Blu-ray and DVD Reviews

The Deer Hunter - Special Edition

Reviewed by: Scott Chitwood
Movie Rating:
4 out of 10
Extras Rating:
6 out of 10
Movie Details:
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Rating: R

Starring:
Robert De Niro as Michael Vronsky
John Cazale as Stanley 'Stosh'
John Savage as Steven
Christopher Walken as Nikonar 'Nick' Chevotarevich
Meryl Streep as Linda
George Dzundza as John
Chuck Aspegren as Axel
Shirley Stoler as Steven's mother
Rutanya Alda as Angela
Pierre Segui as Julien Grinda

Special Features:
Audio Commentary with Cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond

Acceptance of Best Picture Award

Anatomy of a Scene

Deleted and Extended Scenes

Production Notes

Original Theatrical Trailer

Other Info:
Widescreen (2.35:1)
Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound
Dolby Digital 2.0 Sound
Spanish Language
Spanish and French Subtitles
Running Time: 3 Hours 4 Minutes

Synopsis:
This film was originally released in 1978. The following is the description from the DVD cover:

"Winner of five Academy Awards, including Best Picture, and one of AFI's Top 100 Films Of All Time, The Deer Hunter follows a group of Pennsylvania steelworkers from their blue-collar lives, hunting in the woods of the Alleghenies, to the hells of Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War. Academy Award winners Robert De Niro and Christopher Walken star in this unforgettable saga of friendship and courage. Experience the brutality of war and the depths of emotional strain on the human spirit in this all-new special edition."

The Deer Hunter is rated R.

The Movie:
Though it is 27 years old, won five Academy Awards, and is considered a classic, I had never seen The Deer Hunter before it arrived on DVD. Unfortunately, I found it to be highly overrated.

The Deer Hunter consists of three acts. The first shows the main characters, Michael, Steven, and Nick, in the U.S. before they are shipped out to Vietnam. We see them clown around, get drunk at a wedding, and go deer hunting. It's essentially "Blue Collar Steel Workers Gone Wild". This takes the first hour of the film and it drags on way too long. It's essential to show what the characters were like before their wartime experiences, but this was too much.

The second act is the most interesting and the most disturbing. The guys are captured in Vietnam and tortured by the VC. They are forced to play Russian roulette against each other. The scenes are bloody and shocking. But as memorable as the scenes were, they tends to drag on as well despite only being about 45 minutes of the film.

The final act of this 3 hour saga shows Michael as he returns home. He is no longer the rowdy immature fellow he was before. War has changed him. It's an interesting look at how the Vietnam War created casualties beyond the battlefield from the tortured psyches of the soldiers to their families and children. Unfortunately, this act drags on as well. I think this movie could have been 1 to 1 hours shorter and it would have been just as effective. Instead we are treated to long lingering shots of people doing nothing.

Despite the fact that I found The Deer Hunter to be mind numbingly slow, I thought it did feature good performances from the lead actors. Robert De Niro delivers a strong performance as Michael Vronsky. He makes a dramatic transformation from carefree blue collar worker to traumatized veteran. Christopher Walken is also good as Nikonar 'Nick' Chevotarevich. He, too, makes an astounding transformation from clown to mindless zombie. It is quite odd to see these legendary actors looking so young. The same goes for Meryl Streep as Linda.

I wouldn't recommend The Deer Hunter to anyone besides those interested in the Vietnam War, die-hard cinemaphiles, fans of Robert DeNiro, and fans of Christopher Walken. They are the only ones who will be willing to put up with the long running time and appreciate the movie.

The Extras:
Though this is a "Legacy Series" special edition, it is very light on the bonus features. There's a commentary by the cinematographer who has a thick accent. He is accompanied by a friend who prompts him with questions. There's also a collection of deleted and extended scenes that runs about 15 minutes. All of them take place in Vietnam and feature more Russian roulette, Steve in the water pit, and Nick in the hospital. These all consist of rough footage. There's also the theatrical trailer and one page of production notes, but they are nothing to speak of.

The Bottom Line:
Though it's considered a film classic, I found The Deer Hunter to be long, drawn out, and boring. The bonus features don't make this special edition very special, either.

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