Blu-ray Review: Brewster McCloud

Fresh off the success M*A*S*H, Hollywood gave Robert Altman the freedom to pursue virtually any project he wanted. Never known for his traditional storytelling methods, Brewster McCloud was his strangest yet. A combination of comic frenzy and gross out humor, with a touch of European avant-garde, the head of MGM hated the film and many critics were confused by it. In the 1970’s, Brewster McCloud gained cult status among some film students and Robert Altman always said it was among his favorites.

Brewster (Bud Court, Harold and Maude) is a young man who wants to build wings and fly. A loner, with round glasses and stripped shirts, he hides out in the Houston Astrodome to build his wings. Brewster has a couple of women helping him with his dream to fly; there’s Hope (Jennifer Salt) who is attracted to Brewster and who gives him health food that she steals from the store where she works. Then there’s Louise (Sally Kellerman, The Player), a strange sort of guardian angel with wing scars on her back. She protects Brewster, bathes him, and warns him away from sex. A third woman (Shelley Duvall) romances him. Be mean to Brewster at your own peril: the community’s baddies from Stacy Keach’s gnarled millionaire to Bert Remsen’s loudmouth bigot, keep turning up strangled and decorated with bird droppings following run-ins with him.

Lt. Frank Shaft (Michael Murphy), brought in from California, attempts to solve the murders with the help of a local police officer (John Schuck). Since this is a Robert Altman movie, there are multiple complications and numerous caricatures. As off-balance as most of them are, the characters have no clue they are anything but normal.

Every character involved here is quirky and gets quirkier as the film goes along. I’m sure some viewers will be left wondering what the heck the story is about when it’s over. While I will readily admit that Brewster McCloud isn’t one of the best movies in the Altman filmography, I give the director a lot of credit for going out on such a limb after the massive success of M*A*S*H*.

Anyone who has followed Altman’s career, or has an interest in independent film, should see Brewster McCloud at least once. The movie is uniquely original, and shows Altman’s commitment to the independent spirit, no matter how much mainstream Hollywood success he achieved.

Presented in the 2.40:1 aspect ratio, this new 2K scan marks a vast improvement over the 2010 DVD release. Altman’s frequent use of wide shots shows much more detail throughout. Colors are bright and striking, so much so, the city of Houston almost feels like a character in the film. A fine level of grain gives the proceedings a filmic appearance, only once or twice did it become too apparent. The image itself is free of any print damage or other anomalies. This is easily the best Brewster McCloud has ever looked.

The DTS-HD MA 2.0 track is a solid one. The film has an eclectic soundtrack of songs–from soul, to funk, to acoustic–that move the story along and add to the atmosphere of the film. The clatter and horns of action sequences come through convincingly, while dialogue is clean and clear throughout. Viewers Should be pleased.

English SDH subtitles are included.

The only extra is an Original Trailer.

Movie title: Brewster McCloud (1970)

Director(s): Robert Altman

Actor(s): Bud Cort, Sally Kellerman , Michael Murphy, William Windom , Shelley Duvall, Rene Auberjonois

Genre: Comedy, Fantasy

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