Plot: What’s it about?
The realm of professional football might seem simple and glamorous, but as the North Dallas Bulls more than prove, that isn’t always the case. At the top of the chain of command is owner Conrad Hunter (Steve Forrest), who wants a championship for his team, no matter what it takes. He has all the money you could need, but then again, I suppose money can’t purchase it all, can it? Then we have the head coach, B.A. Strothers (G.D. Spradlin) and his team of players, all of whom have their own quirks, desires, and problems. Seth Maxwell (Mac Davis) is the carefree quarterback, who loves throwing touchdown passes, but worries more about women and the after game parties. The other players also have their own unique personas, but the man in the focus here is Phillip Elliot (Nick Nolte), an over the hill wide reciever who longs for the spotlight once again. He usually rides the bench these days and as a result, his eyes have wandered and when meets a special woman, he is taken further away from the field, which of course, doesn’t make his teammates and supervisors too happy. In a world filled with broken bones, loose women, concussions, crushed dreams, and faded glories, what will become of this middle aged player?
If you’re a fan of sports driven flicks like Slap Shot or The Longest Yard, then chances are, you’ll like this movie, North Dallas Forty. Much like those other pictures, this one is infused with comedic moments, but also touches on more serious issues, though never in heavy handed fashion. The cast inclues Nick Nolte, Mac Davis, Charles Durning, Bo Svenson, and Dabney Coleman, all of whom seem in fine enough form here. I especially love Nolte’s performance, as he seems as though he has been run over by a truck, as well as looking the part. I have to say, this is a rather dark look into the realm of professional football, but there is enough humor laced in to keep things under control. So don’t expect a totally serious football picture, but don’t expect a slapstick farce either, this one is placed somewhere in the middle of the spectrum. The basic points made here still hold up well also, even if the film does seem dated at times. I recommend this film to all those interested, but since Paramount has issued a mediocre disc, I think a rental will suffice in all cases.
His work has been inconsistent at times, but I still think Nick Nolte is a strong performer and one I always look for in films. This was an early feature film role for Nolte, but he shows all the signs of his future success, as he really takes this part head on. His character is a worn down and beaten man, which Nolte nails in both looks and performance. You can see how tired and frustrated he is, which enhances the impact of his character by endless amounts. Nolte ensures the character’s pain is evident, both mental and physical, which also adds a lot to the part. In the end, I consider this to be one of Nolte’s better works, as even back then, he showed he had what it took to make it in this business. Other films with Nolte include The Prince of Tides, The Thin Red Line, Mother Night, Lorenzo’s Oil, Blue Chips, and Affliction. The rest of the cast here includes Charles Durning (One Fine Day, Solarbabies), Bo Svenson (Gold of the Amazon Women, Speed 2: Cruise Control), Mac Davis (Angel’s Dance, The Sting II), Dayle Haddon (Bedroom Eyes, Bullets Over Broadway), and Dabney Coleman (You’ve Got Mail, Dragnet).
Video: How does it look?
North Dallas Forty is presented in a 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. This is a solid transfer overall, but not as sharp and rich as you’d expect, as we’ve seen a lot better than this. I know this film has some years behind it, but if studios can issues films from the 1950s in almost pristine form, you’d think this one would look better than this. I will praise this release for the clean source print used and very effective black levels, but other than those elements, this one is all downhill. The image looks very soft from start to finish, which means colors seem fuzzy at times and very faded. Since this film uses a lot of oranges and other bright hues, this means bad news and in the end, this one ranks as an average effort at best. I wasn’t expecting a miracle here, but this seems like a real rush job by Paramount.
Audio: How does it sound?
This disc contains a new Dolby Digital 5.1 remix and a restored mono track, with the latter being the choice you should make here. The mono has some flaws at times, but is not as thin and hollow as the new remix, which forces surround sound at all times. The musical score sounds decent, but all the other elements seem very forced and the track doesn’t sound natural in the least. As I said, the mono option is by no means perfect, but it is an improvement over the terrible 5.1 remix, which is a real disgrace. This disc also includes English subtitles and if you use the 5.1 choice, chances are that you’ll need them.
Supplements: What are the extras?
I almost shudder when I remember that Paramount has the rights to some of the greatest films in cinema history. And while North Dallas Forty isn’t one of them, it pains me to see how little effort Paramount is willing to put into their discs. This disc has a mediocre, although anamorphic transfer and no supplements in the least, with a twenty-five dollar price ticket. In a market where full fledged special editions go for under twenty bucks, Paramount needs to move forward or license out their titles, so someone can do them justice. I don’t expect a load of extras here, but a trailer would be nice or with most of the cast still alive, some sort of commentary or featurette. But alas, Paramount includes nothing and as an extra slap in the face, issues the bare bones disc at only a small discount from their normal steep prices. No thanks, Paramount.