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Special Edition

There is no denying that THE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER ($20) is a great movie adaptation of the Tom Clancy thriller. Of course, that assessment has absolutely no bearing on how closely the movie resembles Clancy’s novel, which I have not had the opportunity to read. THE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER is just top-notch cinematic entertainment, with a screen story that just works in spades. This is a taut, intelligent political thriller directed by John McTiernan, who underscores the film’s basic story structure that unfolds like a game of chess. Additionally, McTiernan keeps the suspense building throughout, and it eventually reaches a squirming in your seat, nail-biting level. On top of McTiernan's fine work, THE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER benefits from a superb cast, all of who are all at the top of their game, especially star Sean Connery, who dominates the film with the sheer force of his presence.

THE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER is set before the fall of the Soviet Union, at a time when the cold war was still at its frostiest. The film’s title references a prototype Soviet nuclear submarine named the Red October, which has the kind of stealth technology that would allow it to approach the United States undetected- giving it nuclear first strike capability. Although The Red October is under the command of Marko Ramius (Sean Connery), the fleet’s most respected Captain, the Soviets soon lose contact with their new weapon. Running his undetectable submarine under radio silence, Ramius plots a course for U.S. territory. As soon as American intelligence learns of the Ramius situation, there is a general consensus that the renegade Soviet commander is planning a sneak attack. However, there is one voice of descent- CIA analyst Jack Ryan (Alec Baldwin) has been studying the Soviet commander and is of the belief that Ramius is planning to defect to America and turn the Red October over to the United States. With less than three days to prove his theory about Ramius, Ryan races to track down The Red October before the American and Russian navies can blow it out of the water. The cast of THE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER also features Scott Glenn, Sam Neill, James Earl Jones, Joss Ackland, Richard Jordan, Peter Firth, Tim Curry, Courtney B. Vance, Stellan Skarsgård, Jeffrey Jones and Daniel Davis.

Second time must be a charm because the folks at Paramount Home Entertainment got it right with their Special Edition release of THE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER. Unlike the first Letterboxed DVD, THE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER now features the anamorphic enhancement for 16:9 displays, as well as presenting the film in its proper 2.35:1 wide screen aspect ratio. This is a really good-looking transfer, although there are some very minor quibbles that are related to this being a 1990 release. The film element does display some blemishes and there are a few shots here and there that look a bit softer than the main body of the film. However, for the most part, the image is sharp and very nicely defined, despite the limitations of filming in the dark, confined submarine sets. Colors can be strongly rendered or somewhat subdued depending upon the films lighting. None of the more intense hues show any signs of noise or smearing. Blacks appear pure, whites are crisp and the image has fairly smooth contrast. As I mentioned above, shadow detail is good, which brings out the intricacies of the dark, claustrophobic sets. There is something of a noticeable grain structure in the image at times, but it makes for a rather film-like quality. The dual layer DVD doesn’t betray any signs of digital compression artifacts.

THE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER features 5.1 channel soundtracks in the varieties of Dolby Digital and DTS. Without question, this is a full-bodied soundtrack, although the mix isn’t as surround intensive as one finds in newer films. The rears do provide a great deal of enveloping ambient sound and musical fill, but the area of active sound effects seems to fall below the expectations of the average surround junkie. However, there is a good deal of directionality in the forward soundstage, as well as distinct stereo separation for Basil Poledouris’ rousing Russian flavored score. Dialogue reproduction is clean and precise, plus the actors’ voices usually come across with a nice sense of presence. The bass channel is deep and certain to shake the deck plates a bit at key moments. The differences between Dolby Digital and DTS aren’t jaw dropping, but DTS does come out ahead in the areas of musical warmth and detail. A French Dolby Surround soundtrack is also encoded into the DVD, as are English and Spanish subtitles.

Full motion video, animation and sound serve to enhance the DVD’s interactive menus. Through the menus, one has access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as a few supplements. Director John McTiernan is on hand for a really good running audio commentary track. McTiernan discusses the production of the film in great detail, giving a lot of insight in to the moviemaking process, as well as sharing some of the more interesting anecdotes from the set. Also included on the DVD is Beneath the Surface, a newly produced twenty-nine minute program that looks back on the production of THE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER via interviews with key players from behind-the-scenes and in front of the camera. A theatrical trailer closes out the supplements.

THE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER is a great movie thriller that is both wonderfully paced and well acted. Paramount has done a fine job with the DVD, offering a really good-looking 16:9 enhanced wide screen presentation, as well as solid Dolby Digital and DTS soundtracks. The Special Edition of THE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER is a must have upgrade for fans with wide screen displays, as well as those interested in the informative supplemental content.



The Hunt for Red October (Special Edition) (1990)


DVD reviews are Copyright © 2003 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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