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Hair (1979) Print E-mail
Thursday, 16 June 2011
Image"Hair" is symbolic of the Vietnam war protest era, and is that era's shining star.  Without a doubt, this film will have a greater impact for those that went through the 60s and 70s.  However, for those of a later generation, you may find this film to be extremely dated.

"Hair" is a 1979 film based on the 1968 Broadway musical.  The musical was later revived in 1977 and again in 2009.  Several adaptations of the musical have also appeared in other theaters around the world.  Given the era it was surprising that "Hair" actually made it onto the Broadway scene given its controversy.

The film version does not reach the caliber of other musicals turned film such as "Fiddler On The Roof," "Cabaret" and "Chicago."  Still, the film offers a nice immortalizing of the era.

Like all Vietnam-way era films, "Hair" is about free love and "make peace not war."  Claude (John Savage) travels from Oklahoma to New York to report for duty.  Arriving early he encounters George (Treat Williams) and his crew, a band that lives free in the city.  George takes Claude under his wing, ultimately trying to show Claude that going to war is wrong.  Still, Claude remains determined to report for duty, and he does so to the very end.

Along his journey Claude meets Sheila (Beverly D'Angelo), a wealthy daughter who is passively rebellious.  She seems to have eyes more for George, which keeps Claude at a distance from the rebel group.
"Hair" is a bit unfocused at times.  However, it does conclude with a surprise that most originally did not see coming.  The film is a testament to war and its effects.  While I can respect the role this film plays in history, I found the film version of the story to be a bit lacking.  For me personally, the musical renditions of this film pale in comparison with the original Broadway cast.  A quick listen to the Broadway cast soundtrack and you will know exactly what I am talking about.  Some of this has to do with the arrangements and some of it has to do with the performances.  Overall, it just lacks that grab factor.  This is also in part due to the fact that not every number in the musical is attention grabbing.  Sure, we all know "Aquarius/Let The Sun Shine In" and "Hair."  But there are numerous bits in between that are stale.

The sad part of this Blu-ray release is the release quality.  For those that are fans of the film I am afraid you are going to be quite disappointed.  This is by far the worst release that I have seen, in overall quality.  It has some redeeming factors, but boy it needs work.  This film has been given absolutely no attention in the restoration or transfer process.  IN fact, I would bet that no restoration went into this Blu-ray at all.  The print used for the transfer appears to be roughly third or fourth generation.  It is in worse condition than a theater's copy, which has been run over and over again.  It is hard for me to imagine the original print is in that poor of condition.  Because of this, the details are not as great as they could be.  They are surely better than the details and textures of the standard DVD release, but they still fail to really impress when watching it on a giant home theater screen.  On a modest 30 or 40-inch HDTV, the details will probably look great.  The largest problem with this release is the rampant noise.  Film grain is one thing, and it is appreciated.  However, it is quite another to leave every mark of print damage on the transfer.  Any print issue you can think of is present here – dust, dirt, scratches, moisture spots, vertical streaking and so much more.  During the opening few minutes in Oklahoma you will be inclined to shut the film off.  Don't be fooled by other reviews that say the problem lessens as the film progresses.  Sure it is not as obvious as the opening sequence, but that is because the opening is washed out and the issues always present themselves more clearly on backdrops that are less convoluted.  The problem persists throughout.  Watching it on a nine-foot screen becomes hard to take.  The redeeming issues here are that black levels are above average and colors seem to be nicely saturated for much of the time.  Inconsistency plagues the transfer.  All the redeeming factors still have moments of being a complete mess.  This video transfer definitely needs work.  However, I fear that it will remain as a barebones catalog release title from MGM.

The audio quality isn't much better than the video transfer.  We are given a lossless DTS-HD MA 5.1 track that needs heavy remastering.  Again, the audio seems to have come from a multi-generational print.  Noise reduction tools have been generously applied to the transfer, for the worse not better.  The noise reduction has sucked the life out of the audio.  The quality is dated to say the least.  As an original 2-channel presentation I can appreciate the original audio quality.  This 5.1 upmix is useless.  The surround channels are empty for the majority of the film, which is fine.  But when it randomly pops in, like with the church reverb effect during the LSD trip sequence, it really throws you for a loop.  The track is largely front heavy.  The best part of the audio track is the stereo separation.  Backup vocals seem to stretch beyond the limits of your speakers.  This should be a 5.0 track as the LFE channel is empty throughout.  Where the track really suffers is in the dynamics.  As mentioned earlier, the noise reduction has sucked the life out of the performance.  The dynamics are gone as well.  Musical numbers are no more powerful than some whispering dialogue.  Zero remastering has gone into the track, as this title requires a good 10dB more power in my theater in comparison with any other title.  I am very disappointed in MGM for their lack of preservation and remastering.

This is a barebones release.  There are zero bonus features.

"Hair" deserves more attention to preservation than this release got.  However, for fans of the film they will appreciate the upgrade to an anamorphic 1.85:1 release.  But beyond that, the release is quite disappointing.  I recommend this as a rent or for true fans.

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