Starring: Steve McQueen, Robert Vaughn, Jacqueline Bisset
Studio: Warner Bros. 113684
Video: 2.41:1 1080p enhanced for 16:9 (Some extras 480i or 480p)
Audio: English DD 2.0, French or Spanish DD mono (Extras DD 5.1, 2.0 & mono)
Subtitles (Feature only): English, French, Spanish
Extras: Commentary by Director Peter Yates, “Steve McQueen: The Essence of Cool,” “The Cutting Edge: The Magic of Movie Editing” (1080p & 5.1 audio), “Bullitt: Steve McQueen’s Commitment to Reality” (vintage featurette), Theatrical trailer
Length: 114 minutes
Rating: **** (“Cutting Edge:” *****)
Interesting to view a 39-year-old film in high definition. The smaller details are noticeable without any effort, there is information in the many shadow areas of the images which was lost before, and occasionally one becomes aware of the film grain – especially on some of the darker indoor scenes. Bullitt won an Oscar for Best Film Editing, and this release includes a masterful documentary in hi-def widescreen and surround all about movie editing. It’s so well done it would be worth the price of admission even Bullitt weren’t so much fun to see again.
Editing may have been the savior of Bullitt, because the story isn’t very compelling and in fact pretty confusing. If it weren’t for the famous classic car chase and the closing scenes on the airport runway, it wouldn’t be much of a movie. The vintage extra explains that no slowed-down cinematography was done on the car chase – the vehicles really were going 120 to 130 miles per hour thru the San Francisco streets, and frequently McQueen himself was at the wheel of his car. McQueen also describes the use of actual doctors and nurses playing themselves in the hospital scenes for increased authenticity.
The plot concerns a mobster who had his hand in the till of the Chicago Mafia, escapes their planned execution and flies to San Francisco to be a witness against the mob in court. McQueen’s detective is hired to protect him until he testifies a couple days later, but the gangster is shot down by a hit man from Chicago. Robert Vaughn plays a wealthy man with questionable motives and connections. The famous chase scene is McQueen pursuing the car carrying the hit man. The many San Francisco scenes of the 60s were enjoyable for me, and the music score by Lalo Schifrin was suitably cool and hot as required, though there wasn’t much of it. Small mundane details throughout the movie add to the feeling hard-edged reality, and the many closeups of McQueen’s face not saying a thing provides the primary impetus for the whole film. With all the sound effects I was surprised Warners didn’t remix the original soundtrack for at least Dolby 5.1, but it worked well using DTS Neo. I suppose Bullitt would have been just about as enjoyable in standard DVD form, but the fine editing documentary benefitted greatly from hi-def presentation, and I’m sure the feature appeared less dated in the Blu-ray format.
– John Sunier