When "Bonnie and Clyde" arrived in theaters in 1967, it was a smash hit. Its approach to the real-life crime sprees of the notorious outlaws was brutally violent, starkly sexual and profoundly disturbing in its up close and personal depiction of the young couple on a wild and violent adventure that sprawled across the Midwestern landscape (and sold newspapers, filled with the lurid tales of their escapes) during the Depression.
The film begins by introducing the young and beautiful (and bored) Bonnie Parker (Faye Dunaway). When she meets up with a young drifter named Clyde Barrow (Warren Beatty), his sense of adventure and danger attract her, and the flirtation is endless, although not overly sexual. To her dismay, Clyde isn't all that interested in her advances, he gets his thrills by pulling robberies and daring getaways filled with gunfire. The sexual nature of the violence is as disturbing as it is unpredictable.
Along their bloody path they pick up a couple of other members to their gang, including Buck Barrow (Gene Hackman) and Blanche (Estelle Parsons). They even take a couple of hostages, (one played by Gene Wilder). The film is thrilling and even quite funny at times, all the way up until the famous last scene. Bonnie and Clyde and their gang become celebrities, and it reminds us, much like the recent "The Assassination of Jessie James" that ours was always a culture of celebrity and it was happening long before TMZ and YouTube and the ridiculous reality show culture we currently live in.
Although based in fact, the film obviously takes many liberties and distorts them for dramatic effect, although reportedly the bank heists and getaways and scenes of carnage are fairly accurate. The film is a fast-paced bloodbath, guaranteed to thrill all the way to the end. A true classic, it is an exciting event in home video that it has finally received the treatment it deserves.
In many ways, "Bonnie and Clyde" was the beginning of a new Hollywood, as well. Although produced by a major studio, its independent style and unconventional way of telling the story broke all the rules, and the gamble paid off big time. Moviegoers embraced this film. Like "The Graduate", they realized it was a movie designed for a new way of thinking, and as stylish and attractive a film as it was, in many ways it was as subversive as you could get. "Bonnie and Clyde" legitimized violence against the establishment, and captured the hearts and minds of the movie going public in the late sixties. It seemed to flip a coin between good and evil, and for once it seemed as if the police and the dysfunctional society depicted on the screen were the real outlaws.
"Bonnie and Clyde" is a film of enormous cinematic historical importance, and its effects cannot be underestimated, since it broke free of the old codes of how Hollywood could tell a story about gangsters. It also had a radical edge that seemed to suggest that everything wasn't as perfect in society as some would have you believe, be it depression era thirties or the tumultuous sixties. It is also a film where the violence plays a very important role in the telling of the story. It also catapulted Warren Beatty (for better or worse) to superstar status. Finally he had outshone his sister, Shirley MacLaine.
And now on its 40th Anniversary the film arrives on HD DVD in a beautiful new edition that it has deserved all these years, since all we've had up until now were visually washed-out DVD versions with barely any special features. You are going to be thrilled with this release, let me tell you. Once again Warner has really gone all the way, and it is obvious that years of hard work went into the creation of this Ultimate Edition, which also features some beautiful packaging.
Everyone will be pleased to know that the film has never looked better than it does in this excellent transfer on HD DVD. A very bright film, it takes on a level of detail that has to be seen to be believed. Where before the film often looked muddied or soft, it now takes on a whole new dimension that simply jumps off the screen with startling brilliance and clarity. This movie looks even better than I had hoped in high definition, and it fills the whole screen at 1.85:1. You have to see this beautiful transfer to believe it, it is up there with the best (and we know there are quite a few) of Warner's vintage titles released on high def. Amazing.
The audio sounds terrific in the original mono. All of the dialogue comes through very clean and when the gunfire erupts, it is as explosive as ever. A very decent presentation of the original audio track, if unspectacular and not near as groundbreaking as the newly remastered print itself. Still, no crackles, hisses or pops. No other track is included.
The special features are also a rare treat on this wonderful release, as they include some great documentaries by such highly esteemed organizations as the History Channel and it also includes rare archival footage. Even presented in standard definition, the new 40th Anniversary Commemorative documentaries are about as good as they get.
'Revolution! The Making of Bonnie and Clyde' is split up into three different segments and runs an hour. It covers every angle of the project's conception and includes fresh interviews with the entire cast, including the director Arthur Penn and star Warren Beatty. In this documentary you will learn every detail you ever wanted top know about the film, and it is really a fascinating story in and of itself.
'Love And Death: The Story of Bonnie and Clyde' is one of those documentaries I wish would be included in more films based on fact. It runs about forty five minutes and includes interviews and footage of the notorious outlaws. The story is simply captivating; certainly the real life story is far bleaker than even the film.
We have a couple of 'Deleted Scenes' with no sound and a 'Wardrobe Test' with Warren Beatty, we also have the original teaser and theatrical trailer, which is a nice touch. Taken as a whole this is a very well put together film and I simply love how they don't go overboard with the extras like so many other releases these days. It presents the important ones in an entertaining and accessible format that really delivers.
All of this and more, finally we have some interesting packaging for these new formats ("Close Encounters of the Third Kind" excluded, of course). "Bonnie and Clyde" kicks off a new type of packaging for select titles; It is a 'Book' style and is a digipack in a hardback book form and on the attached to the inside is a wonderful 24 page booklet that includes reviews and commentary and color pictures and is simply wonderful. Everything about this HD-DVD release is excellent and I look forward to the other releases with this style of packaging, including the upcoming (and eerily similar themed film) "Natural Born Killers". Although, it doesn't really sit up on the shelf with the other high def releases very well.
"Bonnie and Clyde", the iconoclastic and subversive classic, has finally been given the treatment it deserves and this HD-DVD release really does it justice. Everything about this release is very well done, and you will notice things in this film you have never seen before. I was thrilled with how great this release turned out. I always find it exciting when I can enjoy a classic film that looks this good in my living room, what a special event. I think everyone should rush out and get a copy of this landmark film on HD-DVD (or Blu-ray), it really stands up well and belongs in every collection.