When I wrote my review of the DVD, I groused that the “remastered in high definition” made you wonder where the Blu-ray was. Paramount has remedied that situation with the release of this classic modern noir onto the format. I guess they’ll only remind you to “Forget it. It’s Chinatown” if you complain about waiting so long.
In the mid-1930s, Los Angeles private eye Jake Gittes (Jack Nicholson) is hired by Evelyn Mulwray (Diane Ladd) to watch her husband Hollis (Darrell Zwerling) who she suspects is having an affair. Hollis works at the city of Los Angeles Water and Power and Jake trails Mulwray until he gets some seemingly incriminating photographs. He gives them to Mrs. Mulwray and the pictures make their way into the papers.
The following day the real Mrs. Mulwray (Faye Dunaway) shows up and serves Jake with a lawsuit for publishing false information. Jake is not one to be taken advantage of and seeks out the fake Mrs. Mulwray to restore his sullied reputation as a private eye. Jake uncovers a conspiracy that runs all the way up to Noah Cross (John Huston), the former owner of the water department, which was in private hands at first.
Cross, Evelyn’s father, was opposed to selling Water and Power to the city but was convinced by his son-in-law, Mulwray, to do so because the people should own the water. More vile doings are afoot and they all come to a head in Chinatown.
Chinatown is a classic of the genre and features fantastic, iconic performances from Nicholson, Dunaway, and a chilling turn by Huston. It’s a serpentine mystery that features a genuinely shocking resolution that takes place in the streets of the much mentioned Chinatown. It is a place that barely figures in the climax but has become shorthand for mystery as well as dark tragedy.
The film has become a legendary one and with the pedigree, performances, writing, and all elements hitting things squarely on target. It’s all presented in a delicious transfer that maybe should’ve come to the format when the centennial edition DVD came out, but it still shines not matter the wait.
Chinatown is presented in a 1080p high definition transfer (2.35:1).
Special features, all included in standard definition except one, include a commentary with screenwriter Robert Towne and film admirer director David Fincher, the 77 minute “Water and Power” is hosted by Robert Towne but it’s only tangentially about the film and really concerns the brining of both water and power, both electrical and control, to Los Angeles, the 26 minute “Chinatown: an Appreciation” in which several Hollywood names detail their love for the film, the 19 minute “Chinatown: the Beginning and the End,” the 25 minute “Chinatown: The Filming” (25 minutes), and the 9 minute “Chinatown: The Legacy” include interviews with Polanski (in Paris at the time), Nicholson, Towne, and producer Robert Evans and the 3 minute theatrical trailer (the only feature in high def).
Chinatown is a timeless classic and shows everyone involved on the top of their games. The transfer looks fantastic even though it took a bit to finally arrive. The special features feature nothing new but they do offer an appreciation of this classic film.
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