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Columbia TriStar Home Video presents
Hardcore (1979)

"When I was 15, I was turning tricks in Vegas. I was taking all the older girls' regular customers...I didn't even know it was illegal."
- Niki (Season Hubley)

Review By: Robert Edwards   
Published: September 13, 2004

Stars: George C. Scott, Peter Boyle, Season Hubley, Dick Sargent
Other Stars: Leonard Gaines, Dave Nichols, Gary Graham, Larry Block
Director: Paul Schrader

MPAA Rating: R
Run Time: 01h:47m:35s
Release Date: September 14, 2004
UPC: 043396049390
Genre: drama

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

DVD Review

A man sits alone in a small theater inside an adult bookstore. He's never seen a porn movie before, but he's now watching a grainy 8mm stag film of his underage teenage daughter, as she's joined by first one, then two guys. "Turn it off," he whispers repeatedly, and as outrage and devastation well up inside him, he finally shouts at the top of his lungs, "TURN IT OFF!"

Jake VanDorn (George C. Scott) comes from an extremely conservative family in Grand Rapids, Michigan, whose lives are ruled by the strict Calvinist sect to which they belong. They and the other Dutch Reformation Church members are seemingly full of small-town wholesomeness, their day-to-day governed by the rhythms of family get-togethers and church attendance. When VanDorn's teenage daughter Kristen (Ilah Davis) disappears on a church trip to California, he flies to L.A. and hires private detective Mast (Peter Boyle), who tracks down the footage of Kristen and shows it to VanDorn, realizing his worst fears.

VanDorn eventually gets frustrated with Mast, who's on the edges of the porn industry himself, and more than willing to partake of its side benefits, which he justifies as "research." Armed with a picture of Kristen and one of the guys from the movie, VanDorn sets off on a search of his own. One of the pleasures of the movie is following him as he prowls around L.A.'s porn district, with its seedy bookstores, "rap parlors" promising "full body-to-body contact," its garish and lurid storefronts, and its sidewalks populated by a endless succession of hookers and their johns. But no one can help him, no one knows anyone, and no one recognizes Kristen from the picture.

Hardcore, while obviously a cautionary tale, doesn't exclusively kowtow to the religious conservatism of its protagonist. Director Schrader (who also wrote the script), doesn't exactly promote the porn industry, but he does engage in some criticism of VanDorn. At one point in his quest, VanDorn hires a girl to help him find Kristen, and they have a long discussion about his religious beliefs, which end up sounding fairly silly. He defends them as being difficult to understand when looked at from the outside, but perfectly reasonable when examined internally. (The girl, Niki [Season Hubley] retorts that anything, including perversion, seems reasonable on the inside, and that a guy once wanted his dog to service her, to which VanDorn deadpans, "it's not quite the same thing.").

VanDorn's family values also come in for some criticism. We see him and his relatives celebrating Christmas in some early scenes, but he doesn't seem to have a wife, and we later find out why. There are also hints that Kristen's disappearance my have been voluntary, possibly an escape from what must be a fairly smothering home life. Unfortunately, Hardcore ultimately sweeps its nuanced critique under the rug, with a predictable ending that reveals the film's true conservatism and acceptance of everything that it had questioned up to that point.

In his second feature, Schrader's visual style is interesting, his mobile camera following the VanDorns during their holiday celebrations, giving us a sense of how they're determined by their surroundings. Once in L.A., the camera becomes more static, emphasizing the luridness and ugliness of the décor. George C. Scott is almost omnipresent on the screen, and gives a good, understated performance that is entirely believable. Jack Nitsche's score combines guitars and electronic sounds, and is especially effective when its weirdness reinforces VanDorn's "stranger in a strange land" experiences.

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: B-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The transfer is okay. Black levels are good, with reasonable shadow detail. Colors are (probably deliberately) undersaturated in the opening scenes in Grand Rapids, but become much more solid once we arrive in L.A. Grain is omnipresent, occasionally to the point of being annoying. There are a few outdoor scenes about half an hour before the end that look markedly worse, extremely soft, with flat colors and excessive grain, but these are most likely faults in the original source print.

Image Transfer Grade: B-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishno

Audio Transfer Review: The sound is limited in fidelity and occasionally harsh. The biggest problem here is that the dialogue is mixed much lower than the music, and I found myself adjusting the volume frequently.

Audio Transfer Grade: C+


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 12 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Japanese, Spanish with remote access
3 Other Trailer(s) featuring Big Fish, Secret Window, The Opposite of Sex
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: Subtitles in English, Spanish, and Japanese (!) are included. The trailers for Big Fish and Secret Window are anamorphic, and look and sound great. The Opposite of Sex is full frame and is considerably less appealing.

Extras Grade: D+


Final Comments

Paul Schrader's Hardcore is an interesting tale of one man's search for his daughter through the bowels of the L.A. porn industry. The transfer is okay, but no relevant extras are included.


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