Casper DVD Review
PictureGood news here, for the video transfer shows no signs of ageing. Framed at 1.85:1, this is a toned down print with lots of blacks and dark scenes to contend with, and thankfully the encoders have done a good job. Possessing a good level of cinematic depth, the blacks remain composed and retain detail, with no signs of compression artefacts or colour bleeding. Edges are on the whole sharp - though not perhaps quite as sharp as some more recent movies, and certain scenes do have an edge of softness about them, but pleasingly edge enhancement is absent on all but the largest displays. Colours are consistently natural looking, especially skin-tones, and aside from the odd scratch, we have a video transfer that is very solid indeed.
SoundTo audiophiles, Casper is something of a gem of a movie. I'm talking laserdisc here, and in its day the DTS pressing of this movie was considered reference material. Whilst the NTSC laserdisc carried a full bit-rate (1536kbps) DTS soundtrack, on this DVD edition we have both Dolby Digital and a half bit-rate DTS track to choose from. Naturally I chose the latter option, and was eager to find out what all the fuss is about...
Let me get this out of the way: first of all, the DTS track is a more preferable choice over the Dolby one, being slightly louder and having just a little more oomph in the LFE department. Surrounds also show an increase in volume, and this does lend the experience a more enveloping feel, though I must add that there's very little in it. Regardless of choice, though, we have a soundtrack which will put anyone's system through its paces. Panning effects are the order of the day, and the sound mixers really made the most of the ghosts and their flying antics: effects fly around from all corners of the room, effortlessly placed all around the viewer, whilst dialogue is always audible and clear: as the wrecking ball smashes into the side of the car it crashes precisely into the right hand side of the room; as Casper offers to take the picture at the beginning of the movie, he's clearly behind us; and as the 3 Uncles descend to the tune of “Ride of the Valkyries” the whole room fills with sound. Good stuff.
Casper also features several scenes where bass is pronounced, particularly the famous wrecking ball scene where the bone-crunching impact is rendered by a very deep LFE punch; it's well below the realms of most subwoofer capabilities, though I must admit...I was expecting a little more from it. When compared to the low bass in other movies (admittedly more recent ones) it's easily trounced, but it still has some satisfying moments.
Overall this is a competent sound mix, that has a little of everything, but is never over-the-top. It isn't reference material - they are plenty of examples out there which just edge it for the sound experience - but nevertheless the soundtrack complements the tone of the movie itself perfectly.
ExtrasFirst up we have an interesting director's commentary with Brad Silberling. It's pretty standard stuff, covering all aspects of the production from casting to shooting the movie, with lots of interesting snippets on the challenges he faced filming (in general and particularly with CGI); it's clear that Silberling is proud of his first “big” work and this certainly helps him carry off the solo act of keeping the solo commentary engaging. More interesting for the casual viewer, however, is the excellent “Revealing Casper” documentary, which runs for 47 minutes and offers us an in-depth look at the movie and contains a host of cast and crew interviews (including Spielberg), both old and new.
Also here is an unfinished deleted scene (a musical number featuring the ghosts and Pullman), shelved due to budget restraints on the project, a theatrical trailer and two risible games for the children (these being the only two turkey's in the whole extras package).
Overall this is a good set of extras: informative and engaging, and though it doesn't look much on paper, it's pleasing to see more quality than the usual rubbish which is becoming standard on many DVD releases.
VerdictAn enjoyable movie for the kids, and adults will find some laughs in here: a worthy back catalogue release that is given good treatment for its DVD debut. Well worth a look.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £19.99
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