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Warner Home Video presents
The Getaway HD-DVD (1972)

"I know you're a good kid. Now you get back there with your mother. Because if you don't, I'm gonna break your little arm."
- Doc McCoy (Steve McQueen)

Review By: Mark Zimmer   
Published: March 12, 2007

Stars: Steve McQueen, Ali MacGraw, Ben Johnson, Al Lettieri, Sally Struthers
Other Stars: Slim Pickens, Jack Dodson, Dub Taylor
Director: Sam Peckinpah

MPAA Rating: PG for (violence, gore, brief nudity, sensuality)
Run Time: 02h:03m:05
Release Date: February 27, 2007
UPC: 085391136910
Genre: crime


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A- B+C-B A-

DVD Review

1972 was a good year for Steve McQueen and Sam Peckinpah, with the two collaborating on a pair of minor classics, Junior Bonner and The Getaway. The latter, based upon a dark noir novel by Jim Thompson, teams McQueen with real-life romantic interest (and later wife) Ali MacGraw in an intense caper picture that bears the Peckinpah stamp.

Artie 'Doc' McCoy (McQueen) is released from a Texas prison thanks to his wife Carol (MacGraw) bedding local political boss Jack Benyon (Ben Johnson). But Benyon's not done with the couple, and wants them to lead a bank robbery for hazy reasons. But the group assembled by Benyon is full of double-crossers, and things go very badly as the McCoys make off with the cash. One of the band, Rudy Butler (Al Lettieri), left for dead by the couple, is determined to catch up with them before they can make their escape to Mexico. And the police and Benyon's gang aren't far behind either.

Although it is packed with the requisite Peckinpah violence and gouting blood, the movie is undeniably romantic in its approach to the story. The focus is on the relationship between the McCoys above all, with the Macguffin of the satchel of cash only moving the scenario along. In particular, the complex triangle between Doc, Carol and Benyon is a prime focus, with Carol focusing on her own guilt, fueled in great part by her own attraction to Benyon, and least briefly considering killing her husband. Doc cannot bring himself to face the reality of the situation, at least verbally. His nonverbal communications nonetheless convey a sense of anger, hurt and disappointment. At the same time, Doc deeply loves Carol, and can't bring himself to leave her behind either.

Peckinpah uses a number motifs to bring out subsidiary themes. Heavy machinery is often a focus, especially in a threatening manner: the opening credits in prison include numerous closeups of heavy, pounding machinery, and one of the most threatening segments of the picture involves a harrowing encounter with a garbage truck. This emphasis on machines as an enemy to happiness and freedom is intertwined with extended references to the question of whether life is a game. While McQueen insists that this is nothing but a game, Carol is more grounded and takes the position that life is something more. It's surprisingly philosophical in its approach to an action drama, but then Peckinpah always manages to surprise.

The casting is quite interesting, with McQueen and MacGraw playing off against an odd assemblage of eccentrics. Jack Dodson (best remembered as Howard T. Sprague of The Andy Griffith Show) plays the henpecked half of a couple threatened by Rudy and taken on a cross-state rampage, while Sally Struthers is notable as his promiscuous wife, drawn to Rudy's macho threats. The two of them have exceedingly different reactions to his sexual cruelties, giving Lettieri a great opportunity to play off them. Dependable character actor Dub Taylor has a significant role as the proprietor of a hotel catering to the criminal element, but where the picture gets really strange is in the last fifteen minutes when Slim Pickens shows up. The tone completely changes, giving an almost surreal air to the last reel. Pickens steals the picture with a tiny part, combining philosophical wisdom with crass commercialism. He lends the dark proceedings an air of lightness that gives the whole thing an entirely new perspective and relieves much of the hopeless air that preceded it. A copout? Perhaps. But after enduring so much with the McCoys, it's hard to begrudge them the finale that Pickens provides.

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

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio2.40:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicno


Image Transfer Review: Pay no attention to the case claiming this is a 1.85:1 transfer; it's in its proper 'scope ratio. Several sequences almost look as if they're out of focus, with a good deal of fringing of color, especially in the McQueen-MacGraw bedroom scene. Either something went wrong in the transfer or the source elements are badly messed up; regardless, parts of this are hard to watch in HD. Grain is decently rendered. Complexions seem a bit ruddy, while the blood is unnaturally pinkish. The quick action doesn't have many problems to it. Shadow detail is reasonably good, but the picture tends to be soft overall and fine detail is noticeable only on closeups.

Image Transfer Grade: C-

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
MonoEnglish, French, Spanishyes


Audio Transfer Review: The DD+ mono tracks are unremarkable but are reasonably clean for their age. Quincy Jones' score sounds respectable, though range is a little bit limited. The frequent squealing of tires comes across with vividness.

Audio Transfer Grade: B

 

Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 33 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
4 Other Trailer(s) featuring Ride the High Country, The Wild Bunch, The Ballad of Cable Hogue, Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid
Isolated Music Score
1 Documentaries
2 Featurette(s)
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Peckinpah biographers Paul Seydor, Garner Simmons, David Weddle
Packaging: Elite
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: This special edition is loaded with materials, starting with a commentary from three Peckinpah scholars who compete to make observations in a chatty track that contains quite a few worthwhile moments, not least of which is a speculation as to whether the parade in the film might be the same one that appears in Junior Bonner. There's what's termed a "virtual commentary" for the first reel that really consists of audio interview snippets with McQueen, MacGraw, and Peckinpah edited together and played over the first reel (though it has nothing to do with the onscreen specifics). One of the controversial points about the picture's original release was the removal of the score by longtime Peckinpah collaborator Jerry Fielding, apparently at McQueen's instigation, and replacing it with Quincy Jones' score. A lengthy documentary (29m:54s) looks at Fielding's working relationship with Peckinpah and the circumstances around The Getaway. An isolated score features a reconstruction of the Fielding score, although it somewhat problematically doesn't include any dialogue or sound effects. As a result there are very long sections that are utterly silent. The bank robbery, however, is reconstructed to include the dialogue, effects, and Fielding's score as a unit, and it provides a good sense of how Fielding's version might have played. Oddly, the isolated score is not selectable on the fly but only from the special features menu. The package is wrapped up with a grouping of anamorphic widescreen Peckinpah trailers.

Extras Grade: A-

 

Final Comments

A great supporting cast helps keep McQueen and MacGraw fascinating, and while there's plenty of character study it's also a freight train running at high speed. Very enjoyable, and there are some substantial extras, though the transfer has some issues.

 


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