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  • 1.66:1 Widescreen
  • English Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono
  • English subtitles
  • 1 Disc
  • Audio commentary by Perry Henzell and star Jimmy Cliff
  • Exclusive video interview with Island Records founder Chris Blackwell
  • Illustrated bio-discographies on the film's contributing musicians

The Harder They Come

Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: Perry Henzell
Starring: Jimmy Cliff, Janet Bartley, Carl Bradshaw, Ras Daniel Hartman, Basil Keane, Robert Charlton, Winston Stona
1973 | 103 Minutes | Licensor: International Films Ltd.

Release Information
DVD | MSRP: $39.95 | Series: The Criterion Collection | Edition: #83 | Out of print
RLJ Entertainment

Release Date: October 31, 2000
Review Date: March 26, 2011

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Reggae superstar Jimmy Cliff is Ivan, a rural Jamaican musician who journeys to the city of Kingston in search of fame and fortune. Pushed to desperate circumstances by shady record producers and corrupt cops, he finally achieves notoriety- as a murderous outlaw. Boasting some of the greatest music ever produced in Jamaica, The Harder They Come brought the catchy and subversive rhythms of the rastas to the U.S. in the early '70s. Criterion is proud to present this underground classic in a new Director Approved special edition.

Forum members rate this film 7.6/10


Discuss the film and DVD here   


The Harder They Come is presented in the aspect ratio of 1.66:1 on this dual-layer disc. The transfer is unfortunately not enhanced for widescreen televisions.

The video presentation is a mess, though nowhere near as awful as the audio presentation. The transfer is unfortunately interlaced and this leads to numerous artifacts like jagged edges, ghosting, and thereís a jittery effect that happens on occasion. Colours are on and off, sometimes looking to be dosed with a heavy amount of yellow, but the blues and reds in the exteriors look fairly nice. Blacks are crushed, though, and darker scenes can be hard to see. Detail is less than par making the picture look almost like itís a little out of focus.

The print is in better shape than one would probably expect but it still has some minor flaws and thatís probably the strongest aspect of this presentation because otherwise itís fuzzy, jumpy mess.


All DVD screen captures are presented in their original size from the source disc. Images have been compressed slightly to conserve space. While they are not exact representations they should offer a general idea of overall video quality.

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Amazingly audio is even worse than the video, not good for a film that has a great soundtrack. Itís incredibly distorted and has no fidelity to it. The music sounds absolutely horrendous but its dialogue thatís even worse. Admittedly I had issues with accents, but you add on the distortion and itís impossible to hear what anyone is saying.



Thankfully the release rounds up a few nice supplements.

First up is an audio commentary by Perry Henzell and Jimmy Cliff. This is a decent commentary worth a listen, but there is a bit of dead space, which is a surprise since the two were recorded separately then edited together. Still, the two talk about the making of the film and the feel of the time, as well as the basis for the main character (a criminal named Rhygin.) The two are thankfully engaging speakers and the production has an interesting backstory so the commentary makes an excellent listen.

There is also roughly 10-minute interview with Island Records founder Chris Blackwell who talks about the film briefly, as well as the reggae scene and its coming to America. Not terribly informative but interesting enough.

You'll also find a collection of biographies for the performers in the film, including their album releases. And then finally the insert includes a very short essay by Michael Dare on the film and the coming of Reggae to America.

Not huge, but at least Criterion upgraded from their laserdisc release (which had nothing on it.) But the extras on here are at least interesting.



The disc has been discontinued but has been replaced by other DVD editions (though I canít speak of their quality.) This one isnít worth tracking down. Though the supplements are decent the filmís presentation is rather horrendous, particularly the mono audio track, which completely destroys the music in the film.

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