4K ULTRA HD REVIEW / HDR FRAME SHOTS
Tom Cruise plays Charlie Babbitt, who just discovered he has an autistic brother named Raymond, played by two-time Oscar winner Dustin Hoffman. For decades Raymond has lived at Wallbrook, a Cincinnati facility for the mentally disabled.
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“RAIN MAN: 35th ANNIVERSARY EDITION”
4K Ultra HD & Blu-ray, 1988, R for profanity and sensuality
Best extra: “Lifting the Fog: A Look at the Mysteries of Autism” carried over from the 2003 DVD release
DIRECTOR BARRY LEVINSON never imagined he would helm the enthralling Academy Award-winning “Rain Man” about the Babbitt brothers – one autistic and one a hustler.
The director’s chair was first offered to Marty Brest (“Beverly Hills Cop,” “Scent of a Woman), then Steven Spielberg (“Schindler’s List,” “Saving Private Ryan”) and Sidney Pollack, who had just won Best Director and Best Picture for his epic “Out of Africa,” starring Meryl Streep and Robert Redford.
Levinson and Pollack were good friends, and he kept funneling ideas and suggestions to Pollack – since he also had a copy of the Barry Marrow and Ronald Bass script, which also won the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay. Levinson had just finished “Good Morning, Vietnam” with Robin Williams. His wife Diana Rhodes kept suggesting, “You should direct this movie,” Levinson recalls in the featurette “The Journey of ‘Rain Man.’” Three weeks later, Pollack backed out and the movie fell into Levinson’s lap.
(1&2) In Los Angeles Charlie has purchased four gray market Lamborghinis, hoping to turn a quick profit without the EPA approval of the cars. (3&4) Charlie and his girlfriend Susanna (Valeria Golino) head to Palm Springs for a weekend of fun. Then he gets a phone call that his estranged father has died back in Ohio. (5-7) Charlie watches the graveside service from 20 yards away, while Susanna stays in the car.
The project was already locked and financed with a $25 million budget since the two lead actors were signed. Dustin Hoffman had already spent a year studying autism and savant syndrome and developing the character of Raymond, who is clearly “high-level” autistic, with emotional restrictions and dependent on his daily routines of food and watching two TV shows, “The People’s Court” and “Jeopardy.” When he becomes anxious, he falls into an endless loop of the Abbott and Costello classic routine “Who’s on First?”
On the flip side, Raymond is a shuttering genius, able to fire off decades of baseball statistics, and instantly able to count the number of toothpicks accidentally spilled onto the floor. Hoffman’s performance is nothing short of remarkable, with many elements based on his study of Joseph Sullivan, a mathematical savant. Two documentaries had been produced on Sullivan’s life, “The Invisible Wall” (1967) and “Portrait of an Autistic Young Man” (1986). Hoffman won his second Best Actor golden statue for the role, with “Kramer vs. Kramer” (1980) his first Oscar win.
Tom Cruise (“Top Gun,” “Mission: Impossible” franchise) plays the hotshot egotist Charlie, who learns his father has just died back in Cincinnati, only leaving him his prize-winning roses and 1949 Buick Roadmaster, “The very car that, unfortunately, brought our relationship to an end,” writes his father in his will. The remaining $3 million fortune will be directed to a trust – assigned to an unnamed beneficiary. Charlie and his Italian girlfriend Susanna (Valeria Golino) head to Ohio and are surprised to learn he has a brother – Raymond, who was institutionalized when Charlie was three years old. Yes, he’s the one receiving the majority of the inheritance.
Hoping to get half of the money Charlie kidnaps Raymond, and the two, with Susanna, head back to Los Angeles in the Buick convertible. It quickly becomes a six-day buddy/road movie after Susanna dumps Charlie and the two take the backroads with a number of strange encounters including a stop in Vegas to cash in on Raymond’s ability to count cards.
(1) Charlie finds his inheritance the 1949 Buick Roadmaster. (2) Attorney John Mooney (Jack Murdock) says the $3 million fortune will be directed to a trust – assigned to an unnamed beneficiary. (3&4) At Wallbrook Charlie and Susanna discover that Raymond is his older brother. Raymond has an incredible encyclopedic recall for baseball.
The 4K disc and Blu-ray both include three commentaries. One for each of the two writers – Morrow and Bass and one with Levinson – who opens talking about Hans Zimmer’s Oscar-nominated score, his first American film. Levinson purposely did not want a traditional orchestration with string – which would make it “too melodramatic.” So, Zimmer used percussion as the dominant rhythmic sound.
During the featurette “The Journey of ‘Rain Man,’” producer Mark Johnson (“The Rookie”) reveals once Levinson was onboard, “Rain Man” took a quick two-month track to filming – especially since most of the crew had already been assembled including Australian cinematographer John Seale (“Witness,” “The English Patient”). The production ended up filming during the writers’ strike of 1988; co-writer Barry Morrow always consider the ending “up in the air.” Morrow had written the first draft of “Rain Man” and previously won an Emmy for the TV movie “Bill” (1981), in which Mickey Rooney played an intellectually disabled man. Levinson demanded the script to be simplified, “To allow these two guys to be stuck with one another… and let their behavior take over.” As they head west, we start to see “Charlie transition as a human being, dealing with an autistic brother.”
Co-writer Ronald Bass was brought onto the project to fine-tune the story, he depended on his sister Diane, a clinical social worker at the UCLA Department of Psychology, who had experienced several autistic patients. “I saw the same guy [Raymond] from the first frame to the last frame,” a common trait with someone with severe autism. She says, that’s the challenge for Charlie, who tries to take care of his brother and eventually learns to love him, although “None of this penetrates Raymond.”
(1) Charlie kidnaps his brother as they drive over the Ohio River onto the John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge. (2&3) Charlie, Susanna, and Raymond spend the night in a Kentucky hotel across the river from Cincinnati. By night’s end, Susanna has left. (4-6) Charlie and Raymond get some food at the historic Pompilio’s Restaurant in Newport, Kentucky. Raymond notices the waitress’ name tag: Sally Dibbs (Bonnie Hunt) and recalls her name and telephone 461-0192, after reading the Cincinnati phonebook during the night.
“Lifting the Fog: A Look at the Mysteries of Autism” features a number of expert interviews including Dr. Ruth Sullivan and mother of Joseph Sullivan and Psychiatrist Dr. Darold Treffert, who says, “Savant syndrome is realistic enough, so spectacular you don’t have to embellish. All the skills you see in ‘Rain Man’ is based on some real-life person. It’s not some movie writer’s fantasy.”
It also features interviews with Joseph Sullivan and Peter Guthrie, the person Hoffman based his voice pattern on, and who had an incredible encyclopedic recall. The interviewer tells Guthrie his birthday: December 17, 1965. And he responds, “That’s a Friday, and topping the charts was ‘Turn! Turn! Turn!’ by The Byrds.”
MGM Studios, the owner of the United Artists Library of Films, continues to open the vaults for 4K remastering to the folks at Kino Lorber, Shout! Factory, The Criterion Collection, and now for the first time MVD Entertainment Group. Eric D. Wilkinson supervised the 35th Anniversary 4K restoration with a major assist from Levinson. Duplitech in Torrance, CA, handled the 16-bit 4K scan of the original camera negative (1.85:1 aspect ratio) and restoration. First off, the film grain is completely intact on screen without any sign of over-management. The 4K looks phenomenal with close-up clarity and nicely composed wide shots from foreground to background elements. Daylight scenes are spectacular with its added field of focus and color fidelity.
The HDR10 and Dolby Vision grading provides a more balanced color palette – especially with facial toning that bleeds toward a red tint on the Blu-ray. That’s a common issue with the limited color spectrum of Standard Dynamic Range encoded on 1080p discs. The HDR highlights expansion also keeps the brightest area under control and gives a stronger and richer mid-tone base. The HDR10 hits 1006 nits and averages 139 nit, while the video fluctuates from 30 Megabits per second to 80 Mbps.
And for anyone that hasn’t upgraded to 4K, the enclosed Blu-ray (or sold separately) is also sourced from the new 4K master, which provides a nice bump in quality over the old and tired MGM Blu-ray.
(1&2) Charlie and Raymond take the back roads, and during a stop in an Oklahoma town, Raymond gets confused by the pedestrian walking sign and stops in the middle of the street. (3&4) Heading west the Babbitt brothers stop at the Big 8$ Motel, on Route 66 in El Reno, Oklahoma subbing Amarillo, Texas. (5) Time for some sunscreen since Raymond wants to continue with the convertible down.
The previous six-channel DTS-HD soundtrack has been ported over, and sounds just fine. A remastered Dolby Atmos track would’ve been an overkill for the dialogue-driven story that’s staged mostly front and center. In fact, my Denon receiver can automatically upconvert the sound to 7.1 via the DTS Neural:X experience. Zimmer’s score with its electronic keyboards and driving drum mix provides the right ‘80s mood, while a number of classics are weaved into the soundtrack including “At Last” from Etta James, “Stardust” from Aaron Neville, and “Dry Bones” from Delta Rhythm Boys.
“Rain Man” premiered in December 1988, accumulating a substantial $172 million domestic box office. Cruise’s performance clearly deserved his first Academy Award nomination. But, he didn’t have to wait long since his next role as Ron Kovic in “Born on the Fourth of July” earned a Best Actor nod.
This first 4K Marquee Collection presentation from MVD Entertainment Group is the start of something special.
— Bill Kelley III, High-Def Watch producer
Vegas: Counting Cards
(1) Charlie and Raymond arrive on the Vegas Strip. (2) Charlie pawns his watch to get enough money to buy new clothes for their night of cards. (3&4) The poker chips pipe up quickly as Raymond feeds Charlie the right information. (5) Susanna arrives in Vegas and she dances with Raymond in the hotel elevator. (6) The next morning Raymond gets to drive his father’s car around the circular hotel driveway.
(1) Charlie, Raymond, and Susanna arrive back in L.A. (2&3) Center, Director Barry Levinson plays a doctor determining the future of Raymond. Should he stay with his brother Charlie or go back to Wallbrook?