Dances With Wolves: 20th Anniversary Edition (Blu-ray) Official AVSForum Review - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 31 Old 01-16-2011, 03:28 PM - Thread Starter
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The Review at a Glance: (max score: 5 )

Film: attachment.php?attachmentid=109947&d=1210373699

Extras: attachment.php?attachmentid=109946&d=1210373692

Audio/Video total rating:

( Max score: 100 )

84






Studio and Year: MGM - 1990
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Feature running time: 236 minutes
Genre: Drama/western

Disc Format: BD-50
Encoding: AVC (MPEG-4)
Video Aspect: 2.35:1
Resolution: 1080p/24


Audio Format(s): English DTS-HD 7.1 Master Audio
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish
Starring: Kevin Costner, Graham Greene, Mary McDonnell, Rodney A. Grant
Directed by: Kevin Costner
Music by: John Barry
Written by: Michael Blake based on his novel of the same name
Region Code: A

Blu-ray Disc release Date: January 11, 2011







"Inside everyone is a frontier waiting to be discovered"



Film Synopsis:

Kevin Costner stars in and directs this triumphant masterpiece written by Michael Blake, based on his novel, and celebrating its 20th anniversary with a breathtaking widescreen version of the film. Winner of seven Academy Awards, including Best Directing and Best Picture, this modern classic tells the story of Lt. Dunbar (Costner), a Civil War hero who befriends a tribe of Sioux Indians while stationed at a desolate outpost on the American frontier. What follows is a series of unforgettable moments - from Dunbar's tender scenes with Stands With A Fist (Mary McDonnell), to the thrilling, action-packed buffalo hunt. Experience the excitement, emotion and sweeping beauty of this cinematic treasure!



My Take:

DANCES WITH WOLVES tells the story of Lieutenant John Dunbar (Kevin Costner) who chooses a posting on the American Frontier and is soon accepted into a local Sioux tribe.The tribe names him "Dances with Wolves" and as time passes he falls in love with the beautiful "Stands with a Fist" (played by Mary McDonnell), a white woman adopted by the Sioux when her family was killed. John’s blissful new life is soon disrupted, however, when American soldiers advance on the frontier threatening the Sioux people. John is forced to make a decision that will not only affect him, but also the lives of those he now calls his people.

I first saw this film during its theatrical run twenty years ago have been a fan ever since. Dances with wolves isn’t a perfect film but it’s an enriching one that touches the sprit with its tale of a man who is unwittingly searching for his identity and finds it in the most unlikely of places. I find its multi-faceted narrative to be compelling as it is broken into noticeably distinct parts with sub texts that in and of themselves are nearly satisfying enough to stand on their own. Each builds nicely upon the other and serves to draw us deeper into the film as it speaks of adventure, acceptance, friendship, loss, and love. Of course there is a bit more to it’s meaningful story. The revisionist and historically significant nature of the plot is obvious but it’s the strength of the characters and their endearing relationships that resonates. John Dunbar/Dances with wolves may not be the epitome of the larger than life frontiersman but he has an inner light and strength that draws those around him in. The script takes its time and carefully establishes the characters and relationships that matter most, beginning with John and his horse Cisco, all the way up to the hard fought but rewarding bond with Sioux warrior and resident hard ass Wind in his hair. The depiction of Sioux life within the village as well as the various trials and tribulations both within and outside of the Indian culture is done to excellent effect. We get to see them through John’s eyes but we also get to see and gain some understanding of the world from their perspective. This is an epic style film that provides a revealing glimpse of the unspoiled grandeur of our country alongside the time period that specifically relates to the inevitable subjugation of the native Americans who called it home.

Kevin Costner does a terrific job on both sides of the camera. I don’t find him to be an actor with a lot of range but he consistently portrays characters that play to his strengths and this is one of my favorites. He and Graham Greene (Kicking Bird) had superb chemistry which in my opinion was the predominant relationship in the film. I liked Mary McDonnell (Stands with a fist) just fine but didn’t always find her performance to be convincing. To the contrary Rodney A. Grant, Floyd Red Crow Westerman, and Tantoo Cardinal (Wind in his hair, Chief Ten Bears and Black Shawl) were excellent in support. In reality the entire cast is deserving of praise since as a unit they lent credibility to the film. For me, Dances with wolves is one of those movies that you can’t just watch a little bit of and turn off. Even though I am intimately familiar with the story and characters I can’t help but want to see the story play out to its conclusion. My affection for it is rekindled as I find myself reacting to it much as I did the first time I saw it. I own the 2003 Special Edition DVD release which contains the extended director’s cut the film which adds 55 minutes to the theatrical cut’s runtime. While there are elements contained in the additional footage that better flesh out some aspects of the story, the truth is the theatrical version flows better and is probably more cohesive. I am not certain why Fox chose not to include the theatrical version on this Blu-ray release because at just under four hours Dances with wolves runs too long. I remember the hoopla that followed its Academy Awards for Best Picture and Best Director for Kevin Costner. Whether you think it is deserving or not there is no denying that Dances with wolves is among the best films of its generation. It is a personal favorite that I am thrilled to finally own in high definition.



Parental Guide:

The rating is for violence, sensuality and thematic material that would be inappropriate for younger audiences.






AUDIO/VIDEO - By The Numbers:
REFERENCE = 92-100 / EXCELLENT = 83-91 / GOOD = 74-82 / AVERAGE = 65-73 / BELOW AVERAGE = under 65

**My audio/video ratings are based upon a comparative made against other high definition media/blu-ray disc.**


(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

Audio: 84



  • Dynamics: attachment.php?attachmentid=109946&d=1210373692

  • Low frequency extension: attachment.php?attachmentid=109945&d=1210373692

  • Surround Sound presentation: attachment.php?attachmentid=109946&d=1210373699

  • Clarity/Detail: attachment.php?attachmentid=109947&d=1210373699

  • Dialogue Reproduction: attachment.php?attachmentid=109948&d=1210373699


Video: 84


(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)


  • Resolution/Clarity: attachment.php?attachmentid=109946&d=1210373692

  • Black level/Shadow detail: attachment.php?attachmentid=109945&d=1210373692

  • Color reproduction: attachment.php?attachmentid=109948&d=1210373692

  • Fleshtones: attachment.php?attachmentid=109947&d=1210373692

  • Compression: attachment.php?attachmentid=109946&d=1210373692

Dances with Wolves comes to Blu-ray Disc from 20th Century Fox featuring 1080p AVC encoded video that has an average bitrate of 19 Mbps and lossless DTS-HD 7.1 Master Audio sound that has an average bitrate of 4.5 Mbps.

Having owned Dances with wolves on VHS and twice on DVD I have probably seen it half a dozen times at home. It comes to high definition framed in its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio and features image quality that is clearly a step above any previous home video release. It offers an appreciable level of refinement and defining resolution that results in a pleasing high definition experience. Close ups generally offer plenty of textural nuance which makes it easy to discern the subtle complexional structure in the faces of the actors as well as visible delineation in the clothing and objects within the frame. The superb cinematography with its beautiful vista views of the open expanses as supported by the natural light of day offer varying levels of delineation and depth that predominantly look great. Clarity and sharpness during low level sequences shot at night or in uneven light can be inconsistent and range from fair to below average. For instance the segment that takes place after the Sioux kill the buffalo poachers and celebrate by dancing around the burning fire. The image takes on a noticeably grainy/noisy quality with diminished sharpness and perceivable resolution. Colors appear natural with a limited range that is primarily consists of earth tones combined with various shades of blue and red that are rendered beautifully in high definition. Flesh tones are warm with supple texture and lifelike quality. Contrast is spot on and consistent throughout the presentation. Black levels are slightly elevated but stable which results in good not great looking scenes that contain mixed light/dark content. The sequences filmed at night don’t offer deep defining blacks or unlimited dimensional perspective however they exhibit ample dynamic range and fair image penetration. Grain is intact and never rises to an objectionable level during scenes containing ample light. I noticed some light background noise and heavier grain during some low level sequences which doesn’t appear to be the result of bit starvation but may be compression related. Regardless of its origins I didn’t find it overtly distracting. There is no question that this high definition presentation offers fans the opportunity to see this wonderful film looking better than ever.

Having seen this movie numerous times on DVD I am familiar with its soundtrack. This isn’t an aggressive surround mix but it gets the little things right which make it all the more engaging. This lossless encoding offers a noticeable improvement in sound quality by opening up the front soundstage, elevating the perception of low level detail and offering broader dynamic range. Dialogue is full bodied, clearly intonated and intelligible through the center channel. John Barry’s music score invigorates the sound field as its smoothly textured brass and authoritative percussion drives the storyline. The score utilizes the entire surround platform via a front oriented perspective that is enhanced by ambient surround activity that encapsulates the listening position and enriches dimension. Some of the effects such as gunfire sound a bit dated but I wouldn’t describe it as sounding unsubstantial. Clarity and fine detail are notable which gives lesser sounds within the mix good audibility and articulated refinement. The additional rear channels provide a bit more envelopment especially during panning sequences. Examples of this can be found in chapter two as John Dunbar stands near a fence as the enemy fires a shot from the distance which whizzes by the listening position and continues through to the rear or later during the buffalo hunt as the sweet spot is engaged by near field sounds that replicate the large beasts passing through the room with the aural position switching along with the camera’s perspective. I would say that this new surround mix definitely improves upon the original and the addition of high resolution lossless sound makes it even better.



Bonus Features:


  • Disc 1:


  • Commentary by Kevin Costner & producer Jim Wilson

  • Commentary by director of photography Dean Semler & editor Neil Travis

  • Military rank and hierarchy interactive guide feature

  • Real history or movie make-believe - interactive quiz

  • Disc 2:


  • Featurettes:

    1. (HD) A day in the life on the western frontier - 14 minute featurette
    2. The original making of Dances with wolves featurette - 21 minutes
    3. The creation of an epic: A retrospective documentary (7 segments) - 74 minutes

  • Vignettes: (Totaling 20 minutes)

    1. Original music video featuring music by John Barry
    2. Second wind
    3. Confederate march and music
    4. Getting the point
    5. Burying the hatchet
    6. Animatronic buffalo

  • Trailers/TV Spots

  • Galleries




Final Thoughts:

Dances with wolves is a viable piece of American film culture that easily withstands the test of time and needs no introduction. It is one of the best films of the last twenty years and is a personal favorite. I am thrilled to report that it comes to Blu-ray Disc from 20th Century Fox/MGM featuring rewarding high definition audio/video quality and a complimentary assortment of bonus supplements that include exclusive content along with many of the original features found on previous home video releases. Dances with wolves is a classic that belongs in the collection of every film enthusiast. If you have never seen it I can’t think of a better introduction than this. Enjoy!









attachment.php?attachmentid=109949&d=1210373731






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post #2 of 31 Old 01-16-2011, 05:25 PM
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And....my blu-ray collection just got bigger.
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post #3 of 31 Old 01-16-2011, 05:38 PM
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So this is just the extended edition? That is odd. I do appreciate the extended look at various scenes from the theatrical release but would have preferred the ability to watch either. As it stands it's a lot to ask me to sit through almost 4 hours of a film, even one as good as Dances With Wolves. I will still purchase it though because I love this movie; I just hope they decide to release the theatrical version at some point.

Great review as always Ralph, much appreciated.
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post #4 of 31 Old 01-16-2011, 09:20 PM
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Waiting for theatrical cut

Some open land scenes should look good in hi-def and I'm waiting for it. But the extended cut is just too long at 4 hours. While waiting, regular DVD looks good, too.
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post #5 of 31 Old 01-17-2011, 12:18 AM
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Sold!
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post #6 of 31 Old 01-17-2011, 07:52 AM
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I will definitely add this to our collection. This is a great movie and I look forward to the extended version.

Jerry

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post #7 of 31 Old 01-17-2011, 08:36 AM
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For the theatrical release you can order the UK release off Amazon UK. I've owned it for quite some time, and it looks great. I prefer it over the extended, and four hours is way to long for this film.
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post #8 of 31 Old 01-17-2011, 09:13 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by emf View Post

Waiting for theatrical cut

Some open land scenes should look good in hi-def and I'm waiting for it. But the extended cut is just too long at 4 hours. While waiting, regular DVD looks good, too.

Yep, that's pretty much where I stand, too.
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post #9 of 31 Old 01-17-2011, 09:34 AM
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I was disappointed with the sound of the music mix myself. I'm afraid it revealed it's original Dolby Surround L/C/R/S origins and was rather collapsed to the center. With all those wide vista shots and scenes where the music is featured, it would have been nice to have a wide image in the orchestral score and I found it very center oriented. Not that it existed only in the center speaker, but that what was in the left and right was also in the center and the whole image shrunk inward. And surrounds for the music (which would have been originally mono in 1990) were pretty weak. Overall I felt it retained it's 1990 Dolby surround origins and the 7.1 "remix" added little to bring it up to 2010 standards.
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post #10 of 31 Old 01-17-2011, 09:57 AM
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I picked up an MGM remastered copy of DWW awhile back at Wal Mart for seven bucks it is the extended wide screen version on a two sided disk. I have an excellent up converting player the transfer is stunning the PQ is pristine with vibrant colors and clarity the 5:1 sound is excellent. So I'll probably pass on the HD version for now I may pick it up down the road. The remastered DVD really does look and sound that good.
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post #11 of 31 Old 01-17-2011, 10:29 AM
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But it's still 480 lines compared to 1080 lines. And it's 448Kps Dolby Digital compared to 4.5Mps DTS-HD. I think you'd find the Blu-Ray much better and worth the $20.
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post #12 of 31 Old 01-17-2011, 07:48 PM
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"and lossless DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio sound that has an average bitrate of 4.5 Mbps."
Isn't this a 7.1 mix? My Denon shows a 7.1 sound track

A side note to the standard DVD, I never had the US re-issue extended DVD, but was lucky enough to get my hands on the Japanese version (4 DVD set) extended version. DVD 1 & 2 was the extended 236 min version with DTS Surround sound in FULL BIT RATE (1.5 mbps) the 181 min version on DVD #3 and the spec features on DVD #4.
I did get the Blu-Ray, but havn't had a chance to compare them yet.

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Nailed it.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nighthawk68 View Post

"and lossless DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio sound that has an average bitrate of 4.5 Mbps."
Isn't this a 7.1 mix? My Denon shows a 7.1 sound track

A side note to the standard DVD, I never had the US re-issue extended DVD, but was lucky enough to get my hands on the Japanese version (4 DVD set) extended version. DVD 1 & 2 was the extended 236 min version with DTS Surround sound in the 181 min version on DVD #3 and the spec features on DVD #4.
I did get the Blu-Ray, but havn't had a chance to compare them yet.

Curious to hear a comparison of the DTS soundtrack as I have the US Orion Home Video 2-set version with FULL BIT RATE (1.5 mbps) http://widescreenreview.com/dvd_detail.php?recid=406

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post #15 of 31 Old 01-18-2011, 05:54 AM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nighthawk68 View Post

"and lossless DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio sound that has an average bitrate of 4.5 Mbps."
Isn't this a 7.1 mix? My Denon shows a 7.1 sound track

Greetings,

Yes it is, thanks for catching that. I mentioned the additional rear channls in the audio portion of my review but indicated a 5.1 mix in the specs. Corrected.

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Bought already will watch soon.
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Can somebody who has this please take a minute to fire it up and see if there are any options for Portuguese subtitles and/or audio? I've noticed that a lot of movies have language options that are not necessarily listed on the case. (I just discovered that my Blu-Ray of The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe has a very nice Portuguese soundtrack that is not listed on the case).

If not, then I'll look at picking up the theatrical foreign release, which lists Portuguese subtitles.

Thanks!

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Edgar_in_Indy View Post

Can somebody who has this please take a minute to fire it up and see if there are any options for Portuguese subtitles and/or audio? I've noticed that a lot of movies have language options that are not necessarily listed on the case. (I just discovered that my Blu-Ray of The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe has a very nice Portuguese soundtrack that is not listed on the case).

If not, then I'll look at picking up the theatrical foreign release, which lists Portuguese subtitles.

Thanks!

Sorry, there is not. or subtitle
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post #19 of 31 Old 01-18-2011, 05:24 PM
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Originally Posted by richall01 View Post

Sorry, there is not. or subtitle

Thanks!

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post #20 of 31 Old 01-18-2011, 07:16 PM
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To you people that are complaining about the near 4 hour run time, I have a nice shiny copy of the 175 min standard DTS DVD version of the film for ya!

Free..just give me a valid shipping address via PM and it's yours.

First response wins!

Ralph another great review my friend, I have watched it on LaserDisc,DVD and now BluRay and Blu is where I am staying>
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post #21 of 31 Old 02-02-2011, 03:14 PM
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Nice review, Ralph.

(IMHO, the greatness of this classic exposes Avatar for the derivative work that it is.)
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post #22 of 31 Old 02-03-2011, 02:57 AM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by mvp2005fan View Post

Nice review, Ralph.

(IMHO, the greatness of this classic exposes Avatar for the derivative work that it is.)

Greetings,

Thanks mvp2005fan.

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post #23 of 31 Old 02-24-2011, 09:58 AM
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It's even more wonderful!

Great review, Ralph, though my score would certainly be higher than 84. But I've loved this film since it's release and own it on VHS, DVD (twice because I couldn't resist the 'extended' version included with the 2003 Special Edition).

From your review I was pretty sure that this would not be a bad job of bringing the movie to HD, and it is, if anything, the best release yet.

Too long? Ha! When's the sequel?? If there's any problem I have with this movie it's that I hate it to end and want to know how Dances With Wolves and Stands With a Fist live out the rest of their lives!
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post #24 of 31 Old 02-24-2011, 12:54 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by krs View Post

It's even more wonderful!

Great review, Ralph, though my score would certainly be higher than 84. But I've loved this film since it's release and own it on VHS, DVD (twice because I couldn't resist the 'extended' version included with the 2003 Special Edition).

From your review I was pretty sure that this would not be a bad job of bringing the movie to HD, and it is, if anything, the best release yet.

Too long? Ha! When's the sequel?? If there's any problem I have with this movie it's that I hate it to end and want to know how Dances With Wolves and Stands With a Fist live out the rest of their lives!

Greetings,

Thanks krs. Remember the numeric rating (84) only applies to the audio/video quality. I rated the film itself 4.5 out of 5.

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post #25 of 31 Old 02-24-2011, 11:33 PM
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Awesome job as always, Ralph!

This is one of my favorite films ever...and it's about time to revisit it. I may need to pick this up. I still remember when I saw this in the theater...I really didn't expect it to affect me like it did.
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post #26 of 31 Old 04-03-2014, 02:41 AM
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I'm looking at adding this to my collection, as it's now Price: $7.99 on Amazon.
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B004AOECTC/ref=ox_sc_act_title_1?ie=UTF8&psc=1&smid=ATVPDKIKX0DER

The link above, that is for the "Dances with Wolves (Two-Disc 20th Anniversary Edition) [Blu-ray] (1990)", this review, so it's the extended version and "too long"?
I'd like to watch this with my 3 kids, realizing we'd take an intermission mid-way for 4 hour movie.

Heck - I remember when McDonalds was almost giving away the VHS of this in the early 1990's at cheap price....anyone else here got that VHS copy?
Mine is long given away to Salvation Army.
http://articles.orlandosentinel.com/1992-11-29/business/9211261312_1_video-dances-with-wolves-burnside
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post #27 of 31 Old 04-04-2014, 07:45 PM
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Originally Posted by mtbdudex View Post

I'm looking at adding this to my collection, as it's now Price: $7.99 on Amazon.
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B004AOECTC/ref=ox_sc_act_title_1?ie=UTF8&psc=1&smid=ATVPDKIKX0DER

That's a great deal, for sure, as this is one of the best films ever made, at least from my point of view. There will be an MGM 90th Anniversary Edition coming out on May 20th, but I think it will be the same two discs that are found in the 20th Anniversary Edition. Just seeing this thread awakened makes me want to watch the movie again. smile.gif

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post #28 of 31 Old 07-30-2014, 01:13 AM
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 I own the 2003 Special Edition DVD release which contains the extended director’s cut the film which adds 55 minutes to the theatrical cut’s runtime. While there are elements contained in the additional footage that better flesh out some aspects of the story, the truth is the theatrical version flows better and is probably more cohesive. I am not certain why Fox chose not to include the theatrical version on this Blu-ray release because at just under four hours Dances with wolves runs too long.
One reason is that the studio specifically asked Costner which version he preferred, and they went with his suggestion. The advantage of going with the 4-hour version is that 75% of most of the footage added is the Lakota Sioux's point of view, and for the first time you understand what they think of Costner's character. I think both versions are long, but in this rare case, I think the longer version (called the "Lt. Dunbar Version" by the editor) makes a lot more sense and fills in a lot of holes, so in that sense it's more cohesive. But a 4-hour film wasn't practical for a commercial theatrical release.

Note that on the mastering for this film, done at Cinesite in Hollywood in 2003, we used the original 35mm camera negative for the very first time. All previous versions were a generation or two down. Our instructions from DP Dean Semler were specifically not to make it look like the 1991 transfer, but instead make sure the skies were actually blue, which I did. Dean was much happier with this transfer, and in fact said it looked more like what he wanted than anything he'd seen before. If you A/B the old transfer and the new one, we have 50 more shades of color in the HD version.

Both the 3-hour version and the 4-hour version were all mastered by me. There was some grain management applied but it was very subtle, and I think we generally erred on the side of letting more grain in rather than getting rid of all of it.

The only audio mastering I did on this was the original 2-track Dolby Surround as a guide, also used for the TV mix. I was told they went back to the 6-track analogue 35mm SR mag tracks for the 5.1 and so in that respect it was not a remix.

I realize this review is 2-3 years old, but I just thought I'd set the record straight. This was a tough, tough film to master -- I think we spent 3 solid months on it, because of all the different versions, different edits, sound issues, color matching problems, missing elements, and so on -- but I think it came out extremely well.
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post #29 of 31 Old 07-30-2014, 03:21 AM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Marc Wielage View Post
One reason is that the studio specifically asked Costner which version he preferred, and they went with his suggestion. The advantage of going with the 4-hour version is that 75% of most of the footage added is the Lakota Sioux's point of view, and for the first time you understand what they think of Costner's character. I think both versions are long, but in this rare case, I think the longer version (called the "Lt. Dunbar Version" by the editor) makes a lot more sense and fills in a lot of holes, so in that sense it's more cohesive. But a 4-hour film wasn't practical for a commercial theatrical release.

Note that on the mastering for this film, done at Cinesite in Hollywood in 2003, we used the original 35mm camera negative for the very first time. All previous versions were a generation or two down. Our instructions from DP Dean Semler were specifically not to make it look like the 1991 transfer, but instead make sure the skies were actually blue, which I did. Dean was much happier with this transfer, and in fact said it looked more like what he wanted than anything he'd seen before. If you A/B the old transfer and the new one, we have 50 more shades of color in the HD version.

Both the 3-hour version and the 4-hour version were all mastered by me. There was some grain management applied but it was very subtle, and I think we generally erred on the side of letting more grain in rather than getting rid of all of it.

The only audio mastering I did on this was the original 2-track Dolby Surround as a guide, also used for the TV mix. I was told they went back to the 6-track analogue 35mm SR mag tracks for the 5.1 and so in that respect it was not a remix.

I realize this review is 2-3 years old, but I just thought I'd set the record straight. This was a tough, tough film to master -- I think we spent 3 solid months on it, because of all the different versions, different edits, sound issues, color matching problems, missing elements, and so on -- but I think it came out extremely well.
Greetings,

Great information Marc. Thanks so much for chiming in...


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post #30 of 31 Old 07-30-2014, 06:39 AM
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Thanks for providing the info about this edition, Marc!

This film is one of those that I've seen over and over again, but I never get tired of watching it, and the "Dances With Wolves: 20th Anniversary Edition" on blu-ray is certainly my favorite version to watch.
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