The New Centurions (1972) Blu-ray Review: Blue Lives Shatter

Twilight Time books a classic, slow burning cop drama starring George C. Scott and Stacy Keach.
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Columbia Pictures' The New Centurions was filmed and released during a particularly interesting era: a time when the lives and actions of police officers was present in just about every form of media, be they negative, positive, or somewhere in-between. In the instance of this 1972 cop drama, we find ourselves planted directly in the epicenter of the two, where moments of lighthearted comedy can give way to heartbreaking tragedy at any moment. The film was adapted for the screen by the prolific Stirling Silliphant (Village of the Damned, The Killer Elite), as taken from former law enforcement officer and author Joseph Wambaugh's first novel of the same name.

Set in LA, The New Centurions brings us the lives of several rookie cops and their veteran partners. Leading the pack of newbs is Mike Hammer himself, Stacy Keach (Fat City), who is joined by greenhorn cops Scott Wilson (Lolly-Madonna XXX) and future CHiPs icon Erik Estrada. Representing the PD's AARP faction are two actors who could not be better suited for the job: George C. Scott (The Hospital) and Clifton James (the dumb hick cop from Roger Moore's first two 007 films). Also starring in this drama from (The Boston Strangler) director Richard Fleischer are Jane Alexander, James Sikking, and the lovely Rosalind Cash (The Omega Man, Hickey & Boggs).

Its relatively plotless tale simultaneously fascinating and excruciating to watch unfold before your eyes, The New Centurions primarily focuses on George C. Scott and Stacy Keach's characters. Both Scott's veteran patrolman Andy Kilvinski and Keach's eager Roy Fehler are highly attached to their chosen professions. On the streets, the two are in particularly fine form when they're together, each possessing a unique way of dealing with the various trials and tribulations the job send their way. (A lengthy scene where the pair charm a paddy wagon full of ebony escorts ‒ one of whom is played by The Jefferson's Isabel Sanford, of all people ‒ is without a doubt one of the greatest things ever filmed, especially once George C. Scott gets his soul on.)

Alas, their personal lives grow increasingly bleak; an unjust payback for putting too much in too often. Ultimately, their devotion to duty will be prove to be their undoing: Kilvinski finds it impossible to adjust to civilian life upon his forced retirement, Fehler discovers difficulty in keeping up appearances on the job. It's depressing, yes, but Fleischer handles Silliphant's script with just enough flair to keep your interest. It isn't high art, by any means, but anyone with a yen for '70s cop tales (or at least '70s music and fashions) will surely enjoy their time spent here. William Atherton (Die Hard) and Ed Lauter (Death Wish 3) appear as police, while Otis Day, Anne Ramsey, and cult/porn actress Kitten Natividad pop up (and out, in the case of the latter) in uncredited cameos.

Previously released on DVD by Sony in 2008 as part of their limited Martini Movies line-up (note: I strongly do not recommended consuming a liquid depressant such as alcohol while viewing this motion picture), The New Centurions returns to home video once more thanks to Twilight Time. Presented in an MPEG-4 AVC 1080p codec, the film is framed in its widescreen 2.35:1 theatrical aspect ratio, and the transfer is pretty darn flawless throughout. A DTS-HD MA 2.0 Mono soundtrack is included, as are removable English (SDH) subtitles. The bulk of Twilight Time's special features for this release lie in the audio department, beginning with two commentaries (one with actor Scott Wilson and TT's Nick Redman; the other from historians Lee Pfeiffer and Paul Scrabo).

Next up is the isolated (and, I should point out, delightfully funky) score by the one and only Quincy Jones, which is followed by the film's original theatrical trailer. Liner notes by film historian Julie Kirgo are also included for this Limited Edition release. Sadly, there are no additional special features to be found on this disc (the UK Blu-ray has plenty of supplements, including a Super 8mm version which I would have loved to see), unlike Twilight Time's release of The Seven-Ups. That said, the inclusion of Twilight Time's three exclusive audio tracks should suffice, as should the availability of this title, as it is limited to only 3,000 copies while supplies last. After that, this one will be about as easy to find as a cop as great as George C. Scott's Andy Kilvinski, so don't miss out.

Book it.

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