Kill Bill: Volume 1 DVD Review
PicturePresented in anamorphic widescreen and framed at the theatrically accurate 2.35:1, the wide array of tones and styles used throughout the movie are brought vividly to life on this DVD transfer. Colours are spot on, with wonderful saturation that reveals natural-looking fleshtones and not a hint of bleeding, and the level of detail is consistently good. Blacks are universally excellent, being clean and deep and holding detail well, and encoding problems seem entirely absent.
Edge enhancement does appear infrequently, but it's barely noticeable and only mildly distracting if you look for it - and even then only those with the largest of displays will notice it. One thing which is noticeable however is that certain scenes have a veil of grain on them and a real grittiness about them - primarily this is on the black and white scenes, but it's worth noting this is intended by the director, along with the small number of scenes containing overblown contrast levels.
It's also worth noting that the subtitles are player generated and are a mix of in the film frame and black bars (though entirely visible on a widescreen TV): they aren't as obtrusive or blocky as some subtitles, but some may find they're rather small to read on small displays. And without a doubt, burnt-in subtitles would have been a more preferable option.
Overall, though, this is a solid video transfer which does justice to the movie itself.
SoundPresented in both Dolby Digital and DTS flavours, the sound mix for Kill Bill is almost as much fun as the movie itself. The whole soundstage has a real sense of depth and is extremely solid, with excellent use of all channels and fantastic steering; even as the movie opens Bill's footsteps on the bullet-strewn Church floorboards crunch around us, with a low-end thump which is as foreboding as the man himself. And The Bride's terrible breathing just adds to the tension, filling all the channels with her panicked breath; after a few moments of dialogue, where the speech is wonderfully rich, the single gunshot demonstrates how good the dynamics are - played loud this will surely make you jump as the speakers and subwoofer kick in unison. And from there, things just get better...
This is one soundtrack to be played loud; the dynamics are excellent, with the fight scenes possessing a punchy mid-range, plenty of low end grunt and some scintillating high frequencies: as swords clash and glass shatters the highs are incredibly defined but possess not a hint of sibilance, and some of the low-end moments are sure to stretch even the meatiest subwoofers with frequencies that - while not sustained - punch effortlessly through the 20hz barrier and into the realms of bass which is felt rather than heard.
Surrounds, too, get a full workout. Supporting the excellent musical score well (which is as varied in genre as the movie is), and used effectively for ambient spot effects including some gruesome blood sprays and a host of other effects as events unfold before - and around us - they complement the front soundstage effectively.
There are so many good moments here - from the anime section with thunderous bass and some very crisp, dynamic effects, to Buck's unfortunate acquaintance with a door - there's simply too many scenes to mention. Put simply, you just need to crank this up and enjoy it with the rest of the movie.
Inevitably you'll be wondering which is the better of the DTS or Dolby soundtracks. Well in all honesty, there's not a great deal in it and switching between the two yields such small differences you'll likely make up your mind based on your own general preference - but in a blind test no-one would be able to tell the difference. Regardless of choice, it's a superb sound-mix which complements the movie extremely well.
ExtrasDisappointingly, the extras are very much on the thin side; obviously once Kill Bill vol 2 has been released an all-singing-all-dancing box set will be released containing a host of extras. Those that can't wait will be able to the see the 20 minute featurette on the making of the film, which whilst interesting (thankfully it's not a promotional puff piece) is just dying to be expanded. Containing interviews primarily with Uma Thurman and Tarantino we hear about how the concept of Kill Bill came about and lots of titbits about the production: it almost serves as a taster of what's to come, and any fan of the film will lap up the production footage and be left wanting more.
Next up we have some footage of the band “The 5,6,7,8's” performing two songs, which smacks of “ok what else can we put on the disc to pad it out?”, and finally a selection of trailers for all of Tarantino's movies, including the Bootleg teaser for vol 1 and the teaser for vol 2. Disappointingly none of these are in 5.1 or anamorphic, which is a shame considering the original teaser for vol 1 is an excellent trailer in its own right.
Special mention must also go to the menus: I don't normally even pay much attention to them so long as they're easy to navigate, but even the menus on this DVD reek of cool. With the trademark Kill Bill music in the background, and snapshots of anime from the movie playing in small windows, it's a polished presentation.
VerdictPaying homage to all the pulpy genres you can think of, Kill Bill is so much fun it's difficult not to enjoy. Sure you can get picky with details, but it's designed as a thrill ride and thrill it certainly does. The DVD presentation is excellent, with only the extras letting it down. Buy it now.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £29.98