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John Schlesinger
Dustin Hoffman, Jon Voight, Sylvia Miles
Writing Credits:
Waldo Salt

A naive hustler travels from Texas to New York City to seek personal fortune but finds himself a new friend.

Rated R

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
English Monaural
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 113 min.
Price: $39.95
Release Date: 5/29/2018

• Audio Commentary with Director John Schlesinger and Producer Jerome Hellman
• Interview with Photographer Michael Childers
• Interview with Cinematographer Adam Holender
• “The Crowd Around the Cowboy” Featurette
• “After Midnight” Documentary
• “Controversy and Acclaim” Documentary
• 2000 Interview with Director John Schlesinger
• 2002 BAFTA Tribute
• 1970 Interview with Actor Jon Voight
• Jon Voight Screen Test
• “A Screenwriter’s Journey” Documentary
• Trailer
• Booklet


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-Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player
-Chane A2.4 Speakers
-SVS SB12-NSD 12" 400-watt Sealed Box Subwoofer


Midnight Cowboy: Criterion Collection [Blu-Ray] (1969)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (June 20, 2006)

Once again I ran into trouble as I attempted to separate the product from the aftermath. In the almost 50 years after the release of 1969’s Midnight Cowboy, many parts of the film have entered the popular vernacular.

The movie's well known enough that even as innocuous a source as Disney's Hercules refers to it in one scene. However, the one production inspired by Cowboy that stuck with me the most appeared in the early Eighties via an episode of SCTV.

I adored that show, but boy has it affected my view of many classic films. Ben-Hur, The Godfather, even The Towering Inferno - I can watch none of these without reflexively thinking back to wonderful SCTV sketches.

As you've undoubtedly guessed, Midnight Cowboy also falls into this category. In fact, although I saw the movie once or twice back in the Eighties, virtually all of my memories of the film have been shaped by that SCTV sketch.

It featured Dr. Tongue (John Candy) and Woody (Eugene Levy) as they filmed a 3-D remake of Cowboy. This wasn't their best effort - Dr. Tongue's 3-D House of Stewardesses rules that particular roost - but it was a clever way of poking fun at a classic film.

And I guess Midnight Cowboy qualifies as a classic, though I really didn't think it was all that fantastic. It's another one of those movies that I imagine had a much stronger impact when it first appeared.

Joe Buck (Jon Voight) travels from small-town Texas to New York City. He believes he’ll earn his fortune as a high-rent gigolo who can service many high-class ladies.

This doesn’t work out as planned, so Joe finds himself in the dregs of society. Along with his seedy buddy Ratso Rizzo (Dustin Hoffman), Joe struggles to find his way.

One of the better Oscar trivia questions out there, Cowboy was rated "X" in 1969. The cause for that seems mysterious, as I barely saw enough crudeness to get it past a "PG-13" these days.

Much of the story seems inevitable, as we can tell this isn't the kind of movie that will feature a happy ending. As such, we're left to the way in which the plot is told to get our entertainment, and director John Schlesinger moves things along at a reasonable pace, though the movie bogs down at times.

Put simply, there's not that much of a story to be told, and the characters themselves aren't overly compelling. As played by Voight and Hoffman, Buck and Rizzo come across as rather cartoonish.

Voight's Buck is little more than a broad caricature of a Texan, as wickedly lampooned by Candy on SCTV, whose Doctor Tongue followed virtually every line with a hearty "y'all". Voight is engagingly artificial, but fake nonetheless.

I've never been terribly enamored of much of Hoffman's acting, and Rizzo points out his flaws. Too often Hoffman seems to create a peculiar voice or a look, and he lets the affectations run him rather than the other way around too much of the time.

That's the case with Rizzo: Hoffman appears so concerned with the funny little voice and the hunched walk that all we get is a cartoon character. I'll admit that Hoffman and Voight provide good cartoons, but they remain broad and unreal.

Such characters can work for some movies, but I can't help but feel that Midnight Cowboy would fare better with more realistic leads. As it stands, Buck and Rizzo are vaguely interesting personalities, but they're almost never likable, sympathetic or compelling. The movie itself provides a decent look at the dark side of the dream, but I'd take better films like Taxi Driver over this one.

Footnote: the comments above reflect my original review of Cowboy from the early 2000s. While I still feel the same about much of it, I do acknowledge my opinion has softened and I can see more depth and meaning than I originally discerned.

The movie’s themes of loneliness and a need for belonging seem clearer to me now, and the Buck/Rizzo relationship appears deeper than I first felt. I can note evolution and development in the characters that eluded me all those years ago.

Does this mean I now think Cowboy is a great movie? No – I still find it to be inconsistent and spotty. Nonetheless, I thought I should acknowledge an evolution in my view.

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

Midnight Cowboy appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. This became an erratic but largely good presentation.

Though sharpness showed its age, the movie usually offered appropriate delineation, and it could come across as very precise at times. Some shots looked a bit soft, but those appeared to reflect the source.

I saw no signs of jaggies or moiré effects, and edge haloes remained absent. In terms of print flaws, the movie showed occasional specks. These didn’t become major, but they showed up more often than I expected.

Internet buzz fretted about the palette of Cowboy, as some believed the film had gotten an altered color grade that accentuated teal. I get those concerns, as some shots showed a decided green impression.

However, I suspect the hues represented the original presentation, as the “teal shots” appeared infrequently. If those behind the transfer wanted to muck with the palette, wouldn’t they throw out the “teal push” persistently, not rarely?

Overall, the hues looked fine. The conditions of the source meant the colors didn’t leap off the screen, but they seemed reasonably full and concise.

Blacks largely appeared deep and dense, while shadows varied. Some low-light shots worked fine, whereas others appeared a little too dark.

Again, these seemed to match the original photography. In the end, the image showed its age but felt like a mostly good representation of the film.

I felt fairly pleased with the DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack of Midnight Cowboy. A remix of the original monaural material – which also appeared on the Blu-ray - the front soundstage presented a fairly wide image. Music benefited most from the stereo separation, as different instruments popped up in the various front channels distinctly and clearly.

Effects appeared logically placed in the appropriate realms, though the localization seemed a bit too extreme at times. Sometimes the image blended together neatly and smoothly, but at times the soundstage was awkward and too “speaker specific”.

The surrounds didn't shoulder much of the audio burden and offered little more than gentle reinforcement of the front speakers, but that was fine for this material. They could become a bit more active during the film’s “trippier” sequences.

Audio quality appeared dated but solid. Dialogue sounded somewhat thin and reedy but was always clear and easily intelligible, so no concerns with edginess occurred. As noted, the Blu-ray also offered the original monaural soundtrack. In terms of quality, it seemed equivalent to the 5.1 mix, so it showed no decline in range or clarity.

Though I thought the 5.1 version worked fine, I preferred the mono presentation. I didn’t think the multichannel aspects of the track added much and I generally favor a film’s original audio. Still, both seemed satisfactory.

When we shift to extras, we get an audio commentary from producer Jerome Hellman and director John Schlesinger. Recorded for an early 1990s laserdisc, both sit separately for this look at story/characters, cast and performances, sets and locations, various design choices, music, the movie’s rating, and connected topics.

Engaging and informative, the commentary covers a lot of ground. The editing ensures that the track moves smoothly and we learn a lot about the film along the way. This becomes a strong discussion.

Under “35th Anniversary Documentaries”, two pieces appear. After Midnight: Reflecting on the Classic 35 Years Later lasts 29 minutes, 59 seconds and includes interviews with Hellman, Schlesinger’s lifetime partner Michael Childers, cinematographer Adam Holender, composer/music supervisor John Barry, and actors Jon Voight, Dustin Hoffman, Jennifer Salt, Bob Balaban, and Sylvia Miles.

“Midnight” looks at the movie’s story and development, how the principals came onto the project, casting, characters and performances, the film’s photography, and the shooting of specific sequences such as flashbacks and the party.

Quite a lot of depth emerges here. The participants present honest memories of the material and explore things well. The show doesn’t answer all the questions, but it covers matters very nicely.

Also under “35th Anniversary”, Controversy and Acclaim fills 10 minutes, 10 seconds with remarks from Hellman, Holender, Childers, Balaban, Hoffman, Salt, Miles, and Voight. The piece looks at ratings problems and the flick’s reception.

Despite Cowboy’s status as the only “X”-rated film to win Best Picture, we don’t get much about various controversies. Instead, the participants mainly reflect on its greatness. They present some decent insights, but the show falls short of its goals – it’s way too much acclaim and not enough controversy.

Next we find an Interview with Photographer Michael Childers. In this 13-minute, 59-second reel, Childers discusses his participation on the set as well as his relationship with Schlesinger and related areas. We see a lot of Childers’ work and learn some useful facts along the way.

During a 25-minute, 13-second Interview with Cinematographer Adam Holender, we hear about his work on the film. Because Holender emphasizes technical choices, the interview can seem a bit dry, but he still offers a good array of notes.

From 1969, The Crowd Around the Cowboy lasts eight minutes, 51 seconds. It gives us raw footage from the shoot that emphasizes the reactions of bystanders. It tells us little about the production but nonetheless becomes an entertaining period piece.

Two components appear under John Schlesinger. Circa 2000, an interview runs 15 minutes, 28 seconds and offers the director’s thoughts about various aspects of his career including and beyond Cowboy. We get a smattering of useful remarks here.

In addition, a 2002 “BAFTA Tribute” lasts 33 minutes, nine seconds and includes comments from Voight, Hoffman, and producer David Picker. They give us anecdotes about their experiences with Schlesinger in this entertaining piece.

Under Jon Voight, we find two more pieces. A 1970 David Frost Show interview goes for 14 minutes, 21 seconds as Voight talks about his path to acting as well as some experiences on Cowboy. This becomes a decent chat, especially when we get a look at how Voight developed his character’s accent.

A “Screen Test” occupies six minutes, 59 seconds. It shows Voight as he works through the role. It’s a good historical curiosity.

Called Waldo Salt: A Screenwriter’s Journey, a 1990 documentary spans 57 minutes, 18 seconds and features Salt, Hellman, Schlesinger, Voight, Hoffman, daughter/actor Jennifer Salt, actor/writer Jean Rouverol Butler, writers Ian Hunter, Eve Merriam, Ring Lardner Jr. and Paul Jarrico, actor Mary Davenport, agent/producer George Litto, daughter Deborah Salt, Salt’s personal secretary Marika Lumi, novelist James Leo Herlihy, producer Roger Steffens and filmmaker Robert Redford.

“Journey” examines Waldo Salt’s life and career. It becomes a frank, engaging piece that gives us a fine view of the screenwriter.

In addition to a re-release trailer, the package ends with a booklet. It presents photos, credits, and an essay from critic Mark Harris. The booklet completes the set well.

While not the strongest Oscar-winner ever, Midnight Cowboy holds up better than many. Despite some inconsistencies, it becomes a reasonably involving tale of an unusual friendship. The Blu-ray brings us satisfactory picture and audio along with a nice roster of supplements. Cowboy has grown in my eyes over the years.

To rate this film, visit the prior review of MIDNIGHT COWBOY

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