|The Deer Hunter
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Winner of five Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director, The Deer Hunter is simultaneously an audacious directorial conceit and one of the greatest films ever made about friendship and the personal impact of war. Like Apocalypse Now, it's hardly a conventional battle film--the soldier's experience was handled with greater authenticity in Platoon--but its depiction of war on an intimate scale packs a devastatingly dramatic punch. Director Michael Cimino may be manipulating our emotions with masterful skill, but he does it in a way that stirs the soul and pinches our collective nerves with graphic, high-intensity scenes of men under life-threatening duress. Although Russian-roulette gambling games were not a common occurrence during the Vietnam war, they're used here as a metaphor for the futility of the war itself. To the viewer, they become unforgettably intense rites of passage for the best friends--Pennsylvania steelworkers played by Robert De Niro, John Savage, and Oscar winner Christopher Walken--who may survive or perish during their tour through a tropical landscape of hell. Back home, their loved ones must cope with the war's domestic impact, and in doing so they allow The Deer Hunter to achieve a rare combination of epic storytelling and intimate, heart-rending drama. --Jeff Shannon
- One shot
1978's " The Deer Hunter " is pure character driven drama fueld by explosive and unforgettable scenes of turmoil , isolation , destruction , and hope. Michael Cimino's formula of providing the characters room for development ( or lack thereof ) ensures that each person in this unforgettable story comes full circle. Whereas , the film has tendancies to drag out scenes , the attention to detail actually makes the film's story stronger. The acting is superb. Played out by a steller cast featuring knockout performances by John Savage , Meryl Streep , Robert DeNiro , John Cazale , George Dezunda , and an electrifying personofied tour de force performance by Christopher Walken. The latter ( Walken )winning the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. Too many detailed scenes to nail just one , although the film's most controversial and famous scene involved a violent/unpredictable game of russian roulette. * Whereas , a game of russian roulette might not have ever happened in a Vietnam prison camp , this scene totally nails the isolation , fears and savagery inflicted upon US p.o.w.'s.
Micheal Cimino's direction is superb as he unflinchingly captures lightening in a bottle through realization by shooting small stolen moments ( that any other director would've edited out , during post production ) and leads us to a significant and powerful clixax. If every director has his masterpiece , this was certainly his. And it is still a film that no other film has come close to comparing to except for Oliver Stone's Vietnam portrait Platoon. But even that film can't compare fully. " The Deer Hunter " is on a level of it's own for it's concentration on the characters. It's unlikely that another film will ever be shot like this again. It's simply not Hollywood formula. And it has a feel like it was produced and written by people who were passionate enough to focus on the story and let it unweave into a series of mezmerizing images and goes to never ending depths of character development.
The cinematography is excellent and captures the resolute beauty of the character's steel mill town , to the rustic mountains , to the contrasting brutality and harsh climates of Vietnam. The score is composed brillantly and will be forever connected to the film.
In an era far gone but not forgotten , " The Deer Hunter " sets it's story in a sleepy Pennsylvania steel town and focuses on a core group of friends that have made their lives around this dreary yet true american blue collar existance. However , with three friends soon leaving for enlistment into the military to do their part in the Vietnam campaign , things gradually and drastically change. A true American tale and a truly amazing production.
One shot stats :
Winner of 5 Academy Awards in 1979.
Best Supporting Actor
Nominated Oscars ( but no win )
Best Lead Actor
Best Supporting Actress
*There are many more accolades , nominations , and various awards for this production. Too many to name here. Needless to say , " The Deer Hunter " isn't a film to be taken lightly or missed. I highly recommend the film , as it is in my personal top 3 films of all time.
- The Deer Hunter (1978)
Director: Michael Cimino
Cast: Robert De Niro, John Cazale, John Savage, Christopher Walken, Meryl Streep, George Dzundza, Chuck Aspergren.
Running Time: 182 minutes
Rated R for war violence and language.
The first hour of director Michael Cimino's 3-hour epic takes its time in bringing the audience into the world of a group of Pennsylvania steelworkers, starting out with "a day in the office" beside the searing furnace, the usual rowdy routine of getting off work, fun at the pool hall and with the jukebox, all before young Steve's (John Savage) wedding. We see Steve's two best friends: the cool, quiet Michael (Robert De Niro) and gentle, fragile Nick (Christopher Walken), plus a few other characters, finally getting into tuxedos. The beautiful choral music in the Orthodox Church reveals another dimension of this group of blue collar workers, their heritage and their solemn side. The mood changes again as we share the joyous celebration after the wedding ceremony. We gradually get to know more and more about these people, about things such as the undercurrent of emotion between Michael and Nick's acknowledged girlfriend Linda (Meryl Streep). Alcohol brings out the hidden personalities, as we see the three buddies who are Vietnam bound approaching a uniformed veteran at the party, asking how it's really like "over there". By the time the party breaks up, the alcohol has taken full effect as Michael starts a rowdy streaking run. After the excitement subsides, Nick asks Michael to promise not to leave him behind no matter what happens in Vietnam.
The next morning, with an abrupt change in mood, the gang (except for the groom) is in the breathtaking mountains for one more hunting trip before three among them go to Vietnam. Michael shows again his mantle and he makes good his words "all it takes is one shot" and brings down his deer. Back in their usual hangout, the gang finds itself suddenly in a pensive mood. The bulkiest of them sits down nonchalantly at the piano and plays a languid melody. The camera roams from face to face. The next shot, which is Vietnam, right in the middle of a furious engagement. The focus of the middle movement (as in a concerto) is not so much on the carnage of the Vietnam War itself, as on one particular episode which happens to involve the three of them, all captured together by a group of North Vietnamese soldiers who force them to play Russian roulette to facilitate the soldiers' gambling. Steve cracks down under the pressure and is placed in a cage to be drowned. Michael, true to form and character, leads Nick in capitalizing on a slim chance to fight back and kill all the enemies. Their rescue and rehabilitation put them through separate paths, as we the audience eventually follow Michael back to his hometown.
The third and final movement evolves around Michael's futile effort to re-adapt to a normal life back home, his strained relationship with Linda, and his search that leads us to witness the tragic aftermath of his two buddies, one ending in death. Pacing aside, the film was well-written and featured an amazing and talented cast. Besides the aforementioned Walken and De Niro, among them we have Meryl Streep, before becoming this generation's `grand actress', playing a small but important role as a woman torn between Walken and De Niro's affections. The script was intelligent in that it supplied small yet integral aspects of the story in a subtle fashion. The action within the second act in Vietnam was the most horrifying; the seemingly non-stop scenes of Russian roulette were important to the story, but after awhile the tension and nauseating display became a little too much. Certainly, none of these criticisms should deter anyone from seeing this film, it is a good film; just make sure to mentally and physically prepare for the disturbing imagery and the sheer amount of time spent watching this film. There are many films that exceed three hours that have minimal or no pacing problems, but "The Deer Hunter" is not one of them, so it isn't "easy". Unfortunately, when a film shows up on a `greatest films of all time' list and is backed up by several Oscars, a certain amount of expectation is going to precede it. "The Deer Hunter", in many ways, does not meet those lofty expectations, but it was a very good film nonetheless and should be seen so one can decide its relevancy for themselves....more info
I feel that this movie was transfered to HD-DVD extremely well compared to the age of the movie. ...more info
This movie is worth your money especially if you are a De Niro fan this movie is well acted and is very intense at points the particularly the Russian Roulettes scenes they are very at the edge of your seat moments in the movie and at the highst level of intensity Christopher Walkin is also great in this movie , I would some the movie up as a classic as it is rated in the top 100 movies of all time and it is a little depressing Highly Recomended...more info
- Cimino makes us feel the pain, the duress and the terror of war...
The story opens in Clairton, a steel town on the morning that Steven (John Savage) is going to get married... Just a few days later, he and his best friends Michael (Robert De Niro) and Nick (Christopher Walken) will join the Army and go to Vietnam...
Nick is dating Linda (Meryl Streep), though they are not too serious, and she and Michael are also attracted to each other... The terrible experiences, that the guys are subjected to in Vietnam, change everything...
In the first hour and in a long scene in a bar, Cimino shows us how close the three male characters and their other friends are... Then it's on to the combination wedding-farewell party, with more singing and dancing and drinking... Finally, the ritual deer hunt in the mountains is conducted, and that involves still an escape to nature, with the threatening task of shooting a noble-looking creature...
Only then, more than an hour after the opening credits, does the scene shift to Vietnam... From that moment on, war is hell as Cimino, obviously, shows us...
Michael Cimino takes his hints from Ray Kellogg and John Wayne's "The Green Berets." His North Vietnamese are sadistic beasts who toss grenades into shelters filled with helpless women and children, and force American captives to play Russian roulette for their amusement, while the prison guards bet on the outcome...
Obviously, those outrageous and impressive scenes are staged with power, but later the appearance of Julien (Pierre Segui), a decadent cosmopolitan Frenchman, at a Russian roulette gambling den, implies that the suicidal game is meant to be a metaphor for America's seduction into Euro-Asian corruption... Whatever his intention, Cimino goes courageously forth, staging his big end during the fall of Saigon, depicting the trauma of war and the effort of one friend to rescue the other...
The high-intensity scenes of Cimino's motion picture stir our emotions, and make us feel the pain, the duress and the terror of war...
- How Cleveland survived the War
The Deerhunter opens in a dreary mill town (It was shot in Cleveland). According to the production notes, Robert de Niro spent some time hanging in bars, family dining rooms and places to catch the atmosphere of the place. Producer Michael Cimmino allegedly pitched the film without a script and purportedly wrote it as it was shot. The project was a success as its numerous awards testify. While the film makes a powerful statement about the power of friendship and the warmth of close knit societies, it also says some haunting mysterious truth about war. This isn't the easiest thing to pin down. The society of the Deerhunter, like societies immemorial, sent their warriors into battle to defend turf, protect the homeland, promote democracy.
For many, when it comes to the American War in Vietnam, grasping any of these reasons can be very elusive. Be that as it may, something important happens in this film.
In a critical scene in the movie, De Niro, Walken and Savage, taken prisoner, are forced into a game of Russian roulette. Incredibly, with machine guns pointed at them point blank, they escape. Freed, during the fall of Saigon, Walken opts to stay behind to, of all things, play Russian roulette in a gambling den. Has his brush with death and miraculous escape made the ordinary life appear too pedestrian? I can only wonder. He doesn't play for money, as he sends his winnings back home to Savage. De Niro returns to rescue Walken, and even engage in the deadly game himself in an effort to reach Walken. Power of friendship indeed. The closing scene shows the community gathered together, singing "God Bless America. It recalled to me another occasion when a man in dire straits called on the Creator. He said 'Forgive them, God, for they know not what they do.' When it comes to international relations and nation-building, governments don't always get it right, but somehow, in the society of The Deerhunter, there is hope that if people stick together, somehow everyone will muddle through. Maybe friendship is more crucial in such times than wisdom. Is there any room for both?
- Very Powerful, Emotionally Gripping But Too Bad About the DVD!
What introduced me to this film was actually John Williams' performance and arrangement of Stanley Myers' "Cavatina" a tune which I really like and had wanted to learn how to play for years. I first got the soundtrack to the film which was pretty good albeit short at barely over half an hour in length. After I had learned and committed "Cavatina" to memory, I decided to give the film a chance too.
Typical of 70s movies of the time, directors were given a lot more leeway to execute their art which is why many of the best films come from the late 60s up to the late 70s. I think it's safe to say that "Deer Hunter" would never have been made today. By today's standards the film moves along at a glacial pace and the 3 hour run time would probably be too much to ask today's audience to endure. For the patient however, this movie does reward repeated viewing and is powerful in its anti-war theme and how the innocents are the soldiers fighting in wars not of their creation. Although the russian roulette scenes are central to the story, they are probably not historically correct and yet they are a metaphor for the innocent soldier who is asked to commit suicide to fight somebody else's war. The first hour drags along and takes its time to show the innocence of life in a steel town in Philadelphia and how a group of workers who are fairly religious and patriotic handle the transition of their former lives to their Vietnam experiences and how their harrowing experiences have changed them relative to their friends that stayed behind. The acting is first class and Walken thoroughly deserved his Oscar and De Niro should have gotten one himself.
The problem lies with this version of the dvd which is very poor. The picture quality hasn't been restored and so imperfections such as white and other spots abound in practically every frame and the overall quality barely matches that of VHS. The widescreen format is not anamorphic and so actually only about half of your plasma tv screen is utilised. The sound comes in Dolby 2.0 stereo but if you have a Pro Logic setup, you can similate a 5.1 surround sound effect. There are no special features worth mentioning either.
If you are a patient movie-lover who views film as an artform you will enjoy this film that rewards repeated viewing like most classics do however you should get a better dvd version which has a much better restored and remastered picture and sound quality with at least 5.1 surround sound options. You should wait for this in either a standard version or preferably in Blu-ray to do any justice to this classic and to give this particular dvd version a miss....more info
- Lessons Forgotten
The first lesson that "Deer Hunter" teaches us from Vietnam is that the veneer of civilization is much thinner than we imagine, more a tenuous translucent surface of a bubble than even a layer, easily disrupted, easily burst. The Russian Roulette games that occupy the middle of the film are metaphoric for morality disintegrated. It was a graphic illustration of how cheap the value of life became as seen through American eyes in those days. More importantly, Deer Hunter addresses the question of coming home after one's civilized veneer has been stripped away. Christopher Walken's character never does. Though he physically survives the war, his soul dies; there was no coming home for him. John Savage's character comes home, but leaves his soul behind along with his legs. Only DeNiro's character manages to find some inner peace back home. In the pivotal scene where he takes away John Cazale's pistol and plays the game on Cazale, we see the frustration of many Vietnam vets over the ignorance of those who stayed behind, with our pollyannish naivete, but also a reaffirmation for the simple value of life. DeNiro at peace lets the deer go. Unfortunately, the ignorance of those who did not learn the lessons of Deer Hunter have doomed many to repeat the experience. The chickenhawks who evaded Vietnam are still waving their pistols drunkenly about, but their ammunition is much more deadly....more info
- Good Movie but not for me
I bought this movie because I needed to watch it for an american history course I took. I can see why it is so highly rated but it is not exactly the movie I would consider watching numerous times. I would try and catch it on tv or rent it if possible rather than buy it and only watch it once....more info
- lasting impact
Unforgettable motion picture. Saw it more than twenty years ago and it haunts me to this day. One of the most amazing scores ever. Terrific direction, not to mention fine performances by all the actors. Puts Coppola's
Apocalypse Now to shame.
As someone else pointed out: You truly give a damn about the people in this film, as opposed to the cold fish of a character in Citizen Kane, etc.--and when you don't give a damn about the characters in a movie...guess what? Your audiance just might be left feeling indifferent about it.
Regarding the single star reviews (not that many, actually--so that ought to tell you plenty), they come across as being too young (read: shallow), with a possible touch of ADT--to appreciate anything this worthwhile.
Go live through a war, any war, surive combat--and then tell me a powerful film like THE DEER HUNTER does not move you, better yet: Go sit through something as idiotic as SpiderMan vs. Doc Oc., or maybe that animation flick about the rat who wants to be a chef. There you go. How about Ocean's #39? Die Hard #56? While we're at it, let's not forget Tarantino's latest shallow/mindless (they all are) Death Proof!
Entertainment for the easy to please. ...more info
- Xtreme Russians playing Russian Roulette
The movie is long and the story is slow, be prepared.
The story is about three Russians from a raucous Russian community (in the US, of course) playing Russian roulette. They learned the trade the hard way from no one other then the (former) Mother Soviet's (former) client North Vietnam Communist (VC for short,) in a tumultuous tour of duty sponsored by no one other then the (former) War Department of the US.
They learned well and two of them went on to become Roulette Masters (RM) only because the third man disqualified himself when he fell from a rescue chopper and bolted to a wheelchair for life.
One RM returned to the US in full glory, molted into a pacifist and began educating his reckless townsfolk by pulling triggers, roulette style, on them. Meanwhile the other RM remained behind (in Vietnam) and prospered against the odds of the Russian roulette, then a popular mind-blowing game North and South. For a long time he sent his winnings to his handicapped comrade who dicided to stay in the VA madhouse (I mean VA).
The irony was, eventually, these two Russian RMs faced each other in the game. The story ended with a funeral.
Claded heavily in politics that you may choose to disregard, since the mindless history does repeat itself.
cimino would never rise to this level again but that's ok. this is a moving, complex movie about a group of steelworkers who go to vietnam. this movie is less about vietnam specifically and more about friendship, love and the loss of war (any war). one of those special moments in cinema when a whole generation of young actors hits the scene -- robert deniro, meryl streep, christopher walken, jon savage and on and on -- and things are never the same. this movie will stay with you for a long long time....more info
- Too drawn out..
I'm a big Robert De Niro fan, as well as of Christopher Walken and John Cazale, but how this movie won 5 academy awards is amazing to me. This film is way too drawn out. The wedding scenes in the beginning seem to be endless. I kept waiting for something to happen. Nothing. Not even any interesting dialogue occured. To me, the main characters didn't seem to mesh very well. They didn't convince me that they were all best friends. Now I must admit, the Russian roulette scenes, both in the POW camp and at the end of the movie, were good. Probably the best scenes in the movie. But a lot of the movie was just boring, pointless filler that served no purpose, no plot or character development. Nothing. It's movies like these that surprise me that so many people like them and they are considered "classics". I didn't seen anything that special in this film to cause it to win 5 Academy Awards. Maybe it's just me. Maybe there's some bigger picture that I'm just not getting when I watch this film. but in any case, I just don't see what all the fuss is all about....more info
- Spin the Revolver
What can we say about this unusual character study of small town men and women from Pennsylvania who are faced with a paradox of two worlds. One at home and the other a world away. The accent is not so much on Vietnam, but on psychological effects of growing up in America with all of the traditions and life that we had all come to know in the late 1960s, and the aftermath of experience in a violent, war torn country on the other side of the world.
Each character handles that experience differently, but all are profoundly affected by the practices and atrocities committed to them during a short period of captivity. This is the consistent theme of the movie and the sharing and commitment of brotherly love.
The movie garnered top honors, and deserved just about everything it received. But perhaps the secret of this picture is that you cannot walk away from it without being affected by it in some manner. In the end, you share in the loss, because the depth of character study is so deep.
This movie is not suitable for young viewers. But it is perhaps very important to be seen as an adult. Never in the field of psychological study has a picture so effectively dramatized post traumatic stress disorder in this fashion.
The details can be discovered among the hundreds of other reviewers here as to the how and why. I cast this review for the purpose that in the many films recommended that you see during your life if possible, this is certainly one of them. ...more info
- Michael Cimino's Vietnam Masterpiece
There have been plenty of films made about the Vietnam War, Platoon (Collector's Edition Steelbook), Apocalypse Now - The Complete Dossier (Two-Disc Special Collector's Edition), Full Metal Jacket (Deluxe Edition). But there's something about The Deer Hunter that stands out as one of the best. Not only does it have the distinction of being the first, it's a movie that deals with the effects of the war, more than the war itself.
There's not much actual fighting, but the scenes are definitely intense. The Russian Roulette scene, which many peole have commented on, is absolutely superb. But I want to focus on the wedding. Grand in scale and long in length, this scene makes the movie. Although it is long, it is a wonderful scene, one that sets up the movie perfectly. It lets you get a feel for the characters before you see the gruesomeness of war effects them.
One of the most underrated movies about Vietnam and of the 70's when you compare it to others that came out in that decade.
Also, the cast is phenomenal. Robert De Niro is the headliner, followed by Best Supporting Actor winner Christopher Walken, Meryl Streep, John Savage, and John Cazale in his very last film role.
This release, the two disc Universal Legacy Series releases, features a commentary with the cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond and film journalist Bob Fisher. Also included sre a few deleted and extended/alternate scenes and a few production notes.
A Definite Must Have in any collection....more info
- A Must-own HD DVD!
To summarize the whole thing, I've got to say this film is amazing.
There are some of the most beautiful scenes ever put on film in this title. These are contrasted with some disturbingly hellish imagery brought about by the tragedies of war. The story is truly compelling.
The HD DVD presentation offers the best picture you could expect from a 1978 film. The picture comes across as clear as the film can possibly be, finely detailed and very clean. The audio is excellent too for a film from this era.
"The Deer Hunter" is a three hour film, and for me the best way to view it was to hold onto it until having waken up at four in the morning one day and watch it with morning coffee...but that's just me. If you can stay focused on a film this long toward the latter part of the day then go for it. It's a great movie, either way.
I very highly recommend "The Deer Hunter" on HD DVD! ...more info
as always you get what you want to see...even though some of the most horrific `shots' i hide my eyes. Love to bring back the nostalgia..and regret to see the war horrors. FUNNY...still going on w/Mr. President....more info
- A 70s RAMBO
So, here is the - ahem - classic film that won five - five!!! - Academy awards in 1978. It must have been a bad year for films because this is a real howler. This is a review of the first 70 minutes because after that I switched off. It may have improved in leaps and bounds after that. I have my doubts, but you never know. The first 50 minutes or so deal with a group of Pennsylvanian steelworkers: their lives, their fights, their bonding, their background, culture, etc, all of which is quite entertaining - but not very - and then goes on to the war in Vietnam. It is from here where the film goes from being mildly engrossing to being an insult to the intelligence, a disgraceful rewriting of history and a hysterical jingoistic piece of flag waving.
The first scene in Vietnam shows our Pennsylvanian ex-steelworkers trying to protect Vietnamese villagers from the Vietcong, who are portrayed as a bunch of blood thirsty crazed geeks who shoot dead mothers and their children with gay abandon. Thank God for the Americans, eh? Anyone remember My Lai? Imagine a film set in France during World War II which showed German soldiers protecting French villagers from the French Resistance and with the French resistance portrayed as blood thirsty demons and the German soldiers as decent, brave Caucasian heroes. There would be a howl of outrage and everyone involved in the making of the film treated like a pariah. Deservedly so, too. In the same way that the French were fighting against a German invasion, the Vietcong were fighting against an American invasion, and no amount of Hollywood re-writing of history will change this fact.
The Russian roulette scenes are ridiculous -and a complete invention, they never happened in real life- and show the director's racist attitude towards the Vietnamese.
The best that can be said for this film is that some of the set scenes in Pennsylvania are quite good, especially the wedding scene, and shows Michael Cimino has a talent as a 2nd Unit film director. The acting and the cinematography are fine. One star for each. Avoid this film. It is awful. It makes the Rambo movies look like The Battle of Algiers.
- One of the most emotionally shattering films ever made.
First of all, whether the actual portrayal of Vietnam is correct in all of it details or not, this film is a masterpiece. It is one of the most emotionally devastating films ever made, and beware -- it is also one of the most depressing films ever made. Depressing because it makes you realize how futile the Vietnam war was and how it was conducted. And also depressing because no other film shows the lifelong emotional scars that Vietnam would leave on the men who served there. Whether you agreed or disagreed (as I did) with our country's purpose in being there, this film most definitely makes one honor and respect the brave men and women who served there...especially because, as the movie makes clear, most of them had no idea what they were getting themselves into.
Many reviews on this board have said that the first hour or so of the film is slow and boring, but they are missing the point. Director Micheal Cimino has directed the movie like a three-act play and the structure deepens the emotional impact. He spends the first hour-and-a-quarter of the film showing us the day-to-day life and friendship of a group of close-knit blue collar guys. They are from a Ukrainian community in Pittsburgh and work in the steel mills. One of them - Steven (John Savage) - is getting married, and this section of the movie spends a good deal of time on the wedding ceremony and lively reception to show how relatively carefree their lives were at the time and how innocent they were. The simple purpose of three of these friends in going to Vietnam was to proudly serve our country in a time of war. No political stance is taken, just a sense of duty. They go on a final deer hunting trip together with their other friends before leaving. Director Cimino uses various symbolism during this section of the film -- notice during the wedding scene when Steven and Angela are told to gulp down the wedding cup by the priest and, if no drops are spilled, they will have good luck for the rest of their lives...then you seen several subtle drops fall on Angela's wedding dress. And the deer hunting trip, where Michael (Robert DeNiro) stresses the importance of taking "just one shot" to kill a deer.
The film then abruptly shifts to the second act...being in the horrific battle settings of Vietnam. The three friends who are serving are captured by the Vietnamese and are forced to participate in a game of russian roulette. As continuously mentioned, these scenes are incredibly intense and disturbing. They do escape but become separated in doing so, and are destined to different fates. Michael, the most emotionally solid of the three, returns home but feels isolated and alone. Nick (Christopher Walken in an Oscar-winning performance) remains behind, both in a VA hospital and then in the city of Saigon itself...lured into an unimaginable situation. Steven returns home broken both emotionally and physically and, for a long time, refuses to go back home to his wife because of feelings of guilt, shame, and mistunderstanding.
The third act shows the emotional consequences that Vietnam has taken on these men and how they play out. The final scene between Michael and Nick is powerful and unforgettable, as is the scene between all of the close friends back home singing "God Bless America". By the time the film concludes, our emotions have been fully drawn out in the same way a powerful piece of theatre would do.
The performances are uniformly superb. Robert DeNiro as Michael is his third best-ever acting job, just behind 'Raging Bull' and 'Taxi Driver'. While remaining a great actor, he would never again be as great as he was in those two films and 'The Deer Hunter'. Same goes for Christopher Walken - this is, by far, his most memorable performance. He should have shared the best supporting actor Oscar trophy with John Savage, who, as Steven, is every bit as great as Walken in the movie. Meryl Streep is sparkling and beautiful as the girlfriend of Nick and object of desire for Michael. The editing, cinematography, and memorable score are all excellent.
While perhaps not as accurate as 'Platoon' or as compelling as 'Apocalypse Now', 'The Deer Hunter', out of these three great film masterpieces about the Vietnam war, is by far the most hard-hitting on an emotional level. It remains one of those movies that, once seen, you will never forget it. 'The Deer Hunter''s excellence fully deserved the Best Picture honors for 1978. It remains an American masterpiece, and by far director Michael Cimino's greatest achievement.
- quick shipping, great service
dvd in great shape, exactly what i ordered and arrived very quickly. very pleased with the service and would do business with them again....more info
- Clear your mind and just immerse yourself.
The characters in this movie are so rich that we can all identify with at least one of them. Steel mill guys and convenience store girls, this makes life so simple. We work, we drink and we have fun. The story is beautiful. It's not anti-war, it's not pro-war it's just life in the late 60's at the height of the Vietnam war. A group of 5 close knit buddies who work, drink and hunt together. After a rip roaring wedding shin dig 3 of them head off to recruit training and ultimately Vietnam. This is where the movie takes a turn.
You may view the Vietnam experience as symbolic of war or you may choose to accept it happened. Either way, the 3 guy's lives are changed forever. Coming home and trying to disappear back into his old life proves almost impossible for one of the guys. Another one is hiding in the VA hospital as, in his words, he doesn't fit anymore. The third is left behind in Vietnam engulfed in a seedy underground world.
The stronger of the three takes it upon himself to get the other two back home where they belong.
The beauty and sadness of the story is felt right here.
For me this is a story that transcends time and can be related to any war. I can watch this movie and go through all the emotions. I can see the light and dark side of humanity. I hold this movie as one of the classics that I can watch over and over.
Don't expect flashy of any sort, just expect good solid story telling and fantastic acting by a stellar cast. ...more info
- Great Performances
Excellent performances by Streep, De Niro, and Walken. It's a long (3 hours) and slow movie, but well worth the time. You can't go wrong with a Academy Award Winning movie for Best Picture. The russian roulette scenes are by far one of the most intense and memorable moments in cinema history....more info
- Life after war
Watch this movie if only to get to the dramatic ending which is simple yet emotionally draining. Small town boys with smaller futures go into war and the response of their families and friends to how it affected them is compelling. The film proves that you can never go home. The devastating affect of combat on these soldiers changes them and the people around them forever. Quite graphic but not unnecessarily so. ...more info
- A true cinematic masterpiece
There are flaws in this three-hour long film, but that doesn't take away from the power of this film. It is a true masterpiece. The cinematography is beautiful, the acting is phenomenal (especially DeNiro), and the story is sad and horrifying, while being uplifting at the same time. It is also very deep and complex with heavy symbolism. Its a "thinking man's" film. I especially like the element of male-bonding among these blue-collar, patriotic guys from pennsylvania. I could imagine hanging-out with these guys drinking at the bar and going on hunting trips.
P.S. Roger Ebert considers this one of the all-time "great Movies".
- 5 stars for the film, 2 stars for the DVD.
The film is great. Most of you know that so I'm not going to give you a redundant synopsis of the film. However, I was very disappointed with the DVD considering I've been waiting for years for a new special edition. That wait was for nothing.
Yes, the film looks and sounds great on the Legacy Series DVD. But let's be honest, many of us buy DVDs for the special features, and since this is part of the "Legacy Series," this should please, right? Wrong.
First, don't be fooled that this thing is 2 discs. I have no idea why it should be because the second disc only has 14 minutes of deleted scenes, the original theatrical trailer (2 minutes), and 8 screens of production notes. THAT'S IT. Why couldn't they place this on the first disc? To make it seem like there was more? Probably. No documentaries, interviews, making of featurettes, nothing. There is a decent commentary on the first disc, but on the whole the DVD package is disappointing considering the original non Legacy Series version of the Deer Hunter didn't offer much either in terms of special features.
Regardless, it's hard not to own this for your film collection. It is definitely the better of the two versions out there, but don't go in expecting a lot other than the film. Disappointing package on the whole for a film that deserves so much more....more info
- the deer hunter - real art
excellent film (disc?). russian roulette wasn't part of the Vietnam scene,
but it was probably as close as you can get to THE RIGHT STUFF. good stuff on family and culture, which is almost completely gone now. wonder if the current generation would even relate to it at all?...more info
- HD-DVD review only
Speaking strictly on the HD-DVD version of the film: The quality of the picture is outstanding! If ever a movie deserves the benefits of ever-advancing technology, this is the one. The improvement over the SD (standard def) DVD is remarkable, esp. in scenes with extreme colors (i.e. early shots in the steel mill, and even the curtains at Linda's house...never noticed the pattern on them before!). Also, the HD-DVD disc includes scenes deleted from the original print, which is a good lesson to any budding film-makers out there: less is indeed more....more info
I've watched over 100 movies in HD-DVD. Some movies are marginally enhanced by HD but this isn't one of them. HD takes DH up to another level. It is easy to be consumed by this drama because it's moving story and arguably has the best ensemble cast ever put together for a movie. In HD presentation the visuals almost steal the show. This is an incredibly beautiful looking movie. I was mesmerized from the get go. The opening scenes of wide shots of the steel town and then going into the steel mill with sparks flying, gargantuan machines in motion, and molten lava frothing and flowing creates an immediate intimacy with the movie before any dialogue is spoken or actors seen. This movie is about intimacy, the struggle to find it and the struggle when you lose it. It's about the importance of intimacy in small towns life. These steel town men, all they have in life is their way of life. When that is taken away and disrupted there is a chain reaction that is felt throughout the community and it underscores the old saying, "you can't go home again". In HD all the details you didn't notice before bring you in that much closer to the characters, you become one of the group as a viewer, sharing in their joys and miseries. The wedding scenes are phenomenal. The priests vestments and the gothic interior of the russian orthodox church, the bar where they drink, the mill where they work, the little trailer house where they meet, the white caddy they pile into for their bonding rituals, hunting in the Adirondacks, HD allows you to see all the marvelous detail that exists in these scenes. The Vietnam scenes are effective but don't quite live up to the visual splendor of the steel town. This is where the actors carry the film. Walken's transformation from a happy go lucky newly wedded working class guy to damaged and disturbed veteran of war outcast is superb and the heart of the movie. DeNiro's enigmatic character is who we identify with but it's Walken who takes us on the journey. Meryl Streep is a sight to behold and carries her own in the scenes with the men. Savage and Cazale and the other supporting actors round out a great cast. None of these are throw away characters, they all contribute to the high level of intimacy that is created between the film and the viewer. Bravo! ...more info
- Not the masterpiece it once seemed, but not the propaganda its detractors claim either
For all the naturalism of the presentation, the plot of The Deer Hunter is melodrama and metaphor, sometimes effective, often contrived, and seen today it's hard to get over how the main characters seem far too old to be going to Vietnam. Indeed, the film itself seems so much less impressive than Heaven's Gate today that it's surprising that this is the one the critics feted. Not that it's as bad as the revisionism that subsequently hit it would have you believe, but a lot of its original power has been diluted by the better films about Vietnam that would follow it. There's definitely a feeling of avoiding saying anything about Vietnam: this could almost be any war, from Korea to WW2, leaving much of the last act a 70s Best Years of Our Lives.
The biggest revelation watching it again is how good Robert de Niro used to be, leaving you with the suspicion that the pod people got him and replaced him with a lifeless hack who gets his assistants to phone in his performances while he's down at the bank cashing the checks these days. It's a surprise to see how engaging and credible an actor he once was. Unlike his later work, he seems less selfish here and able (in the first half at least) to connect with the other actors in the ensemble rather than constantly standing apart, which makes the character's feelings of disconnection with his old life far more effective in the latter part of the movie. Similarly, Meryl Streep is surprisingly natural in an early performance before everything became a veritable computer program of meticulously planned mannerisms and inflections that bore increasingly little relation to human behavior, while Christopher Walken didn't have the baggage that would increasingly prevent him from playing regular guys onscreen.
Although Universal's 2-disc Legacy edition has some interesting extras, the UK 2-disc edition is the best available, with commentary from Cimino, who is also interviewed on camer, as are Vilmos Zsigmond and John Savage. Scary anecdote from the interview with a now very scary looking Michael Cimino (imagine a blonde Truman Capote in sunglasses playing an alien on Dr Who and you're not even close): for the scene where De Niro holds a gun to John Cazale's head and pulls the trigger, De Niro asked for a real bullet to be put in the chamber - and Cazale agreed! ...more info
- The Deer Hunter: A Review. 4-1/2 Stars.
War has been a favorite topic of film practically since the medium was invented. It's a fact that makes perfect sense, film being as eminently suited to drama as it is to spectacle, two traits that will likely always be appreciated by human beings, especially when mixed together and when one begets the other. Such is the nature of people.
These types of movies, of course, comprise one of the largest genres in motion pictures. The list of notable titles that could be considered, in some way or another, "war films" is indeed a long one. The main focus of the vast majority of these pictures tends to be on the drama of the actual combat experience, understandable not only because of the sheer action, but because most casual audiences will never set foot in a warzone at anytime in their lives, which helps to render such scenarios in film oddly exotic and intriguing despite the battles shown on-screen. The war film, perhaps more than virtually any other genre, clearly establishes the heroes we should cheer for in their quest to defeat their enemies. One may have thought that most of those heroes were realistic enough. But, great as those films will always be, after watching "The Deer Hunter," most of the soldiers and generals of war films both before and since seem a bit shallow, if not downright unreal.
Quite a feat was successfully pulled off by this film, directed and co-produced by Michael Cimino, who also co-wrote the story off which it is based. It is, ultimately, less about a war than about people, the bonds of relationships between people, and how traumatic circumstances like those of war strain both people and relationships, often to the breaking point. It's less about stylized wartime action--though that is there--than about a more realistic human drama.
Not even half of the movie is actually set in the war-torn jungles of Vietnam and, later, Saigon and the first shots of the war aren't seen until well over an hour after the film starts. First-time viewers trained from other war films to expect combat and blood, or at least significant arguing among soldiers, may grow weary during the first third of the film. It is unusual that a so-called war film takes as much time to reach the actual war. But it is important, not simply here, but generally, to experience a film on its own terms. This is often a difficult (and perhaps even unfair) task when the film is labeled as part of a given genre, which by nature is composed of prescribed rules all movies in a given category are expected to follow as a rule of thumb. The story begins in a place that feels far away indeed from the horrors of `nam--a small, working-class town in Pennsylvania--and, similar to any genuine relationship in real life, takes its time so it goes beyond merely introducing us to its characters, but develops them in such substantive ways that we almost feel we know them personally.
The main characters are steelworkers who could be well-known neighbors living right around the corner from many of us, and who are presented as such. Just average men. No pretense or overtures to any kind of heroics to come. The story's perspective belongs chiefly to one of them, Michael, who we first meet socializing with some of his coworkers at the end of a long workday before joining his group of pals in the parking lot outside, goofing-off like the big boys they are. Racing their cars carelessly. Drinking free-spiritedly. It is, overall, a relatively simple, modest, carefree, life. The biggest concern Michael has about any of his friends--in fact, the biggest issue any of them have about each other--is that one of his closest friends, Steven, is engaged to Angela and the preparations for the wedding are nearly as big as the event itself will be. Another of Michael's close friends, Nick, is in love with Linda and it's easy to imagine they will be the next to tie the knot.
The lives of the people that form the bond at the core of the story are so intimately intertwined and mutually involved that it is difficult to imagine them apart, hard to think of them as anything other than a single unit. They become as involved in one another's problems--as when Linda's drunken father mistreats her, and Michael, then Nick, lend a helping hand--as they are in each other's celebrations--a lovely wedding ceremony followed by a reception filled with dancing revelers. Later, in the picturesque mountains, the men embark on a deer-hunting trip less memorable for the successful capture of the main prize than for the reflection of the deepening bonds among those men.
Although it is clear early on that Michael, Steven, and Nick, will soon ship off to Vietnam, the only hint of the hell they are to encounter there--and an inkling of the the fact they themselves will be irrevocably changed within that hell--is glimpsed, ironically, at the joyous wedding reception, in the form of a soldier, recently-returned and brooding alone in a dark corner of the bar. This quiet soldier is less reflective than he is lost, and is almost a mirror into the future for the trio of friends.
When we finally arrive in Vietnam, the scenes are as tragic as in any good war film. The scenes of American soldiers held captive in cages submerged up to their very heads in muddy water is remarkable; I can't recall seeing any other war film with a scenario quite like it. Most memorable, and in some ways the centerpiece of the war sequences, are the scenes of Russian roulette the prisoners are forced to play while their Vietnamese captors, by turns cold and cruel, observe as if watching a sports tournament. Later, the same game becomes a regular attraction, played for cash, just like horse racing, with crowds of spectators in hazy rooms betting on their players, who together form a portrait of fear, defiance, and more than one kind of loss.
Many have argued the depiction of Russian roulette detracts from the realism of the war scenes in the film. True, the deadly game may not have been a part of the usual Vietnam experience in real life but here it effectively symbolizes part of the very nature of war. It proclaims that participaing in war is rather like gambling on whether its players will emerge from their gory game or not.
But it is through later scenes in the second half of the movie, set both in Asia and back home in America, that the film asserts its larger message, which is that, even for those who survive, they can't truly survive intact. There is no way to do so without some important piece of their lives, their very selves, being forever transformed, if not lost entirely. Body parts. Minds. Souls. Friends. Family. Anything and anyone who is cherished. Despite the fact that, upon his return, his hometown remains essentially the same, Michael has undergone such changes; in some ways he is almost a stranger. The allure of war long vanished, he also witnesses, in the movie's more pogniant scenes, clear changes in Steven and Nick, his old pals and comrades, both drastic and heartbreaking. Some are so profound as to render friends unrecognizable and years of friendship nonexistent. The others who remained in town become, in some ways, injured themselves as their hometown heroes, their loved ones, go missing, if not in body, then in character.
The movie showcases a number of fine actors at various points in their careers. Michael is played by Robert De Niro, who was already a major celebrity (due largely to his work in "The Godfather," "Mean Streets," and "Taxi Driver"), but here, to the movie's credit, is basically rendered as just one of the guys and, by playing the most persuasive role in the movie, gives one of the most personable performances of his career, a relief from the criminal minds and unhinged personalities he is best-known for portraying. Stan is a close friend of Michael's who stays behind, at home, and is spared first-hand knowledge of the ravages of Vietnam--the suffering of his friends and their family is enough of a clue. This supporting character is portrayed by John Cazale, a respected actor on screen and stage ("The Godfather," "Dog Day Afternoon"), for whom "The Deer Hunter" turned out to be the last film in a life cut short.
Linda is played by Meryl Streep, and, even in this fairly small supporting role, one can see the talent that would help her rise to become one of the most respected performers in the movie industry. This was a year before "Kramer vs Kramer" and early in a long and distinguished career ("Sophie's Choice," "Out of Africa," "The Hours"). George Dzundza and Chuck Aspegren play two more buddies that, despite staying home, are changed, as are the rest. Steven's new wife, Angela, is portrayed by Rutanya Alda; while Shirley Stoler plays his mother with credible concern. How they react to events concerning their men, their family, is one of the film's more affecting traits.
The story is focused on Steven and Nick almost as much as it is on Michael as the three are an integral part of the core of the story. A memorable John Savage is Steven, one of Michael's closest partners in both life and war. But, finally, it's the incomparable Christopher Walken, as Nick, who turns in an early-career performance that is the most haunting, easily the most unforgettable in the entire picture. He deservedly won an Academy Award for this performance.
As for the filmmakers, Cimino was joined by Derec Washburn, Louis Garfinkle, and Quinn K. Redeker to write the story Washburn's screenplay is based on. The director of photography, Vilmos Zsigmond, captures, in an unpretentious style, the visuals that help give the film both its beauty and its horror. Stanley Myers provides a sparse and understated musical score that is rousing at just the right moments; the quiet, almost contemplative main title theme is by John Williams. Peter Zinner does a fine editing job, which especially shows during the sequences set in Vietnam, with some quick cutting at its most intense moments.
In retrospect, the only oddity about the experience is, given the painstaking naturalism of the overall movie, the Vietnam sequences in general are, stylistically, its most unreal scenes. For instance, despite the validity of the other characters throughout the picture, the Vietnamese are, by and large, as two-dimensional as cardboard cutouts. There seems to be a school of thought that a more developed antagonist may skew viewers' support toward the enemy, away from the heroes. But this is a faulty philosophy, as there have been many well-structured, even charismatic, bad guys whose ultimate goals audiences would, in the end, not support. Had the Vietnamese here been portrayed with a depth approaching that of the main protagonists, it would have made for a more interesting dynamic during those sequences--and a more interesting enemy. But this is a single criticism in an otherwise powerful film.
Restlessness, even impatience, may tempt viewers early in a film which seems, at the time, quite ordinary. But viewers should not be quick to dismiss the film for what may be perceived as routine; this is not a fault of the picture or its filmmakers. In fact, the filmmakers are to be commended, for it is due to their craftsmanship and attention to detail, and fine performances by their actors that allow the movie to feel so ordinary, so authentic, like slices from real life. And, it is this palpable feeling of reality that ultimately allows the final few scenes to be not merely touching but devastating.
ON THE DISCS
This review refers to the Universal Legacy Series two-disc special edition. The features of other available editions may differ.
The feature presentation on this pair of discs is first-rate, as its images were digitally remastered and its sound was totally restored. Obvious care was put into the simple, but well-crafted packaging, which opens opens like a little hardcover textbook to reveal the two discs within. The movie should have a few more chapters for easier navigation to some scenes (some chapters contain more than one distinct sequence). Also, I do wish there were far more special features. Those that do exist follow.
Audio Commentary with the director of phogography Vilmos Zsigmond and journalist Bob Fisher is quite informative, but limited chiefly to cinematography. In fact, it plays somewhat like an interview of Zsigmond more than a commentary of equals between the two. What's sorely missing is the input of director, co-writer, and co-producer Michael Cimino. The fact that he is not included, for whatever reason, is a huge question and leaves one feeling that they could have learned far more about the film than is presently heard, especially considering that the film was inspired by his own personal experiences in the U.S. Army. It is rather like having a gap in the commentary, an opportunity missed.
Deleted and Extended Scenes. These raw, working shots depict Michael, Steven, and Nick in captivity, playing Russian roulette, and also feature Nick being questioned at a VA hospital. A couple of them were eliminated from the final cut of the film entirely, but most of them, apparently, were partially used, interspersed with cuts to other shots. While the they are well-done, the director made a wise decision to leave what he did on the cutting room floor.
The Production Notes, coupled with the cinematographer's audio commentary, is the closest viewers can get to a behind-the-scenes or making-of look at the film and is the only place where we see (that is, read) Cimino comment first-hand, and all too briefely on how the film was realized. It also includes some brief insight from cast members Robert De Niro and Christopher Walken.
The Theatrical Trailer. Rather compelling, it shows brief snippets of scenes from the movie, between which it intercuts, along with a dramatic drumroll, quotes reflective of its great critical acclaim. However, by touching on virtually every major segment of the movie with gradually increasing intensity, it seems to go too far and give away key plot developments.
Some other special features I would have like to have seen are: a making-of feature with brief interviews of Cimino, the writing team, the producers, cinematographer, and all the major actors; a photo gallery; a music-only soundtrack for the feature; any available television spots advertising the film; and perhaps some commentary on the deleted scenes....more info
- Pure human emotion on display
Human emotion is brought to the fore in this intelligent drama involving three best friends and the women in their lives. Michael (De Niro), Nick (Walken) & Steven (Savage) are three hunting buddies living in Clairton, Penn. When the three of them get enlisted in the air-force and ushered off to Vietnam their lives are changed forever. After they are captured and tortured at the hands of the enemy they are forced to reevaluate their lives, look at who they are and what they've become.
After escaping all three make different decisions, Nick staying in Vietnam, Steven being sent home injured and Michael returning home to comfort Nick's girlfriend Linda (Streep) who begins to take a liking to Michael. The real heart or soul of this film is the effect each action has on the one's involved, watching the war and their capture rip each of these men, and Linda as well, apart at the seems. The brilliance is in the acting, each emotion captured perfectly never once appearing as forced or faux, every feeling melting off of these men and women without any effort...especially in regards to De Niro and Streep who, in my opinion, should have walked away with Oscars.
As we watch relationships build and break between friends and lovers we are drawn into these people's lives and giving a reason to watch, a reason to listen and a reason to care. Brilliantly crafted and wonderfully executed, `The Deer Hunter' is worth every bit of the praise and acclaim it has received and is yet to receive....more info
- I can't get this film out of my head!
First, I want to begin by saying that I do not understand why so many people have dissed this movie. It is far superior in all regards to anything out there now. Secondly, I feel that it is highly relevant to the current US situation in Iraq. One character in particular affected me very deeply. Steven (John Savage) reminds me so much of my 21-year-old brother, both physically and in terms of personality. It is especially devastating for me to think that the draft might be reinstated. It would kill me if my brother became a real-life "Stevie". Finally, "The Deer Hunter" is most definitely an anti-war film. Everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion, but they need to give this movie a fair chance....more info