Blu-ray review: “The Osterman Weekend” (1983)

“The Osterman Weekend” (1983)

Action

Running Time: 103 /116 minutes

Written by: Ian Masters based on The Osterman Weekend by Robert Ludlum

Directed by: Sam Peckinpah

Featuring: Rutger Hauer, John Hurt, Craig T. Nelson, Dennis Hopper and Burt Lancaster

Lawrence Fassett: “I know Maxwell Danforth very well; he killed my wife. Not with his bare hands, of course. The Danforths of the world don’t murder that way. They use words like terminate, exterminate.”

Critical Commentary

Released recently on Blu-ray is the last film from legendary Director Sam Peckinpah, “The Osterman Weekend” (1983), on the Imprint label in a special edition which sees both the theatrical and director’s cut for the first time. “The Osterman Weekend” is a political thriller with themes of conspiracy and treachery based on Robert Ludlum’s second novel that features an all-star cast in this story of revenge, paranoia, surveillance, and betrayal.

Lawrence Fassett (John Hurt) is an FBI field agent specially selected by agency head Maxwell Danforth (Burt Lancaster) to convince political TV host John Tanner (Rutger Hauer) to help in capturing a cabal of Russian terrorist sympathizers. Persuading Tanner to cooperate will not be easy. Three of the targets are Tanner’s closest friends—Osterman (Craig T. Nelson), Tremayne (Dennis Hopper), and Cardone (Chris Sarandon)—with whom he vacations once a year. These get-togethers are known as “Osterman weekends.” Incredulous at first that his longtime buddies could be treasonous, Tanner eventually permits Fassett to bug his apartment to catch his friends in a compromising conversation during an upcoming gathering. Events spiral out of control and Tanner finds himself in the middle of a dark, insidious plan of vengeance that endangers lives.

“The Osterman Weekend” was written by Alan Sharp, this screenplay represents something of a middle ground in his career, his best work was directed by strong directors who could shape and tell a story, In normal circumstances this would have been the case here, except that director Peckinpah was not only coming towards the end of his life but this movie was taken from him and edited by producers, something that would not have occurred in the Director’s prime. The movie is listless and is dominated by too much plot, not enough action and far too much exposition by almost everyone in the movie.

Violence overall is not as dominant as Peckinpah’s earlier output and the film lacks energy despite efforts by the cast to enliven it. Female cast members are mostly window dressing, though Meg Foster as Tanner’s wife has a sizable role and, wielding a crossbow, gets to be a crucial part of an important climactic scene. Hopper and Sarandon are wasted in their roles. Only Nelson gets considerable screen time and portrays a well-formed character. Hurt is very good as the manipulative Fassett, whose allegiance is never quite clear. Hauer walks through the role of Tanner, never looking truly involved, even when the character’s wife and child are in peril. He plays the part with a smugness and an air of superiority that distance him from the viewer. We’re supposed to root for him, but Hauer never makes Tanner accessible and vulnerable.

“The Osterman Weekend” cannot sustain suspense, even though danger rears its head as the film progresses. Peckinpah is far from his best, and with a mediocre script, he never elevates the material. It didn’t help that the producers took the film away from him and recut it to their liking, releasing something that, despite the quality of the material, wasn’t quite what he had originally delivered to them. Unfortunately, he’d never get a chance to make another film as he died of heart failure the year after the film’s release.

Technical Commentary

Video

“The Osterman Weekend” was shot by director of photography John Coquillon with Panaflex cameras and Panavision lenses, finished photochemically, and presented in the aspect ratio of 1.85:1. Imprint Films brings the film to Blu-ray in several presentations. An older master has been used for the theatrical version of the film, presented in 1.78:1, while 2K scans of the theatrical version and the newly-rediscovered director’s cut are presented in 1.66:1.

Audio

The audio is presented in English 2.0 Stereo LPCM (theatrical cut) and English Mono LPCM (director’s cut). On both versions, the sound is tinny and echo-y, and dialogue sounds murky. Optional English SDH subtitles are also available.

Special Features

“The Osterman Weekend” is presented in a 2-Disc Region-Free Limited Edition Blu-ray set in a clear amaray case with double-sided artwork featuring the US theatrical poster art signifying the “Theatrical Cut” on the front, and the Spanish and Italian theatrical poster art on the reverse signifying the “Director’s Cut.” Everything is housed within sturdy hardbox packaging featuring the UK and French theatrical poster art. The following bonus materials are included on each disc:

THEATRICAL CUT

Special Features and Technical Specs:

  • 1080p high-definition presentation of the Theatrical Cut in 1.78:1 aspect ratio
  • Alternative unrestored presentation of the film in 1.66:1 aspect ratio scanned from a 35mm German print
  • Audio commentary by film historians Paul Seydor, Garner Simmons, David Weddle, and Nick Redman
  • Alpha to Omega: Exposing “The Osterman Weekend” – feature documentary
  • S. Theatrical Trailer
  • Audio English LPCM 2.0 Stereo
  • Optional Subtitles: English

DIRECTOR’S CUT

Special Features and Technical Specs:

  • 1080p high-definition, unrestored 2k scan newly sourced from Sam Peckinpah’s personal 35mm directors cut negative
  • NEW Audio commentary by Peckinpah expert Mike Siegel
  • NEW Passion & Poetry: Sam’s Final Cut – documentary by Peckinpah expert Mike Siegel
  • NEW The Two Cuts – comparison video by Peckinpah expert Mike Siegel
  • NEW 3 Animated Galleries: Filming “The Osterman Weekend”, “The Osterman Weekend” in Pictures, Promoting “The Osterman Weekend”
  • Aspect Ratio 1.60:1
  • Audio English LPCM Mono
  • Optional Subtitles: English

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