Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
George Roy Hill directs this classic film based loosely on historical events, which garnered seven Academy Award nominations in 1970, winning four of them. It is the ultimate buddy movie, teaming Robert Redford and Paul Newman, who have genuine onscreen chemistry.
Unfortunately, the video presentation is a major disappointment. Encoded in MPEG-2 with a relatively low bit rate of 18Mbps, the image rarely supplies a "wow" factor. The source elements are in bad shape, with dirt and scratches as well as inconsistent black levels and color saturation. When you compare this transfer with other movies available on Blu-ray and HD DVD from the same era, such as The Sting, Grand Prix, and Blazing Saddles, it is quite obvious that some restoration work should have been done before it was released in HD. I compared the image to the two-disc special-edition DVD released in 2006, and while the Blu-ray is better resolved in detail, the difference isn't as big as it should be.
The DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack isn't that impressive either, but I am more lenient in this area. The original soundtrack was mono, and although the studio did its best to expand the soundfield, the 5.1-channel lossless track sounds true to its roots—that is, little to no use of the surround channels, limited dynamic range, and meager stereo separation across the front soundstage. The dialog is intelligible, which is the most important aspect of any mix.
The bonus features offer only a sample of the features available on two separate DVD releases. Included is a commentary with the director, lyricist Hal David, documentary director Robert Crawford, Jr., and cinematographer Conrad Hall as well as a separate commentary with screenwriter William Goldman. Next is a "making-of" featurette, a historical piece on the Wild Bunch gang, and some deleted scenes and trailers.
Sadly, this is one of the worst presentations I have viewed on either Blu-ray or HD DVD since both formats launched two years ago. If you already own either of the DVD sets, I would resist the temptation to upgrade to Blu-ray—your wallet will thank you.
Release Date: May 13, 2008
Film: 8 out of 10
Picture: 4 out of 10
Sound: 5 out of 10
JVC DLA-RS1 projector
Stewart FireHawk screen (76.5" wide, 16:9)
Onkyo PR-SC885 pre/pro
Anthem PVA-7 Amplifier
Belkin PF60 power conditioner
M&K S-150s (L, C, R)
M&K SS-150s (LS, RS, SBL, SBR)
SVS PC-Ultra subwoofer
Monoprice HDMI cables (source to pre/pro)
Best Deal analog-audio cables
PureLink HDC Fiber Optic HDMI Cable System (15 meters) from pre/pro to projector