King of the Hill appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Viewers will feel delighted with this excellent image.
Sharpness was strong. Due to the film’s style, a few shots looked a smidgen soft, but that just went with the flick’s dreamy feel. Overall clarity was positive, as the majority of the movie was accurate and concise. No issues with shimmering or jaggies popped up, and edge haloes were minimal. Source flaws failed to appear in this clean transfer.
The amber-influenced palette of Hill came across well here. The movie gave the colors a subdued but natural look that seemed lovely throughout the flick. Indeed, the hues became a highlight of the transfer. Blacks were deep and firm, and shadows demonstrated nice clarity and visibility. Virtually no concerns arose during this presentation.
Hill came with a decent DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack, though the character-based movie didn’t boast much to make it sonically memorable. A few scenes opened up matters to a moderate degree, such as one with Aaron behind the wheel of a runaway car.
However, most of the material remained environmental. Still, most of the flick provided good spread to the material and opened up things to a moderate degree. Music also spread around the spectrum in a useful manner.
Audio quality was positive. Effects were clear and accurate, with good range. Speech was natural and concise, while music appeared smooth and vivid. This was a workable soundtrack for a movie without much sonic ambition.
When we head to the set’s extras, we begin with an interview from director Steven Soderbergh. In this 19-minute, 25-second piece, Soderbergh discusses his opinions of the film as well as working at a studio, story/characters/themes, adapting the book, cast and performances, the choice of aspect ratio and other visual choices, editing and running time, and the movie’s reception. It’s too bad Soderbergh didn’t record a full commentary for Hill, but he covers a ton of useful topics in this tight, informative piece.
We also locate an interview with author AE Hotchner. During the 21-minute, 10-second program, the writer chats about his book, aspects of his life and their reflection in the film. Even at 93, Hotchner remains sharp as a tack, and he gives us a nice examination of the material that led to the movie.
A “visual essay” called Against Tyranny runs 10 minutes, 39 seconds and comes with thoughts from filmmaker “::kogonada”. This examines the editing and non-linear structure of some parts of Hill. It’s an interesting glimpse at the filmmaking techniques.
Six Deleted Scenes occupy a total of eight minutes, 47 seconds. These mix truly excised material as well as some alternate takes. They're in rough shape and show awkward framing – hello, Mr. Boom Mic! – but they’re worth a look if you like the movie. I can’t say you’ll find anything memorable, though.
Up next we find The Underneath, Soderbergh’s 1995 feature film. It lasts one hour, 39 minutes, and 11 seconds as it introduces us to Michael Chambers (Peter Gallagher), a ne’er-do-well recovering gambling addict who returns home to Texas for his mother’s (Anjanette Comer) wedding to Ed Dutton (Paul Dooley). The film explores Michael’s relationships – especially with former girlfriend Rachel (Alison Elliott) – and developments that arise along the way.
Underneath whole-heartedly embraces the non-linear storytelling discussed in the visual essay, as it leaps about from one date to another with abandon. That gives it an interesting feel, but the story itself doesn’t live up to the ambition. Underneath delivers a sporadically interesting but generally unsatisfying modern film noir.
Underneath does clearly presage Soderbergh’s future stylistic choices much more clearly than King of the Hill, though. It uses all sorts of tinted images and alternate storytelling devices across its 100 minutes. None of these make it especially compelling, but they ensure it “feels like Soderbergh” more than this disc’s main attraction.
We also see an interview with Soderbergh specifically about The Underneath. He chats for 22 minutes, 33 seconds as he discusses some aspects of the production as well as his attitude toward the movie. Soderbergh’s reflections on his status circa 1995 and how he now feels about it become the strongest aspects of this good featurette, as it’s fascinating to hear a director speak so critically of his own work.
The set ends with two trailers. We get ads for both King of the Hill and The Underneath.
Two other discs provide a DVD copy of Hill. This set includes the same extras as the Blu-ray.
We finish with a 40-page booklet. It includes an essay from film writer Peter Tonguette, a 1993 interview with Soderbergh, and an excerpt from the source text. It becomes a solid addition to the package.
1993’s King of the Hill finds director Steven Soderbergh in a transitional time. While the movie remains watchable, it lacks consistency and doesn’t hint of the strong films Soderbergh would later create. The Blu-ray boasts excellent visuals and supplemental materials – mainly due to the inclusion of an entire “bonus movie” – as well as good audio. Soderbergh fans will want to give the flick a look but they shouldn’t expect much from it.