DANCES WITH WOLVES [1990 / 2013] [Blu-ray + ULTRAVIOLET] [UK Release] Winner of 7 Academy Awards! In 1864 one man went on Search of the Frontier . . . And Found Himself!
Assigned to a remote outpost in the 1890s West, Lieutenant John Dunbar [Kevin Costner] fears the nearby Sioux Indians and expects to fight them, Instead, he befriends them and becomes the man in the middle of a brushfire of tension: the conflict between the U.S. expansion and the Native Americans. Kevin Costner plays Lieutenant John Dunbar and makes one of Hollywood's most impressive directorial debuts with the Winner of 7 Academy Awards® including Best Picture and best Director. Battles rage, fates collide, bison thunder across the prairie and the adventures epic, heroic heroes and stunning sweeping landscapes.
FILM FACTS No.1: Awards and Nominations: 1991 Academy Awards®: Won: Best Picture for Jim Wilson and Kevin Costner. Won: Best Director for Kevin Costner. Won: Best Adapted Screenplay for Michael Blake. Won: Best Cinematography for Dean Semler. Won: Best Sound for Russell Williams II, Jeffrey Perkins, Bill W. Benton, and Gregory H. Watkins. Won: Best Film Editing for Neil Travis. Won: Best Original Score for John Barry. Nominated: Best Actor in a Leading Role for Kevin Costner. Nominated: Best Actor in a Supporting Role for Graham Greene. Nominated: Best Actress in a Supporting Role for Mary McDonnell. Nominated: Best Art Direction for Jeffrey Beecroft for Production Design and Lisa Dean for Set Decoration. Nominated: Best Costume Design for Elsa Zamparelli. 1991 Golden Globe® Awards: Won: Best Motion Picture and Drama. Won: Best Director for a Motion Picture: Kevin Costner. Won: Best Screenplay for a Motion Picture for Michael Blake. Nominated: Best Actor in a Motion Picture for a Drama: Kevin Costner. Nominated: Best Actress in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture for Mary McDonnell. Nominated: Best Original Score for a Motion Picture for John Barry.
FILM FACTS No.2: Originally written as a spec script by Michael Blake, it went unsold in the mid-1980s. However, Kevin Costner had starred in Michael Blake's only previous film, ‘Stacy's Knights’ , and encouraged Michael Blake in early 1986 to turn the Western screenplay into a novel to improve its chances of being produced. The novel was rejected by numerous publishers, but finally was published in paperback in 1988. The rights were purchased by Costner, with an eye on directing it. Kevin Costner and his producing partner, Jim Wilson, had difficulty in raising money for the film. The project was turned down by several studios due to the Western genre no longer being popular as it was during the 1980s following the disastrous box office of ‘Heaven's Gate’ , as well as the length of the script. After the project languished at both Nelson Entertainment and Island Pictures due to budget reasons, Kevin Costner and Jim Wilson enlisted producer Jake Eberts to manage foreign rights in several countries for Kevin Costner to retain final cut rights. The two then made a deal with Orion Pictures, in which the studio would distribute the film in North America. Actual production lasted from the 18th July to 23rd November, 1989. Most of the film was filmed on location in South Dakota, mainly on private ranches near Pierre and Rapid City, with a few scenes filmed in Wyoming. Specific locations included the Badlands National Park, the Black Hills, the Sage Creek Wilderness Area, and the Belle Fourche River area. The bison hunt scenes were filmed at the Triple U Buffalo Ranch outside Fort Pierre, South Dakota, as were the Fort Sedgewick scenes, the set being constructed on the property. In addition to becoming the first Western film to win an Academy Award® for Best Picture since 1931's ‘Cimarron.' Some little known buffalo facts: 3500 were used in the production, with two of the tamed ones belonging to rock artist Neil Young. And how do you get a buffalo to charge on film, tempt him with Oreo cookies, or as we call them in the UK biscuits.
Cast: Kevin Costner, Mary McDonnell, Graham Greene, Rodney A. Grant, Floyd “Red Crow” Westerman, Tantoo Cardinal, Robert Pastorelli, Charles Rocket, Maury Chaykin, Jimmy Herman, Nathan Lee Chasing His Horse, Michael Spears, Jason R. Lone Hill, Tony Pierce, Doris Leader Charge, Tom Everett, Larry Joshua, Kirk Baltz, Wayne Grace, Donald Hotton, Annie Costner, Conor Duffy, Elisa Daniel, Percy White Plume, John Tail, Steve Reevis, Sheldon Peters Wolfchild, Wes Studi, Buffalo Child, Clayton Big Eagle, Richard Leader Charge, Redwing Ted Nez, Marvin Holy, Raymond Newholy, David J. Fuller, Ryan White Bull, Otakuye Conroy, Maretta Big Crow, Steven Chambers, William H. Burton Jr., Bill W. Curry, Nick Thompson, Carter Hanner, Kent Hays, Robert Goldman, Frank P. Costanza, James A. Mitchell, R.L. Curtin, Justin (Cisco), Teddy (Two Socks Wolf), Buck (Two Socks Wolf), Michael Horton, J. Wesley Adams (uncredited), Linda Allen (uncredited), Bill Costner (uncredited), David Rambow (uncredited), William Rossman (uncredited) and Jim Wilson (uncredited)
Director: Kevin Costner
Producers: Kevin Costner, Jim Wilson, Bonnie Arnold, Derek Kavanagh and Jake Eberts
Screenplay: Michael Blake (screenplay/novel)
Composer: John Barry
Cinematography: Dean Semler, A.C.S., A.S.C., (Director of Photography)
Image Resolution: 1080p
Aspect Ratio: 2.36:1
Audio: English: 5.1 Dolby TrueHD Master Audio
English: 5.1 Dolby Digital Audio
Italian: 2.0 Dolby Digital Audio
Spanish [Castilian]: 5.1 Dolby Digital Audio
Czech: 5.1 Dolby Digital Audio
Subtitles: English, Italian, Italian SDH, Spanish, Dutch and Spanish [Castilian]
Running Time: 181 minutes
Region: All Regions
Number of disc: 1
Studio: Warner Home Video
Andrew's Blu-ray Review: Leading man Kevin Costner made his directorial debut in ‘DANCES WITH WOLVES’  and it is about the fictional tale of a despondent white man who regains his sense of purpose with a tribe of American Indians against the backdrop of the western frontier. The film was a hard sell: Westerns were not in vogue at the time, not to mention that Kevin Costner was insistent on keeping the running time at a potentially-lethal three hours as well as relying on the heavy use of subtitles. The roots of ‘DANCES WITH WOLVES’ were seeded 8 years earlier, with Kevin Costner's first screen credit, a largely forgettable offering titled ‘Stacy's Knights’ . The film's greatest contribution was the initial collaboration between Kevin Costner, the film's director, Jim Wilson, and the scriptwriter Michael Blake. In subsequent years, Jim Wilson and Kevin Costner would create a production company and make seven films together, including ‘DANCES WITH WOLVES’ in the producer's seat.
Wounded on a Civil War battlefield, Lieutenant John Dunbar [Kevin Costner] watches as his own suicidal act results in unexpected heroism, leading to a promotion and a requested assignment on the Great Plains of America. Taking command of a dilapidated fort by himself, Lieutenant John Dunbar rejuvenates his mind, taking to nature observation and journaling as a way of passing the time before reinforcements arrive. Visited by a tribe of Sioux Indians, led by Kicking Bird [Graham Greene], Lieutenant John Dunbar is immediately drawn to this alien nation, intrigued by the peaceful curiosity exhibited by a people he's been trained to call the enemy. Through various offerings of trust and prairie insight, Lieutenant John Dunbar soon becomes part of the community, falling for their adoptive Caucasian daughter, Stands with a Stands with a Fist [Mary McDonnell]. Making a life with the Native Americans, Lieutenant John Dunbar, now rechristened “Dances with Wolves” and finds his rightful home, but worries for the safety of the Sioux as military forces encroach on the land.
Collecting numerous honours, omnipresent publicity, and gargantuan box office during its theatrical run, it's easy to forget the precarious position ‘DANCES WITH WOLVES’ was in before its release in 1990. Here was a three-hour motion picture working a wheezing genre, with a major chunk of its running time devoted to subtitles for the Lakota Sioux language spoken in the film. It was a picture of respect and revisionism in a time when Westerns weren't so culturally tolerant, driving into the great expanse of the West to explore the tentative bond between enemies. It was also a $17-million-dollar gamble for Kevin Costner, who pieced together the budget while developing a script written by his dear friend Michael Blake, which was adapted from his own novel, while also assuming intensive performance duties. And to make the project even more unattractive to outsiders, Kevin Costner elected to direct, making his feature debut. And boy did it ever. ‘DANCES WITH WOLVES’ quickly ascended to cultural ubiquity, assuming sleeper command as audiences flocked to see a compassionate western starring a rare actor of affable all-American charisma. However, its raging success obscured a great deal of its artistry, with subsequent years turning the film into a punching bag for loutish OSCAR® pundits and the understandably disillusioned anti-Kevin Costner crowd. A burning resentment that's unearned and unfair.
At the core of ‘DANCES WITH WOLVES’ lies a story heavy with vulnerability, taking an uncommon route of contemplation in a genre that typically revels in war. Michael Blake's tale is one of spiritual breakthrough, as Lieutenant John Dunbar grows to find himself in the middle of nowhere, compelled to follow his heart while his head rattles with duty and doubt. It's a beautiful illustration of instinct as the lead character interacts and soon melds with the Sioux, finding a home with his adversary, only to discover there are little differences between the "white man" and the Native Americas. It's a note of tolerance that would crumble in many other hands, played either too syrupy or too abruptly. Kevin Costner allows his film to soak in the juices of discovery, encouraging the viewer to be lulled in by the majesty of the locations and the integrity of personal expression and a directorial blend of John Ford and David Lean, with a few Terrence Malick beats of naturalistic texture found along the way.
‘DANCES WITH WOLVES’ is never saccharine, never melodramatic; it's paced to embrace character catharsis while the narrative moseys along, intensifying Lt. John Dunbar's odyssey. There's no doubt the rebirth is nurtured by Dean Semler's stunning prairie cinematography and it's a film to live inside of, not just watch passively, which treats blue skies and rolling pastures as scripture, but the central emotional bloom of the film is carefully encouraged throughout, creating this tractor beam of drama as Lt. John Dunbar is compelled to push his Sioux alliance further. The arc is hypnotic, not simply because of Kevin Costner's deceptively straightforward "aw, shucks" performance, but in the deliberate pace of the story, which takes the time to appreciate the psychology shared between the diverse cultures, honouring stances of pride and threat, especially the Sioux who are hardly pipe-sucking pacifists, breathing in the pure magnificence of the pause as this sweeping drama plays out.
It's Kevin Costner's steady hand that makes a miracle out of ‘DANCES WITH WOLVES.’ It's cinematic integrity with timing and composure that could only emerge from a young, hungry filmmaker surrounded by a pack of supportive friends, remarkable collaborators, and a splendid ensemble offered an exquisite amount of screen time to feel out the unsettled nature of their characters. Extra attention must be paid to Mary McDonnell, who creates a feral, wounded creature out of Stands with a Fist, refusing to wilt in the presence of picture's brightest star. The performance is a sustained surprise, taking intriguing linguistic turns while generating authentic heat with Kevin Costner and their extended dance of the pants. Graham Greene also hits several grace notes as the conflicted tribal leader, a man willing to trust Lt. John Dunbar, yet wise enough to understand the charge of settlers sure to follow him.
Of course, no discussion of ‘DANCES WITH WOLVES’ would be complete without genuflecting in front of composer John Barry, who gifts the screen one of the great all-time film scores, soothingly enriching Lieutenant John Dunbar’s journey with romantic and adventurous themes that curl up around the picture, evoking cross-country movement and longing with a symphonic sanctuary that’s emotionally crippling. It’s aural splendour from a long-time industry deity.
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Blu-ray Image Quality – The stunning 1080p image is awesome and it has a 2.35:1 aspect ratio and is a revelatory experience, with ‘DANCES WITH WOLVES’ coming across as majestic as ever on this Blu-ray disc, providing a richly rewarding viewing experience unseen since its theatrical debut. Colours are of primary concern, with the presentation clinging tightly to the wondrous blue skies and outdoorsy particulars of the locations, supplying crisp hues that preserve the cinematographic intent, creating several astonishing moments of naturalistic intensity. Costumes and actors are heartily detailed, with textures easy to recognize and enjoy, greatly reinforcing the production effort and the tattered integrity of the era. Close-ups are ideally gritty and natural, displaying natural skin tones and intricate make-up work. Shadow detail buttresses the image superbly, pulling pure detail out of low-light scenarios, supplying a richer read of frame information with moderate softness. The viewing event is crisp and evocative, allowing the film some home entertainment glory.
Blu-ray Audio Quality – The English 5.1 Dolby TrueHD Master Audio sound mix for the film ‘DANCES WITH WOLVES’ is an invigorating aural experience that assists the film's mood and dramatic hold with a wide range of elements, smoothly blended into a cinematic event. Perhaps most important here is the score, which retains such elegant, persuasive life on the track, sweeping across the mix when called upon, or keeping a respectful distance during more private encounters. The music is a key element of the feature, keeping in perfect step with the images. Atmospherics are just as critical, with beautiful, lush elements of environmental changes keeping the surrounds alive with energy, nicely balanced with the frontal dialogue exchanges. Action beats are intense without overkill, feeling out interesting directional activity with arrows and bullets. Low-end is lovely, becoming something truly remarkable during the buffalo hunt centrepiece sequence, with the creatures rumbling along, creating a gorgeous sensation of weight and power to best underscore the enormity of the moment.
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Blu-ray Special Features and Extras: Sadly there are extras with this Blu-ray disc. Surely Warner Home Movies must have lots of behind-the-scenes extras and interviewing the all the people involved with the film.
Finally, time has softened the impact of ‘DANCES WITH WOLVES’ and sugar-coated many of its grim realities and the film's detractors tend to forget the picture's eye-opening body count, yet the feature retains extraordinary intelligence and care, earnestly investigating the ties that bind and the prejudices that divide. It's a tale of immense pastoral presence and intimacy, an irresistible serving of consciousness in the heartland. Kevin Costner might have lost his way during his career as his ego inflated and monetary concerns were, but ‘DANCES WITH WOLVES’ is as genuine an artistic triumph as they come; a spellbinding American classic that tastes the tears of a country in the midst of all its incomparable beauty. Despite the pitiful woeful exclusion of Extras, which makes me very angry, but I am still honoured to have this classic Western Opera in my Blu-ray Collection. Highly Recommended!
Andrew C. Miller – Your Ultimate No.1 Film Aficionado
Le Cinema Paradiso