The Alamo appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. The picture generally looked good, though it fell a little short of greatness
Sharpness mostly appeared fine. Some softness interfered with wider shots, but nothing too heavy marred the presentation. For the most part, the flick seemed concise and distinctive. Jagged edges and shimmering weren’t an issue, but mild edge enhancement caused more minor haloes than I’d like. As for source flaws, the movie lacked any defects and seemed quite clean and fresh.
As befit a period piece like this, the palette took on a moderately golden tint. Within those slight constraints, the colors consistently came across as warm and vivid. No problems with bleeding or noise occurred, as the hues were tight and lively. Blacks also came across as deep and dense, and shadows were fairly clean and smooth, though a couple of low-light shots were slightly dense. While the transfer didn’t dazzle me, it rarely disappointed me either.
For the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of The Alamo, we found a very satisfying piece. The soundfield seemed expansive and engaging throughout most of the film, with audio placed precisely in the environment. All five channels appeared quite active, and they also blended together smoothly and cleanly; sounds moved between speakers naturally and the entire package created a strong soundstage.
Not surprisingly, the battle sequences stood out as the best. These provided the broadest environment and the most distinctive uses of sound. Gunfire flied around me and I felt totally involved in the fights. The track also maintained nicely effective ambiance during quieter moments, and the entire package seemed engaging.
Audio quality also appeared excellent. Dialogue came across as distinct and natural, with no problems related to intelligibility or edginess. Music sounded clear and smooth, with good clarity and range. Of course, those fight segments sounded the best. The mix provided clean and accurate effects that packed a solid punch. Though the track became filled with the sounds of warfare, these elements never displayed any hints of distortion or shrillness. They seemed clear and detailed and presented some deep bass as well; the low end on this DVD could be quite rich. Ultimately, The Alamo offered a fine auditory experience.
For some bizarre reason, Disney has decided it doesn’t want buyers to know about all the extras on its DVDs. As with Home on the Range, we get an audio commentary for The Alamo, but nothing on the packaging mentions this. We dig up a track that includes remarks from historians Alan Huffines and Stephen Hardin, both of whom sit together for their running, screen-specific chat. They go over topics related to both the history of the event as well as the making of the movie. Both men acted as technical consultants on the film, so they let us know aspects of the production. They also get into the realities behind the story, liberties taken, and background for elements not depicted onscreen. At times the guys come across as a little too attached to the movie, as this limits their objectivity toward it, but they nonetheless present a lot of good information about the reality of the Alamo and the shooting of the flick.
After this we locate Return of the Legend: The Making of The Alamo, an 18-minute and seven-second featurette. We get the standard mix of movie clips, shots from the set, and interviews. We hear from Huffines, director/co-writer John Lee Hancock, actors Billy Bob Thornton, Jason Patric, Dennis Quaid, Patrick Wilson, Mauricio Zatarain, Michael Murillo, Frank Matthews, Larry Cashion, BJ Smith, and Joseph Perez, production designer Michael Corenbluth, set decorator Carla Curry, producer Mark Johnson, costume designer Daniel Orlandi, property master Don Miloyevich, re-enactment coordinator JR Flournoy, master armourer R. Vern Crofoot, lead wrangler Curtis Akin, armourer Brian F. Maynard, prop shop supervisor James Roberts II, special effects coordinator Larz Anderson, special effects technician Robert Trevino, director of photography Dean Semler, camer operator Mark O’Kane, hardware technician and rigger Matt Davis, Spydercam coordinator Tim Drnec, and Spydercam supervisor Todd “Hammer” Semmes.
They talk about the movie’s sets, costumes and props, battle recreation and training, animals, weapons, explosives, photographic choices and digital effects. Don’t expect much depth from this discussion, as it appears to exist for one reason: to convince us how authentically Alamo recreates the real experience. This means some useful tidbits on occasion, and we do get a reasonable feel for the methods used. However, it flits through the subjects rapidly and largely comes across as laudatory and little else.
Another featurette comes to us via the six-minute and 17-second Deep in the Heart of Texans. It includes statements from Johnson, Thornton, Hancock, Quaid, Corenbluth, Patric, Akin, Matthews, Alamo historian and curator Bruce Winders, extras Cid Galindo, and Wayne Evans. They discuss the desire to shoot in Texas and make things as real as possible. We learn of some efforts made in that vein plus personal connections of some extras. As with the prior piece, a couple of moderately interesting morsels slip through, but not many. Instead, the program leaves an impression that it wants to impress us more than educate us.
For our final featurette, we find Walking in the Footsteps of Heroes. It goes for 11 minutes and 43 seconds as it presents remarks from Quaid, Hancock, Wilson, Patric, Winders, Hardin,Thornton, novelist Steve Harrigan, and Alamo historian Paul Hutton. This show looks at the history behind the characters. It tosses out some quick production and casting notes, but mainly it offers short biographical sketches of Crockett, Houston, Travis and Bowie. After two consecutive fluffy features, this one comes as a minor relief. It doesn’t provide deep insights into the various personalities, but it fleshes them out decently and gives us a pretty concise recap of the leaders.
Five Deleted Scenes appear next. They fill a total of six minutes, 26 seconds. The main component here comes from a few scenes that depict the marriage of Santa Anna, and we get others that flesh out the characters mildly. They’re interesting to see but not exceptional. We can watch these with or without commentary from Hancock. He presents a good discussion about why he cut the pieces along with notes about how they would have fit into the film.
At the start of the disc, we encounter a mix of ads. We find trailers for Raising Helen and Around the World in 80 Days. These also appear in the disc’s Sneak Peeks domain along with promos for Hero and Alias.
The Alamo also features the THX Optimizer. Also found on many other DVDs, this purports to help you set up your system for the best reproduction of both picture and sound, ala stand-alone programs such as Video Essentials. I’ve never tried the Optimizer since I’m happy with my settings, but if you don’t own something such as Essentials, the Optimizer may help you improve picture and audio quality.
Competent but uninspired, The Alamo never takes flight. The movie possesses a number of good ingredients that fail to mix together into something satisfying. The DVD offers very positive picture and audio plus supplements highlighted by a moderately useful audio commentary. As a DVD, The Alamo is fairly good, but the movie lacks much to make it stick.