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THE HIDDEN ($25) has always been a personal favorite amongst eighties science fiction movies. While THE HIDDEN is small in scale and rather low budget, Iíve always thought of it as the little sci-fi movie that could. Loaded with action, THE HIDDEN is one of those movies that developed its reputation and substantial cult following thanks to the auspices of home video. For years, fans had to suffer through bad videotape versions of THE HIDDEN, until the folks at Lumivision released a good-looking Letterboxed version of the film back in 1996. Even though it has been long out of print, the Laserdisc remained the benchmark release for THE HIDDEN. Fortunately, the folks at New Line Home Video released a DVD edition of this terrific little sci-fi sleeper that greatly improves upon the Laserdisc.

The plot of THE HIDDEN concerns a strange parasitic alien life form that has come to Earth. This remorseless creature invades a human host and uses them up until there is nothing left, but a lifeless shell. The creature has plenty of bad habits, including a taste for sports cars, loud rock music and murdering anyone that gets in its way. THE HIDDEN stars Michael Nouri as police detective Tom Beck, who has involved in a case where a seemingly normal citizen goes on murderous crime spree, which includes robbing banks and stealing Ferraris.

Just as his case seems to reach its conclusion, Beck finds the situation heating back up, with another seemingly ordinary citizen going completely out of control. Making matters worse, Beck finds himself teamed with a somewhat odd FBI Agent named Lloyd Gallagher (Kyle MacLachlan), who knows a whole lot more about the situation than he is willing to tell Beck. With almost non-stop action, THE HIDDEN is not just a science fiction movie. This thoroughly entertaining flick features some terrific car chases and a whole arsenalís worth of gun fighting. Director Jack Sholder does a great job staging the filmís action sequences, or should I say playing traffic cop. The cast does a good job with the material, Nouri is ideal as the overworked police detective and MacLachlanís quirky performance suits his character quite well. Actress Claudia Christian has never looked and makes the most of her role as stripper/alien host. The cast of THE HIDDEN also includes Clarence Felder, Clu Gulager, Ed O'Ross, William Boyett, Richard Brooks, Larry Cedar, Katherine Cannon, John McCann, Chris Mulkey and Lin Shaye.

New Line Home Video has done a good job with their DVD edition of THE HIDDEN, offering both full screen and wide screen presentations on separate layers of the single sided DVD. The wide screen version properly frames THE HIDDEN at 1.85:1 and the DVD has been enhanced for playback on 16:9 displays. While THE HIDDEN doesnít appear anywhere as crisp and detailed as a new movie, New Lineís transfer is far more satisfying than the Lumivision Laserdisc release. For some reason, the older transfer was harsh looking and the colors tended to look as if the film were shot under fluorescent lighting. New Lineís transfer rectifies these problems, providing smoother contrast and more natural colors. The image is as sharp as this low budget 1987 release is likely to look under NTSC. Film grain is noticeable throughout the presentation, however this is an issue with the film elements/photography and not a flaw in the transfer. As I stated earlier, colors are improved over the Laserdisc issue, but they are not perfect. Flesh tones appear correct, as do most of the other hues. Reds tend to be more intensely saturated the majority of the colors in the film, although in some cases, they do bleed beyond their boundaries. Blacks are well rendered, but the level of shadow detail is somewhat limited. Digital compression artifacts are held in check throughout the presentation.

THE HIDDEN features a new 5.1 channel Dolby Digital mix, in addition to the filmís theatrical monaural soundtrack. The 5.1 channel sound mix is an improvement over monaural, but the original sound recordings still seem to suggest the low budget nature of the production. Sound fidelity is limited, giving the track a flat, uninspired quality. However, the new mix does take advantage to the discrete nature of Dolby Digital for sound effect placement, especially during action scenes. The forward soundstage is especially active, with very good channel separation. Dialogue is well reproduced and maintains its intelligibility throughout. The original recordings limit the effectiveness bass channel; so letís just say it isnít ready to rumble. Subtitles are available on the DVD in English.

The interactive menus have an interesting look, but are otherwise very basic. All of the requisite scene selection and set up features are available through the menus, as are the DVDís supplements. Director Jack Sholder and filmmaker Tim Hunter provide an audio commentary that features anecdotes and behind-the-scenes information. One tidbit will be disappointing to fans of Claudia Christian, since they it indicates that her performance was artificially enhanced. DVD supplements also include special effects test footage (with director commentary), a theatrical trailer, as well as cast and crew filmographies.




DVD reviews are Copyright © 2000 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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