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Buy from Amazon

Buy from Amazon.com

Artisan Home Entertainment presents
Hamburger Hill (1987)

"We had a short-timer once. Johnny I-forget-his-name. He wore a flak jacket, two helmets and armor underwear. Ashau Valley... your time's up, your time is up."
- Worcester (Steven Weber)

Review By: Robert Mandel   
Published: May 04, 2000

Stars: Dylan McDermott, Steven Weber, Courtney B. Vance
Other Stars: Michael Boatman, Don Cheadle, Daniel O'Shea
Director: John Irvin

MPAA Rating: R for (graphic violence,sexual content, language, nudity)
Run Time: 01h:50m:00s
Release Date: January 12, 1999
UPC: 012236049500
Genre: war

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer

DVD Review

Artisan's Hamburger Hill tells the reality based story of the attempt by airborne troops on Hill 937 in the Ashau Valley during the Vietnam War, 1969. This is not a kiddy film, nor is it for the weak stomached or romantic story types. This film, long proceeding the "war gore" in Saving Private Ryan, pulls no graphic punches, including a wicked scene that George Romero would be proud of. Unlike Platoon and more like Ryan, the battle scenes are so well choreographed that they seem real and unstaged. And with some exceptions, there are few "cinematic" moments reflecting the hell of war (i.e., accidental friendly fire produces an extended shot of an American helmet rolling down the hill). This film just follows the unrelenting push that rings true to the repeating theme central to the film "It ain't nothin'!" as the men (really boys) fight their way scratching and clawing up this muddy, godforsaken hill while their comrades die around them—basically for no reason.

Hamburger Hill also touches on the typical racial and social issues of the time; black-white relations, anti-war sentiment, resentment against American GIs returning home; and although these ideas have been rehashed in some instances the arguments seem fresh and different.

Besides it's ability to mesh a War World II ideology into a graphic Vietnam War reality, central to the film are the performances by it's virtually unknown cast. There is an innocence that make the non-action scenes feel believable. One of the reasons I enjoyed this film 12 years ago was that its cast was filled with unknowns. It's quite amazing looking back at the same cast and realizing how many have found stardom; this was the first or second movie for most of the players. For instance, Steven Weber (Jeffrey—The Shining TV miniseries) shows a subtlety of character portrayal that belies his ever being the self-centered, silly younger brother on the TV show, Wings. Other people making their debuts include Dylan McDermott (The Practice) who is also quite convincing, Michael Boatman (Spin City), Don Cheadle (Rat Pack, Out of Sight), and Courtney B. Vance (Hunt for Red October, Preacher's Wife).

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: A-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The overall film transfer quality is good, and the colors of the jungle appear sharp and well-rendered. Blacks are true, and shadow delineation is very good. There is occasional fading of colors, as well as scratching, graininess, and dirt.

Image Transfer Grade: B


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: The Dolby Digital 5.1 mix is a bit muddied, sounding looped but reflecting loud location recording instead. There are decent panning effects across both the front stage and from front to rear as planes fly by dropping napalm and assorted other goodies. The dialogue is mostly center channel oriented and understandable, but this channel too seems distant on occasion.

Audio Transfer Grade: B


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 36 cues and remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
Packaging: Alpha
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single
Layers Switch: na

  • na
  • na
  • naExtras Review: This is a no frills disc, including only a theatrical trailer.

    Extras Grade: D


    Final Comments

    Personally, I prefer the rawness of this movie over Platoon; it doesn't seem as scripted (read: cinematic) and verbose. If you like war films, this little film should not disappoint you. As for the disk, if you like this movie and can deal with the lack of extras, AND can find it at a reduced price go ahead. If not, rent it.


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