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Review : Lonesome Dove

Old 03-19-00, 03:51 PM
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As I haven't seen anyone's opinion of this disc, I thought I'd post my own. Lonesome Dove is one of my favorite westerns and, I believe, along with Roots, the best miniseries ever. The DVD-18 is a nice way to present the four-night event on one disc. Side one covers the first two parts, side two has parts three and four. All the parts are about 90 minutes each. Unlike some made-for TV productions I've seen, the story flows easily and you can't even spot the commercial breaks except for the awkward breaks at the end of the first three episodes for "cliff hanger" effect. Having not seen the series since it first aired, I was surprised at how well it has held up (the nice thing about period pieces -- they don't feel dated). The miniseries contains perhaps the best performance of Robert Duvall's career; he is clearly the emotional center of the piece and his presence is sorely missed when he's offscreen. A wonderful performance is given by Tommy Lee Jones, who at that time was not well known; it's easy to forget he's playing a character some 30 years older than himself.
The video quality is fair at best. I don't think this is the fault of the transfer; I doubt that 80's TV was ever shot with feature-film quality and some of the shots are quite clear. Still many shots are dark and there is some grain present. Some of the weather effects shots are laughable; people obviously standing infront of a blue-screen or a none-too-convincing matte painting inserted into the skyline. Twister this ain't.
Sound, similarly, is passible, but nothing special; not surprising for an era where most people didn't even have stereo TVs. It's in Dolby 2.0.
Special features are odd. There is an "interview with Larry McMurty" that is one of the shoddiest supplements I have ever seen. You select one of the 20-odd pre-selected questions and hit "enter" on your remote. You are then treated to a one minute answer from the author that looks like it was shot as a home movie. He's not miked or lit. You can't hear a word he says. And if that isn't bad enough, he's slumped in his chair, wearing an old shirt with a huge ink stain in the pocket. It's hilarious and unwatchable. The interiview with the producer, Suzanne de Passe is presented in the same "Q&A" style, but she is miked, lit and has some things to say. The menus are nice, with motion video and the scene selections have moving images, like in LA Confidential or Austin Powers -- I love those.
Overall, a worthwhile purchase, even at the steep MSRP of $39.95. It's an amazing miniseries and a nice addition to the collection of any fans of westers or of Robert Duvall.
Old 03-19-00, 07:38 PM
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I agree with everything you said in your review.

The video quality is better than VHS, but not amazing. Same goes for the sound quality. The interviews are mixed--I'm happy they put extras on the disc, so I don't want to complain, but they could have been thought through a little better.

The main point is that the DVD does not lessen the impact of one of the greatest mini-series (and movies, in my opinion) ever filmed. The A/V and extras should not incite people to purchase the movie, but they need not. The movie itself--on one DVD instead of four VHS tapes--is more than enough.

One thing to add: there is also a trivia game on the DVD. While it is not terribly exciting, it is further proof that the distributors tried to create a quality product. Their efforts should be applauded.

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