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While bigger, theatrical films are getting all the buzz, LONESOME DOVE ($40) may be one of the most important Blu-ray releases of the year. Sure, LONESOME DOVE may not be a showcase for the virtues of high definition presentation, but having this epic, Emmy Award winning western miniseries on Blu-ray comes as one of the nicest and most entertaining surprises for fans of the format. I am delighted anytime quality programming, other than blockbuster motion pictures, makes its debut on Blu-ray, as it serves as indicator that format is moving away from being a high end niche and is making its way towards the mainstream. Back to the subject at hand… LONESOME DOVE was and is one of the most popular miniseries of all time- and let me tell you it has lost none of its power to entertain in the twenty years since its television debut. If fact, I was glued to my chair for its entire running time because of a terrific story, wonderful performances and a surprisingly impressive high definition presentation.

Based upon Larry McMurtry’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, LONESOME DOVE tells a tale of several retired Texas Rangers, who embark upon driving a cattle herd from Texas to Montana during the 1870’s. LONESOME DOVE stars Robert Duvall as Captain Augustus "Gus" McCrae and Tommy Lee Jones as Captain Woodrow F. Call, who run the Hat Creek Cattle Company and Livery Emporium, out of a dusty Texas border town on the Rio Grande called Lonesome Dove. For Gus and Call, a reunion with former Texas Ranger comrade Jake Spoon (Robert Urich) plants the seed that germinates into their cattle drive to Montana.

Also making the drive north are former Texas Rangers Joshua Deets (Danny Glover) and Pea Eye Parker (Timothy Scott), as well as Newt Dobbs (Rick Schroder), the seventeen-year-old orphan being raised by Gus and Call, plus Lorena Wood (Diane Lane), who wants to leave behind the dust of Lonesome Dove and a life of prostitution. LONESOME DOVE not only depicts the hardships and tragedies of making the twenty five hundred mile trek to Montana, it also finds time for the joys of reuniting Gus with Clara Allen (Anjelica Huston), the woman he has loved from afar for many years. A number of subplots are also woven into the story, which always leads back to the cattle drive. The cast of LONESOME DOVE also features Frederic Forrest, D.B. Sweeney, Chris Cooper, Glenne Headly, Barry Corbin, William Sanderson, Barry Tubb, Gavan O'Herlihy and Steve Buscemi.

Genius Entertainment and RHI has made LONESOME DOVE available on Blu-ray Disc in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio presentation that has been encoded onto the disc with the VC-1 codec. Considering that this is a twenty-year-old miniseries, one’s initial reaction is that the presentation has been compromised to accommodate widescreen framing. However, looking at the compositions, it appears LONESOME DOVE was shot in such a way to protect the 1.85:1 frame… perhaps for possible theatrical release overseas. Therefore, LONESOME DOVE always looks correctly framed in the 1.78:1 aspect ratio, and in fact looks more epic in widescreen than it did at 4:3 full frame. The 1080p presentation is wonderful for what it is, although as I stated earlier, this program is not a showcase for high definition. Image sharpness and definition are quite good for a film produced for television, but doesn’t have the snap of the best theatrical productions. Sometimes the photography demonstrates a surprising beauty and clarity, but at other times its television level production becomes more evident. Colors are generally a little dusty and earthy, but can demonstrate a nice level of saturation. Flesh tones appear quite realistic. Blacks and whites are accurately rendered and contrast is smooth. Shadow detail is a little wanting, but then again, nighttime scenes are the only truly problematic portions of the presentation. The film stocks utilized for the production don’t register very well in low light situations and show excessive grain in these instances. Signs of age are rarely indicated on the generally clean looking film elements.

LONESOME DOVE is presented on Blu-ray Disc with a 5.1 channel Dolby Digital 640kbps soundtrack. I have to admit that the visual quality of LONESOME DOVE is better than that of its audio. This is a television soundtrack that has been expanded to the dimensions of home theater, so the sonics do not impress one at the theatrical level. As expected, the forward soundstage is dominant; with the rear channels providing ambient sound and musical fill. Fidelity is certainly more than respectable, although Basil Poledouris’ music comes across in a very pleasant manner. Dialogue is crisply rendered and is usually totally understandable. Most signs of background hiss and noise have been cleaned up in the mastering process, but some anomalies do remain. No other language tracks have been included on the DVD, but English subtitles are provided.

Full motion video, animation and sound serve to enhance the disc’s interactive menus. Through the menus, one has access to the standard scene/episode selection and set up features, as well as some supplemental programs. The Making Of An Epic is a vintage fifty-minute program that is comprised primarily of interviews with the cast and crew, with a general look behind-the-scenes. On Location With Director Simon Wincer clocks in at fifteen minutes and offers a more in depth conversation with the director. Remembering Lonesome Dove: Vintage Interviews With Tommy Lee Jones, Robert Duvall, And The Rest Of The Cast offers another thirteen minutes of interviews. Lonesome Dove Montage offers three minutes of scenes and music. Interview With Pulitzer Prize-Winning Author Larry McMurtry provides six minutes of Q&A. Blueprints Of A Masterpiece: Original Sketches And Concept Drawings is brief and self-expletory.

As I stated above, LONESOME DOVE may be one of the most important Blu-ray releases of the year. The hi-def presentation is wonderful for a television miniseries and represents LONESOME DOVE at its absolute best. Highly Recommended.



Lonesome Dove [Blu-ray] (1989)


DVD & Blu-rayDisc reviews are Copyright © 2008 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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