Plot: What’s it about?
When Gale Sayers (Billy Dee Williams) becomes the new running back for the Chicago Bears, so soon makes friends with an unlikely person in the form of Brian Piccolo (James Caan), the man who is competing with Sayers for the same position. The two have little in common since Piccolo is white and Sayers is black, Sayers is a star player and Piccolo an overachiever, but they develop a strong relationship almost right away. Before long the two are the very best of friends as well as roommates and team chemistry rises because of it. Soon Sayers finds himself off the field with a serious knee injury and his view on things is negative, but Piccolo makes sure he keeps Sayers on the positive side of things. Piccolo stays with Sayers through every step of recovery and motivates him to heal all the way and be just as strong as ever. And when Sayers makes a total recovery, Piccolo isn’t surprised in the least. Just as Sayers gets back on track, Piccolo finds himself in serious danger when he is diagnosed with lung cancer. As he battles his disease, Sayers remains by his side just as Piccolo had done for him when he was in need.
I’d never seen this movie before, but due to the praise I had heard and awards the film had won I knew it would be worth checking out for this review. This was a made for television movie that took home several Emmy awards including Outstanding Single Program, as well as many other awards from other organizations. I’ve now seen the film of course and I believe it deserved all those awards and many more, as I loved it and consider it to be the best made for television movie I’ve ever seen. The performances and writing create one powerful movie, but the fact that the story is real adds so much impact to whole package. The way Billy Dee Williams and James Caan bring the relationship of their characters to life is amazing and I feel is one of the best displays of chemistry you’re going to find in a movie. Add in a terrific supporting cast, solid direction, and a fantastic musical score and you’ve got one excellent overall movie. While made for television movies often little attention when release on home video, Columbia/Tristar has done an excellent job with this disc and included some nice supplements. I recommend this release as a rental to those who haven’t seen it before, but fans will want to own this wonderful film to enjoy again and again.
This film was directed by Buzz Kulik, who has many other television projects under his belt also. His experience is evident in this movie and I feel this is without a doubt his most powerful film. The visuals look excellent and the Emmy award for Outstanding Cinematography is a testament to that. The approach is simple, but effective and uses a very personal style to make this story reach its full potential. If you want to check out more of Kulik’s television movies I recommend The Yellow Canary, Never Con A Killer, Kill Me If You Can, Pioneer Woman, and A Storm In Summer. Billy Dee Williams and James Caan handle the lead roles well and never seem to miss a step in their performances. Williams (The Empire Strikes Back, Batman) is often overlooked, but here he delivers an excellent turn in all respects. Caan (Mickey Blue Eyes, Misery) gives his usual strong performance and the two display some terrific chemistry throughout the movie. The supporting cast also includes Jack Warden (Dirty Work, Problem Child), Shelley Fabares (Tv’s Coach), Bernie Casey (Under Siege, Spies Like Us), and David Huddleston (Frantic, The Big Lebowski).
Video: How does it look?
Brian’s Song is presented in a full frame transfer, which retains the original aspect ratio of the film. This was a made for television picture so the image isn’t as sharp as major motion pictures, but it does look much better than you’d expect from this type of release. The source prints has some age signs, but looks very good and compression errors are minimal. The colors look bold and vivid, with no smears and flesh tones appear natural and warm. The contrast is sharp also, with deep shadows and no visible detail loss.
Audio: How does it sound?
This release uses the original mono soundtrack which offers an adequate experience, since this is a dialogue driven picture. The musical score is spectacular and in this mix it sounds good, though a full surround track would make it even better. The sound effects are minor and infrequent, so the mono format takes care of them well with minimal problems to report. The dialogue takes center stage here and it comes across crisp and with no errors. The volume is consistent and the mix seems right on target.
Supplements: What are the extras?
This release has been packed with some nice bonus features, including an audio commentary track with actors James Caan and Billy Dee Williams. This track has some slow spots, but on the whole offers some insight into the production that fans will be sure to appreciate. A ten minute featurette has also been included, which contains Gale Sayers remembering stories from his playing days and his relationship with Piccolo. This adds even more meaning to the feature, since we can now hear Sayers ourselves as he tells us the story. Some bonus trailers, talent files, and production notes round out the extras.