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Blu-ray Review

DVD cover

Salvador (1986)
(Blu-Ray & DVD Dual Format)


Starring: James Woods, Jim Belushi, Michael Murphy, John Savage, Elpidia Carrillo and Cindy Gibb
Distributor: Eureka Entertainment
RRP: £17.99 (Blu-Ray & DVD Dual Format)
Certificate: 18
Release Date: 17 September 2018

Washed up, alcoholic and living on past glories, Richard Boyle is looking for the next scam which will take him back to the top of his profession as a photojournalist. When his wife leaves him, he is sprung from jail by his equally washed up friend, Dr Rock. The two head down to Salvador where a civil war is in progress….

Salvador (1986. 2 hrs, 02 min, 44 sec) is a political drama, directed by Oliver Stone, from a script he co-wrote with Richard Boyle. The film was nominated for numerous awards, but in an odd turn of fate it was also in contention with another Stone film, Platoon, which often beat Salvador in the running’s.

As a highly political film maker, you may be mistaken in thinking that Salvador is a polemic against America's intervention in that country and the huge amount of money that they poured in, in support of a government who was killing its own people. Even the murder of a priest and three nuns did little to change the support of the American government. Well, there is some of this, but it’s almost presented as part of the background of the film.

Instead what you get is a character study of two failures on their last chance at some sort of meaning in their lives. In fact, the film has more in common with Hunter S. Thompson’s, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1971) and it may be no coincidence that the two characters head towards Salvador in a haze of booze and drink. Other links to the two works is that the lead in both are journalists and their stoner companion has the title of Dr.

So, they travel down, expecting the usual war scene, only to find that they may have walked into the middle of something they are not equipped to handle. Their first experience is being arrested by the military, witnessing a mindless murder of a young man. As the film unfolds it juxtaposes Boyle's reconnection with his Salvadorian girlfriend and his child and the slow reveal that this is a war of the Salvadorian government against its own people, a war of stupendous brutality.

James Woods (Boyle) gives what is certainly one of the best performances of his career, presenting his character as a louche, self-centred jerk who discovers his own humanity during the events he is witness to. Likewise, Jim Belushi, as Dr Rock goes through an equally important transformation, finding love in the strangest place.

The Blu-ray is presented with an aspect ratio of 1.85:1, the same as the original film. The menu allows you to play the film with either an English: LPCM 2.0 or English: DTS-HD MA 5.1 as well as an option for SDH subtitles.

You get a full-length commentary from Stone, where he comments about both the film and film making. It’s Stone so it’s worth a listen. You can also play the film with an interview with Stone from 1986.

On the extra side you get Stone at the BFI (42 min, 13 sec) which is an extensive interview with Stone about his film career. Into the Valley of Death (1 hr, 02 min, 52 sec) a documentary on the making of the film with lots of contributions from the cast and crew. Although it looks like it was lifted from a VHS, the content is still worth watching.

There are deleted and extended scenes (27 min, 48 sec) which are a nice addition but adds little to the final film, the quality is variable at best. Lastly you have the US Theatrical Trailer (1 min, 59 sec).

It’s not a comedy, but likewise, it does not go as far as an outright condemnation of the US interference in another country. Boyle does deliver a couple of speeches as if to remind us that this is not cool, but then the film switches back to him being a narcissistic arsehole, which kind of diminishes the message.


Charles Packer

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