Blue Thunder: Special Edition DVD Review
PictureThe disc is given a theatrically correct 2.35: 1 aspect that has been anamorphically enhanced for widescreen TV's and mastered in high definition. When viewing this disc I was blown away by how good this twenty six year old film looked, however it is not without it some problems. First up the detail level was immaculate even down to the various warning signs on the helicopter itself being clearly visible and all without any edge enhancement, however there was some problems with blocking particularly with smoke, this is very apparent in the second screen grab. Colours were uniformly good and natural looking, slightly 'thin' associated with the middling average bitrate but there was no bleed or wash. The main problem comes with the contrast and brightness, when it was good, it was very good, blacks were black, however that was only on the rare occasion, the norm was to have plenty of low level noise and film grain giving a rather murky dark patch that tended towards the grey. In fact the whole film suffers a little from film grain. Original print problems were only just visible as the odd scratch or fleck of dirt, totally acceptable for the age of film. Had it not been for the black problems this would have been a great picture, remarkable considering the films age that such a good picture is available, still very good marks.
SoundThree Dolby Digital sound tracks to choose from English 5.1, French 2.0 surround and Portuguese 2.0 stereo. I must confess to being a little disappointed with this track with all the action available a full on immersive track would have been great, unfortunately what we are treated to is rather lacklustre. Oh, it does have its good points; there is some satisfying bass with the 'whump whump' of the helicopters, yet that is not carried over to the gun shots or explosions. In fact most of the action is concentrated to the front three with limited separation. The rears occasionally fill out the ambience and are employed a little with the score, but never to their fullest extent. The dog fights through the L.A. streets give the best from the effects points of view, and so it should be, but even that was rather limited and still front heavy. Range wise it is all rather top to middle, never tinny, but certainly lacking any significant depth, only the helicopters are looked after in that respect. Not without its good points, but for an action film, I felt the track was rather a rather weak effort.
ExtrasIt seems as though special could actually means special for this release with archive and all new material brought together for the extras package. First up there is an audio commentary with director John Badham, editor Frank Morriss and motion control supervisor Hoyt Yeatman, though the latter only joins the proceedings about half way into the film. The chat is quite informative and technical in places with various tit bits of information about locations, scripting and shooting and in that respect is pretty good. However it is a hugely frustrating listen because there is so much dead air because of the lengthy pauses. Things do improve when Yeatman turns up, but it was all to late for me, I'd lost interest, didn't help that a lot of the talk was duplicated in the extensive documentary.Which brings me to Ride with the Angels: Making Blue Thunder documentary an all new feature spilt into three parts, each running approximately fifteen minutes each and playable individually or all together. There is plenty of information here, from design, casting, actual shooting; we hear from principle crew, including writer Dan O'Bannon but only Roy Scheider represents the actors. Fleshed out with photos, some film stock and archive behind the scenes material, this is a neat and comprehensive feature. Of particular interest to me was the impressive size of model shots, Pete Jackson had nothing on these guys! Most impressive of all it is shot in anamorphic widescreen 2.35:1 aspect and looks gorgeous.
Next up is The Special: Building Blue Thunder featurette, could really have been included in the above documentary as it uses all the same material but concentrates exclusively on the building of the helicopter and the various designs and problems with it.
The archival 1983 promotional featurette is a fascinating glimpse into the perceived nature of the film as its being made and all the paranoia that went along with it, contains plenty of behind the scenes material, though I could have done without the deep booming 'voice over' narration. Hugely enjoyable though.There are three storyboard galleries, the Macy Street Bridge sequence, the Montoya attack sequence and S.W.A.T. attack sequence, pretty drawings, but dull dull dull; perhaps better if shown as a comparison, but this was not to be.
Finally there is the theatrical trailer for the film.
VerdictA special edition that is actually special, who'd have thought it? Blue Thunder for all its niggling faults is still a bang on exciting film and terrific entertainment. The DVD package is very good, with a good picture slightly weak sound but made up for in an extensive extras package this should have no trouble in finding a good home. I only hope they aren't tracing the copies.......
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £12.36
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