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Artisan Home Entertainment presents
Decoration Day (1990)

Albert Sidney: Time passes. People change.
Loreen Wendell: I don't think so. I think they just get more like themselves.

- James Garner, Jo Anderson

Review By: Brian Calhoun   
Published: January 12, 2003

Stars: James Garner, Judith Ivey, Bill Cobbs
Other Stars: Ruby Dee, Laurence Fishburne, Jo Anderson
Director: Robert Markowitz

Manufacturer: directorsite
MPAA Rating: PG for mild violence
Run Time: 01h:38m:49s
Release Date: December 17, 2002
UPC: 707729133827
Genre: drama

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B B+C-B- D

DVD Review

When I discovered that Decoration Day was a made-for-television film from the Hallmark Hall of Fame, I expected the same type of sappy sentiment one might characteristically find in a Valentine's Day card. While it does possess a certain degree of over-romanticizing, it is also a well-written, emotional story involving relationships and self-realization. The deserving winner of two Golden Globes® for Best Drama and Best Actor, James Garner, Decoration Day is a step above the typical schmaltzy television production.

James Garner stars as Albert Sidney, a retired judge living his life as a recluse after the death of his wife. Albert is thrust back into society when he discovers that his old childhood friend Gee Penniwell (Bill Cobbs), a local African-American farmer, is scornfully refusing to accept a long overdue Congressional Medal of Honor for courageous acts in World War II. Unable to find answers in speaking with his long-estranged friend, Albert sets out to uncover the reason behind Gee's disdain towards this great honor. Through his interaction with the townspeople, Albert makes several startling discoveries and forms a deeper bond with his loved ones, learning more about them and even more about himself.

A story like this relies on a strong screenplay and solid performances, which have been delivered admirably. James Garner presents himself in a captivatingly quiet way, often relying purely on body language and facial expressions to convey his mood. There are several moments where he does not utter a word, yet I could still feel all of Albert's emotions. Robert W. Lenski's screenplay of the John William Corrington novella demonstrates a keen understanding of human behavior. All of the relationships feel incredibly realistic and never forced nor contrived. The dialogue has been written and delivered with a natural quality that maintains the viewer's interest in the story, yet never seems melodramatic or heavy-handed. It is these subtle, genuine qualities that make Decoration Day an enjoyable experience from start to finish.

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: B+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Apparently, something went wrong with this transfer. I highly doubt the 1990 television broadcast looked this poor. The picture is grainy, dull, and dirty, as if it were filmed in the 1960s. Colors are vibrant, but dreadfully oversaturated to the point where they appear cartoon-like. A distracting amount of video noise is abundant throughout, including an astonishing display of rainbow patterns in tightly striped clothing—an unforgivable video deficiency for the DVD format. Decoration Day looks nothing like a DVD transfer—it hardly presents itself as a mediocre television broadcast.

Image Transfer Grade: C-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes

Audio Transfer Review: The Dolby Surround soundtrack is slightly above average. The majority of the audio stays in the center channel, while several music cues expand into the surrounds. Dialogue is strong and clear with no signs of distortion. The major drawback is an underlying hiss, particularly noticeable during moments of extreme quiescence.

Audio Transfer Grade: B-


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 25 cues and remote access
Cast and Crew Biographies
Production Notes
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: This scant collection of extras is of little value. Included are production notes, cast biographies, and a credits section for the cast and crew.

Extras Grade: D


Final Comments

Decoration Day is a surprisingly well-crafted and thought-provoking drama. While the lackluster image transfer prevents me from offering an enthusiastic recommendation, this will certainly prove a worthwhile rental.


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