hunt is all in, but also has some ideas of his own and likely, advanced information even Kittridge does not. Thus, this all begins.

Shot in several locations around the world, the MacGuffin (the thing all the characters are chasing, but the audience usually would care less about ala Alfred Hitchcock) involves a special electronic key divided into two parts that when combined, can control the Russian A.I. system, though it may have just grown a mind of its own (the latest case of HAL in Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey of the underrated Colossus: The Forbin Project, both reviewed elsewhere on this site) which is a nice twist on the techno-thriller side of films like this one.

Haley Atwell is a pickpocket who gets caught in the middle of all this, Luther and Benji (Simon Pegg) are back, the very familiar character actor Shea Whigman is here as Briggs (could he be the same character as in the series?) and the supporting cast ('good or bad guys') are well played by Cary Elwes, Esai Morales, Vanessa Kirby, Pom Klementieff and Rebecca Ferguson. This is a very effective and convincing cast.

The film starts out very well and goes on for a while before the opening credits, then builds from there and is pretty good for the first two-thirds of the film, then it has the job of being suspenseful and working, yet not totally closing things out because of the film that is due to follow. The stunts are decent, Cruise doing much of his own work still, there is a really good car chase that goes all out if not totally successful or original and the fights are fine if not always spectacular.

I guess they felt they were at the point the Bond series was with huge success and then got more ambitious making On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969) going all out in a way very few franchises in film history ever have or will have the opportunity to do. Hunt is not getting married here by a longshot, but it is elaborate and does try to do some things different here at times and I liked that. The Bourne series is finished, but the Bond films have just come off of their spectacularly successful Daniel Craig run, so all the more reason to really go big and broad here as Cruise has somehow aged little since the first film.

I cannot say anything else about the film without spoilers, but it is a release worthy of the last few Craig/Bond and Bourne films, though Cruise and company know what they are competing with, besides themselves, other big budget film genres and Cruise as big at the box office as he has ever been. You can see why Paramount and company would go all out.

Unfortunately, like On Her Majesty's Secret Service, the film shockingly underperformed, but again, it was under unusual circumstances. Cruise had not said he was quitting the series in mid-production, something a producer like himself would never do anyhow, but the semi-surprising actors strike (joining the writer's strike at the time) had arrived and he was limited in personally promoting it being a part of the SAG-AFTRA union. Then this era of the superhero films was (and still is as we post) crashing spectacularly critically and commercially at the box office, so that should have been an in for this film. However, Barbie and Oppenheimer, which was taking up all the IMAX screens worldwide, swooped in first and made two big smash hits that overperformed spectacularly and people seemed to like both very much.

Also, the real life Russian invasion of Ukraine might have had somewhat of an effect, though anything Russian in this film is very limited. I think that if they had waited to issue the film in August or in the fall, it would have done better and I believe it will go through the roof on home video, et al, so this film and this series is far from over. Plus, with the break in the Bond series before they get a new actor and reboot, this franchise can take advantage of the lapse. The next film was not finished shooting, so they have the advantage of making any clever adjustments and updates that they can. As soon as the actor's strike is over, I'm sure they will. They are off to a very solid start here.

Extras include Digital Movie, while the discs (per the press release) add:

  • A Feature Length Audio Commentary Track by director Christopher McQuarrie and editor Eddie Hamilton: McQuarrie and Hamilton take viewers through each compelling scene with in-depth commentary.

  • Abu Dhabi: Explore the exotic filming locations in the desert and at the international airport and discover how each thrilling sequence was shot.

  • Rome: Take a behind-the-scenes look at the thrilling car chase through Italy's historic capital, as Tom Cruise's driving skills are pushed to the limit while handcuffed to Hayley Atwell!

  • Venice: See the breathtaking city of Venice as it's never been shown on film. Plus, witness the cast's dedication and commitment to their training as they prepare to get "Mission Ready."

  • Freefall: An extended behind-the-scenes look at one of the biggest stunts in cinema history. Watch never-before-seen footage of the rigorous training as Tom launches a motorcycle off a cliff.

  • Speed Flying: Join Tom and the crew as they explain the various training techniques involved in pulling off the dangerous speed flying stunts in the film.

  • Train: See how the climactic train sequence was captured on film. From building an actual train from scratch to crashing it using practical effects, you don't want to miss this!

  • Deleted Shots Montage: Director Christopher McQuarrie and editor Eddie Hamilton share some of the breathtaking, never-before-seen footage that didn't make the final film.

  • and an Editorial featurette: The Sevastopol - Director Christopher McQuarrie and editor Eddie Hamilton take viewers through the intense opening scene.

And to conclude, Volker Schlondorff is a director who has been very consistent with making films for smarter adults and has helmed the likes of A Degree Of Murder (1967,) A Free Woman (1972,) The Lost Honor Of Katharina Blum (1975,) Coup De Grace (1976), The Tin Drum (1979,) Circle Of Deceit (1981,) Swann In Love (1984) and the original 1990 feature film adaption of The Handmaid's Tale. So it was a big deal when he was announced to make a big Hollywood Neo-Noir with more sex than usual in Palmetto (1998) with Woody Harrelson, Gina Gershon, Elisabeth Shue, Chloe Seveigy and Michael Rapaport.

Harrelson plays a recently-released convict named Harry who likely went to jail for a crime he did not commit and is trying to figure out what to do, revenge and/or big money. A sexy blonde (Shue, who was on a roll at the time in lead roles, looking good in films like this that she made better, no matter how disappointing they may have ultimately been) gets him involved in a convoluted scheme that includes big money, kidnapping, ransom and more.

However, compilations will ensue and the rest of the films nearly two hours tries to do something with all that. It has the cast, locales, look and even some chemistry, but it ultimately runs out of gas early, is never sexy enough and becomes too predictable, going for obvious deconstruction by the end of the film. Too bad because this could have worked really well, but landed up being a disappointment all around, though it is developing somewhat of a cult following and increasingly, a curio.

An Original Theatrical Trailer is the only extra.

Now for playback performance. The 2160p HEVC/H.265, 2.35 X 1, Dolby Vision/HDR (10; Ultra HD Premium)-enhanced Ultra High Definition image on Mission: Impossible... 4K is pretty good, more so on the outdoor and stunt footage than the talking indoor scenes. This was all shot in a combination of Ultra HD cameras that range from 4K to 6K, was finished in 4.5K, used real Panavision anamorphic lenses and brought it all together with decent results. No, I liked the early filmed ones look more and how they looked, but this still has plenty of great visual moments.

The Dolby Atmos 11.1 (Dolby TrueHD 7.1 mixdown for older systems) lossless soundmix has some great moments and demo moments, but not overly amazingly all the way, but is still very professional and effective enough. Still, I found some of the earlier films to have some sonic character and uses of sound that worked better than here and I did not buy some of the sound effects either. The combination is still impressive enough and one of the best live action films of the year in that respect.

Then we have both older films, which were shot in less-expensive versions of the scope format albeit on photochemical 35mm film, but the 1080p 2.35 X 1 image on both are a bit off, with Bullet in Cromoscope (which is Techniscope without the benefit of three-strip, dye-transfer Technicolor prints) with Kodak Eastmancolor 35mm negative that has a tendency in that time to fade a little bit. The materials they used here suffer some of that, but it is still better color than I have ever seen the film in. Palmetto was shot in Super 35, a successor to Techniscope/Chromoscope with about the same picture quality, but the full 1.33 X 1 frame is usually shot, then a 2.35 X 1 frame is extracted from it.

The makers had faster Kodak color negative film stocks to shoot with, but this transfer looks a little older and a little strained throughout. Some shots look better than others. It is consistent, but only so memorable, but not too rough per the cycle of the genre being made.

The sound on Bullet has been upgraded to PCM 2.0 Mono and is a nice upgrade from the lossy sound on the DVDs we've had for the last few decades, while Palmetto was a digital sound release and is here in a DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix that shows its age a bit and sounds slightly strained. However, this was from the first few years of digital sound on film and some flaws might be from the formats (DTS, Dolby Digital, Sony Dynamic Digital Sound) being still relatively new and/or recoding techniques not totally able to handle their advanced fidelity.

To order the Palmetto Warner Archive Blu-ray, go to this link for it and many more great web-exclusive releases at:


- Nicholas Sheffo


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