Fox present The Edge with on a Region A disc with an AVC MPEG-2 encode that is robust and rewarding, even if it is no trophy winner.
The gorgeous 2.35:1 frame is still a testament to the superlative photography from Donald McAlpine, and the transfer is a substantial upgrade over the last DVD, but there is little here that is remarkable in typical hi-def standards.
Indeed, the opening scenes as Morse and his wife's entourage arrive in the billionaire's plane, the image looks so soft and blurred and indistinct that it hardly represents anything over standard resolution. But this does not last for long at all. Once they board the smaller, local transport plane and fly through the majestic valleys and over the tops of mountains, things really begin to look up … so to speak. Edges become tighter and better resolved, detail becomes more acute, even in the peripheries which had looked awful in that introductory scene, and the image gains more vitality. The print is in great condition and grain is certainly faithfully presented throughout. The film's colour palette is muted, dour and overcast, and the disc handles this pretty accurately, with only the reds of the local seaplane, some clothing, the blood of livid wounds and the greens of the foliage offering much in the way of vibrancy. But, this said, the brown fur of the bear, the speckling on the squirrel and the rustic décor of L Q Jones' timber lodge all seem natural and realistic to me. Facial tones, too, are presented with realism.
I was very pleased to find that the black levels were so deep and evocative. The shadows are realistic and the night-time sequences really benefit from the thick swathes of darkness. Figures illuminated during such moments really look as though they are surrounded by inky shadows. As far as I am concerned, no detail appears to have been lost within them, either. Flames from the camp-fires and the torches poke vividly through the gloom, as does the sudden flash of lightning, iand the varying shades of terrain and sky are made light work of with the fine contrast that is maintained. A greyness permeates some of the more high-altitude shots, but this is part of the original photography, and the little flecks of snow are still rendered with naturalism. There is a lot of impressive depth that the image languishes within. The landscapes really stretch back into the distance. Characters and objects, such as the spears that they wield, are pronounced from the image with a splendid three-dimensionality that leaves previous home video versions of the film a long, long way behind. This is a film that actually thrives on such an in-yer-face quality and the transfer does such visual intentions proud.
It is true that the picture has many moments when it appears quite soft, though, and The Edge does not pass for a transfer of a much more recently made film, but fine detail is actually highly in evidence. Close-ups seem happy to reveal pores, whiskers, a fleck of spit stringing between Alec Baldwin's lips, and even the occasional fakery of the little cuts and grazes on the faces of both the leads – honestly, the gel-scratches are quite obvious. Hopkins' clammy pale blue eyes also come in for a lot of tight scrutiny, as do Bart the Bear's. Two separate leg-wounds get the attention via some quite vivid detailing – one spurting icky claret, so the squeamish should take heed. Details in the little survival book come across reasonably well, as does the rather prophetic illustration on the reverse of the note that the missing hunter has left for visitors to his cabin.
I noticed one incident of slight aliasing, and there may be a very small element of edge enhancement on the mountain ranges, though this could, of course, be down to the original lighting and the photography, so I wouldn't worry too much. There has been no overt DNR applied to the image either, and, occasional softness aside, this is a very respectable transfer of a catalogue title that has not been the recipient of any major restoration. I have no doubt that The Edge could look better again, but there is very little to complain about with Fox's handling of this Blu-ray upgrade.
This sounds great, folks.
Coming at you with an occasionally ferocious DTS-HD MA 5.1 track, The Edge makes damn sure that you feel the pressure when thing turn primal and nasty. Without a doubt, the element that makes the most use of the lossless audio is Jerry Goldsmith’s classic score. Full speaker wraparound is afforded his music, lending his main theme a sweeping, engulfing quality that becomes a reassuring delight in the respites from the action and the imagery goes all scenic. But when the bear goes on the offensive, Goldsmith's downright savage animal theme rips through the soundscape and dominates all in its path, literally pushing out at you.
There are plenty of other good bits. The plane crash, especially the bit when it clips a mountaintop and one of its landing pontoons is sheared off. The impact with the flock of birds is pretty meaty too, and the gurgling water that swiftly engulfs the plunging plane emanates from all around. The scattering of cartridges on the table of the web-strewn hunter's cabin is nice, and there is some decent separation widening the front array. I like the sudden jolting flurry of sound when Morse leaps to lock and bolt and the door in the lodge at the beginning, and the subsequent smashing of crockery provides some sharper sonics. An abrupt scene transition is heralded with a terrific thunderclap and the rainfall is more than decently dispersed around the soundfield. Positioning and panning are definitely utilised, though only one or two moments spring to mind. There is some atmospheric snorting and grunting heard around the speakers as the unseen bear circles the men as they cower within their protective ring of fire. We get distant roaring too, from both the bear and from the rapids going over a waterfall. And the sudden rush of a helicopter rotoring right overheard is appropriately loud and forceful. The track is also able to pick out lots of snapping branches and cracking twigs as the men run for their lives through the forest.
But the bulk of the acoustic action is concerned with the bear-battles and what you'll find here is that the track is mostly taken up with bellowing, screaming and roaring ... and, of course, Jerry G.'s musical onslaught. The harsh and primal anvil-clash is the key to the power of these incredibly tense moments, especially during the second attack. But you can clearly pick out the bongos, the clawing swipes of the frenzied strings and the awesome pitch-bending of the trombones that become the very signature of the bear.
Dialogue is always perfectly clear, from the grizzled accent of L Q Jones to the blurted expletives from Hopkins during the most frenzied bear encounters to the hushed and rasping confessional moments towards the end. Unlike our weary fugitives, the track does not out a foot wrong.
One of the greatest man-against-nature thrillers since Jaws, The Edge is still surprisingly overlooked, and this is represented by the lack of extras. All Fox provide us with is a slew of trailers, including one for main movie, itself. Immensely disappointing.
Three powerful performances rocket The Edge into the rugged terrain of wild outdoor adventuring normally dominated by the likes of Johnny Rambo and The Last Of The Mohicans. Hopkins is typically cool and sinister as the bookworm forced to unveil his own primal ferocity. Baldwin is a bubbling stew of confusion, anger and self-loathing, and it is great to see his smarmy over-confidence whittled right down to the bone. And, of course, Bart the Bear owns every scene that he is in with such blood-freezing aggression that he becomes the stuff of nightmares in Lee Tamahori's strenuous yarn.
The film is great in keeping you on your toes about the human dynamic as well as the more overtly fierce bear-trouble, and even if the plot is still somewhat hackneyed in places, it is just as thought-provoking as it is pulverising. There are twists and turns aplenty … but it will always be the intimidating man versus Bart confrontations that stick in the mind.
Fox brings The Edge in out of the Alaskan wilderness and scrubs it up into hi-def with a solid transfer that brings the vistas to majestic life, and ensures that Hollywood superstars are reduced to a wretched, harried figures at their dishevelled wit's end with surprising clarity and detail. The lossless audio track offers plenty to get your sonic teeth into, as well. The bear attacks are simply bowel-loosening under the musical assault of Jerry Goldsmith's classic bear motif, and the sense of immersion in the great outdoors is very well conveyed.
Hugely neglected, The Edge is well worth trekking through on Blu-ray. Highly recommended!
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