Review: The Conversation Blu-ray

The Conversation Blu-raySTUDIO: Lionsgate | DIRECTOR: Francis Ford Coppola | CAST: Gene Hackman, Robert Duvall, John Cazale, Frederic Forrest, Cindy Williams, Allen Garfield, Harrison Ford
RELEASE DATE: 10/25/2011 | PRICE: Blu-ray $24.99
BONUSES: archival commentaries and featurettes, new interview, more
SPECS: PG | 113 min. | genre | 1.78:1 widescreen | DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1/DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 | English and Spanish subtitles

RATINGS (out of 5 dishes): Movie | Audio | Video | Overall

A memorable slow-boil thriller about an audio surveillance expert (Gene Hackman, Riot) who gets dangerously involved in his latest assignment, Francis Ford Coppola’s 1974 movie The Conversation is all about listening.

So, while the visual quality of the film on Blu-ray is quite fine (it has never looked better, grain and all), we’re more interested in the disc’s audio aspects.

The Conversation movie scene

Gene Hackman listens in on The Conversation.

The Blu-ray offers two audio options: the original mono soundtrack, rendered in DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0, and a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix. Though the mono track represents the “truest” way to listen to the film, I definitely grooved on the 5.1 variation.

The titular conversation at the heart of the movie — the one that an obsessive Hackman and the audience listens to again and again — remains front and center, as does most of the film’s dialog. It’s all quite clear, too.

But a number of atmospheric sounds slyly snake their away through the surrounding speakers, making Hackman’s actions even more immersive and paranoid. Most effective are  the bustling crowds of San Francisco’s Union Square, the clacking of Hackman’s heels as he walks across a marble floor and, of course, David Shire’s haunting piano score.

Kudos to Coppola and his American Zoetrope Studios for throwing in a handful of new bonus features on the Blu-ray to join the previously issued archival material. Among the fresh finds are a piece where Coppola screens and discusses The Cigar, a 1956 short film that he made as a teen with a 16mm Bolex camera. Young co-stars Harrison Ford (Morning Glory) and Cindy Williams’ (American Graffiti) screen tests are also included and they’re pretty cute, while the photo/video essay comparing the fim’s San Franciso locations from yesteryear with the way they look today is minor.

Most worth a look-see is Coppola’s new interview with composer Shire. The two fondly recall their work on The Conversation, with Shire humorously recalling a post-dinner screening of the film at Coppola’s house wherein everyone who attended fell asleep, including the filmmaker himself. “It’s happened to me more than once,” Coppola sighs.

Their chat finishes with the two singing “Someone’s Got to Clean the Elephant’s House,” an old ditty apparently written by Coppola.

The vintage special features contained on the Blu-ray include commentaries by Coppola and supervising editor/sound designer Walter Murch, featurettes and interviews

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About Laurence

Founder and editor Laurence Lerman saw Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest when he was 13 years old and that’s all it took. He has been writing about film and video for more than a quarter of a century for magazines, anthologies, websites and most recently, Video Business magazine, where he served as the Reviews Editor for 15 years.