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Roman Polanski
Jack Nicholson, Faye Dunaway, John Huston
Writing Credits:
Robert Towne

A private detective hired to expose an adulterer in 1930s Los Angeles finds himself caught up in a web of deceit, corruption, and murder.

Rated R.

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Dolby Vision
English Dolby TrueHD 5.1
English Dolby 1.0
French Dolby 1.0
Spanish Dolby 1.0
German Dolby 1.0
Italian Dolby 1.0
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 130 min.
Price: $39.99
Release Date: 6/18/2024

• Audio Commentary with Screenwriter Robert Towne and Filmmaker David Fincher
The Two Jakes Feature Film
• “The Beginning and the End” Featurette
• “Filming” Featurette
• “The Legacy” Featurette
• “Water and Power” Featurette
• “An Appreciation” Featurette
• “Chinatown Memories” Featurette
• “The Trilogy That Never Was” Featurette
• “A State of Mind” Featurette
• Trailer


-LG OLED65C6P 65-Inch 4K Ultra HD Smart OLED TV
-Marantz SR7010 9.2 Channel Full 4K Ultra HD AV Surround Receiver
-Sony UBP-X700 4K Ultra HD Dolby Vision Blu-ray Player
-Chane A2.4 Speakers
-SVS SB12-NSD 12" 400-watt Sealed Box Subwoofer


Chinatown [4K UHD] (1974)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (June 17, 2024)

Although I wouldn’t argue 1974’s Chinatown deserved to beat The Godfather Part II for the Oscar Best Picture, it sure gave it a run for its money. Chinatown is a fine film that used the traditional film noir techniques to excellent effect.

The movie follows private detective Jake Gittes (Jack Nicholson) after a wife hires him to confirm that her husband is cheating on her. Jake snaps a few photos of the apparent cad while he dallies with a young lovely, and that, it would appear, is that.

But that isn't that; that is something entirely different. And that's all I'm going to say about it.

Chinatown possesses so many various plot developments and it all unfolds at such a perfect pace that I don't want to provide too much information. That said, movies like this still work very well even when you know what's going to happen.

The craftsmanship remains excellent and the entire piece is strong enough to withstand additional viewings. Nonetheless, I don't think I should even partially disturb the freshness of the piece for new viewers, as a pleasure like this should be experienced without much foreknowledge.

Suffice it to say that although the plot easily could become muddled and obtuse, it never does. The storyline turns very complicated, and a lot of little pieces fly at you, but they all proceed logically and make perfect sense.

As with something such as The Usual Suspect, you need to pay attention as you watch Chinatown. If you do so, you should have no difficulty comprehending and keeping up with the plot and all its machinations.

In addition to a well-crafted story told clearly and elegantly by director Roman Polanski, Chinatown benefits from solid performances. Nicholson has rarely been better - and more subdued - than as Jake.

Nicholson creates a believable and rich personality with a lot of depth and complexity, so this isn't some cliché gumshoe we witness. John Huston also fares well as a wealthy industrialist because he adds a lot of gruff power to the role.

When I initially saw Chinatown in my early 20s, I didn't understand the fuss. Back then, it seemed like a fairly ordinary little mystery. MP< Perhaps age does help develop wisdom, as I now can observe what a fine piece of work the movie truly is. This is a solid piece of noir that kept me interested and engrossed virtually from beginning to end.

The Disc Grades: Picture B/ Audio B+/ Bonus A

Chinatown appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this 4K UHD Disc. While largely positive, the Dolby Vision image didn’t quite achieve greatness.

My main concern came from a little too much grain removal, especially during interiors. While daytime outdoors shots felt solid, darker indoor elements felt a bit “scrubbed”.

This gave these scenes a mildly soft vibe and they just came across as less than film-like. Much of the movie escaped this treatment, but the times it arises created distractions.

Overall sharpness worked fine. As noted, some softness appeared – likely due to grain removal – but the majority of the movie exhibited appealing delineation.

No issues with jagged edges or shimmering materialized, and edge haloes felt minimal. Source flaws stayed delightfully absent. This was a clean image without any noticeable print defects.

Chinatown featured a restricted palette and preferred to use a rather sepia-tone impression. As such, colors were never terribly bright or bold, but they fit within the design well.

A few times reds looked bold and dynamic, and the rest of the hues matched the overall scheme. In any case, I found no problems with the colors and HDR gave them extra emphasis.

Black levels appeared deep and dense, and shadow detail also was usually clear and without excessive darkness. A few “day for night” shots presented slightly dense tones, but those examples were inevitable.

HDR added impact to whites and contrast. Outside of the issues connected to grain removal, this became a pleasing presentation.

I felt impressed with the film's remixed Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundtrack. Happily, the sound designers didn't go overboard with their creation and they kept the scope of the track within sensible limits.

This means that while the mix opened up the spectrum well, it didn't provide lots of distracting auditory excessiveness. The forward channels spread out the audio well, as lots of solid ambient effects emanate from those speakers. They also offered the score with excellent stereo separation that made it livelier.

The surrounds generally did little more than lightly bolster the ambiance and music, but on a few occasions those channels provided some engaging audio. For example, look at the scene where Jake got carried away by rushing water.

The sound filled the listening environment with this effect and even branched into some convincing split surround usage as the water flowed to the rear left. It was a surprisingly convincing moment, and a few others worked similarly well.

Audio quality seemed solid. Dialogue occasionally betrayed mild edginess for louder lines, but the speech usually held up well. I thought most of the dialogue was pretty natural. Effects sounded clean and fairly deep for the most part. Only a little distortion came along with way, and the bits were fairly well reproduced.

Jerry Goldsmith's score came across as bright and lively, and it also showed some decent dynamic range at times. Chinatown's 5.1 soundtrack offered the best of both worlds; it seemed to retain the "feel" of the original mix but it added depth and breadth to the audio that helped bring it to life.

Note that the 4K also includes the film’s original monaural soundtrack. It comes with quality similar to that of the 5.1 remix, albeit in lossy form.

How did the 4K UHD compare to the 2012 Blu-ray? Both came with identical 5.1 audio, though oddly, the 4K substitutes the TrueHD mono from the BD with lossy Dolby Digital mono.

As for the 4K’s Dolby Vision image, it could shine in ways that the BD didn’t, and even with the mildly excessive use of grain reduction, it still seemed better defined. While not a slam dunk, the 4K topped the BD.

As we head to extras, we start with an audio commentary from screenwriter Robert Towne and filmmaker David Fincher. Both sit together for this running, screen-specific look at story and characters, themes and interpretation, locations, cast and performances, music, and a few other areas.

If you expect to learn a ton about the film’s production, this commentary probably won’t satisfy you, for we don’t get a lot about filmmaking areas. However, we do find a nice examination of the movie’s construction.

Fincher does most of the talking and comes across like an educated fan; he gushes a bit too much, but he backs this up with solid thoughts about what the movie does and how it does it. Towne contributes just enough insight to merit his inclusion. I’d still like to learn a bit more about the actual production, but this proves to be an informative, enjoyable track nonetheless.

In addition to the film’s trailer, we find three featurettes from the DVD. Chinatown: The Beginning and the End goes for 19 minutes, 26 seconds as it involves Towne, director Roman Polanski, producer Robert Evans, and actor Jack Nicholson.

“End” looks at the development of the project and script, the decision to get Polanski to direct and his influence on the screenplay, and other changes along the way. “End” offers a pretty intriguing glimpse of the film’s pre-production. It digs into the story elements nicely and acts as a good intro to the making of the flick.

Next comes the 25-minute, 33-second Chinatown: Filming. It involves Polanski, Evans, Nicholson, and Towne. This one looks at locations and sets, period details and visual choices, cast, characters, and performances, and notes from the shoot.

Various stories offer the best parts of “Filming”, as it includes a number of amusing anecdotes. We also learn a fair amount about the production in this useful program.

Chinatown: The Legacy spans nine minutes, 36 seconds. It includes notes from Polanski, Nicholson, Evans and Towne.

We learn a bit about the movie’s score as well as its reception. This one proves less informative than its predecessors, but it still includes a mix of nice details. It’s worth a look.

Water and Power goes for one hour, 17 minutes, 45 seconds. It provides info from Towne, LA Department of Water and Power waterworks engineer Fred Barker, William Mulholland and the Rise of Los Angeles author Catherine Mulholland, Western Times and Water Wars author John Walton, Owens Valley Committee/Audubon Society activist Mike Prather, LA councilman Tom LaBonge, LA Department of Water and Power CEO/General Manager H. David Nahai, LA Department of Water and Power PR manager Chris Plakos, Owens Valley Committee/Paiute Tribe member/activist Harry Williams, retired rancher Stan Matlick, rancher Mark Lacey, Owens Valley Committee/Sierra Club activist Mark Bagley, Owens Valley Committee president Carla Scheidlinger, retired school nurse Betty Gilchrist, environmental journalist Jenny Price, and Friends of the LA River executive director Shelly Backlar.

The program looks at the history of water in LA as well as conservation and controversies. While we learn a lot of interesting info here, “Water” probably runs a bit too long. I enjoyed the piece but probably would’ve been happier if it’d been shorter.

Chinatown: An Appreciation lasts 26 minutes, 13 seconds and involves filmmakers Steven Soderbergh, Kimberly Peirce, cinematographer Roger Deakins, and composer James Newton Howard.

We get thoughts about the movie as well as the methods used to create it. This varies between insightful observations and basic praise. It’s sporadically interesting but it gets a little tedious at times.

After this we find three featurettes that didn’t appear on the prior DVDs or BDs, and After this we find three featurettes that didn’t appear on the prior DVDs or BDs, and Chinatown Memories goes foe five minutes, 43 seconds. It offers notes from 1st AD Hawk Koch.

We find two anecdotes from the shoot. Nothing revelatory emerges but Koch offers amusing stories.

The Trilogy That Never Was spans two minutes, seven seconds. Here we locate remarks from film historian Sam Wasson.

This show covers a third Chinatown chapter that never got made. Despite the program's brevity, Wasson summarizes the topic well.

Created specifically for the 4K, A State of Mind runs 15 minutes, 57 seconds. In this one, we get more from Wasson.

The historian relates some production domains as well as his thoughts on the film. Expect another engaging chat.

On a separate Blu-ray disc, we get 1990’s The Two Jakes feature film. A sequel to Chinatown, this one takes place after World War II and runs two hours, 17 minutes, 30 seconds.

Once again Jake Gittes (once again Jack Nicholson) finds himself hired to prove infidelity. Once again Jake winds up in the middle of a bigger scheme, one connected to oil located in Los Angeles.

What with all those “once agains”, that synopsis leaves the impression Jakes offers a semi-remake of Chinatown. Once again Robert Towne writes the screenplay, though Roman Polanski fails to direct the film, as Nicholson grabs that spot for himself.

Because the Blu-ray of Jakes offers the same disc released on its own a few years back, I will post a separate review of it at some point with extended thoughts. For the time being, I’ll summarize: it’s not very good.

Jakes lacks the understated tone of the original and just feels muddled. While Chinatown offered a clever update on noir, Jakes instead seems like genre parody.

The movie progresses at an inconsistent pace and simply never feels like a compelling piece of work. Though I didn’t expect Jakes to be as good as its predecessor, I figured it’d fare better than this dull mess does.

Chinatown qualifies as a great movie, and one that deserves its status as a classic. The 4K UHD delivers inconsistent but usually solid picture with good audio and a nice set of bonus materials. Even with some qualms related to the visuals, this turns into a pretty satisfying release.

To rate this film visit the Special Edition review of CHINATOWN

Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main