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When it first appeared on Laserdisc, about a decade ago, DIE HARD was the title that ushered Fox into the realm of wide screen entertainment. DIE HARD instantly became my favorite Laserdisc, in addition to becoming the demo disc that I would use to show off my home theater system to friends. Of course as time went on, the state-of-the-art was redefined on Laserdisc quite a few times, so DIE HARD began to look a little shabby in comparison. Eventually, Fox issued an upgraded Laserdisc that elevated DIE HARD back to the state of the art. It would appear that 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment has utilized that upgraded master for their DVD release of DIE HARD.

When DIE HARD was produced, its star Bruce Willis was just coming off the MOONLIGHTING phase of his career, and the thought of him as an action star seemed laughable- until the day the film hit the theaters. DIE HARD turned out to be an explosive piece of entertainment, that redefined the entire action movie genre and turned Bruce Willis into a bankable movie star. At the time of its release, the plot of DIE HARD seemed original, however when the movie became a hit, Hollywood cranked out enough copies of the film to make the story line seem like a really bad cliche.

In DIE HARD, Bruce Willis portrays John McClane, a New York City police detective who comes to Los Angeles to spend the Christmas holidays with his estranged wife and children. Bonnie Bedelia plays John's wife Holly Gennero McClane, an executive in a multinational corporation who couldn't pass on a lucrative position in the Los Angeles office, even though it meant leaving her husband back in New York. After arriving in Los Angeles, John meets Holly at her office where the company Christmas party remains in full swing. While John waits for the party to break up, the office building is seized by a band of international terrorists. As the terrorist begin rounding up their hostages, John is able to slip out the back stairway unnoticed. Armed with only his service revolver, John begins to pick off the terrorists one by one- fortifying himself with some of their superior firepower. Using the terrorist's own arms against them, John launches a one-man assault.

DIE HARD also stars Alan Rickman as terrorist leader Hans Gruber. Rickman is utterly superb as the sophisticated, but ruthless terrorist Gruber. In fact, it is Rickman's performance as the villain that has helped turn DIE HARD into an enduring action genre classic. Director John McTiernan also deserves a big share of the credit for the success of DIE HARD. McTiernan keeps the balance between the drama of the story and the film's heart pounding and brilliantly staged action sequences. In addition to Willis, Bedelia and Rickman, the cast of DIE HARD features Reginald VelJohnson, Paul Gleason, De'voreaux White, William Atherton, Hart Bochner, James Shigeta and Alexander Godunov.

As I stated above, DIE HARD appears to have been mastered from the same transfer utilized for the film's Laserdisc re-issue. The Letterboxed transfer recreates the film's 2.35:1 theatrical framing almost perfectly, unfortunately the presentation does not include the 16:9 enhancement for wide screen televisions. Despite the oversight of not including 16:9 component, 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment's DVD edition of DIE HARD looks absolutely terrific. The DVD gets high marks for rendering a sharp, highly detailed image that looks better than any previous home video edition of the film. Color reproduction is virtually flawless, with the film's warm, over-saturated hues reproducing without any bleeding, distortion or chroma noise. Effective DVD authoring, plus the use of dual layer technology, prevent digital compression artifacts from becoming noticeable. Layer switching occurred with only a modest pause. DIE HARD was upgraded to a Dolby

Digital 5.1 channel mix for the Laserdisc reissue and the DVD offers the discrete soundtrack as an option. The 5.1 channel mix offers great channel separation across the front soundstage. While the surround channels are effectively deployed in the mix, they are not as aggressively used as in newer soundtracks. Bass reproduction is solid throughout, enhancing both gunfire and explosions contained on the track, making this soundtrack a total winner. Matrixed English and French Dolby Surround soundtracks have also been encoded into the DVD, along with English and Spanish subtitles.

The interactive menus include animation and sound and offer access to the standard language and scene selection features, as well as the DVD's supplements. As supplement, Fox has included trailers for all three DIE HARD movies, a short "Making Of" featurette, slide show plus cast biographies/filmographies. DIE HARD is available on DVD individually for $29.98, or as part of DIE HARD TRILOGY box set for $79.98.

DIE HARD is an action genre classic that I'm sure fans will want to add to their DVD collections. Recommended.




DVD reviews are Copyright 1999 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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