You can count the number of memorable basketball movies on one hand. Thankfully, for every piece of dredge like “The Fish that Saved Pittsburgh,” we get something like “Hoosiers.” ESPN ranked it as the #1 sports movie of all time, and it’s tough to argue that call.
Coach Norman Dale (Gene Hackman) has been away from the game for nearly a decade. Brought into a die-hard small town focused squarely on basketball, he takes over the reigns of a small team, changing coaching styles the town has used for years. Facing numerous hurdles, including an alcoholic assistant coach, Dale turns the team into a winner as they make a run for the state championship.
This is one of those ageless movies, likely one you see when you’re younger and never forget. It’s a requirement for any sports fan and it’s a guideline to other directors on how to make films like this work. In fact, it seems like many directors have done just that, copying the style that now seems clichéd and worn out.
Gene Hackman isn’t the most versatile actor in the world, but he fits right in here as the heart of the team. Barbara Hershey seems wasted as a love interest, though the deleted scenes on this new DVD offers up scenes that make her role worthwhile. Dennis Hopper completes the trio as the drunken assistant coach and father, probably one of his best non-villain performances.
The late Jerry Goldsmith makes one of the most important appearances in the film, and he never appears on screen. This is pretty much one of the most inspirational film soundtracks of all time. It should rank right up there with “Rocky.”
Most importantly though, “Hoosiers” is a story of true heart and what it can accomplish. Anyone who has ever picked up a ball and taken a shot can likely relate to the characters, the town, and their will. That’s what the film gets across so well and it’s also the reason it has become a classic. (***** out of *****)
Released in 2000 originally, “Hoosiers” has received a makeover for this special edition. This set is only available in 1.85:1 widescreen. It’s still not perfect, but it’s better than the previous edition. Grain is still really heavy in spots and there remains a small layer over the entire film. Oddly, the last half hour of film seems really clean with hardly anything to complain about.
The colors have been corrected, brought out a little more. In the process, the flesh tones now seem to be tinted orange a bit too much. The print itself contains very little damage, just minor specks. The only compression issues involve the red jerseys of the Milan team. There’s still work to be done, but this is a marked improvement over the non-anamorphic transfer of the original. (***)
The original disc offered a remixed 5.1 track. So does this new release, though neither really sounds all that great. This disc is mixed awfully low and dialogue sounds a little washed out. The stereo channels get a lot of work, but the rear speakers remain relatively silent. You can barely make out any audio coming from them at all, and when you do, it sounds like the same signal being sent to the fronts. It’s a VERY slight improvement. Most people won’t know the difference. (***)
Now that a second disc is included, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out this is best reason for a second purchase. Everything here is new, including a director and writer commentary. Both David Anspaugh and Angela Pizzo are talkative (even with a few lapses). Most importantly though, they’re informative enough to make the track worthwhile. They discuss both the shoot and the how they transferred the real events to the screen.
The necessary documentary, “Hoosier History: The Truth Behind the Legend” is as good as sports movie documentaries get. Focusing more on the real players and events then the film, it’s wonderfully put together. Not only do they feature the real Hoosier players, they even found a player from the opposing Muncie squad. Also included is the current coach of Milan who discusses what (if any) changes have been made in the town. Even Indiana Pacers guard Reggie Miller gets to speak. They don’t come much better than this.
A whopping thirteen deleted scenes have been tossed onto the disc, most of which show how Barbara Hershey’s character had more of a purpose and how her relationship with the coach made more sense. Before each scene (which are in terrible condition by the way), both Anspaugh and Pizzo talk about the reason for the cut. They seem genuinely annoyed about most of them, forced by the studio to trim the film down. One is pretty major, causing a rather glaring continuity error. A photo gallery is the next to last feature.
There’s little question that the inclusion of the ACTUAL game between Milan and Muncie being included is the best extra to ever grace a sports movie DVD. Where they dug this one up is unknown, but finding game film from a high school basketball game from 1954 can’t be an easy task. Granted, it’s not really all that exciting (there’s a long stall at one point), but for true sports fans, it doesn’t get much better. (*****)
You might have read that the nifty embossed case this set comes in can be blown up. That’s not true. Not sure where the rumor started, but it should be blatantly obvious that cardboard doesn’t inflate. Regardless, this set is beautifully packaged, the inner disc housing presenting a gorgeous fold out of that final shot, one of the most memorable moments in sports film history. Based on the packaging alone, this one is worth a purchase. Add in those extras, and you have a must buy.Powered by Sidelines