They’re Young…they’re in love…and they kill people.
That’s not exactly a tagline you saw much in the 60’s, but then again “Bonnie and Clyde” wasn’t a very typical movie for that decade. Though somewhat of a failure upon its initial release, the movie caught on and was later nominated for ten Academy Awards including Best Picture (and Estelle Parsons walked away with a Best Supporting Actress statue to boot). Thought to be one of the more influential movies of the 1960’s, it is now looked upon as such. But the thing that is most memorable about the movie is the glorification of violence. I don’t think I’m giving away anything when I say that the ending massacre forever changed the way film violence was perceived and even though Vietnam was in full force, people still didn’t want to see it when they went to the movies. My how things have changed since then. The movie was based upon the real-life duo of Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow (portrayed by Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty respectively), who were depression-era bank robbers in the Southwestern part of the United States. And though the relationship between Bonnie and Clyde was a bit romanticized, what did they do that brought them to such a bloody demise?
Clyde Barrow (Warren Beatty) robs banks. He’s not expecting to run into someone that he’ll fall for, but fate has other plans. He meets up with Bonnie Parker (Faye Dunaway) as he is trying to steal her car. Out of sheer boredom, she decides to join him in his “adventures” and before long, we have a couple more additions that form the “Barrow Gang”. The gang is more interested in the attention they get, and their age shows not only their inexperience, but their arrogance and cockiness as well. The gang isn’t a bunch of cold-blooded killers like the media of the 1920’s makes them out to be (naturally, this is before the age of television and descriptions of the gang vary). They do it more for the experience of it all. Somewhat of “Robin Hoods”, they don’t exactly steal from the rich and give to the poor; but the possess a sort of “Thieves Honor” (most notably when Clyde lets a farmer keep his money when he learns that it’s not the banks money just yet). Bonnie’s family seems to know that she’s living fast and hard and, in a memorable quote, her mother tells her “You live within a mile of me, honey, and you’ll be dead”. It’s this kind of foreshadowing that not only makes the movie better, but sets the stage for the impending final scene as well.
Like many movie couples, regardless if they’re loveable (Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid) or just other versions of Bonnie and Clyde (Thelma and Louise and Mickey and Mallory from “Natural Born Killers” come to mind) they work best as a team. Oddly enough, the movie recounts a bit of history that some of us might not realize. AT the time when Bonnie and Clyde were robbing banks, J. Edgar Hoover was forming the FBI. Seeing as how their robberies led from state to state, each state was sort of a new territory and new jurisdiction for the Barrow gang to conquer. The FBI was relentless in tracking the gang down and was mainly responsible for the execution Barrow and Parker. It’s highly doubtful that the real bank robbers looked anything like Dunaway and Beatty, but even the supporting cast does their best to try and keep up with the leads. Gene Hackman, in an early performance as well as Gene Wilder are standouts here and it would be very soon that both of them were well-established stars in their own right. Whether its the glorification of violence or a landmark in filmmaking, one thing is clear; “Bonnie and Clyde” is still as beloved today as it was at the time of it’s release.
Video: How does it look?
“Bonnie and Clyde” has a rather sordid history in terms of DVD. It was among the first DVD’s released by Warner on the new format (along with some other catalog titles like “Cool Hand Luke”, “GoodFellas” and “The Fugitive”) but Warner thought it was a good idea at the time to release it in a full-frame format. Audiences didn’t like that and it was later re-released in a supposed “anamorphic” transfer that was thought to just be a matted version of the full-frame disc. Lost yet? Anyway, that was ten years ago and thankfully the word “full-frame” isn’t thrown around much anymore. This new version of “Bonnie and Clyde” has been given a full restoration and a brand new VC-1 HD transfer that, quite simply, looks amazing. Color saturation is bumped up significantly and definition is improved as well. When comparing the transfer to the older DVD (yes, I still have it) the previous edition looks dull and dingy compared to this new release. For everything that the DVD was lacking, this Blu-ray makes up for it and then some.
Audio: How does it sound?
Unfortunately the audio isn’t quite up to the standard that the video is, but considering the age of the film it’s understandable. A mono track can only be so good and thought the banjo-strumming soundtrack does have a few moments; it’s a reminder of the age of the film and what we’re capable and not capable of when it comes to a soundtrack. Dialogue, for the most part, is natural though there does seem to be a bit of a hiss associated with some of the scenes. The ending shootout scene is probably the best example of sound in the film, though admittedly it does sound a bit hollow and certainly pales by comparison of today’s films.
Supplements: What are the extras?
Warner has a new line of Blu-ray films that are oriented towards the true collector and evidently “Bonnie and Clyde” is the first of these. The packaging resembles that of a book and the usual clamshell cover is gone. We also get a 24 page booklet with production notes and scenes from the film. A nice touch and fans of the movie are sure to get a kick out of it. As far as the actual supplements go, we get a History Channel special entitled “Love and Death: The True Story of Bonnie and Clyde” which is actually more of a history on the real Bonnie and Clyde as opposed to anything relating to the movie. More intriguing is “Revolution! The Making of Bonnie and Clyde” which has new interviews with some directors and the director of the film, Arthur Penn. At an hour, this gives us plenty of information pertaining to the film and is actually somewhat entertaining in the process. Two deleted scenes are included, though they’re technically awful and don’t offer a lot of insight into the movie. Though I will say that deleted scenes on a movie of this age is a rare find, it’s not like they were thinking that it’d make a good special feature on a DVD one day. Lastly we get the original theatrical trailer as well as a teaser trailer.