Blue Thunder Blu-ray Review
PictureBlue Thunder comes to US Blu-ray presented with a 1080p High Definition rendition in the movie's original theatrical aspect ratio of widescreen 2.35:1. All of the bases on the picture quality were largely covered on the UK release of the movie, and there really is little more to say. Detail is generally very good indeed, whether on the wider shots or for the interior sequences, the urban landscape allowing you to pick up on every little nuance with this splendid transfer. There is some negligible grain, but nothing to impinge upon your viewing pleasure, and some of it seems inherent for this production, both in terms of its budget, its gritty style, and its age. There are no noticeable print defects or digital artefacts. The colour scheme looks decent enough, again let down only by the production itself and never from a lack of authentic representation. LA looks suitably grimy, with some sun-drenched sequences, a few greens and blue skies, and the ever-common fire-flashes of the powerful guns the helicopters wield offering up something a little more alive. Blacks are solid and deep and allow the night time scenes to look particularly good, with decent contrast. It is far from a showcase for your equipment, but it is easily the best video presentation this movie has ever seen, even when compared to the relatively recent 2-disc Special Edition SD-DVD.
SoundAgain, we encounter the same limitations on the aural front, and receive the same excellent treatment with a Dolby TrueHD track that does the best it can with this 26 year old material. Dialogue comes across clear and coherent throughout, although that is not necessarily the most important aspect of a movie with an attack helicopter as one of its lead stars. Effects are given plenty of room to breathe, offering up some limited directionality, but basically overloading you with a generally good sense of oppressive atmosphere. Bullets blast out across your living room, tearing up the streets with various aircraft, cars, buildings and even chickens blowing up all over the shop. The score, that distinctively memorably theme tune that will always stand alongside the likes of Knight Rider and Airwolf for synth-based tunes with good longevity, gets decent presentation too, and even the LFE channel gets a little bit of action. Again, not a benchmark representation to show off your equipment with, but it too is also the best we've heard from this movie.
ExtrasAll of the Extras from the relatively recent 2-disc Special Edition SD-DVD have been ported over here, without any additions. First up we get the decent enough Audio Commentary, featuring the Director John Badham, as well as the Editor and the Motion Control Supervisor, which takes a fairly technical look at the production, often seeming quite slow and dry - offering up more production background than on-set excitement. Still, all the usual commentary bases are covered, and fans will enjoy lapping up the titbits on offer here.
Ride with the Angels: Making Blue Thunder is a relatively recent Making-Of Featurette split into three parts: Pre-Production, Production and Post-, which can be played as one. Running at 45 minutes, it really is the highlight in the Extras department. The most interesting aspect is clearly the prep done to make the movie - the original script ideas of madman in an attack chopper on the loose in LA and how they evolved into the much more audience-friendly (and, at the time, politically topical) concept of high tech surveillance, i.e. Big Brother. They look at the set design, effects work (models used), the casting (including interviews with Roy Scheider), the characters, the aerial cinematography and then the work done to polish the whole thing off. A fairly comprehensive and extremely interesting Documentary, this is well worth your time if you're a fan of the movie.
The Special: Building Blue Thunder: Making of the Helicopter takes an all too short look at the creating of this attack helicopter, mainly through bastardisation of a Gazelle, with a wider cockpit, a large mounted gun, railings etc. Far too brief and flimsy, it takes a mere 8 minutes to skim over how they put the beast together.
The original 1983 Featurette highlights just how much things have changed in terms of making-of Featurettes, although it is better than your standard promotional bumf in Extras sections these days - just nowhere near as good as a decent modern documentary (as above), running in at a brief 8 minutes, but still cramming in contributions from the main cast and crew.
Finally we get the Original Theatrical Trailer (again, how things have changed, but at least back then you didn't get a compressed flash-images-of-the-entire-movie affair that gives everything away).
VerdictBlue Thunder autorotates to Region Free US Blu-ray with a pretty decent video rendition and a good audio track, as well as all of the extras from the previous SD release. The movie itself is an enjoyable action thriller with conspiracy theory undercurrents and a starring role for one mean looking urban attack helicopter. With solid performances, a pacy story and some excellent aerial stuntwork, this remains the best helicopter-driven production to date. Fans should consider this the definitive edition to own and newcomers should at least give it a rental. Very entertaining and recommended.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £17.95
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