PictureShallow Grave digs its way up to your screens at 1.78:1 which is slightly wider than its initial theatrical 1.66:1 ratio. AVC/MPEG-4 is the codec in use. On multiple DVD releases this has fluctuated from 1.66:1 to 1.85:1 and the actual video quality has never been something to write home about. This release though finally gives us a version to be proud of.
The print is clean and well preserved. There are some very minor specks to be seen here and there but they are fleeting and do not disturb your viewing pleasure. The transfer to disc is the best ever with no blocking to be seen in those glorious swathes of colour. There is still some minor enhancement, especially in the few outdoor daytime scenes but like the specks they are not that intrusive. There seems to have been some minor DNR applied; there is less grain than I expected and the faces do have slightly less detail in the pore structure. Any DNR which has been applied though is actually quite mild.
Blacks hold up well, with good enough contrast to see into the murky corners of the flatmate's loft. Brighter scenes in the outdoors or the kitchen show no signs of push, with whites and colours contained in their respective borders. It is those colours though and the additional detail which sets this release up above all others which have preceded it. The amount of detail on show in the kitchen is extraordinary with pots, pans, knives, jars, plates beautifully rendered. Colours were used to good effect in the film with large areas containing a particular shade. In earlier releases these suffered from some macro-blocking but now these are perfectly stable and uniform. The image can be a little soft at times but really a definite step up from previous DVD releases.
SoundShallow Grave was made on a shoe string budget and as such even though this was shot in an era of multi channel sound we only have the original PCM stereo track available to us on this disc. That in itself is no bad thing as I racked my brain trying to wonder where in the film your additional surround speakers may have kicked in if it had gone through a re-mastering process. Ultimately there could have been a little ambiance but really the original track is more than adequate for what it is.
As you can imagine all of the action is up front, with some slight panning from left to right but nothing over intrusive. The frontal array comes across as quite deep, especially with Simon Boswell's precise piano score and when the occasional dance track kicks in.
Dialogue though is well prioritised and is never subdued by any of the effects or backing score. This is where the track wins out as the discussions between each player is absolutely precise. The only time you will strain your ears is listening to the poor unfortunate soul in the freezer, but then you're supposed to be straining at that point anyway. Tonal range is acceptable for what it is but there are better tracks out there which will stretch your system more than this.
- Commentary with Director Danny Boyle.
First out of the tracks is this engaging chat track by the director himself. Danny opts to go solo on this project yet there are no gaps, or boring moments to be heard. It's an enjoyable piece where he covers all that he has to, budget, casting, interviews and production but he also includes some snippets of information that I had not even remotely considered before and for that reason alone I would have enjoyed this track. Certainly worth a listen.
- Digging Your Own Grave. - 0:30:01 - 480i/MPEG-2
An altogether excellent fly on the wall 'documentary' following producer Andrew Macdonald from those first baby footsteps when filming started to showing off his pride and joy with Danny down in Cannes. I have seen many variants of these types of films and can honestly say this is one of the best There are many variants of these types of films and I can honestly say this is one of the best I have seen to date with warts and all on show. If you want to know what a producer goes through to bring something to your silver screens then this is the one to watch.
- Danny Boyle on Shallow Grave. - 0:02:01- 480i/MPEG-2
An all too short featurette with Danny giving some brief opinions on directing Shallow Grave, working with the cast and finally having it released. Everything mentioned here is better addressed in the earlier commentary.
- Ewan McGregor on Shallow Grave. - 0:07:29 - 480i/MPEG-2
In 2002 Ewan McGregor was interviewed by Mark Kermode for Channel Four's Career Retrospective. It would have been nicer if the full interview was shown here rather than just the portion where McGregor discusses his time on Shallow Grave.
What we have here is better than nothing, which is what we were faced with on earlier DVD incarnations, but still not tip top by any stretch of the imagination. All of the extras are worth a watch with the commentary and the excellent fly on the wall featurette really demanding your attention. The last two are a little short to glean any useful information on the person or the film but still worth a little glance.
VerdictShallow Grave still whacks a wee bit of a punch; the genre has moved on a little, most notably by the Coen Brothers, and that's no bad thing but there's still some good stuff to see here. The plot slowly reveals itself, those small, subtle yet so important twists and turns take centre stage and for the first viewing you really wonder who's plotting against who and why.
This set Danny Boyle, Ewan McGregor, Chris Eccleston and Kerry Fox on their way to international stardom. Kerry was already half way there with a good enough following, Ewan has participated in some serious money making ventures which in turn allow him to divulge in some of his more obscure projects but Chris Eccleston, whilst being a good actor in his own right, has yet to really blossom in film. He's more than capable of doing so, I feel his needs the right script.
This locked Region B Blu-Ray is head and shoulders over what was released on DVD. The video is a vast improvement and whilst the audio is richly crisp and detailed don't expect too much from it; there's only so much you can do on the limited budget they had in 1994; ultimately this is a good upgrade. I did wonder if the film had repeat viewing potential, but even though you know the turns the film will take, it does stand up well if you go back to it every so often. So from that point of view it's a good enough one to own and add to your collection. For those people though who feel once they've seen a good thriller they don't go back to it then obviously a rental is the best option you can take. Either way watch it for the first time now, or re-visit it; I don't think you'll be disappointed.
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- Commentary with Director Danny Boyle.