Three Days of the Condor - 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray [French Import]Overview -
Robert Redford headlines Sydney Pollack’s tightly wound paranoia thriller Three Days of the Condor. Based on the novel by James Grady, a CIA annalist codename: Condor is on the run after his section is exterminated and must use his wits and special brand of spycraft to unravel the mystery. 45 years later this pitch-perfect thriller still packs a punch. StudioCanal has given the film a fitting upgrade to 4K UHD with a newly restored - possibly controversial - native 4K Dolby Vision transfer and solid audio including the original stereo mix. Fans tired of waiting for a domestic release may well want to consider importing this classic from France or Germany. Recommended
Read our original 1080p Blu-ray Review
[Note] HDR could not be applied for the comparison video or for the example screenshots and serve as an approximation of the viewing experience.
A bookish CIA researcher finds all his co-workers dead, and must outwit those responsible until he figures out who he can really trust.
Storyline: Our Reviewer's Take
Joe Turner (Robert Redford) works for the CIA. He's not an international spy but instead leads a relatively boring life reading books. With a mind like an iron trap, he reads books from around the world looking for clues and hidden communications. On any typical normal day, Turner takes the basement back exit to save time grabbing lunch for the office. On this particular day when he returns to discover everyone has been executed. On the run with no one to trust, Turner must use his particular brand of spycraft to figure out who hired the assassins and why.
The 1970s was a damn good decade for paranoid thrillers. The Parallax View, All The President’s Men, Marathon Man, The Odessa File - this review could quickly devolve into just being a list of the best 1970s thrillers if I’m not careful. Just writing that I realized I forgot The Conversation! People were amped up living in a post-Vietnam, waining cold war world that was steeped in the Watergate scandal. It seemed people couldn’t trust the government or even their best friends anymore. The thrillers of this era exploited that heightened tension perfectly.
Three Days of the Condor may not be the very best of the pack, but it’s a strong contender in my view. Based on the novel Six Days of the Condor by James Grady, the film is a little loose with location, some of the characters, and certain plot motivations, and arguably for the better. Overall, Sydney Pollack did a hell of a job directing a tight tense thriller from an adaptation by Lorenzo Semple Jr. and David Rayfiel. They took the best pieces of the book that worked and put a new spin on them and charged forward. Unfortunately, they also took one of the weakest elements from the book along for the ride.
I have nothing against Faye Dunaway or her performance as Kathy Hale, the would-be recruit into Turner’s plans and love interest. She does great with the material she’s given - it’s just the character as a whole isn’t that convincing. It’s a problem with the book and it's still a bumpy patch in the film. In the book, she’s a Washington D.C. paralegal going on a staycation, in the movie she’s a random gal about to go on a ski trip while stuck in a rocky relationship. In both the movie and the book she’s essentially thrown in for sex appeal. She does get to do stuff to “help” but Kathy is without a doubt the clunkiest piece of this otherwise perfectly executed puzzle.
One particular piece I love with this adaptation is that they took the action out of the heavily politicized world of Washington D.C. and moved it into everyday New York City. There’s something about the action taking place in the nation’s Capitol that makes it feel more obvious and less surprising. But in New York City, you don’t expect a group of armed professional assassins to take out a seemingly innocent brownstone office. It makes it feel like the reach of the intelligence community is more vast and this sort of thing could happen anywhere.
Through it all, Redford delivers another great “everyman” performance as Joe Turner. He’s smart and clever but within the CIA he’s a relative nobody. But he’s a shrewd man of action. He’s capable with a gun, but he uses his brain first. He makes a plan and puts it into play. Next on the cast highlight list is Max von Sydow in an often chilling understated role as the worldly assassin Joubert. Even if I don’t like her character, I’ll again give credit to Faye Dunaway for what she did with the role. Cliff Robertson, Addison Powel, and John Houseman round out the great cast.
It may deviate from the original source novel, but Three Days of the Condor is a slick thriller. I never read James Grady’s sequel novel, nor have I watched the television series. This original movie is just too good. I never felt like it needed a follow-up after that final frame and the idea of an updated contemporary version casting Turner as an “idealist millennial working from the inside” just didn’t appeal. I’ve heard good things and maybe one day I’ll give it a shot, but it’s not a high priority. Especially when I could just watch the original again.
Vital Disc Stats: The 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray
Three Days of the Condor arrives on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray in a two-disc 4K UHD + Blu-ray SteelBook set - that’s exclusive at the moment to France and Germany from StudioCanal. The opening menu gives you language options in German or French - thankfully the menu structure isn’t too complicated and you can figure out each submenu without much fuss. The included 1080p Blu-ray is region B locked so if you’re outside of the EU you need a region-free drive or player.
Three Days of the Condor tackles UHD Blu-ray with a 2160p 2.35:1 native 4K Dolby Vision HDR transfer (HDR10 is included of course) that offers numerous improvements. Compared to the old Paramount Blu-ray, the improvement in texture and facial details is almost immediate. During the opening credits when Tina Chen’s Janice is “scanning” a book into the computer, the code on the pages and the decoded printout is clearer than before. Film grain also has a much more natural texture. The old Paramount disc could be pretty noisy during some sequences, especially lowlight scenes and that isn’t as much of an issue here. There’s no sign of any DNR and any hints of edge enhancement employed in previous releases are gone. I didn’t detect any kind of compression artifacts either.
Now what may be a point of contention for some folks is that this transfer is much more blue/green toned - but has not popped up oranges to that ghastly orange/teal spectrum. This color shift adds some deeper shadows and is more fitting of the cold late fall early winter vibe of the film - but it’s a lot of blue/green. Comparatively, the old Paramount Blu-ray was brightened quite a bit and black levels suffered while reds were a bit too strong making everyone look peachy. That’s been mitigated here and offers a very natural look. In my way back youth, I got to see an archival print of Three Days of the Condor projected and this new transfer is damn close to that, but a bit more blue than ideal. I remember that print really working the darker gray tones in ways past home video releases never hit and this new transfer is close but again the blue is a little too pronounced at times. You don’t immediately notice it, whites are still crisp and primaries for all of the Christmas festivities still pop beautifully. Just compared to the coloring of the old Blu-ray and DVDs, I think some will be quite surprised and put off by it.
Even with a bluer cast to the image, Dolby Vision does its work. Again this is drab gray/brown 70s stylings so it’s not an overly attractive film, to begin with, but there are some wonderful color highlights in the holiday lighting and decorations. The briefing room with the red/orange walls is a great example of this color scheme of the era. Forgive my random nerd-out moment here, but this scene is also a highlight for clarity - after dozens of viewings I never before noticed Myron Natwick star of one of my favorite MST3k episodes The Dead Talk Back was sitting right next to John Houseman! Skin tones are natural, that peachy red/orange tone of the old Blu-ray is scaled back for this release. Whites are well balanced without any serious blooming that wasn’t already present. Black levels are deep and inky with a more stable appearance without crush issues seen in past releases. This may not be a film that screams “I need this in 4K!” but it offers several welcome upgrades over the previous Blu-ray releases. However, that blue/green tone is a little more than necessary as such I'm knocking a full star off of what would have been a near-perfect score.
In another welcome addition to this disc, we get the DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix that was available previously, but now we can also enjoy the LPCM 2.0 audio track as well. While the 5.1 mix is decent and adds some atmosphere - especially during the opening rain-drenched sequences, I didn’t feel it was necessary. The front/center channels carried most of the load anyway. To that point, I tip my hat to the 2.0 track. You still get some great atmosphere and mood without it sounding quite so stretched and thin. Dialog is clean and clear throughout without issue and David Grusin’s 70s funk score slips in and out nicely. French and German audio tracks are available, likewise English, French, and Germain subtitles. However - if you access the film through the German or French submenu when the title comes up, a French or German language subtitle also pops up. Not a big deal, it goes away and it never comes up again, just something to be aware of.
Supplements are a bit on the thin side, you get the great Sydney Pollack audio commentary - it’s a great listen so give it your time. That’s on both the 4K disc and the standard 1080p Blu-ray. The last real bonus feature of the set is a retrospective of 70s paranoia thrillers. Unfortunately, it’s mostly in French with only French or German subtitles. Sadly my understanding of those languages is minimal and I couldn’t delve into that piece. But, if you know those languages you’re all set!
- Audio Commentary featuring director Sydney Pollack
- Le Cinema Paranoiaque des Annees 70 (HD 18:59)
After waiting for some kind of word that Three Days of the Condor 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray would make its way to the UK or get a U.S. domestic release, I gave up and imported the French/German SteelBook. I wasn’t disappointed. One of my favorite paranoia thrillers of the 70s, it’s a film that I come back to on a regular basis. It’s just a damn good movie and I never get tired of it.
StudioCanal delivers Three Days of the Condor to 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray. The new native 4K Dolby Vision transfer may slide into the blue spectrum, and some may be put off by that but it does offer notable improvements in clarity, detail, with great black levels and balanced contrast. Toss in dealer’s choice for either DTS-HD MA 5.1 or LPCM 2.0 audio along with Sydney Pollack’s great audio commentary and you have a hell of a disc. Now importing may be a bit of a pain in the backside, but it’s a solid release. Without any sign of a release on our shores, it’s a safe one to import for the collection. Recommended
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