The Right Stuff is an epic drama covering the early years of the U.S. space program through to the Mercury program. Adapted from a book by Tom Wolfe, the film won four Oscars and stars Dennis Quaid, Ed Harris, Scott Glenn, Babara Hershey and Sam Shepard. Though the film was a commercial failure, grossing only 21 million dollars on a budget of 27, it is on many top ten lists for 1983.
The film is due for Blu-ray release later this year – I thought’d I’d have give the iTunes HD download a quick review to see if it might be a better choice.
The film had a bumpy path from the pages of Tom Wolfe’s book to the screen. Initially famed screen writer William Goldman was tasked with adapting it, and produced a draft that focused primarily on the space program, but director Philip Kaufman didn’t like it, so ended up writing his own script. Kaufman’s script expanded the scope of the project to include Chuck Yaeger’s pre-space program work breaking the sound barrier.
Financing fell through several times before the Ladd Company (that also co-produced Blade Runner) stepped in with 17 million dollars.
After the initial disappointing box-office run, the film was re-released after winning four Oscars, but even then only grossed an extra 1.6 million dollars. The unexpected failure of the film is often credited with the breakdown of the relationship between the Ladd Company and Warner Brothers.
In my opinion, The Right Stuff is ultimately a ambitious failure, primarily because it tries to tell too big a story. The space program itself (as Goldman suggested) would have been a sufficient focus, but casting the net wider results in too much material. The HBO mini-series ‘From Earth to the Moon’, would do a much better job of re-telling much of the same material over 12 one hour episodes, but trying to cram it into a film results in something over three hours long, that is still forced to cut corners.
The Right Stuff on iTunes
Unfortunately it’s not good news. It looks like some kind of temporal noise reduction has been applied to the image, which results in smearing of low contrast edges during motion. Grain is also somewhat absent due to the effect of the noise reduction. Colors on the other hand appear natural. We’ll have to see what the Blu-ray does to the picture, but there is plenty of room for improvement here.
The iTunes presentation of The Right Stuff is a 7.47 gb file with the standard iTunes bit-rate of 5 Mbps, with a few peaks that reach as high as 12.7 Mbps. Two audio tracks are included, a Stereo AAC track and a Dolby Digital 5.1 track. Based on meta-data in the stream, I believe the stream was created in 2008.
Poor: 2/5. Sometimes The Right Stuff iTunes HD download looks better than the DVD, especially where the noise reduction has least opportunity to mess with the image, but the noise reduction does too much damage to scenes with motion or panning to recommend it.
iTunes 1080p Screenshots
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