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MOVIE INFO

Director:
Sam Peckinpah
Cast:
Rutger Hauer, John Hurt, Craig T. Nelson, Dennis Hopper, Chris Sarandon, Meg Foster, Helen Shaver, Cassie Yates
Writing Credits:
Robert Ludlum (novel ), Ian Masters, Alan Sharp

Tagline:
It will be a weekend to remember ... if they survive it!

Synopsis:
What would you do if a total stranger proved to you that your three closest friends are enemy agents? For investigative TV host John Tanner (Rutger Hauer), the news comes on the eve of a reunion weekend at his home where the traitors (Craig T. Nelson, Dennis Hopper and Chris Sarandon) are all placed under intense surveillance by a mysterious CIA operative (John Hurt). But as the get-together turns deadly, are Tanner and his family being set up for the most shocking betrayal of all? From its stinging look at media manipulation to its stunning final twist, the ultimate conspiracy will be uncovered by whoever survives The Osterman Weekend.

Box Office:
Domestic Gross
$6.500 million.

MPAA:
Rated R

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Widescreen 1.85:1/16x9
Audio:
English Dolby Digital 5.1 EX
English DTS 5.1 ES
English Dolby 2.0
Subtitles:
None
Closed-captioned

Runtime: 102 min.
Price: $29.98
Release Date: 3/23/2004

Bonus:
Disc One
• Audio Commentary with Sam Peckinpah Historians Paul Seydor, Garner Simmons, David Weddle and Nick Redman
Disc Two
• “Alpha to Omega” Documentary
• “Sam’s First Cut” Full-Length Screening Version
• Trailer
• Talent Bios
• Still Gallery

• Booklet


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RELATED REVIEWS


The Osterman Weekend: Divimax Collection (1983)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (April 13, 2004)

After a long career of violent cinema, Sam Peckinpah blasted his last squib in 1983. He died a year later, so 1983’s The Osterman Weekend acts as his cinematic epitaph. Based on a Robert Ludlum novel, the movie opens with some videotaped footage. We watch as a group murders the wife of CIA agent Fassett (John Hurt). We meet CIA director Maxwell Danforth (Burt Lancaster) and learn that Fassett went off on a path to pursue his wife’s murderers after that but he’s now back in the fold.

Through his journeys, apparently Fassett uncovered a scheme called “Omega”. It involves three Americans with the KGB in an plan to spread germ warfare and undermine the US political system. We learn it includes Joseph Cardone (Chris Sarandon), Richard Tremaine (Dennis Hopper), and Bernie Osterman (Craig T. Nelson) along with KGB agent Andrei Mikalovich (Jan Triska).

From there we get to know John Tanner (Rutger Hauer), the host of a hard-edged TV news show. Fassett wants to use Tanner to uncover the spies, as he and the three Americans are longtime friends. They all have one of their annual reunions planned, so Fassett wants to take advantage of this to get Tanner to break them. Tanner agrees to help only if the politically ambitious Danforth will appear on his show.

Thus we watch a tense weekend. Tanner works through conflicting emotions as he feels loyal to both his friends and his country and can’t quite accept their apparent status as traitors. In addition, the three men suspect that Tanner knows something, which leads to stress. Add to that the fact that Fassett wires Tanner’s house for video surveillance and plays the puppet master behind the scenes and we get many opportunities for conflict. The movie follows the developments of the weekend.

The first five minutes of Osterman may be the most densely plotted I’ve ever seen, and the film never really recovers from that complicated start. The tale tosses so much information at the viewer that we feel like we need to play catch up for the rest of the flick. Eventually it ties together and makes some sense, but this occurs too late. We spend so much of the movie’s first half in such a muddle that by the time we connect the dots, we don’t really care.

Osterman also suffers from flat characters and a few bad casting choices. Actually, I take that back: I see only one really misguided pick for an actor via the selection of Rutger Hauer. His tenuous grasp on an American accent doesn’t help, but I don’t hold that against him. The bigger problem stems from his natural personality. Hauer works best in roles that focus on his intensity and aggressive personality such as Blade Runner and The Hitcher. The role of Tanner forces Hauer to act as a fairly mild-mannered family man, and this seems like a bad fit.

The other actors appear better cast, but unfortunately the characters never develop. Clearly the movie enjoys a nice cast, but almost none of them get enough substance from which they can draw. The biggest exception comes from Hurt’s work as Fassett. He gets some of the film’s showiest sequences and makes the most of them. Hurt brings a sneaky charm to the part and makes it work.

Unfortunately, the meandering plot develops so incoherently that it never turns into anything interesting. Peckinpah seems bored with the massive amounts of exposition, and it feels like the movie simply bides its time until we get to the action scenes. Peckinpah brings some style and panache to those, but they arrive so late that they can’t revive the flick.

Ultimately, The Osterman Weekend presents some decent twists as it goes, but it lacks the depth and concise story-telling necessary to rescue it. The movie rambles and develops a confusing tale that ties together too late in the game to keep us interested. I can’t call it a bad flick, but it seems like a very lackluster conclusion to Peckinpah’s career.


The DVD Grades: Picture B-/ Audio B/ Bonus A-

The Osterman Weekend 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. Although the picture demonstrated many positives, it seemed odd at times and showed enough problems to lose points.

One issue came from moderate edge enhancement. Haloes popped up fairly frequently throughout the movie, and these caused issues. Some problems resulted from mild blurriness created by the edge enhancement. Most of the movie seemed fairly crisp and detailed, but occasional examples of softness occurred. I also noticed some jaggies and more shimmering than I expected, and the flick displayed an oddly “digital” look much of the time.

In regard to print flaws, grain presented the most significant distractions. Given its age and style, the film seemed excessively grainy for reasons that didn’t seem connected to style. Otherwise, mild examples of specks and grit occurred, but these seemed reasonably minor.

Osterman displayed a fairly subdued palette that mostly looked fine. The colors appeared somewhat dense at times, but not to a significant degree. Mainly the tones were acceptably vivid and concise. Black levels seemed deep and pretty tight, and shadows were appropriately heavy but not too thick. Parts of Osterman looked quite good, but the mix of problems dropped my grade to a “B-“.

Taken from the original monaural source, The Osterman Weekend included new multi-channel mixes. We got both Dolby Digital EX 5.1 and DTS ES 6.1 tracks. When I compared the two, I noticed virtually no differences. The DTS version was a little louder, but when I compensated for that, the pair seemed identical.

The soundfield boasted surprisingly good imaging given the source material. Music demonstrated minor stereo imaging that seemed a bit ill-defined but acceptable. Effects offered the best parts of the track. Environmental elements appeared accurately placed and created a nice sense of setting. At times they were a little speaker-specific, but they usually blended together pretty well. Some nice panning occurred, and these often involved the surrounds. One fairly early scene showed good movement of a helicopter across the back speakers, and the mix even featured some directional dialogue from the rear. Overall the track seemed lively and involving.

Audio quality appeared flawed but generally fine for its age. Speech came across as a bit edgy and tinny at times, but the lines remained intelligible at all times. Music appeared reasonably bright and clear. Effects mostly sounded clean and fairly dynamic. I noticed no issues with distortion, but the track suffered from excessive bass at times.

Actually, volume issues occurred due to the heavy low-end material. The loudness of the bass seemed badly out of proportion with everything else. This meant that either the bass overwhelmed me or I found it hard to hear other elements because I needed to keep the volume low. The quality of the low-end seemed fine, but it was so heavy that it acted as a problem. The nicely interactive soundfield and generally good quality of the mix caused me to give the audio of Osterman a “B”, but some parts of it were weaker than I’d like.

Anchor Bay’s two-disc release of The Osterman Weekend includes a mix of supplements. On Disc One, we find an audio commentary from Sam Peckinpah historians Paul Seydor, Garner Simmons, David Weddle and Nick Redman. All four sit together for their running, screen-specific chat. Overall, they provide a fairly interesting piece. They cover the topics we might expect, as they get into issues connected to the making of the movie, Peckinpah’s career and it status when he made the flick, themes and interpretation of Osterman, controversies, and other topics connected to its making. The track never totally catches fire, but it provides a nice examination of the various subjects. The four men clearly think highly of Peckinpah’s work but they don’t com across as excessively reverential, and they provide frank thoughts about Osterman. Overall, this seems like a useful and engaging chat.

After this we head to DVD Two, where a star attraction comes from Alpha to Omega: Exposing The Osterman Weekend. In this 78-minute documentary, we get movie snippets, archival materials, and comments from producers Bill Panzer and Peter Davis, agent Martin Baum, historian Nick Redman, editor Ed Abroms, composer Lalo Schifrin, and actors John Hurt, Rutger Hauer, Meg Foster, Craig T. Nelson, Helen Shaver, Chris Sarandon, and Cassie Yates. They discuss reflections on the novel and its path to the screen, Peckinpah’s status at the time and his recruitment for the film as well as related concerns, casting, locations, budgetary issues and conflicts between Peckinpah and his producers, notes from the shoot, Peckinpah’s ill health, substance abuse and other issues on the set, his use of memos and his methods of working with actors, assembling and finishing the film, and problems with the final film.

Many documentaries offer little more than banal praise and happy talk, but not “Alpha”. Sure, we hear some comments about Peckinpah’s talents and other positive bits, but these don’t even remotely dominate the show. Instead, “Alpha” presents a frank and fairly uncensored look at the production and the man. It covers the production in a full manner and gives us a tough take on its subject. It provides lots of great details and seems quite entertaining and useful.

Another significant extra appears via Sam’s First Cut. The 116-minute and 26-second presentation shows an alternate version of The Osterman Weekend. From a rough fullscreen video version, it includes six pieces that differ from those in the released movie; “Original Opening Sequence”, “Introduction of the Ostermans”, “Extended Tremayne Bedroom Sequence”, “Tanner’s Affair”, “Alternate Dinner Scene Video”, and “Alternate Ending”.

We can view each of the changed pieces as part of the running movie or on their own; the film’s chapter stops correspond to the new bits. In a nice touch, the DVD offers text that discusses each of the segments as they appear, and it also tells us when the alternate material ends and we rejoin the theatrical version. Some of the material seems annoying, like the wavy presentation of the killing at the opening; I understand what Peckinpah wanted to do, but it doesn’t work at all. Some of the shots are fairly superfluous, like those that detail Virginia’s addiction. Some are pretty interesting, such as Tanner’s affair. This presentation becomes damned near unwatchable due to the poor quality of the video, but it makes for a valuable addition to the set, and I like the fact we get the chance to check out pieces as part of the film, not as separate deleted scenes; it’s cool to be able to examine them in the context of Peckinpah’s original cut.

Lastly, some minor bits finish the set. We get the flick’s theatrical trailer plus a still gallery. The latter includes 81 shots; we find a mix of publicity images, production shots and pictures from the set. The Biographies domain presents entries for Peckinpah, producers Davis and Panzer, composer Schifrin, and actors Hauer, Foster, Hurt, Nelson, Sarandon, Shaver, Yates, Burt Lancaster, and Dennis Hopper. Traditionally, Anchor Bay DVDs feature very detailed and blunt biographies, and these are no exception. They offer a lot more than the usual annotated filmographies and definitely merit a read.

We also get a 12-page booklet. It mixes some stills, the film’s original poster art, and a very good essay by Gary Hertz. The latter discusses Peckinpah’s career and the travails involved in making Osterman. We find some material that also appears elsewhere in this set, but it offers a nice, tight synopsis.

Overall, The Osterman Weekend feels like a missed opportunity. With a lot of talent both behind and in front of the camera plus a story with some intriguing elements, it should work, but instead, it comes across as muddled and bland. The DVD presents generally good picture and audio plus a very nice set of extras highlighted by an alternate cut of the film. Osterman comes to DVD well, so fans should really like this disc, but I can’t recommend it to new viewers.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.25 Stars Number of Votes: 4
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