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'Buck and the Preacher' Review: Wow
Sidney Poitier and Harry Belafonte star in a 70s Western that looks terrific on Blu-ray from Criterion, especially when upscaled. But is it family fare?
Now on Blu-ray: Having newly acquired a 4K television earlier this year to go along with my 4K disc player last year, I'm watching as much 4K content as I can afford, which ain't much, which means I am learning that Blu-rays that are upscaled to play on my lovely television can still look absolutely amazing, at least to my uneducated eyes.
Case in point: Buck and the Preacher. Released in movie theaters in 1972 (West Germany and the UK in March, with the U.S. following in late March/early April, followed by other territories in Europe, Asia and Latin America), the Western did not generate great box office receipts at the time, but was recognized later for its accomplishments, as I covered in my Screen Anarchy review last August, when the Criterion Collection released a new Blu-ray edition.
As it happens, that physical disc was the one that "broke" my old Blu-ray player, which gave me a good reason to upgrade to a 4K player, and, has now equipped me to enjoy the four (4) 4K discs in my possession, of which three (3) are review copies kindly supplied by Criterion, and one (1) is The Beastmaster, which I myself purchased when I had a sudden surplus of cash. (Which was quickly flushed away by impulse purchases like that. *sigh*)
I am not a tech person by any means, and so I was bemoaning my "poverty" status as a critical viewer of movies when I realized two things: (1) my newest TV, at 50 inches, is much much bigger than my old 32-inch television, which was only 720p; (2) the disc player, and also the new television, can upscale content from 1080p.
The difference, even to my old, enfeebled eyes, brings the "wow" factor back to my viewing experience when watching films that I've seen before. Frankly, I have neglected my physical media library, but on a bigger screen and in 4K, the upgrade is astonishing.
Watching Buck and the Preacher, for example, is not something I would have done, especially since I just saw it a few months ago. But with my new set-up, I played it again to see if I could discern any differences, thanks for the equipment, and lo and behold, it looks gorgeous: the actors, the landscapes and the costuming all look gorgeous, and the audio sounds much better, the latter courtesy of a newly-acquired Roku speaker to go with the Roku TCL television.
And, as long as I can afford the various fees of various streaming services, I'll by giving priority to family films (and TV shows) that are available in 4K, in addition to whatever I can see on the big screen that fits my format here, primarily entertainment that is targeted toward younger audiences, but which older viewers can enjoy.
Now, Buck and the Preacher may not appear to be "family fare," and was definitely not marketed as a family film. Yet it sets a great example of what Black filmmakers could produce, even within the Hollywood studio system in the early 1970s, stating "'I'm Black and I'm proud' in its own ways," as pinpointed by critic Aisha Harris in her essay, "Unsettled Land," included with the Blu-ray.
The leading characters are motivated by their desire to help a caravan of people who are working to establish themselves within a domineering White society. "Buck is firmly embedded here in the Black community around him," Harris writes. "His altruism serves those people and them alone." See the movie, and then talk about it with your family. [Criterion Collection]