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Bite the Bullet
Release Date(s)1975 (March 13, 2012)
Studio(s)Columbia Pictures (Twilight Time)
Bite the Bullet is a fine product of that particularly interesting half-life of the western that graced the second Hollywood Golden Age of the 1970s - a time when many of the old western stalwart heroes had seen their day, to be replaced by a combination of more urban types, mounted at times strangely on horses, such as Gene Hackman, James Coburn, Jan-Michel Vincent, and their like.
It was not that they weren't completely effective or convincing as westerners, just somewhat jarring in their presence in the wide-open spaces. Such is the ethos of Bite the Bullet, a 1975 Columbia production that invites us to enjoy a western adventure in the grand tradition, one in which a 700-mile endurance horse race takes us across the American Southwest with some fine steam train footage mixed in. Of course, our riders reflect all sorts of backgrounds, from a former Rough Rider (Hackman) to his friend and now a gambler (Coburn), to a onetime prostitute (Candice Bergen), a wealthy English sportsman (Ian Bannen), an arrogant kid (Vincent), and to a weary saddle tramp (Ben Johnson). Each different character is well etched by the players. The film is directed with affection and an effective feel for the western landscape by Richard Brooks (who had another significant western success in 1966's The Professionals). Bite the Bullet has been made available on Blu-ray by Twilight Time as part of its arrangement with Sony. The 2.35:1 image is exceptional, offering a crispness and clarity that are a model of their kind for such outdoor adventures. Colour fidelity is impressive with vibrancy good and well delineated against the deep blacks that are also well-delivered. There is no evidence of untoward digital manipulation such as edge effects. The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track is also fully up to the mark, with dialogue consistently clear and strong, and well balanced against a music score from Alex North that really captures both the large-scale rhythm of and disparate character threads in the story. English SDH subtitling is provided. The disc's supplements include the theatrical trailer and a 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio isolated score track. Highly recommended.
- Barrie Maxwell