• New Centurions, The



    Released by: Twilight Time Releasing
    Released on: March 27th, 2017.
    Director: Richard Fleischer
    Cast: George C. Scott, Stacy Keach, Jane Alexander, Scott Wilson, Rosalind Cash, Erik Estrada, Clifton James
    Year: 1972
    Purchase From Screen Archives

    The Movie:

    Based on former L.A.P.D. officer Joseph Wambaugh’s autobiographical book of the same name, Richard Fleischer’s 1972 adaptation of The New Centurions follows the exploits of three rookie cops: Roy Fehler (Stacy Keach), Gus Plebesly (Scott Wilson), and Sergio Duran (Erik Estrada). They, in turn, are each paired up with a more experience cop. Roy teams up with Andy Kilvinski (George C. Scott) and quickly learns a lot from the experienced officer. Soon enough, he’s decided that he isn’t going to finish his law degree, much to the dismay of his wife, Dorothy (Jane Alexander), who also feels he’s neglecting his family. Shortly after, Roy is shot in the line of duty.

    Gus, who is working alongside Whitey Duncan (Clifton James), and Serge, who replaces Roy as Andy’s partner, quite understandably don’t want to wind up like Roy, who is recovering, albeit slowly, in the hospital. Meanwhile, Andy’s starting to lose his temper. Eventually, Andy faces mandatory retirement and Roy, now healed, joins the vice squad, at which point Dorothy leaves Los Angeles for San Francisco and takes their daughter with her. Roy takes comfort with Lorrie (Rosalind Cash).

    Things go in some interesting and unexpected directions from there, some of those directions quite dark (both literally and figuratively). The film does a good job with character development, fleshing out the three new recruits to the force rather well, grounding them, keeping their very human traits front and center in the picture. The focus is more on Roy than on the other two, which means that Stacey Keach gets a fair bit more screen time than Scott Wilson (who has since gone on to play Herschel on The Walking Dead) and Erik Estrada (immortalized in C.H.I.Ps!). Keach makes the most of this, he plays his part well, with just the right amount of tough guy machismo and, yes, pathos. We don’t necessarily blame his wife for leaving him, though that doesn’t make it any less tragic when it happens, particularly when it ties into Andy’s story.

    George C. Scott is great in his role and very well cast as the surly but fair older officer. He’s been on the force a quarter century, a long time, and his job has taken its toll on him. We hear this in his speeches to Roy and some of the other men. Supporting work from Wilson, Estrada, Cash and Alexander is also pretty strong.

    The movie does tend to occasionally dole out some melodrama, sometimes in fairly hammy doses, but the very human depictions of these cops almost mandates that. Production values are strong, with some really good cinematography by Ralph Woolsey and a great score from Quincy Jones worth mentioning.

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    Twilight Time brings The New Centurions to Blu-ray in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer on a 50GB disc framed at 2.35.1 widescreen, with the feature using up roughly 31GBs of real estate. Overall, the transfer satisfies. Detail is impressive, colors are reproduced very nicely particularly in the daylight scenes, and the film’s grain structure looks nice and natural. The dark scenes – which tend to be very dark in terms of their lighting – show as much detail as they probably can, but obviously some does get lost in the shadows. The image is quite clean, if naturally grainy, while skin tones look lifelike and natural. Contrast seems fine and we get nice depth while the image remains free of obvious compression artifacts, noise reduction and edge enhancement issues. All in all, the picture quality on this disc is pretty strong.

    The English language DTS-HD 2.0 Mono track sounds quite good. Optional English subtitles are provided. There are no problems here, dialogue stays up front in the mix and is always easy to follow while the score and the sound effects are mixed nicely, no issues with the levels. There was no noticeable hiss or distortion noticed during playback – this track is just fine.

    As far as the supplements go, we start off with an audio commentary with Actor Scott Wilson and Film Historian Nick Redman that’s quite interesting. Redman makes a great moderator here, talking to the amiable Wilson about how he landed his part in the film, what it was like working alongside his different co-stars including a heavyweight like George C. Scott, what it was like working under a director like Fleischer and quite a bit more. A second commentary pairs together Film Historians Lee Pfeiffer and Paul Scrabo as they talk up the locations used for the shoot, the source material that inspired the film, Fleischer’s directing, the quality of the acting, the themes that the picture deals with, Jones’ score and quite a few other interesting topics.

    Twilight Time has also provided an isolated score track featuring Quincy Jones’ excellent score. Outside of that we get the film’s original theatrical trailer, menus and chapter selection. Included inside the keepcase is a color insert booklet featuring liner notes from Julie Kirgo that discuss the virtues of the film, discuss its origins and pedigree and tie in a specific scene to her own childhood in New York!

    The Final Word:

    The New Centurions doesn’t quite rank with the best of the 70s cop thrillers that the decade cranked out, but it’s better than average thanks to some strong storytelling and a great cast. Twilight Time’s Blu-ray release looks and sounds very good and the two audio commentaries add a fair bit of value to the supplement department. Recommended.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!