Dances with Wolves, 20th Anniversary 2-disc set, Blu-ray (1990/2011)

by | Jan 12, 2011 | DVD & Blu-ray Video Reviews | 0 comments

Dances with Wolves, 20th Anniversary 2-disc set, Blu-ray (1990/2011)

Director: Kevin Costner
Starring: Kevin Costner, Mary McDonnell, Graham Greene
Score: John Barry
Studio: Fox/MGM [1/1111]
Video: 2.35:1 anamorphic/enhanced 1080p HD color
Audio: English & Lakota 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, PCM stereo
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French

Extras: On Disc 1: Commentary by Costner and Producer Jim Wilson, Commentary by Dir. of Photography Dean Semler and Film Editor Neil Travis, Military Rank and Social Hierachy, Real History or Movie-Make-Believe?; On Disc 2: A Day in the Life on the Western Frontier, Original Making of Dances With Wolves, The Creation of an Epic: A Retrospective Documentary, Dances photo montage with intro by still photographer Bill Glass, Original theatrical trailer, more…
Length: 234 minutes
Rating: *****

Surely the best film Kevin Costner has ever appeared in, and it was the first one he directed himself. Dances With Wolves won seven Academy Awards including Best Picture in 1990.  The stunning epic reversed the distorted and prejudiced portrayal of native Americans that had been a standard in Hollywood movies since their inception.  It might even be deemed a revisionist western.

The transfer to Blu-ray is a triumph, and this is the full, nearly four-hour complete version which was not available on DVD or VHS – only on a former Laserdisc release. Even the standard DVD 20th Anniversary release this time is only 185 minutes – leaving out major portions which clearly advance the story and fill in many questions.  There was still space on the first Blu-ray disc for some of the extras, but the majority of them are on the second Blu-ray. “A Day in the Life on the Western Frontier” is a fascinating examination of what the western pioneers had to go thru, and would probably be a good preliminary introduction to viewing or re-viewing the feature. The excellent lossless surround is well used in many scenes, and helps to put the viewer in the midst of the Indian camps, battles, buffalo hunts or whatever.

John Dunbar is a Confederate soldier who we meet at the opening of the film, about to have his foot amputated for an injury in battle. He takes a horse and trots toward the Union forces in a suicide attempt, but a Union general befriends him and has his own surgeon treat him. Later he arrives at a military center out west, where he asked to be sent by the Union to see the west. The mentally-ill general there orders him to a desolate outpost on the frontier, in Indian country, and then the general shoots himself.

Upon arrival at Fort Sedgewick, Dunbar finds that it has been abandoned. He elects to stay and straighten things up and his tenure there drags on since no other soldiers ever appear. He finally makes contact with the local Lakota Sioux Indians, and though language problems plague them at first, he finds a white woman (adopted by the Native Americans when here family was killed) who translates their exchanges. Humor is a part of their struggles to learn about one another. He is soon accepted by at least some members of the tribe and falls in love with the woman, “Stands With a Fist.”  Due to two of the Indians spying Dunbar playing with a friendly wolf, the tribe adopts the name “Dances With Wolves” for him. He learns that the tribe is concerned that the seasonal buffalo stampede – which provides them much of their meat and clothing for the winter – hasn’t yet happened. He hears it near the fort and then joins the Indian hunters in a massive buffalo hunt, which gets him accepted by those of the tribe who were suspicious of him before. He eventually marries Stands With a Fist, but their happy life is disrupted by a platoon of soldiers finally coming to and occupying Fort Sedgewick.

This is truly an epic adventure and its length fits the story well.  It has some quite sad portions, but qualifies as a classic.  Every aspect of the production is first-rate, in spite of some of the people in the extras complaining of the strictures of a less-than-spectacular budget.

— John Sunier

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