Bamboozled appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.77:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Due to the source, this became a less than appealing visual presentation.
Much of the movie was shot on digital video cameras (Mini DV), with a limited resolution. All of the Mantan New Millennium Minstrel Show excerpts were filmed with 16mm equipment, but Mini DV dominated the flick, a fact that led to some picture concerns.
When I looked at those elements, sharpness became a persistent issue. Close-ups looked passable, but everything else seemed fuzzy and soft.
Due to the lower resolution featured by video, many examples of moiré effects and jagged edges cropped up, and the film often took on a blocky appearance. Digital artifacts popped up, and edge haloes occurred due to the flaws of the source.
In terms of the video footage, the hues of Bamboozled always appeared drab and flat. They seemed ugly and messy.
Black levels also appeared murky and muddy, and shadow detail was thick. Again, the nature of the DV source led to these issues.
At least those occasional 16mm shots worked better. These offered largely positive sharpness, as only a little softness impacted the film elements, and they lacked jagged edges, moiré effects or print defects.
Colors looked strong for the filmed shots, as they boasted nice vivacity. Blacks seemed deep and dark as well, so the 16mm components satisfied.
Too bad the vast majority of the flick opted for that dated, ugly DV footage. With a movie like Bamboozled, I need to deal with the conflict between the accuracy of the transfer and the objective appeal of the image.
I gave the picture a “C” as a way of throwing in the towel. While I think the Blu-ray represented the movie as intended, it’s just too much of a mess for me to commit a higher grade to it.
I thought film’s DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack worked well for the material, with a soundfield that seemed largely focused upon the forward channels. Music boasted nice stereo spread, while effects created a good sense of environment.
The surrounds didn’t play a major role, but they fleshed out the settings, especially in the TV studio or clubs. Nothing here dazzled, but the soundscape seemed appropriate for the story.
Audio quality appeared positive, as speech felt consistently warm and distinct, with no signs of edginess or problems related to intelligibility. Effects were similarly accurate and lively, and they more than adequately conveyed the necessary information.
Music boasted the strongest fidelity of the lot. Terence Blanchard’s score appeared clean and smooth, while the various rap tunes blasted tight and loud low-end.
In that realm, the bass really thumped at times, and the dynamic range of the entire track seemed strong. This was a quality mix for this tale.
How did the Blu-ray compare to the original DVD? The lossless audio felt a bit warmer and more expansive.
Visuals became a more complicated issue, as the Blu-ray revealed the problems more abundantly than did the DVD. The natural limitations of the latter hid the issues more easily than the higher resolution of the Blu-ray.
On the positive side, the Blu-ray made the 16mm film look better, as those shots appeared more accurate and livelier. The DV footage showed no clear improvements, though, as the source lacked real room for growth.
Because of the superior presentation of the 16mm material, I’d endorse the Blu-ray over the DVD. However, no one should expect anything other than an ugly presentation much of the time, as there’s no silk purse to be made from this sow’s ear.
This Criterion release mixes old and new extras, and we open with a running, screen-specific audio commentary from writer/director Spike Lee. Lee can be a dull participant in these proceedings, and I started this track with a little trepidation.
While the commentary definitely seems spotty and inconsistent, Lee actually manages to provide enough information to make it generally interesting. Bamboozled features more than a few gaps between Lee’s remarks, and he also often does little more than state the names of actors or their characters.
However, Lee seems lively at times during this piece, as he brings some good interpretation of the film and also goes into details that relate to the production. Not one to shy away from detractors, Lee addresses some of his critics, and he provides an interesting discussion of the movie’s controversies.
Lee even adds a funny impression of Tommy Hilfiger that related the events of the latter’s reaction to the film’s “Timmi Hilnigger” character. Ultimately, I don’t think this turns into a great commentary, but it merits a listen.
From the original DVD, a documentary called The Making of Bamboozled runs for 53 minutes, 20 seconds and it combines the usual mix of film clips, interviews, and shots from the set.
The interviews involve Lee, director of photography Ellen Kuras, editor Sam Pollard, archivist Judy Aley, production designer Victor Kempster, and actors Savion Glover, Damon Wayans, Jada Pinkett-Smith, Tommy Davidson, Thomas Jefferson Byrd and Michael Rapaport.
We also hear from folks not formally associated with the film such as columnist Jack Newfield, writer Budd Schulberg, critic Stanley Crouch and historian Clyde Taylor. These participants add a level of subtext to the piece that otherwise might not have been apparent.
Those involved with the production discuss story/characters and satirical elements, cast and performances, influences and research, sets, photography and the use of Mini DV cameras, editing, music, and related elements. The others offer some useful perspective as well in terms of social/historical connections and commentary.
While not the meatiest documentary, “Making” works pretty well. It gives us good insights and enough footage from the set to succeed.
11 Deleted Scenes span a total of 17 minutes, four seconds. For the most part, these seem interesting to see.
However, I don’t think any of the pieces become terribly fascinating or valuable, and some get a bit redundant at times. Still, it’s good to see unused material, and some of the parts feel fairly compelling.
Originally presented as deleted scenes on the DVD, we find commercials. These include three for “Da Bomb” (1:55) and three for “Timmy Hilnigger” (2:55).
The differences among the various Hilnigger and Bomb ads feel pretty small. I can’t imagine I’d ever be interested in watching them again
In addition, we discover the movie’s theatrical trailer plus three music videos. One of these if for Gerald Levert’s “Dream With No Love”, and it’s a pretty bland piece. Levert wanders around and lip-synchs while we occasionally see snippets of the film.
We also find two versions of the Mau Maus’ “Blak Iz Blak”, and they’re fairly blah as well. However, it’s always fun to see more of the Maus, so I won’t complain.
A Poster Gallery offers a two-minute, 37-second running compilation. It brings 30 promotional images and becomes a good collection, though I wish Criterion had re-transferred these as stills so we’d see them in higher quality.
All the material above appeared on the 2001 DVD, but the rest of the extras are new to the Criterion Blu-ray. In Conversation provides a 2019 chat between Spike Lee and critic Ashley Clark.
During this 25-minute, 41-second piece, they discuss the project’s origins/goals and development, Lee’s student film precursor to Bamboozled and influences, story/characters, production areas and retrospective thoughts.
Though some of the info repeats from the commentary, this becomes a more concise overview. Add to that a different perspective from 20 years later and this turns into an effective, informative reel.
Manray & Womack runs 22 minutes, 54 seconds and delivers a circa 2019 piece with actors Savion Glover and Tommy Davidson. They cover their characters and performances as well as reflections on the film in this engaging look back at the movie.
Next comes a 10-minute, 30-second Interview with Costume Designer Ruth Carter. She tells us about her career, her work with Lee and her choices for Bamboozled via this useful discussion.
Finally, On Blackface and the Minstrel Show spans 17 minutes, 38 seconds and involves film professor Racquel Gates. She relates historical perspective in relation to Bamboozled. Expect a pretty good overview.
A booklet fleshes out the set. It presents credits, art and an essay from Ashley Clark. This addition finishes the package well.
While not Spike Lee’s best film, Bamboozled becomes one of his most thought-provoking. This satirical offering takes a vicious look at racism in entertainment and other areas, and though it suffers from inconsistency, it’s still a compelling program. The Blu-ray provides good audio and supplements along with accurate but ugly visuals. Don’t expect real visual improvements from the DVD, but this still turns into a nice release.