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The Deer Hunter
Director: Michael Cimino
Screenplay: Michael Cimino, Deric Washburn, Louis Garfinkle, Quinn K. Redeker
Producer: John Peverall, Barry Spikings, Joann Carelli
Cast: Robert De Niro, John Cazale, John Savage, Christopher Walken, Meryl Streep
Genre: Drama

Running Time: 182
Aspect Ratio:  2.35:1 (NTSC Widescreen)
Sound: Dolby Digital
Subtitles: English, Spanish, French
Features: Special Edition
Studio:  Warner Home Video / StudioCanal Collection DVD Region:  1
DVD Release:  Discs:  1 (Cloud) []
Reviews:  The second picture by Michael Cimino, originally a noted Hollywood screenwriter, The Deer Hunter was immediately declared both a cinematic masterwork and a hate film of gross historical distortion. Somewhere between these two extremes it also became a commercial hit despite being focused on the loss of American innocence during the Vietnam War.
Opening in a Pennsylvania steel town. three mill workers. Michael (Robert De Niro), Steven (John savage), and Nick (Christopher Walken), are drafted for war. Before leaving their friends behind, however, Steven gets married with his wedding ceremony and ensuing reception doubling as a send-off party for the new recruits.
Jump cut in country. All three are made prisoners of war who finally escape their torment, albeit with several complications: Steven ends up a paraplegic, Nick flounders in Southeast Asia, an emotional cripple, and Michael returns home guilt-ridden for letting his friends fall in harm’s way. His lot is further complicated when he falls in love with Linda (Meryl Streep), once Nick’s betrothed, while struggling to live once again as a carefree civilian.
Over the course of more than three-hours of screen time, The Deer Hunter presents strong performances and a group of remarkably intense set pieces. First up the wedding, later supplanted by the now much discussed POW Russian roulette game. In between are various depictions of a collapsing community in the Pennsylvania hills, every scene of which features careermaking moments from the likes of De Niro, Walken, and Streep.
Ironically and with an odd note of corny patriotism, the film’s cast toasts their tenuous connection by singing “God Bless America” just before the closing credits roll. The sequence provides a broken-hearted, conciliatory commentary on the sad state of affairs that views the United States as the source of incredible heroism, cowardice, ignorance, and blind celebration. Sounding the false hope of a new day. The Deer Hunter is therefore a negative American classic.
Hindsight of and remove from the 1978 reflection on the war also demonstrates how the film is a provocative domestic melodrama. Running willy-nilly through a narrow view of historic facts, it offers a bravura depiction of the Vietnam experience channeled through individual men without concern for a wider social context. Most critics hold to this point, citing the film’s simplistic, if not racist, depiction of Asians and the distorted use of Russian roulette in no less than two different narrative pivots. Still others focus on the homosocial, even homosexual, subtext concerning the warrior class and its assimilation of civilian life, read as the feminine sphere of influence.
The point may be most poignantly put, however, when recognizing The Deer Hunter was among the first mainstream American movies to focus on Vietnam. Simultaneously important for helping massage release patterns for so-called prestige pictures that screen only at the end of the year to qualify for Academy Award recognition, it provided indelible images for the pop imagination before earning a Best Picture Oscar. All this for presenting the seemingly banal story of working stiffs called up to their civic duty. —Garrett Chaffin-Quiray (1001)

"The Deer Hunter" is an expansive portrait of friendship in a Pennsylvania steel town, and of the effects of the Vietnam War. Led by the trio of Robert De Niro, John Savage and Christopher Walken (who won a supporting actor Oscar), the first hour is dominated by an engrossing Russian Orthodox wedding and reception. When the drama moves overseas it switches from anthropologically realistic documentation of a community's rituals to highly controversial and still shocking Russian Roulette scenes, symbolising the random horror of war. Unforgettable as they are, the Vietnam sequences occupy less than a third of the three-hour running time; defying movie convention "The Deer Hunter" is fundamentally a before-and-after ensemble character study anchored by De Niro's great performance.
Although it was the first serious Hollywood feature to address the Vietnam War, the plausibility of some of the later plot developments raises awkward questions. But the film remains powerfully effective, its deliberate pace, naturalistic overlapping dialogue and unflinching seriousness marking it very much a product of the 1970s. With nine Oscar nominations and five wins, including Best Picture and Director, it's a cinematic landmark that stands the test time, almost incidentally setting Meryl Streep on the road to superstardom in her first leading role.
On the DVD: "The Deer Hunter: Special Edition" has the film on the first disc with a serious yet amiable Region 2 exclusive discussion track between director Michael Cimino and critic SX Finnie. The picture is anamorphically enhanced at 2.35:1, and perfectly reproduces Vilmos Zsigmond's deliberately desaturated, necessarily grainy cinematography. The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack clearly reveals the mono original, being largely focused on the centre speaker and while it does a good job, some of the choral music does sound harsh. Dialogue is sometimes indecipherable, but that's due to the naturalistic nature of the original sound recording and mixing.
Disc 2 offers excellent new interviews with Jon Savage (15 mins), Vilmos Zsigmond (15 mins) and Michael Cimino (23 mins). Also included is the original trailer (anamorphically enhanced 2.35:1), a routine photo gallery and a DVD version of the original press brochure. There's no trace of the 40 minutes of deleted material referred to by Cimino, but this presentation is still an object lesson in how quality of extras triumphs over quantity. "—Gary S Dalkin"

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