"The Deer Hunter." Am I really writing a review about this movie? I suppose I have to, since few people of my generation have actually watched this award-winning classic. The movie won five Academy Awards in 1978 including Best Picture and Best Director. Interestingly, this is the only "really good" movie director Michael Cimino ever made, but if you're going to have one highlight of your career, this is the one to have.
"The Deer Hunter" stars Robert De Niro and Christopher Walken as two men from a small town who are captured in Vietnam, tortured and forced to play Russian Roulette until they either blow their own brains out or go crazy. Amazingly, both survive the experience, but Walken's mind is beyond repair, and, once the war is over, he returns to continue playing the all-stakes game. Meryl Streep also stars as a romantic interest.
The movie is wonderfully done, if not a bit long at over three hours. The Vietnam scenes are horrifyingly intense, but the whole movie is pretty much flawless - except for the beginning. The one major problem with the movie is that Cimino spends way too much time establishing the characters. What could have been done in ten minutes turns into a 30-40 minute introduction that is nothing but character development. The first time I watched the movie I almost turned it off before getting to "the good stuff."
Thankfully, once you get past the slow part the movie becomes the Oscar-worthy film you'd expect. Both De Niro and Walken are in their glory years here, delivering the performances you'd expect from two of the greatest actors ever. Walken is especially mesmerizing.
Now out on a 2-disc Legacy Edition DVD set, "The Deer Hunter" looks and sounds much better than ever, but in terms of special features has nothing extraordinary to offer. Aside from audio commentary from the cinematographer and film journalist (what, Cimino has something else to do?), the only special features included are the original theatrical trailer and an array of deleted or extended scenes, most of which just looked like extended scenes. So, nothing special here.
"The Deer Hunter" is a fabulous film aside from the very slow beginning, but fans who already own the film should not bother purchasing yet another special edition that has very little new content to offer.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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