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Warner Home Video presents
Bullitt HD-DVD (1968)

"Look, you work your side of the street and I'll work mine."
- Frank Bullitt (Steve McQueen)

Review By: Mark Zimmer  
Published: February 28, 2007

Stars: Steve McQueen
Other Stars: Robert Vaughn, Jacqueline Bisset, Don Gordon, Robert Duvall, Simon Oakland, Norman Fell
Director: Peter Yates

MPAA Rating: PG for (violence)
Run Time: 01h:54m:02s
Release Date: February 27, 2007
UPC: 085391136873
Genre: action


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A- AB+A A

DVD Review

The DVD Review and Extras Review are by Chuck Aliaga.

Steve McQueen was the actor in the 1960s, a man who literally loved to live life in the fast lane, owned and rode motorcycles and speedy, fancy cars. McQueen took his love for cars and just plain wildness to the next level by almost always performing his own stunts. Movie producers didn't exactly like putting his life at risk during shooting, but this would result in a finished product that was much more genuine.

But McQueen's early death at age 50 came from lung cancer, the form of which could have been caused by exposure to the asbestos that was in his race car safety suits. Then again, McQueen spent time in the Marines, and could have been exposed to the harmful material then. His death remains somewhat mysterious, elevating him to cult icon as well.

One of the actor's largest successes and most memorable films, Bullitt was unleashed in theaters in 1968, giving birth to the "gritty cop drama." Steve McQueen stars as Frank Bullitt, a no-nonsense San Francisco cop who has been assigned to guard mafia informant Johnny Ross. Frank is leery of his assignment because it comes from shady politician Walter Chalmers. Frank news it is his duty to follow orders, but that doesn't mean that he won't be careful about who to trust.

This wonderful, exciting film is best known for the car chase sequence that occurs near its halfway point. With McQueen behind the wheel during this exhilarating sequence, he soars through the hills of San Francisco pursued by gangsters. The editing and Peter Yates' direction here is topnotch, ranking up there with the best chase sequences, including The French Connection. The events surrounding the big scene are quite compelling as well, featuring a career-making performance by McQueen, and great work from Robert Vaughn, Robert Duvall, and Jacqueline Bisset. This is a tight action-packed thriller that will have you rooting for one of Hollywood's true heroes the whole way.

Revisiting this classic film today brings about comparisons between Steve McQueen and Clint Eastwood, and, more specifically, between Bullitt and Dirty Harry. Both projects were huge successes for their stars—the titular characters are gruff, hard-nosed cops who aren't afraid to bend the rules. While Eastwood has made countless films and is now one of our most talented directors, McQueen died far too young and never had the chance to compile as large a filmography. Still, quality being much more important than quantity, and McQueen's career is untouchable.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: A

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.78:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicno


Image Transfer Review: Anyone expecting this picture to look like something shot on HD video is bound to be disappointed. Except for the portions shot in bright sunlight, Bullitt is filmed on a stock with exceptionally heavy grain, making it very much a product of its times. There's some sparkle to the grain, but on the whole it looks pretty filmlike. The source print is virtually immaculate, which certainly helps. What's most notable is that fine patterns (McQueen's shirt, Vaughn's suit, brick buildings) are rendered with very good clarity. There are a couple shots during the car chase where edge enhancement can be spotted on buildings and light poles. Black levels are solid but shadow detail is somewhat plugged up. However, there's a vertiginous verisimilitude to the chase that can make the viewer carsick. And I can think of quite a few worse subjects for HD than Jacqueline Bisset in a miniskirt. Pay no attention to the case, which states that the aspect ratio is 2.4:1; it's 16:9.

Image Transfer Grade: B+

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
MonoFrench, Spanishyes
Dolby Digital
+
Englishyes


Audio Transfer Review: The English 2.0 DD+ audio transfer is very clean for a picture of this vintage. Most notable is Lalo Schifrin's jazzy score, alternating between hot and cool with excellent presence and without hiss or noise. Even though it's only stereo rather than a 5.1 remix, there's a solid immediacy to the music. Dialogue is clear throughout, though directionality is pretty limited. The occasional sound effect (most notably an ambulance siren screeching) is jolting in its impact. Gunshots are lacking in deep bass oomph, but sound effects men in the 1960s didn't overdo those qualities as they are more than willing to do today.

Audio Transfer Grade: A

 

Disc Extras

Static menu with music
Scene Access with 23 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
2 Documentaries
1 Featurette(s)
1 Feature/Episode commentary by director Peter Yates
Packaging: Elite
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: All of the extras on the packed two-disc special edition DVD are brought over intact, with the bonus of some of them being presented in HD. The extras do a great job of chronicling Steve McQueen's legendary career, focusing on Bullitt primarily. The film-specific extras start off with the anamorphic widescreen standard definition trailer and an audio commentary track with director Peter Yates. This track is fairly extensive, with Yates spending much of the time reminiscing about McQueen, but just enough time on the technical aspects of his film.

There are a pair of feature-length documentaries, beginning with Steve McQueen: The Essence of Cool, which runs for nearly an hour and a half. This is a remarkable chronicle of McQueen's film career, interspersing film footage and interviews with actors and filmmakers who worked directly with him (Robert Vaughn) or were greatly influenced by him in their own careers (Alec Baldwin). Alas, this is nonanamorphic widescreen only.

The Cutting Edge: The Magic of Movie Editing is a breathtaking 100-minute documentary. What makes this so entertaining is the amount and variety of new film footage that is used in the piece, as well as the collection of industry people who discuss just how important editing is. Narrated by Kathy Bates, this doc features Jodie Foster, Sean Penn, and Martin Scorcese among many others. This is a true bonus feature because it could easily have been sold on a separate DVD, and even better, it's presented in 1080p high definition.

An old 10-minute featurette called Bullitt: Steve McQueen's Commitment to Reality is another treat, as it compiles a series of on-set footage. It is rare for such old footage to exist, let alone be presented on a DVD. And it's even given the HD treatment.

Extras Grade: A

 

Final Comments

Bullitt is a classic, and it's great to see Warner Home Video give it its due. This HD DVD features everything from the two-disc set with solid audio, and a collection of extras that include two of the better documentaries to ever be included on a special edition.

 


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