Updated: Aug 24, 2018
4K ULTRA HD REVIEW / FRAME SHOTS
“THE QUICK AND THE DEAD”
4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, Digital copy; 1995; R for violence and a flash of nudity; Amazon Video, FandangoNow (4K), Google Play, iTunes, Movies Anywhere, Vudu, YouTube
Best extra: New deleted scenes
ON THE SURFACE, this mid-1990s Western from director Sam Raimi seems an offbeat choice for a 4K Ultra HD selection from Sony Pictures with thousands of other movies to be considered.
First, it’s not an anniversary edition, normally top criteria in Sony’s catalog release schedule of 4K mastered films. The studio has produced some of the finest with “The Bridge on the River Kwai: 60th Anniversary” and “Close Encounters of the Third Kind: 40th Anniversary” leading the pack. Other Sony benchmarks coincide with sequels hitting theaters. Ron Howard’s “The Da Vinci Code” and “Angels & Demons” were released on 4K when the third installment, “Inferno,” was released. This month, Denzel Washington’s “The Equalizer” got a Sony 4K release when “The Equalizer 2” hit the multiplex.
But then we look at the cast of “The Quick and the Dead” and the fun to be had in Raimi’s fantasy Western starring Sharon Stone as “The Lady,” a vengeance-seeking gunslinger, and Gene Hackman chewing scenery by the bucket as John Herod, former outlaw, now ruthless mayor of Redemption, a mean little Texas border town. Throw in Leonardo DiCaprio as The Kid, Herod’s young bastard son, and Russell Crowe in his American film debut as Cort, one of Herod’s old gang, who has reformed and become a preacher, and you’ve got a cast that keeps your attention. Lance Henriksen, Pat Hingle, Gary Sinise, Woody Strode and other terrific character actors keep this rodeo going with violence, gunplay, hangings, ambushes and more.
The script was written by British screenwriter Simon Moore as a tribute to Sergio Leone’s Spaghetti Westerns, although he had never seen the American West until he was on the Arizona movie set in late 1993 and early '94. An uncredited Joss Whedon boosts “The Quick and the Dead” to grand cuisine. Herod holds a gun fighting contest, inviting every gunslinger from sideshow sharp shooter to mangy outlaw. Everyone must play to the death and no competitor can refuse a challenge. The Kid wants to impress his Dad; Herod wants to force The Reverend Cort back in the game; and The Lady wants revenge for one of Herod’s foul deeds. Western fans will spot the stock characters and clichés presented with tongue firmly in cheek.
As with Jon Favreau’s “Cowboys & Aliens,” filmgoers didn’t know what to make of this at first. Over the years, “The Quick and the Dead” has become a cult favorite, pushing past its initial lukewarm reviews and tepid box office returns that placed it at No. 85 in the top movies list for 1995.
EXTRAS Sony never showed much love by way of bonus features in earlier releases – there have never been any interviews, a making-of or galleries. No director’s commentary. The 4K disc now includes seven previously unreleased deleted scenes in 4K resolution, but full of marks and scratches. The most interesting is a short clip of the wedding between “The Kid” and his girlfriend.
VIDEO Right off the bat, you’ll notice a major bump in resolution compared to the Blu-ray, which is the same one from 2009. Newly mastered in 4K, clarity is more expansive. An example is a wide, exterior shot of Herod’s house showing the finest detail of each piece of siding and wood-shingled roof. Film grain is natural and apparent as it should from the mastered source of the 35mm camera negative. Italian cinematographer Dante Spinotti (“L.A. Confidential,” “The Insider”) filmed with an open matte (1.85:1 aspect ratio), which was matted in the theater, and the same for this 4K presentation in its intended composition. The frantic pace and crazy angle shots call for frantic editing.
HDR toning is much darker without losing detail in the shadows. The blacks are deeper and the colors richer giving all those blue eyes – Stone, Crowe, DiCaprio – real pop, while facial color palettes look natural throughout various ethnicities.
AUDIO The original Dolby TrueHD soundtrack on the Blu-ray has been upgraded to Dolby Atmos, which expands the soundstage to the height speakers, giving the sound design an active experience from ambient effects to gun blasts moving from front to back. The bass response also is deeper as composer Alan Silvestri’s (“Silverado,” “Back to the Future” and “Ready Player One”) score provides a variety of moods and textures, with shadows of Ennio Morricone’s western musical phrases.
Before filmgoers came to know Raimi as the genius behind the Tobey Maguire "Spider-Man" films, fans knew him as the filmmaker behind "The Evil Dead," "Army of Darkness" and TV’s "Xena: Warrior Princess."
Still, this is Stone's show and she puts on quite a performance – ramrod tough and desperately vulnerable. She was nominated for an Oscar in Martin Scorsese’s “Casino” nine months after her performance here as “The Lady.”
― Kay Reynolds and Bill Kelley III, High-Def Watch producer