Mississippi Burning

Mississippi Burning (1988)
MGM Home Entertainment
Cast: Gene Hackman, Willem Dafoe, Frances McDormand, Brad Dourif
Extras: Commentary Track, Theatrical Trailer

After Image Entertainment’s release of Alan Parker’s ’Mississippi Burning’ in 1998, MGM Home Entertainment has just re-released the film on DVD. Anyone who had hoped for a ’bigger’ treatment of the film will still be sorely disappointed though, because the extras of this re-release are exactly the same as those found on the previous DVD release and the Laserdisc for that matter – a commentary by director Alan Parker and a theatrical trailer. The only difference is that this new version finally features a 16×9 enhanced widescreen transfer.

The transfer is generally clean and without blemishes, such as scratches or mars. The result is a bold and solid pictures with very deep blacks and solid shadows. Colors are slightly muted, as Parker had designed the film, and contrast is generally very good. However some edge-enhancement is evident in the transfer, introducing a look that features edges that appear unnaturally harsh. Sadly the transfer also has some issue in the color space as a result of the compression of the material and many of the subtle nuances in the transfer are lost to compression artifacts. Color banding and pixelation are clearly showing in many shots of the film, making this release of ’Mississippi Burning’ truly a mixed bag.

The DVD features Dolby Surround tracks in English and French that are engaging and well produced. Surrounds are used sparingly, but especially the front stereo field is very active and correctly reflects the sound placement on the screen. The dynamic range of the track is good and the frequency response makes for a natural sounding presentation. A monaural Spanish language track and French and Spanish subtitles round out the presentation.

Alan Parker’s trip into the American South to explore racism, bigotry and nepotism is a stellar film that everyone should see and take to heart. It is too bad that no DVD version so far really does justice to the intentions and importance the film represents. While the commentary track is a great addition and extremely informative, it is clear that many supplements could be added to such a thought-provoking picture. While the presentation of the movie on this DVD is not all bad, it is also not very good and certainly doesn’t justify a re-buy of the film if you already own the Image version. I find it sacrilegious that we see Special Editions of some of the most ludicrous and superfluous films ever made while important films like ’Mississippi Burning’ have to make do with sub-par incarnations.