In 1994, "Dances With Wolves" originally was released as a Limited Collector's Edition laser discs box set, containing the Extended Cut, together with an autographed book "The Illustrated History", signed by Kevin Costner, Michael Blake (screenplay) and Jim Wilson (producer), together with a CD soundtrack and 6 Full-Colour 11x14" Lobby Cards. The size of this box set was large table-sized, and has the same dimension as the Fantasia Laser Disc box set. In 2008, this movie was released as a 2 dvd-set, with only 181 minutes, but with DTS 5.1 Surround Sound. Now 20th Century Fox and MGM have finally given us the definitive 20th Anniversary Edition of this epic movie on high definition, 234 minutes, 2.35:1, 1080p, a single 50GB dual layer blu ray disc (no changing of disc required) and DTS-HD 7.1 Master Audio Sound, with a separate 25 GB disc for Special Features.
Video: This all-new Hi-Def Transfer gave the picture a very pristine and vivid look. The scenery was breathtaking. The grain consistency was film-like. Oscar-winner Dean Semler's gorgeous cinematography was ably on display. Blacks are rock solid. A 2.35:1 picture using an anamorphic lens truly showed off nobly how great and good-looking this epic picture was. (5/5)
Audio: The DTS-HD 7.1 Master Audio was equally impressive, with great fidelity and deep bass. The surround was aggressive throughout. Dialogue was clear. John Barry's score was also first class. (5/5)
Trivia: In the opening scene where two doctors were examining John Dunbar, the man on the table was Kevin Costner's stand-in. The two people playing the doctors were actually the film's producer, Jim Wilson on the left and director/star Costner on the right. The voices were dubbed by other actors. And there were two wolves used. But did you know that one had to have the milky white socks painted on him.
Goofs: In the final scenes the US military came upon the recently vacated camp. Many of the soldiers were wearing overcoats with rank stripes and yellow lining. This was set during the civil war (1861 - 1865) Overcoats had no colored lining and no rank stripes. The coats worn in the film did not appear until 1883! Three birds flying over were identified as geese. They were, in fact, cranes. Electric power lines were visible during the buffalo hunt. And a noticeable dorsal stripe on Cisco the horse's back disappeared and reappeared throughout the film. The flag flying at Ft. Sedgwick was the flag with 50 stars rather than the flag used during the Civil War.
"Dances With Wolves" has won 7 Oscars, including Best Picture 1990 (Jim Wilson & Kevin Costner), Best Director (Kevin Costner), Best Cinematography (Dean Semler), Best Music, Original Score (John Barry), Best Film Editing (Neil Travis), Best Screenplay (Michael Blake) and Best Sound. It has grossed $184 million in US and $424 million worldwide (which was quite remarkable for 1990 standard). I think this is one film that Kevin Costner should be remembered for. Both the video and audio are top notched. The Extended Cut of the movie is here, and there is no need to get up to change discs. Considering the high price that I paid for this movie laser disc box set (which I still treasure), this blu ray disc set is truly a bargain and should be considered as the definitive edition of this sweeping epic film. Highly recommended.
on September 20, 2010
Twenty years ago, Dances with Wolves became movie sensation. In many ways, it was all wrong. Most of the dialogue was in the Lakota language of the American Indians, and that language was translated with sub titles. Conventional wisdom in Hollywood said that American audiances won't take sub titles. They did. Instead of releasing this movie on 2000 screens at the same time, the distributors began slowly and allowed momentum to decide the pace of release. This is a low budget movie. By the standards of the day, $14 million was not a lot of money, especially for the epic, big screen movie. Kevin Costner was a big star at that time, but the other leads, especially the Native actors were completely unknown. And yet this movie went on the pack in audiances, and to be nominated and to receive Academy Awards. Not too bad for doing so much wrong.
For those who have never seen thismovie: it is a quintessentially American story. For centuries, school children in America read Pilgrim's Progress, that ham handed allegory of one man's stuggle to attain the Celestial City. While schools no longer put that book in front of their pupils, it continues to influencce American culture and mythololgy. Thus, in this movie, we have one man's search for the ideal society. We have shades of Pocahontas, all told through the philosphy of the "noble savage". That is, is a state of nature, humans are essentially good. So, we have this one man who heads out west during the Civil War in the US, to experience humans and the land in their natural state before the white men come in and despoil it all. He meets up with some Natives and gradually becomes part of their culture. This movie makes good use of costumes to help drive the plot.
Even on a smaller screen, the photography is breath taking, and the music is glorious.
But there is an important element that is missing: the spirituality. First, most Americans in the 18 hundreds, practised some form of religion. We do not even have a hint that Costner's character did that. Even more astounding is that while we do see the Natives engaging in religious practices, such as smoking the pipe, the spiritual significance of them is ignored. In Native spirituality, every rock and tree is spiritual, hunting is a spiritual act, and they pray to the spirits of the animals they kill. These acts are not some kind an aside, they are integral to their whole culture. Thus, in the telling of this story, we have a secularized man who meets up and joins a secularized community.
This movie is still worth watching, although the uncut version is a bit of an endurance test.
DANCES WITH WOLVES  [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, Lt. 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 Lt. 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: 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. 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 rocker Neil Young. And how do you get a buffalo to charge on film, tempt him with Oreo cookies.
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, Redwing Ted Nez, Marvin Holy, Raymond Newholy, Wes Studi, Buffalo Child, Clayton Big Eagle, Richard Leader Charge, Kent Hays, Robert Goldman, R.L. Curtin, Teddy (Two Socks Wolf), Buck (Two Socks Wolf), Michael Horton (uncredited), J. Wesley Adams (uncredited), Bill Costner (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
Video Resolution: 1080p
Aspect Ratio: 2.36:1
Audio: English: 5.1 Dolby TrueHD Master Audio, Italian: Dolby Digital, Spanish: Dolby Digital and Czech: Dolby Digital
Subtitles: English, Italian, Italian SDH, Spanish, Dutch and Castilian Spanish
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 1990 with 'Dances with Wolves,' 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 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, Lt. 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, 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], 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, 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, Dunbar, now rechristened 'Dances with Wolves,' 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. Blake's tale is one of spiritual breakthrough, as Lt. 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 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 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 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.
Blu-ray Video Quality ' The stunning 1080p encoded 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 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.
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 Fan
Le Cinema Paradiso
WARE, United Kingdom
on September 29, 2003
OK, this movie isn't a religious experience or anything, though it came awfully close when I saw it back in '91. "Dances With Wolves" was, at that time, the most amazing thing I'd ever seen. Ever. Its leisurely pace, the subtitles, the wide-open spaces, the landscapes ... the physical aspects alone of this movie were enough to turn my head completely around. To say nothing of the score, the photography, the writing, the characters, the acting, and Kevin Costner's lovely, skillful, controlled direction. To me, it was the be-all, end-all.
I still love "Dances." Revisionists are now saying that Costner's great film is too slow, too self-important, too benign, too whatever. I'm not real big on the idea that there's this huge jealousy factor at work against Kevin Costner, but in this respect, I'd have to say that people just seem to have something against the man, and they seem to begrudge him even "Dances With Wolves."
No matter. This is one of the best movies of the 1990s (or, I guess, late 1980s). It was obviously inspired by the great epics of the past (not the least "Lawrence of Arabia") and paved the way for "Unforgiven" and "Braveheart." Costner stumbled with "The Postman," and has made more than his share of terrible movies, but he's got the goods as a director. "Dances With Wolves" will more than stand the test of time.