I Am Steve McQueen (Blu-ray Review)

I-Am-Steve-McQueenSteve McQueen was certainly “the man” when it comes to the start of action heroes, and his run in the 1960s and 1970s.  Bullitt, The Getaway, The Thomas Crown Affair, The Great Escape and many others are downright staples of anyone studying action in film.  And McQueen was easily one of the biggest and most larger than life stars to ever walk the planet.  The man was the epitome of “Guys wanna be him, girls wanna be with  him”.  Here we have a documentary celebrating that legendary career and also giving us the story who he was as a man too.  This documentary features the likes of Pierce Brosnan, Gary Oldman, Ali MacGraw and many others talking about his importance to film and the legacy. 

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Produced by Derik Murray of Network Entertainment, directed by Jeff Renfroe, and narrated by Robert Downey Jr. with commentary by Kristin Kreuk, I Am Steve McQueen, the 90 minute special, delves deeper into the incredible life story of this legendary actor, racer and cultural icon. Combining extensive original interviews, including rare interviews with Steve McQueen himself, footage from the best of McQueen’s major motion pictures and archival materials, this fascinating film chronicles his extraordinary career while focusing on the correlation between his on-screen and off-screen experiences. 

The documentary starts with a little bit about his boyhood, but primarily focuses on Steve McQueen’s career in Hollywood.  What I really enjoyed about the film is it sort of played like the structure of a Never Sleep Again or Crystal Lake Memories.  It goes film by film, and comments about his work on said film.  In between there will be little anecdotes on what his life was like between that film and the next one.  And they don’t get off base with these movies, they really only focus on Steve’s role in them and his contributions.  From The Blob to Tom Horn, each one is discussed with enthusiastic commentary.

There to help drive the story are some actors, filmmakers, critics and family.  Steve McQueen’s three wives, his son Chad and two grandchildren all light up the screen with there stories and aren’t afraid to share their emotion.  Some of the people who worked with McQueen are here too, like actor Robert Vaughn and director Norman Jewison.  I get why Pierce Brosnan is here, he was once the “King of Cool” for his time as well.  Zoe Bell seems to be someone inspired by McQueen.  There are others, like Marisa Miller and Randy Couture that share some nice commentary, but I really don’t understand why they were handpicked to discuss.  Critic Ben Mankiewicz is a constant here, and he’s got some nice history and commentary on his career that sort of threads and ties this together nicely.

What’s great is that this documentary is pretty short.  Its just a few ticks over ninety minutes.  And honestly, it was entertaining enough it could have gone a little longer.  It was smart enough to know where to put more focus and how to tell the important part of Steve McQueen’s life.  My only qualm really is some of the people they chose as “experts” on this, but maybe they just weren’t edited in correctly.  This is definitely any fan of McQueen or vintage Hollywood should check out.  I think its a TV special, so you could check your listings and see if some channel is running it.  Oh, and you’ll also want to have Bullitt, The Sand Pebbles, The Great Escape or The Getaway handy as you’ll have a desire to pop a Steve McQueen classic in after seeing this.

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Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1

Clarity/Detail: For the myriad of different video sources used in the documentary, this looks overall fantastic.  The modern interviews and footage is some flawless digital video, with very high detail.  I really enjoyed that the footage from McQueen’s films seems to be taken from restored high definition transfers and look insanely impressive, especially up against the modern stuff. Some of the news clips and older interviews even look polished.  A couple of archive footage and audio does look a bit worn, but still manages to impress.  Like McQueen himself, this is a very cool and handsome image.

Depth:  The modern stuff looks really good, with depth, placement and movement all seamless and natural.  McQueen’s old film footage looks surprisingly deep as well.

Black Levels:  Blacks look natural and are complimentary.  There’s no real instances of crushing or hidden detail.

Color Reproduction: In the interview footage and modern shots, its a very polished, slick and vibrant look.  Normally tame colors seem to pop and look gorgeous.  In film footage, colors looks nice and accurate.

Flesh Tones:  Skin tones look a little vibrant and consistent in the interviews.  Detail is extremely high and you can make out any sort of facial feature and hair follicle.  Archived footage does impress with facial detail as well.

Noise/Artifacts: Overall this is clean.

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Audio Format(s): English 2.0 DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English

Dynamics:  First off, I want to share some respect for Shout! Factory for putting this out in 2.0.  With 95% of documentaries, that’s all that’s necessary.  There is so much wasted usually in a 5.1 presentation.  This one is no different.  Plus, all of Steve McQueen’s films were not in 5.1 back upon their releases.  This audio track does the trick.  The clips from the movies sound every bit as good as if you were watching the actually Blu-ray with the original lossless audio track selected.

Low Frequency Extension: N/A

Surround Sound Presentation:  N/A

Dialogue Reproduction:  This is the biggie for any documentary since they’re all talk and narration.  This one sounds loud, crisp, clean and clear.  No complaints whatsoever.

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On the inside of the cover insert is a still from the film Bullitt.

McQueen’s Garage (HD, 15:50) – Focuses on not just Steve McQueen’s love of collecting vehicles, but his son Chad’s career in the automotive collecting/racing industry.

Yucatan (HD, 4:48) – Chad McQueen shares the storyboards and script for a blockbuster heist film (Titled “Yucatan”) his father never got to make.  He claims Robert Downey Jr. has secured the rights to make it into a film.

Trailer (HD, 1:10) 

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Steve McQueen is one of Hollywood’s most legendary presences.  He’s one of the “Kings Of Cool” and was on top of the world.  McQueen is somewhat the James Dean that lived a bit longer and got to do more.  This Blu-ray of the documentary has a top notch presentation and delivers some really nice extras of excerpts from the final film.  For McQueen fans, picking this up is a must for the collection, others may want to catch it on TV or rent it first.

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Brandon is the host, producer, writer and editor of The Brandon Peters Show (thebrandonpetersshow.com). He is also the Moderator/MC of the Live Podcast Stage and on the Podcast Awards Committee for PopCon (popcon.us). In the past 10 years at Why So Blu, Brandon has amassed over 1,500 reviews of 4K, Blu-ray and DVD titles.

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