Silverado appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.40:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Although the picture occasionally veered on the edge of excellence, a mix of flaws meant it ended up with a “B”.
One issue stemmed from edge enhancement. Haloes remained reasonably mild throughout the flick, but they showed up fairly consistently. Despite that, sharpness looked quite strong. A few wider shots demonstrated a slightly soft look, but those were infrequent. Otherwise the movie seemed crisp and well-defined. I noticed no issues with jagged edges or shimmering, but source flaws were a prominent problem. Specks popped up during much of the flick, and though the movie lacked other defects like debris or scratches, these caused quite a few distractions. The flick looked dustier than I’d expect.
As often occurs with westerns, Silverado featured a warm, somewhat sepia-toned palette. This meant few bright tones, but I didn’t regard that as a problem. The movie offered consistently rich colors with good life and dimensionality. Blacks also seemed deep and firm, while shadows were tight and smooth. I flip-flopped between a “B+” and a “B”, but between the edge enhancement and the many specks, I couldn’t justify the higher grade.
On the other hand, I felt consistently impressed by the audio of Silverado. The DVD featured both Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1 soundtracks. For the most part, I found the two to offer similar audio, but the DTS version slightly bettered the Dolby one. I’ll give general impressions and then indicate why I preferred the DTS track.
I don't expect a whole lot from mixes for movies from the mid-Eighties; they usually sound decent but very dated. This wasn't much of a problem with Silverado. Although they lacked the scope of more recent audio tracks, I found the mixes to be almost shockingly good.
The forward soundstage appeared very wide and broad. The audio presented well-localized placement of elements that blended together nicely. The rear channels mainly bolstered the music, but they did so very actively. While some films just gently reinforce the score from the surrounds, Silverado made the rears crank the music strongly. A decent amount of effects popped up from the surrounds as well, especially during gunfights. These helped create an involving soundfield.
Audio quality was also surprisingly strong; rarely did I feel like I was listening to a 20-year-old film. Dialogue sounded consistently clear and natural, with no intelligibility problems or issues connected to edginess. Effects could appear somewhat bland at times but were generally clean and acceptably realistic. Actually, only a few gunshots slightly disappointed me, as some of those lacked great definition.
The score remained the real star of the show, however. Bruce Broughton's music comes across as full-bodied and powerful, and it really kicked in a lot of good bass. Above all else, it's the excellent quality of the score that made Silverado sound so good.
What caused me to give the DTS track an “A” and the Dolby one an “A-“? Not much separated the two, but the DTS edition simply seemed a little more powerful. It presented slightly tighter bass and also was a bit smoother and better integrated. I didn’t hear enormous differences between the pair, but I still gave the DTS mix the nod.
How did the picture and audio of this new Silverado special edition compare with those of the original 1999 DVD? The only auditory differences came from the addition of the DTS track. Both old and new DVDs featured identical Dolby Digital mixes, but the prior disc lacked this one’s excellent DTS mix.
As for picture quality, the two look very similar. I’d be surprised to learn that the 2005 DVD offered a new transfer, as the pair demonstrated similar strengths and weaknesses. The increased bit space means that the 2005 DVD might be a little tighter than the old one, but I didn’t see any substantial differences.
For this new “2-Disc Gift Set” version of Silverado, we a mix of new and old supplements. I’ll indicate features also found on the original release with an asterisk.
On DVD One, we find a new audio commentary. Called “Along the Silverado Trail”, this piece features western historians. We hear from writer/film historian Frank Thompson, western historian Paul Hutton, and UCLA history professor Steve Aaron, all of whom sit together for their running, screen-specific chat. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from this piece, but I found a very lively and entertaining look at westerns.
The trio cover a mix of appropriate topics. They mostly discuss the historical antecedents of Silverado in both film and reality. We find lots of remarks about the film’s accuracy - or lack thereof - as well as rich investigations of its connections to other western flicks. A good layer of production notes also appear to give us some information about Silverado, mostly in regard to locations.
At times the nit-picky focus on accuracy becomes a bit anal, but the guys recognize this and even joke about it. They also mention that absolute accuracy isn’t always a good thing, as unembellished stories don’t ensure good movies. Really, my only complaint about this track stems from a moderate level of self-promotion in which the participants indulge, as they often mention other products. Again, they handle this with good humor, and they also needle each other; it seems clear they know each other well. I had my doubts about this piece, but it ends up as a fun and informative discussion.
Heading to DVD Two, we begin with a documentary titled A Return to Silverado With Kevin Costner. In this 20-minute and 59-second program, Costner discusses his early fondness for westerns, his casting in Silverado and his initial impression of the part, character notes, the collaboration with Kasdan and the other actors, and some general thoughts on aspects of the story and the movie. Costner provides an insightful look at the flick and a mix of elements. He proves frank about errors in judgment and gives us a nice feel for things in this tight little show.
Next we find a 36-minute and 57-second documentary about the film. *The Making of Silverado offers a good look at the creation of the film. It provides us with film clips, outtakes, production stills and a combination of new and archival interviews. We hear from director Lawrence Kasdan, co-writer/executive producer Mark Kasdan, director of photography John Bailey, production designer Ida Random, editor Carol Littleton, composer Bruce Broughton, and actors Kevin Kline, Danny Glover, Scott Glenn and Linda Hunt.
We hear about the origins of the flick, its writing and development, visual design and locations, the building of the town, cinematography, rehearsals, gun training, the depiction of violence, storyboards and editing, stunts and horse-riding, acting choices, the atmosphere on the set, balancing the various storylines and cut sequences, sound design, the score, original plans for a sequel, and the movie’s legacy. This program offers an excellent look behind the scenes of the flick and it packs a lot of good information into its relatively brief running time. It's a solid documentary.
Narrated by John Cleese, A History of Western Shootouts runs seven minutes, 38 seconds as it presents a look at those kinds of cinematic moments. It shows gunfights from 10 movies: Silverado, The Missing, The Quick and the Dead, A Man Called Sledge, The Professionals, The Man From Colorado, Old Gringo, Hangman’s Knot, Geronimo: An American Legend, and Buck and the Preacher. By some amazing coincidence, these are all Sony properties. That makes this little more than a cheesy promotional piece.
Inside the “Previews” area, we get a *trailer for Silverado as well as a general promo for Columbia’s “Classic Westerns”. Oddly, the set includes this trailer in the main menu as “Columbia’s Top Westerns” as well, though the latter is a slightly longer version of the ad.
The “Gift Set” winds up with some materials not based on the discs. In addition to a pack of special Silverado playing cards, we get a new booklet. It mixes production photos with a fine essay from Frank Thompson. That text covers a short history of the western and Silverado’s place in that realm.
Does this new release lose any features from the original DVD? Not much. It axes the brief and almost useless talent files for director Kasdan and seven of the actors, and it also sacrifices the original booklet. Neither really goes missed.
Silverado is a fun and compelling movie that can go astray at times but offers enough consistently good thrills to warrant repeated viewings. On DVD, it looks decent and sounds great, and a mix of good extras make the package even more worthwhile. Silverado merits purchase for anyone who thinks a light western may be fun.
This new “Gift Set” of Silverado is definitely the DVD to purchase if you don’t already own the old disc. If you do have that one, should you go with the new version? Only if you’re interested in the extras. The DTS soundtrack is a little stronger than the Dolby Digital one, but it’s not a huge difference, and picture quality also seems similar. However, the “Gift Set” offers a few solid extras new to the package. If those interest you, this release will be up your alley.