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Ragtime Blu-ray Review

“Ragtime” is a thematically rich but flawed movie. 

Directed by Milos Forman (best known for classics like “One Flew Over A Cuckoo’s Nest” and “Amadeus”), 1981’s “Ragtime” is an adaptation of E.L. Doctorow’s novel. Summing up the sprawling ensemble drama is a bit of a task, but essentially it’s a turn-of-the-century American/New York story that focuses on interconnected storylines involving a feud between a billionaire (Harry Kendall Thaw) and an architect (Stanford White) over a statue made of Harry’s wife Evelyn, a family who has a fireworks business (namely Father, Mother and Younger Brother- these are their credited names), a successful pianist (Coalhouse Walker Jr.) who seeks justice against racist firefighters, Coalhouse’s wife (Sarah) and child and a broke artist (Tateh) with a daughter who really turns his life around. 

Even if one hasn’t read the novel, it’s clear by watching this movie that the book was simply too big to adapt. Not only does the film feel a bit choppy at times (particularly with scene transitions and arcs that sort of disappear or happen like Younger Brother’s infatuation with Evelyn or Mother’s quick romance with Tateh), but it feels like significant elements are simply missing. Perhaps the story would have worked better as a miniseries (it was later turned into a musical actually). Whatever the case may be, Milos Forman and writer Michael Weller still manage to create a lavish and deep spectacle about justice, injustice, romance, race, change, vengeance, and America. It’s a big budget period piece (the type that would never be made today for the cinemas) filled with grand costumes, a superb Randy Newman score, sets, crowd scenes, set pieces, horse and buggies, old automobiles, snaps shots of the time period (ala politics and Harry Houdini’s stunts), the works. It’s a lot of movie to say the least, but one worth the time if you’re patient enough to invest in it. 

As mentioned above, “Ragtime” is an ensemble piece and what a cast it has. Expect to see Brad Dourif, James Cagney, Mary Steenburgen, James Olson, Elizabeth McGovern, Mandy Patinkin, Robert Joy, Norman Mailer, Donald O’Connor, Howard Rollins, Pat O’Brien and even small parts by would be stars like John Ratzenberger, Jeff Daniels, Samuel L. Jackson, among others. There’s a real mixture of Hollywood icons and newer talent here. Highlights include Elizabeth McGovern (who earned an Oscar nomination), James Cagney (in his final film role), and James Olson (as Father).

Note: This set includes the 155 minute theatrical cut and an extended 174 minute unrated director’s cut workprint.

Video/Audio:

Presentation: 2.39:1 1080p. How does it look? This Paramount Presents clean disc contains a nice restoration of the theatrical although there are some noticeable flaws (ala flickering scenes). The workprint cut is pretty much as is as there’s grainy scenes and a lack of color correction. It’s more of a curiosity for film fans.

Audio Track: Dolby TrueHD 5.1 and 2.0 track for the workprint. How does it sound? The 5.1 track is stellar while the 2.0 track is admirable.

Extras:
* Digital copy
* 17 minutes of deleted and extended scenes (new material).
* A new interview titled “Ragtime Revisited: A Conversation With Larry Karaszewski And Screenwriter Michael Weller On Ragtime.”
* A deleted scene (from the archival extras).
* “Remembering Ragtime”- Another archival retrospective featurette featuring interviews, stills, film clips, and discussions about the themes and production. 

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January 23, 2023 - Posted by | Blu-Ray review | , , , , ,

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