The Formula appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. While it occasionally showed its age, the transfer usually satisfied.
Very few issues affected sharpness. A few shots came across as a bit soft and ill-defined, but these didn’t come as a rule. Most of the flick seemed pretty concise and accurate. No issues with jagged edges or shimmering occurred, and I noticed no edge enhancement.
Unfortunately, source flaws created more prominent distractions. I witnessed periodic examples of specks, marks and debris. These tended to pop up in small batches, so most of the movie passed without concerns. Nonetheless, the sporadic examples of defects could leave us with a messy product.
Colors seemed fine. The film boasted a low-key but natural palette that showed pretty good delineation. The hues never leapt off the screen, but they lacked the blandness that often mars flicks from this one’s era. Blacks were deep and dense, while shadows showed nice clarity and definition. The occasional softness and dirtiness knocked my grade down to a “B-”, but I thought this was a generally good presentation.
Unfortunately, the monaural soundtrack of The Formula held up less well. Speech was intelligible but the lines tended to be stiff and flat. Music was dense and without much range; the score sounded stuck in mid-range and appeared muddy. Effects fell along the same lines. Those elements lacked distortion but they weren’t particularly natural or distinctive. This was a drab soundtrack.
Only one extra appears here: an audio commentary from director John G. Avildsen and producer Steve Shagan They offer a running, screen-specific chat that looks at cast and performances, locations and sets, the story and some facts behind the fiction, and a few production specifics.
Expect a pretty dull chat here. Though the commentary occasionally shows glimmers of life – such as when the participants allude to complications related to the lead actors – it usually lacks much useful information. Add to that a lot of dead air and it becomes a slow two hours of commentary. You’ll learn a little about The Formula from it but not enough to sustain you over its length.
Note that although the DVD’s case promises a “Marlon Brando Trailer Gallery”, none appears here.
Despite the presence of two legendary actors and an Oscar-winning director, The Formula turns into a dud. Sure, it boasts an intriguing plot on the surface, but the film fails to mine that material for anything interesting, and it burdens us with a tale overwhelmed by dialogue. The flick likes to tell us everything and show us nothing, a recipe that marks cinematic tedium. The DVD provides erratic but generally good picture, but audio seems lackluster at best, and only one supplement appears, a pretty boring audio commentary. This turns into a mediocre DVD for a bad movie.
Note that you can purchase The Formula only as part of “The Marlon Brando Collection”. In addition to Formula, this package includes Mutiny on the Bounty, Julius Caesar, Reflections in a Golden Eye, and The Teahouse of the August Moon. The set retails for $59.98.