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Edward Zwick
Brad Pitt, Anthony Hopkins, Aidan Quinn, Julia Ormond, Henry Thomas, Karina Lombard, Gordon Tootoosis, Christina Pickles, Paul Desmond, Tantoo Cardinal
Writing Credits:
Jim Harrison (novella), Susan Shilliday, William D. Wittliff

After the Fall from Innocence the Legend begins.

A passionate journey into the darkest secrets of love, betrayal, and the unbreakable bonds of blood, Legends Of The Fall is a powerful story about three brothers struggling to stay together and the woman who comes between them.

Box Office:
$75 million.
Opening Weekend
$45.033 million on 3471 screens.
Domestic Gross
$102.543 million.

Rated R

Widescreen 1.85:1/16x9
English Dolby Digital 5.1
English DTS 5.1

Runtime: 133 min.
Price: $26.95
Release Date: 3/4/2003

• None


Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.


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Legends Of The Fall: Superbit (1994)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (April 25, 2006)

Perhaps we should consider it a minor miracle that Brad Pitt has challenged himself so much throughout his career. After all, he initially seemed to be nothing more than your average dim-witted pretty boy, and some of his early starring roles did little to dispute that interpretation.

However, he soon showed unanticipated range and daring through parts in riskier films like Se7en and 12 Monkeys. This trend has continued via his involvement in pictures like Fight Club. Even films that appear to fit a typically-romantic profile have a different edge to them, such as Meet Joe Black, in which he plays Death. I won't claim that Pitt has maintained the most adventuresome choices out there, but he's certainly avoided choosing too many stereotypical parts that would easily typecast him.

For a look at what his career could have been, cast your gaze on 1994's Legends of the Fall. In this movie Pitt plays Tristan, the depressingly handsome and rugged "wild child" of the Ludlow clan. He's the one in tune with nature who goes his own way. Older brother Alfred (Aidan Quinn), however, tries hard to fit in with society; he becomes much happier when he leaves the family ranch to live in the bustling and burgeoning city. Youngest son Samuel (Henry Thomas) seems quiet and unassuming but he feels passionately about social issues. Due to this, he feels it's his duty to stand up to the "evil" represented by the Kaiser, et al., in World War I. Gruff Colonel William (Anthony Hopkins) heads the clan. A military veteran, he seems distanced from the world around him to a degree.

Into this mix comes lovely Susannah (Julia Ormond), Samuel's new fiancée, whose presence greatly disrupts the prior closeness of the men. All four Ludlow boys clearly feel smitten by her, though it's patently obvious that she only has eyes for Tristan; she pays lip service to her devotion to Samuel, but you don't need a Magic 8-Ball to see which way this tale will turn. To complicate matters, Alfred thinks he's the best choice for Susannah. Thus the lines are drawn and the plot set, as we see disturbances between the brothers throughout the film.

The movie mainly focuses on Tristan, which is probably its greatest flaw. Granted, he's the most active figure in the story, but even though Pitt is a likable and endearing actor, Tristan makes for a largely unappealing character. He's so incredibly selfish and thoughtless that one finds it hard to understand why everyone cares for him so strongly. Oh wait, I forgot - he's insanely good-looking. Of course no one can resist him!

Fall seems mainly aimed at the female audience; despite some brutal battle scenes, it usually presents a lovely and lushly romantic façade. However, if I were a woman, I'd feel insulted by this film because it panders so strongly to a weak stereotype of female thought patterns. Fall appears to contend that women really do prefer jerks who treat them like crap; Susannah seems to have virtually no self-respect as she lets herself be subjected to poor behavior.

Really, Fall comes across as nothing more than a glorified romance novel. There's all the semi-heroic, pseudo-mythological aspects I'd expect from that type of story, and it all feels rather absurd. The movie panders strongly to a prefab idea of what this kind of epic and romantic saga should be, but it fails to capture any spirit or heart; it's a flat, dismal effort.

And it's a complete waste of some terrific talent. The cast is filled with excellent actors, but none of them have any of substance to do here. I'm not a huge fan of director Ed Zwick, but he's shown some ability through better films like The Siege. However, Legends of the Fall seems like the work of a hack who just tries to convey clichés about the rugged west and faux-romantic heroes. It's a load of nauseating tripe.

The DVD Grades: Picture B+/ Audio A/ Bonus F

Legends of the Fall appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. This Superbit disc offered the film’s third DVD incarnation, and I never saw the original from April 1997. When compared with the special edition DVD from the fall of 2000, I found a very similar visual presentation.

Most of the Superbit Fall looked great. As with the prior disc, sharpness looked quite crisp and well defined throughout the film. I noticed nary a hint of softness. Even during some of the film's wide vistas, the image remained rock-solid and detailed. Jagged edges and moiré effects presented no problems, and I detected no signs of edge enhancement.

Fall offered a very warm and natural palette, and these hues came through with great accuracy and depth. From the lovely sunlight to the deep blues of various outfits, all colors seemed fully saturated and clear, with no signs of any bleeding or noise. Black levels appeared similarly deep and detailed, and the contrast looked clean and vivid. Shadow detail came across well; low-light scenes were appropriately dark but they lacked any excessive heaviness or thickness.

Where Fall lost points related to its print flaws. More than a few speckles cropped up, and I also witnessed examples of grit, marks, and one or two small hairs.I felt that the Superbit Legends of the Fall still looked solid overall, but the moderate print flaws caused me to knock my grade down to a “B+”.

In addition to the old disc’s Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack, the Superbit release of Legends of the Fall tossed in a DTS 5.1 mix. Except for the fact the DTS version was a bit louder, the two sounded virtually identical to me; I detected no substantial differences between the two.

And that was a good thing, as the audio provided a very solid affair. The soundfield of Fall seemed nicely well defined and encompassing. Throughout much of the film, the audio provided a terrifically broad and engaging presence that created a wonderful sense of interactivity. This occurred during both quiet and loud scenes. In the latter category we find many shots of the idyllic panoramas; these presented audio that gently but clearly reinforced the images, and the ambiance brought the visuals to life.

For demonstration material, however, you'll have to consult some of the louder scenes. The first time I started to think the audio for Fall might be something special occurred during the first "bear attack". Not only was the sound bold and convincing, but the spatial placement appeared very precise; the way the grizzly entered and moved across the speakers worked well. And when I got to the World War I battle scenes, I thought the Kaiser was about to enter through my window! The activity level ratcheted up a notch and the frantic energy of the film came across broadly at that time. The shells and bullets flew fast and furious and really offered a solid image of the warfare.

But active soundfields on their own aren't enough; it's important that the quality of the audio seem strong, and Fall proved itself a winner in this category as well. Dialogue always appeared natural and distinct, without any signs of edginess or problems related to intelligibility. I found the speech to sound quite warm and clear. Music seemed bright and crisp, and the score offered positive dynamic range as well; the instrumentation appeared well defined and the music was clean and bold.

Best of all were the effects, which really added life to the mix. At all times, these various sounds seemed clean and realistic and they were completely believable and accurate. The clarity was greatly aided by the low end; while the bass of Fall didn't match up with the DTS edition of The Haunting - one of the all-time champs in that department - it worked well. All low frequencies appeared taut and deep and they provided vividness to the presentation. Again, that first bear attack signaled the bass yet to come, and the battles brought home the depth of the production. All in all, I found the soundtracks of Legends of the Fall to provide a terrific experience.

Whereas the last DVD of Fall included a pretty good roster of supplements, none of those extras migrate to the Superbit version. This didn’t surprise me, as Superbit titles mostly omit bonus features; outside of the few “Superbit Deluxe” releases, almost all Superbit DVDs totally lack materials. Still, given the fairly high quality of the supplements from the Fall SE, their absence is too bad.

This DVD provided my third viewing of Legends of the Fall, but I’ve not come to like it more with repeated exposure. For me, it remains a forced and unpleasant romantic adventure. While the DVD offers audio and visual quality on a par with the prior disc, it omits the nice extras from the special edition. Fans of Fall should stick with the SE, as it appears to be the best overall version of the movie available on DVD. The fact it retails for a very cheap $14.95 also makes the SE more appealing.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4 Stars Number of Votes: 20
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