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Chinatown (4K UHD Review)

REVIEW OVERVIEW

The Film
The Video
HDR Effect
The Audio
The Supplements
Overall

SUMMARY

A private detective in 1930s Los Angeles is hired to expose a man's adultery and gets caught up in a web of high-level corruption.

Estimated reading time: 7 minutes

Chinatown is famed director Roman Polanski’s 1974 reconstruction of the detective/mystery film noir stories of 1930s and 40s. Starring Jack Nicholson as slick hipster private investigator J.J. Gittes and Faye Dunaway as the femme fatale, Evelyn Mulwray, who will lead Gittes down the rabbit hole into a seemingly bottomless investigation tied up in politics, big business, and the local water supply, Chinatown’s glamorous 1930s depression-era façade masks the undercurrent of 1970s American malaise in a post-Summer of Love, post-Watergate hangover headed into economic recession. That the power of one man (Gittes) is helpless against the corruption of corporate avarice and the political juggernaut might have seemed a new concept, but placing the scarred Gittes (having already been assaulted by a knife wielding thug slicing his nose) in a 1930s backdrop offers the story an even more weighted, and hopeless appeal.

Also of note and adding to the film’s glitz and atmosphere are the lush score by Jerry Goldsmith, the vintage style opening credits, lavish set design by Richard Sylbert and beautiful cinematography of John A. Alonzo.

Purchase Chinatown on 4K Ultra HD on Amazon.com

  • Jack Nicholson and Faye Dunaway in Chinatown (1974)
  • John Huston and Jack Nicholson in Chinatown (1974)
  • Jack Nicholson in Chinatown (1974)
  • Jack Nicholson and Faye Dunaway in Chinatown (1974)
  • Faye Dunaway in Chinatown (1974)
  • Jack Nicholson in Chinatown (1974)
  • Chinatown 4K Ultra HD (Paramount)
  • Chinatown 4K Ultra HD (Paramount)
  • Chinatown 4K Ultra HD (Paramount)

The Video

Paramount has brought Chinatown to 4K Ultra HD that has obviously been grain suppressed in keeping with what we typically see from Paramount, but there is plenty of detail preserved and a very fine layer of grain retained. This is no Aliens or True Lies AI hack job here. The 2.35:1 HEVC 2160p (4K UHD) Dolby Vision encodement is clean, detailed, and looks natural. There is a good, thin layer of grain that never becomes overwhelming, deep blacks, and natural flesh tones. A wide level of contrast and good sense of shadow detail and white levels defines the overall imagery that offers great pop on my G3 OLED display. The Dolby Vision grading is subtle, not gimmicky, so the colors are not overly vibrant nor overly bright, but the colors look nuanced and ultimately enticing, with lavender and azure in the skies, and so on.

The Audio

The 4K release of Chinatown comes with the same audio that the 2012 Blu-ray release came from. Traditionalists get a wonderfully restored lossless version of the original monaural soundtrack in Dolby TrueHD 2.0 that is clean, full, and absent of clipping and hiss. For those who want a more expansive sound experience, there is the still wonderful Dolby TrueHD 5.1. It has wide stereo panning, wide dynamics and lots of ambience that one can really hear when gunshots ring throughout each channel. It also presents the excellent Jerry Goldsmith score with a lot of breath and air.

The Supplements

There is only one new featurette included on the 4K disc of Chinatown, the A State of Mind interview with author Sam Wasson. All the other extras were opreviously released on the 2012 Blu-ray, but are still interesting for anyone who does not own this film on home video. An interesting feature on here shows writer Robert Towne visiting the film’s featured aqueduct for the very first time. Outside of the that, the audio commentary offers the best insight into the film, though most of the standard definition featurettes offer brief interviews with Polanski as well. Paramount also includes a barebones Blu-ray of The Two Jakes, the 1990 sequel to Chinatown, directed by Nicholson.

Bonus Features:

  • Paramount Presents release packaged in slipcover with new artwork and foldout of original poster art, insert with key film stills.
  • Commentary by Screenwriter Robert Towne with David Fincher
  • A State of Mind: Author Sam Wasson on Chinatown (1080p; 00:15:57) (NEW)
  • Chinatown Memories (1080p; 00:05:43)
  • The Trilogy That Never Was (1080p; 000:02:07)
  • Water and Power (1080p; 01:17:45):
    • The Aqueduct
    • The Aftermath
    • The River & Beyond
  • Chinatown: An Appreciation (1080p; 00:26:13)
  • Chinatown: The Beginning and the End (1080p/60; 00:19:26)
  • Chinatown: Filming (1080p/60; 00:25:33)
  • Chinatown: The Legacy (1080p/60; 00:09:36)
  • Theatrical Trailer (1080p; 00:03:17)

The Final Assessment

One of the classics of ’70s cinema, Chinatown features Jack Nicholson on one of his iconic roles and brilliant direction from Roman Polanski. The film still holds up as a paragon of neo-noir and Paramount presents the film in a solid 4K release.


Chinatown + The Two Jakes is out on 4K UltraHD June 18, 2024, from Paramount Home Entertainment.

Purchase Chinatown on 4K Ultra HD on Amazon.com


  • Rating Certificate: R
  • Studios & Distributors: Paramount Pictures | Penthouse Video | Long Road Productions | Robert Evans Company | Paramount Home Entertainment
  • Director: Roman Polanski
  • Written By: Robert Towne | Roman Polanski
  • Run Time: 130 Mins.
  • Street Date: 3 April 2012
  • Aspect Ratio:2.35:1
  • Video Format: HEVC 2160p (4K UHD)
  • HDR Format: Dolby Vision (HDR10 Compatible)
  • HDR10 Metadata:
    • MaxLL: 1269 nits
    • MaxFALL: 52 nits
    • Max. Luminance: 4000 nits
    • Min. Luminance: 0.0050 nits
  • Primary Audio: English Dolby TrueHD 5.1
  • Secondary Audio: English Restored Mono DD 2.0 | German Mono DD | Spanish (Castilian) Mono DD | French Mono DD | Italian Mono DD
  • Subtitles: English | English SDH | Danish | German | Spanish (Castilian) | French | Italian | Japanese | Korean | Dutch | Norwegian | Finnish | Swedish

 

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A private detective in 1930s Los Angeles is hired to expose a man's adultery and gets caught up in a web of high-level corruption.Chinatown (4K UHD Review)