The Harder They Come Collector's Edition

Doug Collette By

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Jimmy Cliff
The Harder They Come Collector's Edition
Shout! Factory

With the inclusion of six hours of bonus content in addition to its initial release in high-definition, The Harder They Come in its Collector's Edition may be even more enlightening on a cultural level now than it was when originally released in 1972. Yet the plethora of interviews, technical documentaries, film trailers, etc. can't wholly remove the exotic mystery inherent in director Perry Henzell's interweaving of narrative and cinema verite starring Jimmy Cliff. Therein, the squalor of Kingston Jamaica contrasts sharply with its glorious natural beauty, a distinction as well-wrought as the one between the ingenuous idealism of the main character Ivan and the corruption permeating the record business and various levels of government including especially the police.

"Sitting in Limbo" isn't the first virtual music video that appears in this immaculately-restored version of this groundbreaking film, but it is the point where it occurs how the clarity of the audio matches that of the video in this near half-century old film. Those virtues also reappear in the second Perry Henzell film in the package, the recently rediscovered and remastered, No Place Like Home; every bit the carefully-crafted piece of cinema realism as its predecessor, it is also equally redolent of the authentic island atmosphere as the primary source of clashes within its plot line.

A veritable film festival unto itself with its near-eight hours plus total running time, The Harder They Come Collector's Edition reaffirms the seismic undercurrent of the film when originally released. And while it cannot reasonably replicate the massive one-two punch delivered through the near-simultaneous 1973 release of its soundtrack coupled with The Wailers' Catch A Fire (Island Records, 1973), for those new to the film and its attendant phenomenon, as well as those who perceive it with some hindsight, it should nevertheless stand as a reminder that the seeds of a given paradigm shift, in this case, the revelation of the world of reggae to the global community, can evolve from the unlikeliest sources, even one like this, in which the hero makes the ultimate sacrifice for the sake of his dreams.

As depicted in the various extra features on the three Blu-ray discs (including even some vocal and instrumental tracks for music in No Place Like Home), native Jamaican Henzell's film career to some degree mirrors the rise of this iconic movie's main character, albeit without the tragic end. As depicted in the conversations from producers, cameramen and actors (most of whom come across alternately proud of and awed by the achievement to which they contributed), this production was fraught with all manner of difficulties, thereby making the director's bemused but resolute tone in his own observations all that more illustrative of his unassailable work ethic, not to mention his vision (even if he never could never bring to fruition the sequel he conceived for The Harder They Come).

It only stands to reason it would take such varied material as contained within this deluxe package to thoroughly portray not only the range of this filmmaker's work, but the impact thereof.



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