A 4K restoration of a beloved classic film can be very risky business. Disney is without a doubt the worst offender and you can head to Disney+ for the proof, with so many titles seemingly just put through generic upscaling software solely so they could have enough Ultra-High Definition (UHD) content at launch of the service. Others, like Sony, put a lot more care into their restorations, with Groundhog Day and Ghostbusters being among the best restorations to date. Thankfully, Sony was the distributor of Rudy, being released on 4K Blu-ray on November 14th.
Rudy is the biographical story of how Daniel “Rudy” Ruttiger overcame the odds of being one of the only walk-ons to play in a game in Notre Dame football history. The film spans the first quarter of his life from adolescent to the climactic game where he gets to actually play.
This new 4K set includes two discs: one a 4K Blu-ray and the other a regular Blu-ray with has seemingly endless special features. The actual packaging is absolutely gorgeous, utilizing an orange color palette reminiscent of a sunset and the autumn season most of the film is set in (NOTE: the final packaging isn’t reflected in the header image above). The 1st disc includes the remastered film along with a new director’s cut, with the director’s cut having an optional commentary by the director and screenwriter. Rudy is among my most beloved films of all time, and I’ve watched it over a dozen times, which made me particularly sensitive to any differences in the picture and sound quality or new scenes added in the director’s cut.
The commentary was fun to listen to with director David Anspaugh and screenwriter Angelo Pizzo. Per usual for film commentaries, they dropped many insights and anecdotes that a fan of the film would heartily devour. It also highlights how filmmakers are very human and that their art can easily transcend their original intent.
There is debate about whether film “grain” should be removed when doing a 4K restoration. Film decays over time and if the restoration uses the original negatives, there is no way to escape it without digitally removing it. Removing it digitally can make a film seem shiny and new, but that process can also betray the filmmakers’ intentions. The Star Wars upgrades seem to have removed any remnants of the grain, whereas something like the Superman the Movie 4K leaves all the grain in. And because they used the original negatives for Rudy instead of just beefing up the Blu-ray version (which some say is a bit over-processed) they obviously decided to leave in the grain. Which is probably a good thing in that it reminds us of the time period it’s set in rather than a film released in 1993.
The restoration also seems to upgrade the sound and in particular the score. Many consider the score for Rudy to be composer Jerry Goldsmith’s finest or even the best sports film score of all time, and it’s hard to argue with either of those propositions. There were things in the score that I had never heard before in watching the film and it was positively thrilling to experience enhancements to one of the best soundtracks of all time.
Something to keep in mind is that how enhanced the experience is will greatly depend on an individual’s setup (i.e. TV, sound, Blu-ray player). At a bare minimum I recommend a TV and Blu-ray player that both support Dolby Vision for any 4K content; I tried to watch it on a PlayStation 5, and it just wasn’t even close to the same experience as it was on a proper Sony 4K Blu-ray player that supports Dolby Vision.
THE BOTTOM LINE
The 4K Restoration of Rudy is pretty great. It’s not over-processed yet it still is enhanced in all the right ways (particularly the score). It’s a very worthy addition to a person’s physical 4K collection.