THE DEER HUNTER
MOVIE: ***1/2 (out of 5)
BLU-RAY EXPERIENCE: *** (out of 5)
BY KEVIN CARR
Growing up, my only knowledge of “The Deer Hunter” was from my dad talking about what a colossal bomb director Michael Cimino’s follow-up film “Heaven’s Gate” was. Where “The Deer Hunter” won the Academy Award, “Heaven’s Gate” was a joke that practically bankrupted the studio.
Now that Universal is releasing a slate of its most memorable films on Blu-ray, I’ve had a chance to see “The Deer Hunter” in is high definition glory.
I had once tried to watch this movie on VHS, but I was bogged down. Part of it was likely the presentation of the VHS format, which is a mess. But on high definition Blu-ray on a modern widescreen television, it’s a beautiful looking film.
The story follows several friends from an industrial town in the Midwest. They’re shipping out to fight in Vietnam, and they take their last celebration at one’s wedding, later hunting deer one last time. When we jump-cut to Vietnam, we’re in the hell of war. Violence and confusion abound, and the group is captured by the VC and forced to play Russian roulette for entertainment. After escaping and returning home, the group struggles with the horrors they have experienced, with some taking the trauma harder than others.
“The Deer Hunter” is a complex film with a lot of hidden messages and confusing moments. It moves deliberate and slow at times, while other times it leaps ahead as if it’s missing scenes. This shows the confusion and chaos surrounding the war and its affect on the soldiers. Held together with a phenomenal cast, “The Deer Hunter” is a powerful film but also controversial in many ways, including the inaccurate Russian roulette portrayal, the homophobic language and the sometimes contradictory messages.
Still, it’s a movie that’s worth seeing. And if you’re going to see it, see it on Blu-ray on a big screen to enjoy the look and feel of a real American epic.
The new Universal 100th Anniversary Blu-ray includes the DVD as well. Special features include deleted and extended scenes, plus the theatrical trailer and a feature commentary with cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond and film journalist Bob Fisher. There’s also a feature on the “100 Years of Universal” about the Academy Award winners. Additional features includes access to the pocketBLU app and BD-Live for extra content.