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Blu-ray Review

DVD cover

The Shawshank Redemption


Starring: Morgan Freeman and Tim Robbins
RRP: £19.99
Certificate: 15
Available 29 September 2008

Andy Dufresne is sent to Shawshank Prison for murdering his wife and her lover, but as he gets to know a life-term prisoner named Red over the years he slowly opens up, claiming to be innocent of the crimes he's been locked up for. Andy's calm, quiet exterior hides a great reserve of patience and fortitude, and Red comes to admire this mild-mannered man who first struck him as weak and unfit for prison life...

The Shawshank Redemption follows the incarceration for double murder of a young banker called Andy Dufresne. For two decades we live with Andy from his first night, until his last in Shawshank Prison. Whilst in prison he slowly befriends Ellis Boyd "Red" Redding and his gang, who are known for smuggling in contraband to the prison. His financial knowledge also brings him to the attention of the prison guards, and finally the crooked prison warden who want him to help them with their financial issues. Red has just about given up, but Andy keeps holding on to hope - hope that the real killer will be found and he will once again be a free man.

First things first. If you bought the Special Edition 3-disc DVD release, that was issued in 2004 to celebrate the movie's 10th anniversary, then you'll already own all the features that this Blu-ray disc has to offer. In fact there are a few minor extras not included on the Blu-ray release (Memorable Quotes and Biographies).

I find myself, once again, moaning about the inability of disc producers to construct easy to decipher menus when it comes to Blu-ray. Why do they insist on making the writing so tiny as to be almost unreadable on all but the largest TV screens? Watching this on a 42" screen was still a bit of a chore when it came to reading the titles of the extras. This is made all the more difficult because the font used for the text is supposed to look like prison scrawl. So... I was relieved to discover that what appeared to say "Audio Commentary with French B*stard" (I kid you not) actually said "Audio Commentary with Frank Darabont".

Extras include Audio Commentary with Frank Darabont; New Theatrical Trailer (2 min, 05 sec); Original Theatrical Trailer (2 min, 16 sec); Original Location Footage (9 min, 23 sec featurette which starts off with cast and crew interviews and then cuts to location footage. A little strange really as it felt more like two separate featurettes); Hope Springs Eternal: A Look Back at The Shawshank Redemption (31 min retrospective making of featurette. It was interesting to hear that the original cut of the movie ended with Red on the bus and that the production company Castle Rock asked Darabont to tack on the ending on the beach. It's also worth watching after the credits, as there's an amusing segment with Williams Sadler); Shawshank the Redeeming Feature (40 mins featurette that is hosted by the very annoying Mark Kermode. He talks utter hogwash and his attempt to talk about the movie's release as though it were a prison inmate is pathetic (not clever nor intelligent as he tries to make it appear). However, we do get a walk though of the Mansfield Reformatory were some of the movie was shot, as well as interviews with a former warden and couple of inmates - who confirm that the first night was indeed the worst and was similar to how it was shown on film. There's also a scary section that takes to a religious group where they find the religious symbolism hidden within - proof, if any is needed, that too many people with too much time on their hands will see things to fit their belief system in anything - they conveniently ignore the rape of Andy); The Charlie Rose Show (42 min, 19 sec 2003 US broadcast which features Darabont, Freeman and Robbins. At times Rose sounds like he hasn't got a clue what he's talking about, but the three guests give some interesting answers); Stills Gallery; Shawshank Redemptions Storyboards (5 min, 25 sec); and interviews (segments of which were used in some of the other featurettes on this disc) with Tim Robbins (27 min, 21 sec); Morgan Freeman (20 min, 54 sec); Bob Gunton (37 min, 45 sec); William Sadler (32 min, 24 sec); and Clancy Brown (15 min, 41 sec. It was interesting to hear him claim he messed up the audition as he had to deliver nasty dialogue to a young girl who was the casting director, and he couldn't do it).

The audio commentary is also worth delving into a little more. Here the director talks about why the movie's title was changed from the original Stephen King novella title of Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption. There's also a couple of interesting stories about people wanting to be in the movie - including a transsexual and an agent who obviously hadn't read the script. There's also a great story about how they weren't allowed to feed a live maggot, which they'd bought at a bait shop, to the crow in the film. Apparently they could only feed it a dead one - that had died from natural causes. He also points out the cameo appearances of Morgan Freeman's son and a warden of the Ohio State Reformatory who plays a con on the bus. Darabont also tells us why you'll never see any deleted scenes. They were left out for a good reason and he doesn't want people to see something that sucks. He also points out that Stephen King gave him grief about how ridiculously round the tunnel is. And finally he has a little fun at those people who try to find hidden symbolism that was never intentional. The reason that Red is in a red truck towards the end of the movie is not because the colour red symbolises freedom as well as reflecting the name of the character, but because it was the cheapest and best looking truck they could find for the job.

Because all of this content has been available before, I'm torn on how to review this package. While this is a fantastic film, if you already own this on DVD there's very little point in picking it up again on Blu-ray. It's not like trading in your VHS version for the DVD release. Still, assuming you don't already own this, this is a must own movie.


Darren Rea

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