Southern Comfort

Walter Hill's thriller finally arrives on Blu-ray - and it was worth waiting for

For a period during the late 1970s and early '80s, everything director Walter Hill touched turned to solid gold. The Driver, The Warriors, The Long Riders, 48 Hrs and Streets of Fire sandwich 1981's Southern Comfort to complete a triumphant run of movies that marked him out as one of Hollywood's greats. Then he made Brewster's Millions and everything went downhill.

Anyway, this flick, about a squad of the Louisiana National Guard facing off against some angry Cajun locals, has lost none of its impact some thirty years on – it's a tight, atmospheric, dirty thriller with a masterful score from Ry Cooder, built around superb performances from Fred Ward, Powers Boothe and David Carradine.

Picture: At last you can throw away your 4:3 DVD – the movie is presented here in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio, and looks pretty good. The AVC-encoded 1080p image is striking at times, with plenty of detail, for instance, in Fred Ward's craggy face. And, while much of the film is a constant collage of swamp green and mud brown, the brightly coloured clothing of the Cajun villagers in the final scene has a pop that just wasn't there on previous releases.

The image does have its flaws, though. For one reason or another, there a couple of establishing shots that are obviously soft, and it isn't entirely free of print damage. But we're happy to take the rough with the smooth for a low-budget film this old.
Picture rating: 3/5

Audio: Southern Comfort's Blu-ray debut is marred a tad by its lacklustre audio. While purists may be happy with its dual-mono LPCM mix, there are shortcomings with the way the original audio was captured that still irritate – primarily the later scenes where the characters' splashings in the shallow swamps are relentlessly harsh on the ears. Similarly, certain elements are crying out for low-end extension, particularly the sequence where the trapper's house is blown to bits. On the plus side, the film's brilliant dialogue is sufficiently weighty and Cooder's sumptuous bluegrass score has probably never sounded better.
Audio rating: 2.5/5

Extras: Distributor Second Sight earns credit for not simply releasing this cult movie on a bare-bones disc, although we're sure it was tempted. Instead, it's gone to the effort of securing a new 44-minute interview with Walter Hill, where the veteran filmmaker recalls much of the production process, from casting to scoring – even going as far as explaining to us dim-witted Europeans what the National Guard is. Definitely worth a visit.
Extras rating: 2/5

We say: A decent hi-def outing for a 1980s genre classic

Second Sight, All-region BD, £25 Approx, On sale now