4K ULTRA HD REVIEW / HDR FRAME SHOTS
Sean Connery in his Oscar-winning performance as Chicago cop Jim Malone, who teaches federal agent Eliot Ness (Kevin Costner) “the Chicago way.”
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“You want to get Capone?
Here’s how you get him.
He pulls a knife, you pull a gun.
He sends one of yours to the hospital, you send one of his to the morgue.
That’s the Chicago way!”
– Jim Malone
“THE UNTOUCHABLES: 35th ANNIVERSARY EDITION”
4K Ultra HD, Digital copy; 1987; R for severe violence; frightening and intense scenes, and profanity; streaming via Amazon Prime Video (4K), Apple TV (4K), Vudu (4K), YouTube (4K)
Best extra: “The Script, The Cast” featurette
AFTER the recent, inconsistent film grain management of Paramount’s 4K Ultra HD release of John Ford’s “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance” – I wasn’t sure what to expect on the 35th Anniversary Edition of Brian De Palma’s crime thriller, “The Untouchables.”
Fantastic news: From the opening title sequence to the closing credits this may be one of Paramount’s best 4K presentations of a catalog title – nearly on par with “Top Gun” and “Raiders of the Lost Ark.” Natural film grain dances across the screen bringing cinematic texture and structure throughout. The contrast levels are also very well balanced, providing full and detailed highlights, mid-tones, and shadows. Colors are natural and not oversaturated. The previous Blu-ray edition was plagued with waxy faces and minimal film grain – signs of using an old and tired 2K master, and DNR.
This terrific new presentation points out that everyone from director Brian De Palma to the restoration team made sure the original 35mm camera negative (2.35:1 aspect ratio) captured with anamorphic Panavision lens was properly preserved over the last three decades, and scanned and mastered in true 4K. Plus, the technicians supervising the HDR grading (HDR10 & Dolby Vision) and film grain management left the grain intact as much as possible. From the striking wide shots by cinematographer Stephen H. Burum (“The Outsiders,” “Mission: Impossible”) to the trademark De Palma close-ups, every scene has excellent clarity. You won’t be disappointed.
(1&2) The opening overhead shot as the camera moves closer toward Al Capone (Robert De Niro). (3-5) Capone’s man set off a bomb inside a small cafe at the corner of N. Clark Street and W. Roscoe Street, which killed a 10-year-old girl.
The audio has also received a top-notch upgrade to an eight-channel Dolby Atmos, giving composer Ennio Morricone’s Oscar-nominated score a full dynamic soundstage from front and to height speakers. Environmental effects and gun blasts are delivered to all speakers creating a fully enveloping experience. The bass response is deep and felt, while the dialogue is clear and centered.
The 4K disc and digital include five carryover featurettes with interviews from De Palma, and his cast and crew. The director recalls how he was desperately looking for a good-old Hollywood blockbuster. After back-to-back bombs (“Body Double,” “Wise Guy”), and being criticized as an imitator of Hitchcock, he finally got his big shot. Paramount recruited him for David Mamet’s shoot-‘em-up script, updating the folklore of the 1950s TV series of fledgling federal agent Eliot Ness, played by the up-and-coming Kevin Costner, and his small gang of good guys vs. Al Capone (Robert De Niro), underworld kingpin of crime and corruption.
The featurettes highlight Prohibition-era Windy City. De Palma recalls the casting turmoil – his willingness to step down if De Niro wasn’t hired over British actor Bob Hoskins, and his seat-of-the-pants filmmaking style at the Chicago train station, creating a sequence reminiscent of the “The Battleship Potemkin's” Odessa Steps montage, considered the greatest scene from Russian filmmaker Sergei Eisenstein.
(1) Catherine Ness gives Eliot a goodbye hug before his first day on the job as the special Treasury Department agent in Chicago. (2&3) Ness addresses the Chicago police assigned to his unit. (4) Ness on his first nighttime raid. (5) After an unsuccessful raid Ness meets Chicago beat cop Jim Malone played by Sean Connery. (6) Capone relishes the unsuccessful raid reported in the newspaper.
Extras tell how a few weeks before “The Untouchables” hit theaters in 1987, Paramount wanted co-stars Charles Martin Smith, cast as Oscar Wallace based on Frank Wilson, the accountant who brings Capone to justice, Andy Garcia as rookie sharpshooter George Stone, and Kevin Costner out promoting the film.
One problem – the trio hadn’t seen it.
The studio quickly set up an exclusive New York screening just for the three actors and De Palma. “We had never heard the score, and we sat there watching this movie and this Morricone music just lifted us out of our seats,” Smith says. De Palma admits he and Morricone went round-and-round over seven to eight variations of “The Untouchables” theme before they found the perfect tone.
Producer Art Linson admits he wasn’t a fan of the TV series, although he was an enthusiast of the Chicago underworld and Capone. Besides, Paramount owned the rights. Linson first hired recent Pulitzer Prize winner David Mamet, who won for his play “Glengarry Glen Ross,” to write the script. He then hired Costner after seeing his performance in Lawrence Kasdan’s Western classic “Silverado.” De Palma wasn’t sure about Costner, but he talked to all of the directors who had worked with him previously, including Spielberg for an “Amazing Stories” TV episode, “The Mission,” and everyone said, “He’s got it. So I rolled the dice,” the director says.
(1&2) Malone decides to join Ness as they interview Italian-American trainee George Stone, formerly Giuseppe Petri, played by Andy Garcia. (3&4) Malone leads Ness, Stone, and Treasury accountant Oscar Wallace (Charles Martin Smith) on a raid inside the post office, a storefront to an illegal liquor warehouse. (5) Capone uses a baseball bat as revenge against the warehouse foreman.
Fast forward to the opening Friday, June 3 ... Linson drove to the Cinerama Dome theater on Sunset Boulevard to check the crowds before the first showing. He was shocked to find not a single soul out front. He then spotted a little sign at the box office saying, “Sold Out, Sold Out, Sold Out.” All of the daytime shows had been reserved, and most of the night shows were gone. “That was our first inkling, we had something,” he says. The second was when he and De Palma were dining in Hollywood three days later, and two bottles of wine mysteriously showed up at their table.”
One of the film’s highlights is Sean Connery in his Oscar-winning role as ornery, street-smart Irish-American cop Jim Malone. One of his best scenes comes with Ness and his guys at the Canadian border, trying to stop a major Capone booze run into the U.S. A mobster is caught, though he doesn’t know his partner has been shot dead. Malone goes outside, grabs the corpse, props him up against a window, and tells the guy inside if he doesn’t talk – he’s going to put a bullet into the corpse’s mouth. Nothing is said. BANG!
The mobster starts to decipher the Capone financial ledger, which Ness and his guys grabbed during the raid. Costner calls Connery's character our “spiritual leader.” The Scottish actor was instantly attracted to the story when he heard Mamet had written the screenplay. “I thought it was a clever concept to take the old cop…and use him as the old dog who teaches the new dog tricks the Chicago way.”
Don’t miss this one for your ever-growing 4K library.
— Bill Kelley III, High-Def Watch producer
(1) Ness’ daughter (Kaitlin Montgomery) says her prayers before going to bed. (2&3) He shows Oscar Wallace the Chicago Herald Examiner headlines with their successful raid at the post office. (4) Capone’s chief hitman Frank Nitti threatens Ness’ family and he sends his daughter and wife away from Chicago.
The Canadian border raid
(1-7) The sequence was filmed at the Hardy Creek Bridge in Great Falls, Montana. They capture one of Capone’s bookkeepers, George (Brad Sullivan).