New on 4K Blu: Sam Raimi’s THE QUICK AND THE DEAD (1995)

The ultra-stylish, star-studded Western rides into 4K-Town

Sony/Tristar released The Quick and The Dead on 4K Blu-ray on July 17.

Director Sam Raimi has become nearly synonymous with his two biggest franchises, Evil Dead and Spider-Man, but he has a respectable filmography that has on occasion ventured outside his usual playgrounds of horror and superheroes to deliver some terrific, underappreciated films.

The Quick and the Dead is among the best of these: a stylish, well-crafted, star-studded, action-packed, and hugely entertaining western that’s absolutely ripe for rediscovery.

Sharon Stone leads as the vengeful stranger, “The Lady”, who rides into town to right a heinous wrong — already a subversion of a traditionally male role for the genre. Her reasons are her own, but we soon learn she’s out for the blood of villain John Herod, the land baron who rules the town with an iron fist, played by the great Gene Hackman doing some truly smarmy work.

The Lady finds a pair of unlikely allies in The Kid (Leonardo Dicaprio) and Cort (Russell Crowe). The Kid is Herod’s illegitimate son, eager to prove himself his hardened father’s equal and win his approval, or at least his respect. Cort, on the other hand, is a former member of Herod’s gang who left his life of crime and became a minister, doing mission work — until Herod burned down the mission and dragged him back into town to make an example of what happens to people who cross the boss.

The lady gunslinger joins the death-match dueling tournament that has attracted many gunslingers and shootists with its hefty purse for the winner, providing lots of action for the audience and also allowing for an incredible collection of beloved character actors. The film’s supporting cast includes Keith David, Lance Henriksen, Pat Hingle, Tobin Bell, Roberts Blossom, and Gary Sinise.

That purse, though, belongs to John Herod, who has never lost the contest and has no plans of doing so. As the film’s brackets begin to dwindle, an inevitable constriction may force the best contestants — Cort, The Kid, and The Lady, now friends, to kill each other in order to survive to the final round and face Herod.

While The Lady is the protagonist, she’s also the mysterious figure of vengeance — it’s her friends that give the film its heart. The boyish DiCaprio is both rascally yet sympathetic as the hotshot kid who really just wants approval from the father who denies him.

But my favorite character is definitely Cort, the preacher who fights only because he’s forced into the contest against his will. At one point, he says to The Lady in reference to his crimes, “I’m already damned, I know that. Don’t go down that road. You don’t have to become like me”. But when she moves to kill, he tells her, “There’s always forgiveness if you ask for it”. A subtle flash of recognition lights his countenance as he realizes it’s the truth that can also set him free. It’s a great moment of remarkable depth in a vengeful story that is, at least on the surface, about people trying to shoot each other.

Raimi’s modern sensibilities and flair for unusual, kinetic camera work and imagery are on display here. Montages, quick zooms, interesting viewpoints. Every shoot-out — and there are several — is shot differently, and while the film isn’t gory, Raimi delivers attention to his gunshots in memorably explosive and even darkly humorous ways.

The Quick and the Dead isn’t an obvious choice to make the jump for 4K, but it suits it beautifully. The 1995 film is full of texture and grit, and is a showcase for both craggly veteran actors, and rising stars looking younger than we’re used to seeing them. A phenomenal presentation for a marvelous film.

The Package

The Quick and the Dead arrives on 4K Blu-ray from Sony Pictures, an upgrade over the previous Blu-ray not only in terms of presentation but with some minimal bonus content as well. Unlike most 4K releases that get a “movie only” 4K disc and have features relegated to Blu-ray, The Quick and the Dead is sort of the reverse. The existing Blu-ray disc was a barebones affair, but the new 4K disc includes some minimal extras.

The Blu-ray disc simply the existing release, complete with 2009-era ads and trailers.

The package is pretty standard, with the usual home video artwork for his title. My copy included a glossy slipcover.

Special Features and Extras — 4K Disc

  • Deleted Scenes
  • Theatrical Trailer

Special Features and Extras — Blu-ray Disc

Not much for features, the Blu-ray includes BD Live “movieIQ” and a number of trailers and ads. The trailers include A River Runs Through It (2:36), Rudo Y Cursi (1:52), Sky Crawlers (1:08), Sugar (2:05), and Tyson (2:10).

A/V Out.

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Except where noted, all 16:9 screen images in this review are direct captures from the Blu-ray disc (not the 4K version) with no editing applied, but may have compression or resizing inherent to file formats and Medium’s image system.

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