A dreamy fairy tale about a psychotic killer and his teenage girlfriend, Badlands features two fine performances (Martin Sheen, Sissy Spacek) and a compelling story. Spacek's matter-of-fact narration and Sheen's modest charm draw you into a drama that appears to unfold spontaneously. Writer/director Terence Malick made a radical departure into more visual storytelling with his next feature, Days of Heaven. Because Days of Heaven is so dependent upon those visual components, Jeffrey Wells at Hollywood Elsewhere has sounded the alarm that Criterion's upcoming re-issue of the film on DVD will look "really different" than the previous version.

Wells pointed to a blog entry by Criterion's Lee Kline in which Kline described the process involved. A new film interpositive was needed for the transfer; Malick initially wanted Kline to "simply match the existing transfer because he'd always liked it," but finally agreed to be present for the color-correction process. Once there, he "made it clear that the new transfer needed to feel natural and not too 'postcardlike.' ... The natural beauty of the land needed to be represented, since that was what they were going for when shooting. ... I told Terry that people were really going to be pretty surprised by this new transfer, since it was such a radical departure from before, but he said it was perfect."

Wells relates that he saw the film in 70mm in 1978 and "no viewings since have ever come close in terms of basic visual grandeur." In response to a reader's comment, he writes that Kline's alarm "was almost certainly due to Malick naturalizing the look by making sure the visual values were in no way heightened or warmed-up or made to look 'too pretty.' ... The Criterion Days of Heaven may be perfectly fine, but something tells me it's going to look much better on high-def with a perfect plasma screen than on, say, my Sony flat-screen or other tube screens owned by Regular Joes."
categories Features, Cinematical