The Deer Hunter – 4K UHD Blu-ray Review
Film Title: The Deer Hunter (1978)
Release Date: 2020
Runtime: 183 minutes
Region Coding: Region Free
Studio: Shout Select
Audio Format(s): DTS-HD MA 5.1 / Dolby Digital 2.0
High Dynamic Range: HDR10
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Version Reviewed: 4K UHD Blu-ray
Release Date: 5/26/20
Director: Michael Cimino
Cast: Robert De Niro, Christopher Walken, John Savage, Meryl Streep, John Cazale, George Dzundza, Chuck Aspegren, Rutanya Alda, Pierre Segui, Paul D’Amato
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Movie | Video | Audio | Bonus | Closing | Screenshots
Full 4K Tech Specs found at the bottom
“The Deer Hunter” was a 1978 film directed by Michael Cimino, who also collaborated here on the film’s story. Cimino passed away in 2016, sadly, and was best known for also for writing & directing films like “Thunderbolt and Lightfoot” (1974), “Heaven’s Gate” (1980), and “Year of the Dragon” (1985).
The film’s story (as mentioned briefly above) was a collaboration between Michael Cimino, Deric Washburn, Louis Garfinkle, and Quinn K. Redeker. The screenplay was then adapted by Deric Washburn, known for also co-writing the screenplays to the films “Silent Running” (1972), “The Border” (1982), and “Extreme Prejudice” (1987).
The story itself to The Deer Hunter is that of a group of friends, specifically steelworkers, living in a small Pennsylvania town during the Vietnam era. Our protagonist of sorts here, hence the title, is a man who loves deer hunting by the name of “Michael” (Robert De Niro). Michael’s best friend is a guy named “Nick” (Christopher Walken) and they both are close friends with a girl named “Linda” (Meryl Streep). The other friends in the group include their three co-workers “Steven” (John Savage), “Stan” (John Cazale), “Axel” (Chuck Aspegren), as well as the local bar owner “John” (George Dzundza), and Steven’s soon-to-be wife “Angela” (Rutanya Alda).
As we are first introduced to the gang of friends we see them enjoying a good time at the bar after work, discuss their lives a short bit in between singing and playing pool, go hunting (as the title would make you think they would), and finally we get to see the wedding between Steven and Angela – as hinted at above. We also see that there seems to be some real chemistry going on between Nick and Linda, at the wedding. The wedding comes and goes, along with three of the boys off to war, to serve their country.
Things flash forward. and you’re in right smack dab in the middle of the Vietnam war, halfway across the world from Pennsylvania. Let’s just say things get pretty rough when Michael, Nick, and Steven are serving together during the war. You’ll witness what happens to these three close friends before, during, and finally after they come back from the war. This film is a very moving look back at what the Vietnam war did to the lives of so many men who served our country.
Movie Rating: 5 (out of 5)
This 4K UHD Blu-ray marks the first feature-length major motion picture released by Shout! Factory on their Shout Select collection. It also marks the second time that this particular film has been released (internationally) on the 4K UHD Blu-ray physical (region free) format. In fact, the film was actually previously released in 2018 on 4K in Europe via StudioCanal. I mention this for a reason and I’m about to get into that.
First though, let me get technical in regards to the 4K disc itself here. This is using a BD-100 (100 gigabytes) disc, 90.82 gigabytes total, and 90.7 gigabytes for the film itself. That’s extremely large as far as for the filesize of a film on a 4K release, even for a film that is 3 hours in length. Take this into consideration for a comparison. The previous Blu-ray released back in 2012 used 42.7 gigabytes for the film (in HD) and here in 4K, it is using over double that on this 2020 4K UHD Blu-ray release.
This movie was shot on 35mm film using the Panavision Panaflex camera with Panavision C-Series lenses. This new  4K restoration found here received a 4K digital intermediate (master). It is presented in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio with the HDR10 form of High Dynamic Range, and admittedly lacks the Dolby Vision form of HDR that was found on the 2018 StudioCanal 4K UHD Blu-ray import release of the film. I have to be honest here and make that observation, as well as comparison, as both a reviewer and as a consumer.
Next, you can view a total of 57 frame-for-frame 4K vs. 2012 Blu-ray Screenshot Comparisons. For those who are new to the site, I do these Blu-ray comparisons with almost all of my screenshot sets and also for reviews. Because including them in the review can make things a bit too complex I’ve started to just include them as links. UPDATE: I’ve also now started doing Blu-ray VS. 4K UHD Blu-ray Screenshots Comparison videos on YouTube and implementing them in my reviews. So, I’ve put one of these video slideshows together to show you the difference between the two.
Anyway, as you can tell, the film grain is a whole lot more pronounced and evident here in 4K, and yes things are a tad bit darker. There’s also a lot more detail. I’ll leave it at that and further discuss it.
One thing I’m very happy about is that there’s a nice and well-preserved amount of film grain left here in this 4K restoration and in turn presentation. And, it certainly doesn’t hurt that the movie has a huge file size and runs very high bitrates all through, even being a 3-hour film. The detail can be sharp, especially in dramatic close-ups.
The color palette here, although obviously subdued to set a visual style, can be a bit more vibrant than it ever was before and also comes across more realistic, many thanks to the addition to the high dynamic range. The black level seems to be a bit more solid as a result of the HDR, as well. Flesh tones also appear more accurate here with HDR10 behind the 4K presentation.
One thing that strikes me early on is in the church scenes (around the 25 minutes mark) where it really shows off how much detail and how beautiful the colors are. The scenes in the latter half of the film can be a tad bit darker at times but they still deliver vibrant colors such as the very memorable use of red that this film is known for. It really looks just remarkable in 4K and it’s great to see a late seventies film like this finally be done justice.
All and all, The Deer Hunter in its United States 4K UHD Blu-ray debut comes with a perfect 4K presentation that sure is an improvement over the previous Blu-ray. That said, this earns a 5 rating for video quality and certainly comes as a highly recommended upgrade. Simply put, Shout Select has started things out just right here with a perfect 4K UHD Blu-ray release of a classic film.
Video Quality Rating: 5 (out of 5)
“The Deer Hunter” arrives on 4K UHD Blu-ray with the same DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 audio codec and configuration previously found on the original 2012 Blu-ray release of the film. I’m not 100% sure if this is the original audio mix or it has been remixed and re-encoded or not. There is also a Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo mix (@192kbps) included, sadly not in a lossless format.
This comes with an at first somewhat intense mix and then transitions over to a drama for the first half. The rear channels get used nicely for the sound effects and music. The subwoofer also gets its share of action from the sound effects and music as well here. It’s nothing too over-the-top but it gets the job done and proves to be an impressive audio mix that does the film justice. Dialogue, here in the 5.1 lossless mix, is delivered distinctly from the front via the center channel along with an ever so slight use of front left and right channels.
All and all, in all due honesty, the mix itself doesn’t seem like any real improvement over the previously released Blu-ray audio mix but it does still manage to do the film justice in terms of audio. The Deer Hunter on 4K UHD Blu-ray, stateside, via Shout Select earns itself a still-impressive 4.5 rating for audio quality.
I’ll end by saying it’s a shame the Stereo 2.0 Dolby Digital mix found here doesn’t get a lossless format, for the purists out there. For sake of argument, the Blu-ray included here actually gets a DTS-HD MA 2.0 Stereo mix but this doesn’t? What gives?! I’m confused. It just seems to me like a totally missed opportunity there, Shout. Purists want uncompressed Stereo, just like normal folks expected lossless for the surround [5.1] mix.
Audio Quality Rating: 4.5 (out of 5)
Bonus materials physically and digitally on this release include:
- A Blu-ray Disc of the film is included. It features DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Stereo sound mixes, along with further bonus materials – on the physical release – listed a bit below.
The 4K UHD Blu-ray Disc includes the following bonus material:
- Audio Commentary with Cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond and Film Journalist Bob Fisher
The Blu-ray Disc includes the real majority of bonus materials, which are presented in a variety of HD and SD video quality with Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo sound. These include the following:
- Audio Commentary with Cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond and Film Journalist Bob Fisher
- NEW “We Don’t Belong Together – John Savage on The Deer Hunter“ (8:26 – HD) is a recent discussion with the actor regarding his own career and the film itself. Savage talks about going to broadway, working with the film’s director, the infamous Russian roulette scene, a scene involving a helicopter, and a few other things.
- NEW “The War at Home – Rutanya Alda on The Deer Hunter“ (11:28 – HD) is a recent discussion with the actress. Alda first talks about how she was cast for the part, working with the film’s director, working on a dancing scene in the film, working with the cast (namely Robert De Niro), the editing of the wedding scene, reactions to the film (especially from veterans), and finally the Oscars.
- NEW “A National Anthem – Michael Deeley on The Deer Hunter“ (13:50 – HD) is a recent discussion with the film’s producer. He first talks about how the film came to get made as well as he became involved when the script landed on his desk. Deeley goes on to talk about the challenges of getting a film about Vietnam made in that time period, working with the film’s director, the film itself, the film’s runtime of over three hours, deciding and negotiating to work with Robert De Niro, further casting choices (namely Meryl Streep), shooting in the jungle, the Russian roulette, the helicopter stunt, post-production work on the film, and the film’s initial response as well as the awards (namely five Oscars) it went on to win.
- NEW “This is Not About War – Kathy Haber and Willette Klausner on The Deer Hunter“ (12:54 – HD) is a discussion with the post supervisor and Universal publicity who worked on the film. This is fun because you get to hear these ladies discuss how they both got into the film industry and then how they each came across this project, and then the film itself as well as it’s everlasting popularity since release. I won’t spoil things here but I’ll just say that this proves to be very informative and entertaining.
- “Interview with David Thomson” (24:03 – HD) has the British film critic discussing first seeing the film and its lasting impact. He’s gets pretty in-detail here, so I’ll avoid going into that to not go dishing any spoilers out here. This interview was done recently it would seem, as he discussed the director having passed away. This interview was originally conducted for the 2018 UK 4K UHD Blu-ray release of the film, released by Studiocanal.
- Deleted and Extended Scenes (39:53 – SD) do not include audio in some instances and source materials cause a variety in both video & audio quality all throughout. Roughly a total of a twenty-two scenes are presented here.
- Theatrical Trailer (2:47 – SD)
- Radio Spots (1:53 – HD) features a total of three different radio spots done in promotion for the film.
- Still Gallery (1:51 – HD) requires the viewer to use the chapter buttons on their remote controller to navigate through the gallery. You’ll have to at least hit chapter forward >>| to get things playing but once you do, it’ll play continuously. Hit either chapter forward or backward to go through the images, however, they perhaps forgot to mention you will need to hint pause on your remote when you find an image you’d like to look at more than 3 seconds or so. It’s a little frustrating to get the hang of at first. Still, there are some great photos and poster art here to glimpse through.
Overall, the bonus materials here are great especially in comparison to how little you originally got on the 2012 Blu-ray. Here you get the audio commentary on both the 4K and the Blu-ray, four new interviews, an interview with a British film critic discussing the film, the full deleted and extended scenes, the theatrical trailer for the film, radio sports, and finally a still gallery of images.
All of the new bonus materials here consist of interviews done by Justin Beahm for his Reverend Entertainment in collaboration with Shout! Factory. These interviews themselves add so much to this and are enough to finally give this great film a very nice set of extras. All and all, the extras found here total up to 116 minutes roughly in length – not including the image gallery and audio commentary.
Bonus Materials Rating: 4.25 (out of 5)
“The Deer Hunter” was one very successful film for its time, in fact, it won a total of five Academy Awards (“Oscars”) – including Best Picture, Best Acting in a Supporting Role, Best Director, Best Sound, and Best Film Editing. In terms of financially, the film was said to have been made on a 15 million dollar budget, and, according to IMDb, it ended up globally grossing a total of 49 million.
The film is in the current AFI (American Film Institute) Top 100 Films of All Time, as well as is currently (at the time of writing) listed as number 180 out of IMDb’s Top 250 films of all time. Plus, it’s even “Certified Fresh” over at Rotten Tomatoes. This is regarded to be a modern classic, safe to say. It also includes some great performances from Robert De Niro, Christopher Walken, John Savage, and Meryl Streep.
The Deer Hunter here serves as a very impressive first feature-length 4K film to be released by Shout! Factory, under the Shout Select collection. The 4K presentation looks perfect for a 1978 film and comes with a very nice amount of visible film grain, newfound detail, and a more accurate color timing thanks to the addition of High Dynamic Range — here in HDR10. It just looks wonderful, from start to finish. I will say this, and some may complain about it, but this may be a tad bit darker than seen on the original 2012 Blu-ray and that’s just because of the HDR10 along with the restoration’s color timing.
The audio mix comes in the very exact same codec (format) and the same 5.1 that we got in the original 2012 Blu-ray, but it still manages to do the film as much justice as it originally did, as well as includes a Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo sound mix. It’s an impressive audio mix, even again in the same audio format and configuration — even if it is remixed or not. It’s enough to do the film justice in terms of sound here on the release.
The bonus materials here are very nice as they include the audio commentary on both the 4K and Blu-ray. There are four new interviews here done by Justin Beahm for his Reverend Entertainment. Plus, there are other archival materials like an interview, the deleted and extended scenes, trailer, and whatnot — all of which totals up to almost two hours in length.
The release itself makes for a Highly Recommended Upgrade for anyone who has ever owned this film on Blu-ray, DVD, VHS, or etc. It also makes for one hell of a way to see the film for the very first time too, if you have never owned or even seen the film. That said, there’s certainly no better time than now to see The Deer Hunter, in its glory, with this 4K UHD Blu-ray release of the film.
In terms of 4K UHD Blu-ray release, this gets:
5 (out of 5) for video quality
4.5 (out of 5) for audio quality
4.25 (out of 5) for bonus materials