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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » Scarecrow (1973) (Blu-ray)
Scarecrow (1973) (Blu-ray)
Warner Archives // R // October 31, 2017 // Region A
List Price: $21.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Randy Miller III | posted October 24, 2017 | E-mail the Author

Somewhat forgotten among its stars' better-known works during the 1970s, Jerry Schatzberg's Scarecrow (1973) features Gene Hackman and Al Pacino in standout leading performances that carry this minor but emotionally moving production. It's a small film peppered with big moments, and ones that threaten to get lost in the shuffle as its two main characters shuffle recklessly toward a shared destination. Said characters are Max Millan (Hackman) and Francis "Lion" Delbucci (Pacino); one's a brutish, outspoken ex-con with dreams of opening a car wash in Pittsburgh, while the other is a clownish ex-sailor hoping to see his estranged wife and their child in Detroit. Both cities are a long way from the California road they meet on, and Max convinces Lion to be his business partner after they stop at Detroit together.

Of course, their journey doesn't prove to be an easy one, nor do their intended destinations turn out as they'd planned. Like all self-respecting road movies, a lot of colorful characters are met along the way and, considering Max and Lion's very different temperaments and ways of interacting with people, this leads to no shortage of ups and downs along the way. Highlights of their trip include a short stay with Max's junk-collecting sister Coley (Dorothy Tristan) and her partner Frenchy (Ann Wedgeworth, Three's Company), several weeks at a prison farm, at least two brutal beatings and, most importantly, a crucial role reversal that shows how much opposites often tend to rub off on one another. The ending isn't necessarily a happy one, but it's a natural fit for the film's carefree, unpredictable atmosphere.

I'll be honest, though, and admit that Scarecrow's success lives and dies upon the effectiveness of its two leads. There's a bare minimum of plot here and several landmarks on their journey don't pull much weight, occasionally threatening to derail the film's momentum during its somewhat padded 112-minute running time. There are obvious similarities to earlier films like Midnight Cowboy and Easy Rider, not to mention others released less than a year later like The Last Detail and Wim Wenders' Alice in the Cities; all are much more interesting from a storytelling standpoint, although the strength of Hackman and Pacino's performances shouldn't be ignored either. These are unforgettable characters stuck in a somewhat forgettable film, which makes Scarecrow worth watching for different reasons than expected. I'd certainly recommend it for fans of the cast, and less so for casual admirers of this specific but well-represented genre.

Last released on home video more than a decade ago, Warner Bros.' 2005 DVD served up a decent A/V presentation and two short extras. Warner Archives' new Blu-ray offers an expectedly better transfer, lossless audio, and the same extras as before...but it's been long enough that I'd imagine die-hard fans will appreciate the upgrade. Still, the lack of an audio commentary or interviews was missed the first time around, and it's even more disappointing now.

Warner Archives' Blu-ray represents a huge leap in quality over their parent company's 2005 DVD; as expected, the new 2.35:1, 1080p transfer provides an upgrade in every category. Image detail, textures, and color reproduction are much improved overall, with minimal dirt and print damage along the way. It's also encoded well with no flagrant digital issues, serving up a pleasing film-like image that's most likely close to (or better than) original theatrical showings. The only less-than-impressive moments are during scenes shot indoors or at night, though this drop in image detail is likely due to the source material and not a problem with the restored transfer. Quite simply, Scarecrow looks right in line with most well-preserved films from this decade, with all the pronounced film grain and earth tones you'd expect.


DISCLAIMER: The promotional stills and photos on this page are decorative and do not represent the title under review.

The audio is presented in its original DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 split mono mix, with a moderate amount of depth on many occasions. Dialogue and background effects are well-balanced and don't fight for attention, with plenty of room left over for the music cues. Still, this is an almost completely dialogue-driven film, so keep your expectations in check and you'll be fine. Optional English SDH subtitles are included, again in Warner Archives' unappealing ALL CAPS format.

Warner Archives' standard interface (virtually identical to the 2005 DVD) is clean, simple, and easy to navigate. Separate options are included for subtitle setup and bonus features; no chapter selection screen is offered, but there are 29 in all. This one-disc release is packaged in a standard blue keepcase with poster-themed artwork and no inserts of any kind.

Extras are limited to the film's no-nonsense Theatrical Trailer (2 minutes) and the short production featurette "On The Road With Scarecrow" (5 minutes); both of these were originally included on Warner Bros.' 2005 DVD and no new bonus features have been created for this Blu-ray, which is Warner Archives' standard practice.

Scarecrow is a small, intimate, and character-driven film featuring two top actors that appear in just about every scene together. It's got sharp dialogue, plenty of drama, a little bit of comedy, and a subtle role reversal that makes me miss the era in which films like this were much more commonplace. I'll admit that Scarecrow takes a bit more time than necessary to get going and could've been trimmed by an easy 15-20 minutes, but those in it for the performances might find such moments easier to overlook. Warner Archives' new Blu-ray gives the film a much-needed A/V boost, as well as the same meager extras from their parent company's 2005 DVD. Recommended for fans and newcomers.


Randy Miller III is an affable office monkey by day and film reviewer by night. He also does freelance design work, teaches art classes, and runs a website or two. In his limited free time, Randy also enjoys slacking off, juggling HD DVDs, and writing in third person.
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