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Category:    Home > Reviews > Gangster > Action > Depression > The Untouchables – Special Collector’s Edition (1987/Blu-ray + HD-DVD)

The Untouchables – Special Collector’s Edition (1987/Blu-ray + HD-DVD)


Picture: B+     Sound: B+     Extras: B     Film: B+



Everyone always bashes the idea of TV shows becoming movies as if they are always bad 100% of the time, but good storytelling is the true crux of any film and many do not even realize that The Untouchables began as part of another TV show that led to a theatrical film release even before the 1950s TV show arrived and became a smash hit.  When it was announced that Brian De Palma would remake the show as a film, eyebrows were raised.  He signed Kevin Costner as Eliot Ness, who seemed like a lightweight at first as compared to Robert Stack, then signed Robert DeNiro as Al Capone and Sean Connery in a new role.  The film arrived and was both a big critical and commercial hit.


Costner is a less sure, more vulnerable Ness, dedicated to doing his job and trying to find the means of doing so.  He is in a High Noon position as Capone and his men easily foil his best intents, but as things get uglier and bloodier, he lucks out and slowly recruits the men who can help him as he realizes the corruption within The Treasury Department is too extensive for the country’s own good.  There is the gutsy sharpshooter (Andy Garcia in a really good early role), the bright accountant (Charles Martin Smith in the most underrated performance in the film) and Connery as the beat cop who knows the rottenness and its history in Chicago through and through.  Then the action begins.


David Mamet’s screenplay hits the nail on the head scene after scene as De Palma slyly subverts the Action films of the 1980s by turning their formula on its head and punctuation it with a brutality, rawness and horror that is pure De Palma and gets to the roots of the Gangster genre.  Acting is good all around, but Connery steals the show getting respect long, long overdue.  De Niro is also very clever, with a dark mockery of joy and honor that makes his Capone one of the sickest, deadliest and most disturbing of all time, in a remarkable and quickly imitated performance.


Even in the face of Scorsese’s trilogy of Gangster hits (GoodFellas, Casino, The Departed), the rise of The Sopranos and the watershed of classic Gangster films in 1990 (including Miller’s Crossing, State Of Grace, The Krays & GoodFellas), The Untouchables holds up extremely well.  This is not just because it is set in the past, but because it is so well made and from a time when people who ran the studios like Paramount still knew films and loved them.  This film would probably not get made at this point in Hollywood history, though it itself is more than Hollywood enough, but one with an edge long missing.  Its arrival in both HD formats is something to celebrate.



The 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image on both versions looks really good and shows off the terrific use of anamorphic widescreen Panavision scope framing by Stephen H. Burum, A.S.C., in what is one of the best-looking commercial films of the 1980s.  It was also made into 70mm blow-up prints it is so good looking and both HD formats do justice to that work.  Those prints included 4.1 Dolby magnetic multi-channel sound superior to all 35mm prints and both discs offer upgraded Dolby Digital (Plus on the HD-DVD) EX 5.1 and even better DTS ES 5.1 soundtracks.  As in all of De Palma’s best films, the sound design is superior and the mix here is exceptional, as it always was.  Adding to this is the terrific score by the great Ennio Morricone, you have a mix that is as impressive as ever and far superior to most bombastic digital mixes we get now that are all bells, whistles and no substance.  This is must-have classic demo material for all HD home theater systems!


Extras include four new featurettes (The Script, The Cast, Production Stories, Reinventing The Genre, The Classic), original featurette The Men and the original theatrical trailer in HD.  Sure, an audio commentary would have been nice, especially before Connery’s retirement, but this is still a good set of extras and both are among the best back catalog releases in their format.


For more on the original series, check out this link on the debut season:





-   Nicholas Sheffo


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