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The Movie:

(movie review written in 1999)

Roman Polanski's film noir classic stars Jack Nicholson as private detective J.J. Gittes. The world he lives in is 1940's Los Angeles and the characters he must face are wonderfully written as well. The case this time leads him out to the deserts surrounding LA, where a water supply and land accquisition deal is in the works. Something that starts off as seemingly simple turns into a far more complex weave of twists and turns.

The performances are outstanding. Although Nicholson has given great performances in films as recently as "As Good As It Gets" and in older films like "One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest", one could argue that this is his most intense and impressive effort. Director John Huston also turns in a strong performance as the villian of the story.

It's a film almost bursting with details and complex layers underneath its surface. It builds an entire world in the span of a little over two hours. Director Polanski, his cast and especially the talents of composer Jerry Goldsmith and cinematographer John Alanzo(who did the cinematography for Star Trek: Generations, as well) come together to make an absolute classic, and the quality of this DVD will certainly please fans of the movie.


VIDEO: Paramount presents "Chinatown" in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. While the film does look its age, I was still quite impressed with this newly remastered presentation, which mildly improves upon the nice original release that came out several years ago. Sharpness and detail do very a slight bit at times, but the majority of the film looked surprisingly crisp and well-defined. While a few slight instances of edge enhancement and artifacting are spotted, these flaws are very minor. The print looked crisp and clear throughout, with no specks, marks, dirt or other issues. Colors looked warm and rich, with no smearing or other faults. This was a marvelous new presentation of the movie.

SOUND: The film is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1. Chinatown" is fairly basic in terms of audio, but the audio quality does not show any problems from age. The Jerry Goldsmith score sounds clear and clean and although dialogue doesn't seem quite as full and rich as most new movies, there is no problems with clarity. There also aren't any instances of hiss or distortion on this track, either.

EXTRAS: This edition contains 3 new featurettes: "Chinatown: The Legacy", "Chinatown: The Beginning and the End" and "Chinatown: Filming". Each of the documentaries runs about 20-25 minutes and offers new interviews with Nicholson, writer Robert Towne, producer Robert Evans, as well as director Roman Polanski and others. These documentaries are richly detailed and informative, with a lot of insights from the participants on such elements as casting, script, development, location scouting, characters, production and the legacy of the picture. While these three documentaries don't make up a massive amount of material, they are terrific pieces that fans will enjoy.

The trailer is also included.

Final Thoughts: "Chinatown" is given a crisp, fresh new presentation on this new Special Collector's Edition, and the 3 new documentaries are excellent, as well. At a price of $14.99 (and a few dollars less at some stores), this gets my recommendation.

Film Grade
The Film A
DVD Grades
Video 89/B+
Audio: 87/B
Extras: 80/B-

DVD Information

Chinatown: Special Collector's Edition
Paramount Home Entertainment
Dolby Digital 5.1
130 minutes
Subtitles: English
Rated R
Dual Layer:Yes
Available At Amazon.com: Chinatown: Special Collector's Edition DVD