Badlands appears in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. The image suffered from the limitations of its source but represented the original material well.
Sharpness was generally fine. Some wider shots could be a bit on the soft side, but those elements didn’t create a notable concern. The majority of the movie demonstrated good – though not great – definition. I witnessed no issues with jaggies or moiré effects, and print flaws were absent. Grain could be heavy, but that was a natural outgrowth of the original photography, so I accepted it.
At no point did the film deliver a dynamic palette, as it tended toward a sober feel. Nonetheless, occasional instances of brighter tones occasionally emerged, and these looked quite good. Blacks were reasonably dark and tight, while shadows showed pretty good clarity; a few shots looked a bit thick, but most seemed fine. Given the qualities of the source photography, this was never going to be an attractive presentation, but the Blu-ray made it look about as good as possible.
The movie’s LPCM monaural soundtrack was fine given the film’s age and origins. Dialogue occasionally showed some thinness but the lines remained intelligible and reasonably natural.
Effects often lacked depth but came across as acceptably realistic and lacked distortion. The music worked about the same; the score was appropriately rendered but not with great punch. All of this was more than adequate in the end.
How did the Blu-ray compare to original DVD from 1999? Audio differed, as the DVD included a 5.1 remix. I wasn’t wild about it so I was fine with the Blu-ray’s original mono track. The sound was a little clearer and tighter here.
Visuals showed more obvious improvements. The picture seemed much better defined and cleaner, with a more “film-like” feel. The DVD was pretty ugly, so this gave us a substantial step up in quality.
Though the DVD came with no extras, Criterion release adds a few. A 1993 episode of American Justice called “Charles Starkweather” runs 20 minutes, 46 seconds as it offers notes a summary of the events fictionalized in Badlands. We get a good take on the real-life story, especially via the use of intriguing archival materials. It’s not a thorough examination, but it gives us a solid look at the subject.
Making Badlands goes for 41 minutes, 25 seconds and includes notes from actors Martin Sheen and Sissy Spacek and production designer Jack Fisk. They discuss the film’s approach to the Starkweather story, aspects of the participants’ careers, shooting Badlands and working with Terrence Malick, sets and locations, and some other areas. Though it’d be nice to hear from additional participants, this offers a nice overview. It concentrates on appropriate subjects and digs into them in a bright, informative manner.
Two interviews follow. We hear from Editor Billy Weber (21:52) and Producer Edward Pressman (12:34). Weber covers various story/editing issue, while Pressman chats about his life and career as well details of the Badlands production. Both programs offer useful thoughts, though I prefer Weber’s piece, as he offers nice insights into Malick’s methods.
In addition to the film’s trailer, we get a 20-page Booklet. It provides an essay from filmmaker Michael Almereyda and some credits/photos. It’s not one of Criterion’s more substantial booklets, but it adds some good material.
Significantly more narrative-based than subsequent Terrence Malick films, Badlands becomes arguably his most satisfying effort. It creates an unusual and rich portrait of young killers that never resorts to simple concepts. The Blu-ray boasts good picture and audio along with a few useful bonus materials. Arguably Malick’s best movie, Badlands comes to Blu-ray in fine fashion.
To rate this film visit the original review of BADLANDS