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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » The Day of the Jackal (Blu-ray)
The Day of the Jackal (Blu-ray)
Arrow Video // PG // September 25, 2018 // Region A
List Price: $39.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Jesse Skeen | posted September 15, 2018 | E-mail the Author
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Based on Frederick Forsyth's fictional story about real persons and organizations, 1973's The Day of the Jackal arrives in the US on Blu-Ray from Arrow in a Region A edition that appears to be identical to the Region B disc released in the UK a few months ago. The story takes place in 1963 and concerns a fictional plot to assassinate the real-life president of France, Charles de Gaulle by an extremist group called the OAS, which also actually existed. After one failed attempt which results in several OAS members being arrested and executed, the remaining members decide to search for an outsider to carry out the task- someone who has never even been in France before and will be harder for the authorities to track and identify. Their man, played by Edward Fox, hails from England and has performed a few other jobs successfully- he gives his name as "The Jackal."

From this point, the movie rotates between the viewpoints of the Jackal as he carries out his mission, the OAS members who are hiding out in Rome, and the French intelligence agencies who work nonstop to thwart the plot despite having very little information to go on. The tone gives the viewer equal opportunity to root for both sides- while the Jackal is obviously the "bad guy" here, you can't help but admire his smartness and determination. Early on he searches a graveyard to find a suitable identity to steal, that of someone who died at the age of two. He uses that name on his phony IDs and passport, and pretty much gets away with it in the time before computer-based records existed. He runs into a few obstacles, but seems to have a back-up plan for each one that lets him get by smoothly. Keeping in touch with an anonymous OAS source by phone, he finds out that the authorities have identified the white car he's been driving. No problem- he simply drives to an isolated area and paints it blue. He even finds time to attract and seduce an aristocratic woman at a hotel he stays at, fleeing before authorities show up there to look for him. Certainly a memorable anti-hero.

The viewer can still feel sympathy for the "good guys" of law enforcement who get equal amounts of screen time as they know about the plot to kill de Gaulle but not so much of the who and where. Detective Claude Lebel (Michael Lonsdale) is one of the primary elements, who works literally around the clock with inspector Caron (Derek Jacobi) to uncover clues. One problem is that the entire investigation is ordered to be kept secret so that the public doesn't know about the assassination plot or the efforts to stop it, and de Gaulle himself simply refuses to let it disrupt his business and carries on with all of his planned public appearances and such. Both sides must also deal with the possibility of infiltrators as well- one OAS member (Olga Georges-Picot) finds it easy to become the mistress of Colonel St. Clair (Barrie Ingham) who then shares far too much information with her, which she then relays to the Jackal and helps him keep one step ahead.

This is one of those films that runs a bit long (at about 2 hours 20 minutes) but hardly drags, keeping the viewer in suspense as long as they're able to suspend disbelief about both the history of the actual persons and places, and the likeliness of a real-life Jackal. One would at least hope that today's technology would make things a bit more difficult now. Director Fred Zinnemann had quite a varied filmography, including the classic Western High Noon- the build-up of events in this story is similar to that, but the settings and situations couldn't be more different.

Picture, Sound and Subtitles:

Picture is transferred at the proper 1.85 ratio. In many shots (though not any that I've taken stills from here) there is some noticeable black edging in from the right-hand side from the camera's aperture plate. This was quite common on many 35mm prints and varied based on how theater screens and projectors were set up, video transfers often zoom in to hide these occurrences but controversially I prefer them to be left as is. Color is intentionally muted a bit and overall picture is clean and detailed without any obvious digital tinkering.

The mono sound mix is presented in 1-channel PCM, with acceptable but not spectacular quality, sounding just a bit muddy as optical sound often does. Hearing impaired subtitles are included.

Extras:

The main extra here is a 36-minute piece "In the Marksman's Eye" featuring Neil Sinyard, author of many film-related books including one on Zinnemann- he talks at length both about the novel this movie was based on as well as the director's other work. Zinnemann himself appears in two short filmed segments that were shot during the movie's production in France, and the movie's theatrical trailer (in 4x3, appearing to be upscaled from a standard-def transfer) is also included.

With major-label releases increasingly including fewer to zero printed inserts, it's always a pleasure when a disc includes substantial liner notes as Arrow usually does. An essay by Mark Cunliffe describes how Forsyth's novel came to be and also how director Zinnemann became attached to the movie after having production on another movie abruptly cancelled. Another by Sheldon Hall is about how the movie's producer and director were upset when Britain's ITV network showed the movie with a few edits for time. As one who always insists on watching a completely unedited presentation of any movie and never watched US network airings as those were routinely butchered, this was quite interesting- the cuts in this case only came to about 3 minutes and were done for time rather than content, but the cuts described certainly would have affected the pacing. It's noted that TV edits are generally accepted as a necessary evil by most filmmakers but they prefer to at least have some sort of say in what is cut.

Final Thoughts:

The Day of the Jackal hasn't been represented too well on video before, with Universal's only DVD release being a featureless non-anamorphic presentation. Arrow delivers a great presentation here along with some substantial extras.

Jesse Skeen is a life-long obsessive media collector (with an unhealthy preoccupation with obsolete and failed formats) and former theater film projectionist. He enjoys watching movies and strives for presenting them perfectly, but lacks the talent to make his own.

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