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David Anspaugh
Gene Hackman, Barbara Hershey, Dennis Hopper, Sheb Wooley, Fern Persons, Chelcie Ross, Robert Swan, Michael O'Guinne, Wil Dewitt, John Robert Thompson
Writing Credits:
Angelo Pizzo

They needed a second chance to finish first.

A coach with a checkered past and a local drunk train a small town high school basketball team to become a top contender for the championship.

Box Office:
Opening Weekend
$220.068 thousand on 30 screens.
Domestic Gross
$28.607 million.

Rated PG

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1/16X9
English Dolby Digital 5.1
French Monaural
Spanish Monaural
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 115 min.
Price: $19.99
Release Date: 3/1/2005

• Audio Commentary with Director David Anspaugh and Writer Angelo Pizzo
• “Hoosier History: The Story Behind the Legend” Featurette 29:48
• “Milan Vs. Muncie 1954 Indiana High School Basketball Championship Game” Archival Footage
• Deleted Scenes
• Photo Gallery
• Trailer
• Previews


Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


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Hoosiers: Collector's Edition (1986)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (April 3, 2012)

Because I claim to be both a big fan of sports and movies, it shames me to admit I never saw 1986’s Hoosiers until more than 25 years later. But better late than never, as they say, so I was happy to finally check out the much-loved flick.

Set in 1954, Norman Dale (Gene Hackman) comes to small Hickory, Indiana to coach high school basketball. This is his first coaching gig in more than a decade, and he encounters a mix of challenges – not the least of which comes from his own checkered past. A former college coach who ran into problems there, the job acts as Dale’s last shot at redemption.

In addition, Dale runs into an extremely conservative town, so a lot of the locals resist his attempts to change. (“Zone defense is all we’ve played in the past and is the only thing that’ll work this year.”) Dale alienates many with his unusual practice/training methods, and also causes a stir when he brings on town drunk Shooter (Dennis Hopper) – a one-time high school hoops star himself – as his assistant.

Adding to the trouble, Dale recruits an undersized team that lacks star player Jimmy Chitwood (Maris Valainis) and finds it tough to work with the general lack of talent. Despite all these obstacles, Dale brings the team together and makes a highly improbable run at the state championship.

I must admit I wish I’d seen Hoosiers back in 1986 so I wouldn’t have to consider all its imitators since then. Granted, the movie’s underdog theme wasn’t particularly original even in 1986, as we’d seen scads of flicks in which an individual or team overcame the odds to achieve sporting success; heck, we’d even viewed another one that took place in Indiana.

So why might it have mattered if I’d seen Hoosiers 25 years earlier? Because while it may not have been all that fresh in 1986, it certainly seems even less so in 2012. Hoosiers is well-liked enough to spawn plenty of its own imitators; that means that through no fault of its own, it’ll come with a certain “been there, done that” feel that may not have existed in 1986.

Of course, if I discredited every movie I saw in the 21st century because it’d inspired multiple imitations since the 20th century, I wouldn’t have much to like, so in no way can I hold the success of Hoosiers against it. While its nature makes it predictable at times, that doesn’t cause real problems, as the movie does more than enough right to overcome those drawbacks.

In particular, the film delivers due to its low-key nature. Despite the potentially sappiness of the story, Hoosiers stays reasonably restrained. Of course, it aims for an emotional connection, but it doesn’t beg or pester the viewer to get there. Most films of this sort tend to overwhelm with their attempts to evoke a strong response, but that doesn’t happen here.

Hoosiers also boasts a strong cast. Hackman doesn’t embrace the soppy side of things, and he helps ground the tale well. Hopper and Barbara Hershey bring depth to the film, too, and the basketball players are just solid enough to keep the flick afloat.

Actually, that leads to one of the movie’s weaknesses: it doesn’t provide a lot of depth. The film fails to develop its characters terribly well, and it also tends to trade in clichés; as I’ve noted, there’s not a lot about the underdog tale that’s especially fresh here.

Nonetheless, the execution of the story has just enough going for it to make Hoosiers enjoyable. While I don’t think it’s as good as its enduring popularity indicates, I do find it to provide a likable drama.

The DVD Grades: Picture C/ Audio C-/ Bonus B

Hoosiers appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. This was a pretty mediocre presentation.

Sharpness varied. The movie usually looked acceptably detailed but rarely much more than that. Not too many scenes looked really ill-defined, but few came across as particularly distinctive, as most of Hoosiers was acceptably concise and no more. No issues with jagged edges or shimmering occurred, but some moderate edge enhancement appeared. Source flaws weren’t major, but I noticed occasional specks and marks.

Colors seemed flat. The image opted for a semi-sepia feel typical of period pieces, and it lacked much in terms of vivid hues. Even if the production design allowed for them, the DVD reproduced them in a manner that made them dull. Black levels tended to appear somewhat inky, while shadow detail was a little too dense much of the time. Interiors seemed fairly muddy. Nothing here seemed poor, but the image was consistently meh.

I didn’t think any more highly of the film’s Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. Though I couldn’t find info about the theatrical release, I suspect it was monaural in 1986; it might’ve been stereo or basic surround, but mono was still occasionally in use back then, and this one “felt” single-channel in design.

Whatever the source may’ve been, the multichannel result was decidedly lackluster, mainly due to poor execution. We got some odd localization, such as with the PA in gym that bounced everywhere except the center. The audio generally was fairly hard-panned and awkward; it didn’t mesh especially well, particularly during game scenes, which just tended toward one side or the other without a natural feel. At best, we got some decent ambience from the side and back speakers, but the integration seemed inconsistent.

Audio quality was lackluster but acceptable. Speech seemed a bit wan but offered reasonable clarity and lacked problems like edginess. Music appeared similarly thin; the synthesized score didn’t sound tinny, but it didn’t have a lot of oomph. The same went for the effects, though they didn’t play a major role; outside of the basketball scenes, this was a chatty flick. I thought the mix was good enough for a “C-“ but would’ve been better with a less spotty soundscape.

For this special edition, most of the extras reside on the second disc. DVD One gives us a trailer, a few ads under Other Great MGM Releases, and an audio commentary. The latter features director David Anspaugh and writer Angelo Pizzo, both of whom sit together for this running, screen-specific chat. They discuss the project's roots and development, story and character areas, sets and locations, editing and cut/altered sequences, cast and performances, and a few other areas.

Overall, this becomes a good commentary. On the negative side, the track occasionally sags, but those gaps occur with reasonable infrequency. Anspaugh and Pizzo mesh well and usually create a likable, informative chat that lets us know quite a bit about the film.

On DVD Two, we open with a featurette called Hoosier History: The Story Behind the Legend. It goes for 29 minutes, 48 seconds and includes notes from Anspaugh, Pizzo, Milan High coach Randy Combs, producer Carter DeHaven, former Indiana Pacers coach Rick Carlisle, former Pacers player Reggie Miller, ESPN’s Bill Simmons, former Purdue University coach Gene Keady, 1953-54 Milan High players Bob Plump, Glen Butte, Ray Craft, and Roger Schroder, 1953-54 Muncie High players Jimmy Barnes, director of photography Fred Murphy, and actors Dennis Hopper, Gene Hackman, and Maris Valainis. “Legend” looks at the story that inspired the film, the movie’s roots, script and development, cast and characters, locations and sets, shooting the basketball scenes, and the flick’s reception.

Though not exactly a hard-hitting program, “Legend” delivers a decent enough examination of the flick. It tends to feel fairly superficial, but it’s nice to meet some of the real players and contrast the reality with the fantasy. This ends up as a watchable little piece but not anything dynamic.

For something especially compelling, we get the Milan Vs. Muncie 1954 Indiana High School Basketball Championship Game. This archival footage fills more than 40 minutes and shows the contest featured in the film. While it looks and sounds pretty terrible, it’s an awfully cool addition to the set.

13 Deleted Scenes fill a total of 31 minutes, five seconds. (That total also includes intros from Anspaugh and Pizzo.) Most of these embellish characters and fill in a few expositional dots. Of course, some are better than others, but I’d be hard-pressed to cite any that should’ve remained in the final flick; they’re usually moderately interesting but not especially memorable.

Finally, we get a Photo Gallery. It provides 42 stills; these mostly show shots from the film, though we also get a poster and some publicity images. This becomes a decent but unexceptional collection.

Over the years since its release, Hoosiers has become a much-beloved “underdog” drama. Does it deserve its legend? To a certain degree. While not a great film, it does deliver an emotion, spirited take on the genre. The DVD comes with mediocre picture and audio but compensates with a nice set of supplements. This isn’t a great release but the movie remains enjoyable.

Viewer Film Ratings: 5 Stars Number of Votes: 6
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