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Reds: 40th Anniversary Edition (Blu-ray Review)

Paramount continues to lovingly and impressively dig into their back catalog, improving upon previous releases and finally getting around to some titles missing from the Blu-ray format. On November 30th, they are doing both ends of the spectrum with a pair of Warren Beatty films; 1978’s Heaven Can Wait and 1981’s epic Reds. Both of them having brand new 4K transfers. Reds was Beatty’s big sweeping epic from 1981. Its the one that landed him is Academy Award for Best Director. While nominated for a pretty outstanding 12 Academy Awards, it managed to go home with three. It comes with the bonus features from the 25th anniversary edition as well as the new transfer approved by Vittorio Storraro. You can order yourself a copy for a heck of deal by using the paid Amazon Associates link at the bottom of the page following the review.

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Film

American journalist John Reed (Warren Beatty) journeys to Russia to document the Boleshevik Revolution and returns a revolutionary. His fervor for left-wing politics leads him to Louise Bryant (Diane Keaton), then married, who will become a feminist icon and activist. Politics at home become more complicated as the rift grows between reality and Reed’s ideals. Bryant takes up with a cynical playwright (Jack Nicholson), and Reed returns to Russia, where his health declines.

Reds is a sweeping epic of journalism and activism and love and ideals and a whole lot of things surrounding the Russian Revolution in the early 1900s. Warren Beatty’s film makes a clear argument for perhaps his finest hour as a writer, director and actor. For a three and a quarter hour film, it never really feels slow or having any sort of pacing issues. And its not like the film rolls along quickly either. Its a film of conversation, sharing of ideology and condition. Yet, it jumps around and hops along, finding great actor pairings to share scenes as well and great bigger moments with a more crowded structure.

Diane Keaton is a price of admission performer. No matter what she’s got her hand in, its worth your time. She’s just as much, if not more a lead than Beatty, and she puts in some damn find work as well with one of her most interesting characters. When not with Beatty, she shares the screen with another legend of the screen in Jack Nicholson, who was nominated for an Oscar with this mustached performance. Top it off that Gene Hackman and Maureen Stapleton have supporting parts as well, and you can easily see how this film never slows up in interest, and never bores.

Also keeping attention is the beautiful cinematography from Vittorio Storaro. It nabbed him an Oscar, and a quick glance is easy to see why. There’s a lovely, genuine yet impressionable color palette on display through the sets, costuming and timing for it. The framing of every scene is also just gorgeous to look at, capturing much of the architectural beauty of some classic buildings as well as just laying out a neat balance of the characters and objects on screen.

Warren Beatty’s Reds really soaks up a nice piece of educational history while also making it cinematically accessible and featuring the qualities of great film drama. Its incredible to watch these characters’ growth and journeys over the three hours and fifteen minutes the film takes up (Including an intermission if you choose to take one). The film is well acted to all hell and looks amazing while doing so. Kids looking to find a “new to them” old film that they may not be familiar with should check out should look into Reds.

Video

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

Layers: BD-50

Clarity/Detail: Reds latest trip to Blu-ray in its 40th Anniversary Edition comes boasting that “The film was restored and remastered from the original negative in 4K with High Dynamic Range using a vintage print from the Paramount archives as a reference, which was approved by Academy Award-winning cinematographer Vittorio Storaro”(Along with being on a BD-50 instead of a BD-25). And wow does it looks quite stunning. A big time improvement over the original Blu-ray with a better, healthy layer of grain, and much more natural detail and a stronger sense of style in its color timing. Its very much a good looker and an EASY recommend on upgrading for the transfer alone, which this release really only has as its selling point.

Depth:  Depth of field is terrific in this new transfer. Great spacing and an outstanding sense of scale on display here. Motion is filmic, smooth and has no issues regarding blur or jitter.

Black Levels: Blacks are deep and plenty on the natural side, carrying a bit heavier grain in the darkest areas. No information is lost in any darkened corners. Darker rooms and nighttime sequences look absolutely lovely. No crushing witnessed.

Color Reproduction: Colors are much more natural and focused on the grays, browns, whites, beiges and those kind of more rustic ones. Its pretty bold and quite strong with good saturation.

Flesh Tones: Skin tones are more natural and really fit the tone of the color palette. Its a consistent appearance from start to finish of the film. Facial details and textures are easily discernible from any given distance in the frame.

Noise/Artifacts: None

Audio

Audio Format(s): English Restored 5.1 Dolby TrueHD, English Restored 2.0 Mono Dolby Digital

Subtitles: English, English SDH

Dynamics: Reds: 40th Anniversary Edition not only improves the video, but the audio is now lossless as well. They call it a “restored” 5.1 track, but whatever, it sounds lovely. Its very front heavy and probably would have been serviceable as a 2.0 track, but there are touches and accents that make it worthwhile. Its plenty balanced and features good depth and range.

Height: N/A

Low Frequency Extension: There are some good rumbling sounds like engines, trains and the like that allow for some subwoofer action and it hits some of the score moments very well.

Surround Sound Presentation: As I mentioned, this is a front heavy track. However, the front three speakers have some good travel and accurate placement. The rear channels do help to build ambiance and carry nice moments charting things that aren’t on screen but need to carry a presence in the mix.

Dialogue Reproduction:  Vocals are clear and crisp and feel a nice part of every environment they are in.

Extras

Reds: 40th Anniversary Edition is a 2-disc set and comes with a redeemable digital code for the film. All extras are found on Disc 2.

Witness To Reds:

  • The Rising (SD, 6:29)
  • Comrades (SD, 13:30)
  • Testimonials (SD, 11:58)
  • The March (SD, 9:07)
  • Revolution, Part 1 (SD, 10:18)
  • Revolution, Part 2 (SD, 6:55)
  • Propaganda (SD, 9:11)

Reds Trailer (HD, 1:21)

Summary

Reds is a major triumph and spotlight for the career of Warren Beatty and holds up wonderfully 40 years later. This updated release to celebrate that milestone is an achievement as well. It should have been a 4K release, but nonetheless this new Blu-ray’s transfer and audio are pretty spectacular. The older, and more than sufficient, featurette on looking back at Reds is still here too. And this is available at a heck of a price. Pick it up!

This is a paid Amazon Associates link

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Brandon is the host, producer, writer and editor of The Brandon Peters Show (thebrandonpetersshow.com) on the Creative Zombie Studios Network. At Why So Blu he is a Writer/Reviewer. Brandon is a lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash. You can also find older essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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