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A bit under appreciated by some, WHITE HUNTER, BLACK HEART ($20) is actually one of my favorite Clint Eastwood movies. Something of a smaller, more personal film for director/star Eastwood, WHITE HUNTER, BLACK HEART provided him with the opportunity to turn in one of the best acting performances of his career. In this fictionalized version of director John Hustonís trip to Africa to shoot THE AFRICAN QUEEN (as well as an elephant), Eastwood almost seems to be channeling the essence of the famous director right down to the swaggering mannerisms and the cadence of his voice. Certainly, Eastwood avoids doing an outright impression of John Huston, but his delivery is just about pitch perfect in every other way.

The plot of WHITE HUNTER, BLACK HEART follows hard living, brilliant, irresponsible and typically broke American director John Wilson (Eastwood), who uses a film project being produced on the African continent, as an all expense paid safari to hunt and shoot an elephant. Also along on the expedition is Pete Verrill (Jeff Fahey), a close friend of Wilsonís, whom he has tapped to rewrite the screenplay and accompany him on safari. Wilson and Verrill have some colorful adventures while they are out "scouting locations," but ultimately, Wilsonís obsession with bagging an elephant begins to conflict with the motion picture he is to begin shooting. The cast of WHITE HUNTER, BLACK HEART also features George Dzundza, Marisa Berenson, Alex Norton, Catherine Neilson and Richard Vanstone.

Warner Home Video has made WHITE HUNTER, BLACK HEART available on DVD in a 1.78:1 wide screen presentation that features the anamorphic enhancement for 16:9 displays. This is a rather nice looking transfer of a movie that lacks the big budget sheen of many of Eastwoodís other projects. Still, the movie does a pretty impressive job recreating the period of the 1950s, as well as offering some very impressive African locations. The image on the DVD is generally sharp and well defined, although there are occasional shots that appear a bit softer than the others. Colors are pretty vibrant and are reproduced without noise or smearing. Blacks appear accurate, whites are clean and contrast is very good. Digital compression artifacts are rarely noticeable.

WHITE HUNTER, BLACK HEART has been upgraded to a Dolby Digital 5.1 channel soundtrack for this release. Although the mix and the recordings are from 1990, the discrete digital format offers better definition for the forward and rear soundstages, as well as cleaner separation than one would find in a matrixed soundtrack. The rear channels support the track with ambient sounds and musical fill, while the front three channels carry most of the sonic activity. Much of WHITE HUNTER, BLACK HEART is dialogue driven, so the existing sound mix works very well with the material. Lennie Niehausí African flavored score is one of the strongest components of the sound mix, and sounds quite pleasing in this incarnation. The bass channel isnít particularly forceful, but is solid enough to augment the music and keep the sound effects from seeming anemic. French, Portuguese and Japanese language tracks are also encoded onto the DVD, as are English, French, Spanish, Japanese, Korean and Thai subtitles. Music underscores the basic interactive menus, which allow one access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as cast listing, Eastwood filmography and a theatrical trailer.

As I stated above, WHITE HUNTER, BLACK HEART is one of my favorite Clint Eastwood movies, which finds the actor/director giving one of his most interesting and best screen performances. Warner has done a good job with the DVD, offering a solid presentation. If you are an Eastwood fan, adding WHITE HUNTER, BLACK HEART to your collection should be a no brainer. Recommended.



White Hunter, Black Heart (1990)


DVD reviews are Copyright © 2003 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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