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Chinatown (Special Collector's Edition) - suspense DVD review
CHINATOWN (SPECIAL COLLECTOR'S EDITION) rated R by the Motion Picture Association of America rating: 5 stars
Actors: Jack Nicholson, Faye Dunaway, John Huston, Perry Lopez, Diane Ladd
Director: Roman Polanski   Studio: Paramount Home Video
DVD release: 06 November 2007   Runtime: 2 hrs. 10 min. (1 disc)
Format: Color, Dolby, DVD-Video, Widescreen, NTSC
DVD features: Audio tracks (5.1 Surround, Dolby Digital, Mono, Restored Mono), English Subtitled, French Dubbed & Subtitled, Portuguese Dubbed & Subtitled, Spanish Dubbed & Subtitled, Featurettes ("Chinatown: The Beginning and The End," "Chinatown: Filming," "Chinatown: The Legacy"), Theatrical Trailer

In Roman Polanski's classic Chinatown, Jack Nicholson plays J.J. Gittes, a hard-boiled private dick who's made a nice living on "matrimonial work" (catching cheating spouses). He's got two investigators and a secretary working for him. He seems to be doing well. That's when she walks in. She says she's Evilyn Mulwray (Diane Ladd) and she thinks her husband Hollis (Darrell Zwerling) is cheating on her. He tells her to forget it and go home if she loves him. She doesn't bite, so Gittes hits the bricks. He finds more than he was looking for. Shortly after getting some suggestive photos of the guy with another dame, he discovers that the woman who hired him isn't really Mrs. Mulwray. Gittes can't stand being the chump, so he investigates, see? The real Mrs. Mulwray (Faye Dunaway) hires Gittes because her husband has gone missing. A short time after that, Mr. Mulwray is found dead.

Each clue leads Gittes to a deeper mystery about the water department. See, Hollis Mulwray was a pretty big cheese down at the water department. A man is found drowned in a dry riverbed. What's Mrs. Mulwray hiding? Gittes seems to be getting to the bottom of things, then she clams up.

The film gives us a feeling for the L.A. of the late 1930s but doesn't go nuts with the clichés as it might have. Polanski shows us what seems to be an accurate portrait of the times. The color isn't desaturated to make it look more of the period; indeed, Polanski fought with producer Robert Evans over this issue.

This Special Collector's Edition includes several featurettes in which writer Robert Towne, Roman Polanski, Robert Evans, and Jack Nicholson reminisce upon the details of the film and its making, even revealing the true nature of some of the on-set conflicts.

Chinatown is a superb film noir that doesn't quite look like one. It's held up over the years and is worth having in your collection. It is followed by The Two Jakes, also written by Robert Towne but directed by Jack Nicholson. It's worth catching so see how Jake Gittes has come along, and what happened to those orange groves.
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reviewed by Eric Renshaw
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