A Look at the ‘Tombstone’ and ‘Armageddon’ Blu-rays

So I said I would review the Blu-ray editions of both Tombstone and Armageddon so I guess I will, even though after writing up my weekly DVD/Blu-ray recap I wondered if I had said all that needed to be said when I wrote:

I will say this, Armageddon is essentially featureless, though the picture looks great, There have been complaints about the picture on Tombstone, but those complaining seem to be folks thinking this plain box, limited feature release would be some kind of massive restoration. It’s not and while I agree there are noticeable flaws, it is the best the film has ever looked.

When it comes to Blu-rays completely devoid of features other than an Aerosmith music video, an archived making-of featurette, some storyboards and trailers what more is there really to say? Fortunately, I have some stuff to discuss, and I’ll do my best to make it worth your while.

Considering these are films in which Armageddon is in the Criterion Collection and Tombstone has its own two-disc Vista Series director’s cut, we are obviously talking about studios taking a similar route they took when DVDs first started becoming fashionable. These are the bare bones, roll ’em off the assembly line discs, which is why when I see Moises Chiullan at Hollywood Elsewhere acting surprised this isn’t the pristine edition of Tombstone he wanted, adding this could have been the “definitive transfer” of this movie, it makes me wonder if he had realistic expectations. It could have been, but when you see the standard poster art packaging and fewer features than were on the most recent DVD edition you have to put two-and-two together.

In terms of the presentation, Chiullan was right about one thing, it’s the best Tombstone has ever looked, but it isn’t perfect. He describes the film as “overly-digital” and I guess he’s right, but my assumption is they weren’t working with the most pristine of prints as artifacts can be seen in the picture early and often and a quick digital fix was less-expensive than a full restoration, which this film will get, and there are assumptions as to when, which we’ll get into in a second.

As for something I didn’t know about Armageddon, an admitted guilty pleasure I can watch at any time, Bill Hunt at The Digital Bits writes, “As some of you may already know, the original master was apparently destroyed in a fire, so a new print had to be struck and a new HD digital master created just for this release. That means the transfer is brand spanking new, and the 1080p image really benefits from it.” So, yes, this transfer looks and sounds great, but the absence of features is noticeable. Then again, I’m not sure I want to hear Michael Bay talking about the Pentagon and how great he is for the film’s 151-minute duration. I just want the movie and that’s what I’ve got here and I’m happy about it.

However, expect more of both of these films on Blu-ray in the future. Hunt also points out Tombstone will have a 20 year anniversary in 2013 (Armageddon will be 15 that same year) and it would be more likely a better Blu-ray will be released then with both the theatrical and director’s cut of the film (this Blu-ray is the theatrical only). Chiullan hopes with an anniversary release there would also come a new documentary including information regarding the nearly four year-old news that has since been forgotten and never touched upon again suggesting Kurt Russell ghost-directed Tombstone, hiring George P. Cosmatos to shoot it like he was told to and nothing beyond that. It’s a truly fascinating bit, recorded by Henry Beck in the October 2006 issue of “True West” magazine, which you can read in full right here (via Hollywood Elsewhere).

Here is a snippet taken from Russell’s quotes that is sure to make any fan of Tombstone even more curious to read the full report and leave you dying for more:

At one time I really knew about Wyatt Earp because that movie–Tombstone is one that’s actually worth talking about– that was the one time I had gone out and got the money. I backed the director; the director got fired, so we brought in a guy to be a ghost director. They wanted me to take over the movie. I said, “I’ll do it, but I don’t want to put my name on it. I don’t want to be the guy.”

I said to George [Cosmatos], “I’m going to give you a shot list every night, and that’s what’s going to be.” I’d go to George’s room, give him the shot list for the next day, that was the deal. “George I don’t want any arguments. This is what it is. This is what the job is.”

“Yeah, absolutely.”

I got him from Sly Stallone–called up Sly, said I need a guy. Sly did the same thing with Rambo 2 with George. And I said to George, “While you’re alive George, I won’t say a goddamn thing.” [Cosmatos died April 19th, 2005.]

And it was the hardest work of my life. Tombstone was so painful. Tombstone was so tough, you know what I mean? It was just so painful; it was hard physically to do–I got four hours sleep every night. And I’m so happy that we got it made.

I didn’t get a chance to edit the movie, which I thought was unfortunate because it could have been one of the greatest Westerns ever, ever, ever made. And it’s pretty damn good. We had a great cast. A phenomenal script.

Tell me you don’t want more on that? Makes you wonder just what it means when the Vista Series DVD describes it as the “Director’s Cut” considering Russell didn’t edit it and it runs approximately four minutes longer than the theatrical.

As it stands right now, I’m happy with these editions. This is the only copy of Armageddon I own and the Tombstone Blu-ray serves as the version of the film I will most likely watch while I can turn to my Vista edition if I am in need of additional extras. However, I did watch the making-of feature included on the Tombstone Blu-ray and what a shock to see Twilight director Catherine Hardwicke who worked as production designer on the film, building all of the sets. I did not remember that bit of information and it was a pleasant piece of information to file away for another day. Hardwicke, in fact, worked as Production Designer on several films, including Three Kings and Vanilla Sky before she directed her first film, Thirteen, in 2003. An interesting factoid for those interested in such things.

If you’re interested in buying either of these discs, click here to order either one from Amazon.


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