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Blu-Ray : Highly Recommended
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Release Date: July 10th, 2018 Movie Release Year: 1988

Bull Durham (Criterion)

Overview -

Still a hit after all these years, Bull Durham remains a fun baseball movie that doesn't depend on the "big game" to tell its story. This new Criterion Collection version of the film offers up a brand-new transfer that does the movie justice, along with enough bonus materials to satisfy fans. The result may not quite be a home run, but it's certainly enough to make this release Highly Recommended.

Former minor leaguer Ron Shelton hit a grand slam with his directorial debut, one of the most revered sports movies of all time. Durham Bulls devotee Annie Savoy (Susan Sarandon)—who every year takes a new player under her wing (and into her bed)—has singled out the loose-cannon pitching prospect Nuke LaLoosh (Tim Robbins), a big-league talent with a rock-bottom maturity level. But she’s unable to shake Crash Davis (Kevin Costner), the veteran catcher brought in to give Nuke some on-the-field seasoning. A breakthrough film for all three of its stars and an Oscar nominee for Shelton’s highly quotable screenplay, Bull Durham is a freewheeling hymn to wisdom, experience, and America’s pastime, tipping its cap to all those who grind it out for love of the game.

Highly Recommended
Rating Breakdown
Tech Specs & Release Details
Technical Specs:
50GB Blu-ray
Video Resolution/Codec:
1080p/AVC MPEG-4
Aspect Ratio(s):
Audio Formats:
English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
English SDH
Special Features:
PLUS: Excerpts from a 1989 piece by longtime New Yorker baseball writer Roger Angell, with new comments from the author
Release Date:
July 10th, 2018

Storyline: Our Reviewer's Take


After 30 years, I still believe in the church of baseball, and I still love Bull Durham. Despite its ongoing popularity, the movie was never a smash hit at the box office, pulling in a respectable $50 million (against an estimated $7 to $9 million budget) during its theatrical run and never finishing higher than fourth in any week of its release (it actually finished sixth the weekend of its release). So why does it still come up in the conversation about the best sports films ever? Because it feels "real" and because it respects the sport it portrays, without ever sugar-coating it.

There have been other really good baseball movies to be sure. But Bull Durham doesn't glorify the game like The Natural, it doesn't wax poetic over the game like Field of Dreams (ironically the movie Kevin Costner did immediately following his role here), and it doesn't completely parody the game like Major League. Instead, the movie uses the sport as a method through which to tell a deeper story – about a player reaching the end of his career, an up-and-comer who needs to focus if he's ever going to make the "show", and a woman who spends each season taking young prospects into her bedroom but not quite yet realizing she needs someone as mature as she is to make her life whole.

Kevin Costner's Crash Davis is an aging (by baseball terms) catcher, who was never quite able to make the major league career he wanted – although he was able to spend three weeks in the big leagues at one point. He's been assigned to play for the Class A Durham Bulls, not so much to spark his own career but in the hopes he can help spark that of pitcher Ebby Calvin "Nuke" LaLoosh (Tim Robbins), an athlete with, as Crash describes it, "a million-dollar arm and a five-cent head". Also in the mix is local Annie Savoy (Susan Sarandon), who picks a player each baseball season to both try and teach him about the game (often involving the reading of classic literature and poetry) as well as fulfill her own sexual needs. This season, she picks Nuke LaLoosh.

Critics have praised the Sarandon character and her relationship with the other two male leads in the movie, but for me the highlight of Bull Durham has always been the relationship between Crash and Nuke – Crash seeing in Nuke the possibility to become what he never had the God-given talent to achieve, and Nuke never quite being able to grasp his own potential. Although there's a scene in the movie with Nuke's own father, it's Crash who is really the father figure here – teaching Nuke all the important things about the game, like never mess with a streak, never hit anyone with your pitching hand, and – most importantly – that the rose always goes in the front.

There's a subtle undercurrent with the Crash character that is never spoken out loud during the movie, but always present: does he help this young pitcher succeed or not, knowing that as soon as Nuke gets called to the "show" that his own career in baseball is most likely over? There's also an underlying sadness with him, knowing that his best days on the field are behind him. Toward the end of the movie, Crash tells Nuke that all that separates the washed up players from the career players is an extra base hit a week...just one base hit. That speech pretty much sums up Crash as a character and probably reflects Director Ron Shelton's thoughts about the game as well (Shelton was a minor league player who never made it to the big leagues).

Bull Durham has endured because it's not just about baseball, it's about life. The way you're always struggling to get to the next level, and how often things don't work out the way you foresee them, but they still (more times than not) work out. It's worth seeing again if you've not watched it in a long time, and if you've never seen it, it's definitely worth checking out.

Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray

Bull Durham takes the field from The Criterion Collection with a single 50GB Blu-ray housed inside a clear Scanavo keepcase along with a foldout insert featuring an essay by New Yorker writer Roger Angell. The disc itself features no front-loaded materials, and the menu is the standard Criterion design, with a list of options on the left side of the screen that open up into more options when selected via one's remote control. The menu image is a still of Susan Sarandon sitting in the room in her house that features her baseball shrine.

The Blu-ray in this release is Region A locked.

Video Review


Bull Durham was shot on 35mm film and gets a brand-new transfer here, which is a 10-bit 4K scan (although, obviously, the Blu-ray can only provide a 1080p image) of the original camera negative. The movie is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1.

The transfer, which according to the insert's liner notes was supervised by Director Ron Shelton, is an impressive one, with lots of color and detail, yet still with visible grain and maintaining the look of film. Black tones are solid throughout, if far from inky deep. Skin tones lean to the warm side of things, but are also consistent. The best part of the image though is how cleaned-up it now is; I didn't notice any instances of dirt, debris, or other defects in the print, yet those responsible for the transfer did not apply heavy use of DNR, so detail has been retained.

There has been some debate over the color tint of this new transfer, as some online forums have claimed the uniforms now have a more teal look than the blue of the prior transfer, but as you can see from the screenshot below of the team, that's really not the case – at least not to the degree that it's a distraction or so far removed from the previous home video releases of the movie that one can't enjoy the film. Any color changes here are minimal and given that Sheldon himself oversaw the transfer, who are we to complain?

Audio Review


The disc contains two English tracks, one in 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio and one in 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio. And while you'd think the 5.1 one track would be the one to talk about, it's the same track that has existed on prior releases of the movie. It's actually the 2.0 track here that's newly remastered, and it offers up a pleasant rendering of the audio that better approximates how Bull Durham sounded during its original theatrical run.

As 2.0 tracks go, this is an impressive one, and while one may be tempted to select the 5.1 track instead, it really doesn't add that much to one's enjoyment, as it's a front-heavy presentation with not much use of the surrounds.

Subtitles are available in English SDH only.

Special Features

  • Ron Shelton Commentary – This is an archival track from the 2002 MGM DVD home video release of the film, so while it's pretty dated, it's still an entertaining listen with a lot of behind-the-scenes info about the movie.
  • Kevin Costner and Tim Robbins Commentary – Also an archival track (and also from the 2002 DVD release), the two stars of the movie reunite to talk about their memories of the film. If you like either one of these actors, this is a highly entertaining conversation and one of the better commentary tracks you'll run across.
  • Going to the Show (HD 18:55) – This is a brand-new interview of Director Ron Shelton by film critic Michael Sragow.
  • Between the Lines: The Making of Bull Durham (HD 29:18) – This is a 2001 featurette on the making of the movie, with comments from the cast and crew, including Kevin Costner, Tim Robbins, Susan Sarandon, and Ron Shelton.
  • The Greatest Show on Dirt (HD 19:23) –This is a featurette from 2008, this time having real-life baseball players, broadcasters, and members of the cast comment about their love of Bull Durham. The featurette begins, however, with Ron Shelton talking about how he came up with the idea for the film and make the movie.
  • Today (HD 3:49) – This is a 1991 clip from NBC's The Today Show featuring a story on "The Clown Price of Baseball", Max Patkin. The piece is done by legendary sportscaster and former major league player Joe Garagiola.
  • NBC Nightly News (HD 2:39) – A September 1993 report on the final season of Durham Bulls baseball at the ballpark featured in the movie (the Bulls got a brand-new park in 1994).
  • Trailer (HD 2:48) – The original theatrical trailer for Bull Durham, which focuses on the romance and not the baseball in the film.

Final Thoughts

After 30 years, Bull Durham remains one of the best sports movies ever, primarily because it's about more than just sports. This new Criterion Collection release of the film offers up a brand-new transfer and a brand-new 2.0 DTS-HD track, along with one new featurette and all the archival ones from previous home video releases. Highly Recommended.