The Professionals

The Professionals (1966)
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Cast: Burt Lancaster, Lee Marvin, Jack Palance, Claudia Cardinale, Robert Ryan, Ralph Bellamy
Extras: Featurettes

This 1966 Western, directed by Richard Brooks, brings together some of the greatest genre stars of its time. Spearheaded by Lee Marvin and Burt Lancaster in wonderfully charismatic performances that ooze of the chemistry between the two, the cast also features a sultry Claudia Cardila, Jack Palance and others.

A rich Texan oil baron hires a hand-selected group of mercenaries to go into Mexico to rescue his kidnapped wife, which is held by a band of revolutionists for ransom. The leader of the Mexican rebels, Jesus Raza (Jack Palance) is no stranger to some of the mercenaries, as Rico (Lee Marvin) and Bill (Burt Lancaster) both used to fight side-by-side with the revolutionist under the great Pancho Villa. Will they let their personal feelings for Raza get in their way or will they fulfill the job and return Maria (Claudia Cardinale) to her husband?

Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment has prepared a great-looking transfer of the movie for this DVD. There are barely any speckles visible and the print is almost entirely free of grain. The start contrasts in the film are well presented without looking overly harsh and without notable edge-enhancement. Colors are strong and vibrant throughout and the earth tones in particular are perfectly rendered to bring to life the dryness of the desert and the sunburnt skins of the cast. Black levels are solid giving the image good visual depth. Image detail breaks up ever so slightly in some of the night time scenes but for the most part, blacks are solid on hold their detail very well.

A 5.1 channel Dolby Digital track is provided on this release, making it a fun experience to watch. Being a re-mix it is not as engaging and aggressive as it could be perhaps, but still the track makes good use of the surrounds, particularly during the action scenes and shoot-outs where the split surrounds are used nicely for dynamic and spatial effects. Dialogues are well integrated. Through limited in frequency response somewhat, they are never overly harsh and laso make for a good viewing experience.

As extras, Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment has added three featurettes to the DVD. The first one called ’The Porfessionals’ is a general retrospective featurette, taking a look at the film’s production and how the movie has held up over time. ’Burt Lancaster – A Portrait’ is a wonderful look at the actor’s life and career, bringing up some of the highlights of his work and some great footage of the man.

The best featurette on the DVD I found to be ’Memories From The Professionals.’ Featuring interviews with Claudia Cardinale and other cast and crew members, this featurette gives us a great impression about how the film was made. Complete with anecdotes and loving memories about their co-stars, these interviews are gold nuggets for every true movie fan.

’The Professionals’ is a fun and exciting Western that plays heavily on the clichés of the genre. Perpetually it asks the question, who is good and who is bad for real, throwing plot twists along the way that are making the movie nicely dynamic and giving it a solid flow. Wonderfully directed and acted, ’The Professionals’ is a release all Western fans should check out.