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Director Renny Harlin seems to have a penchant for making high-powered action movies with unbelievable story lines, CLIFFHANGER ($15) is certainly a lulu. One could think of the plot of CLIFFHANGER as DIE HARD on a mountain. Harlin keeps the action moving fast and furiously, thus preventing the audience from discovering the plot’s obvious gaps in logic. CLIFFHANGER has everything an action movie should have, including spectacular stunts and phenomenal special effects.

Let’s face it, CLIFFHANGER is a perfectly designed and executed crowd-pleaser with a hero who has almost superhuman abilities and a villain who is downright evil. Sylvester Stallone stars as Gabe Walker, an expert climber from Rocky Mountain Rescue. Answering a distress call, Gabe encounters Eric Qualen, an international terrorist who has lost millions of dollars in hijacked money when his small plane crashes in the mountains. Qualen and his band of thugs want the money back and they intend to use Rocky Mountain Rescue to lead them along the mountain trails to the money. Gabe is able to break free from Qualen and begins thwarting his every attempt to retrieve the money. John Lithgow is wonderfully over the top as Qualen, the psychotic criminal mastermind. Janine Turner is Gabe’s girlfriend Jessie, who gets to perform the prerequisite damsel in distress duties. The cast also features Michael Rooker, Ralph Waite, Caroline Goodall, and Paul Winfield.

Columbia TriStar Home Video offers CLIFFHANGER in both Letterboxed and pan and scan versions on opposing sides of the DVD. The pan and scan presentation is to be avoided at all costs. Without the scope of its wide screen aspect ratio, CLIFFHANGER is virtually worthless. For those who must sit through the pan and scan version, the image is a little soft, but the colors are respectable. The Letterboxed transfer of CLIFFHANGER is the only way to really enjoy the film. CLIFFHANGER is presented fairly close to its original 2.35:1 theatrical aspect ratio which is essential for one to enjoy the mountain vistas as well as the fast moving action sequences. The transfer itself is excellent, with a sharp detailed image. Color reproduction is faithful to the original photography and appears natural.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 channel soundtrack has an enjoyable action movie mix with great directional effects and bass. Most of you will want to amplify this great sounding soundtrack to the point where the neighbors complain. Other soundtrack options include a matrixed Dolby Surround track, plus French and Spanish language tracks. Subtitles are available in Spanish. As far as action movies go, CLIFFHANGER is tough to beat. The DVD offers excellent quality and gets a big thumbs up.




DVD reviews are Copyright 1998 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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