Born On The Fourth of July

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Details At A Glance

Category Drama Theatrical Trailer(s) Yes, 1 - 1.33:1, not 16x9, Dolby Digital 2.0
Rating Other Trailer(s) None
Year Released 1989 Commentary Tracks None
Running Time 138:17 minutes Other Extras Biographies - Cast and Crew 
Production Notes
RSDL/Flipper RSDL (75:34)
Cast & Crew
Start Up Movie
Region 2,4 Director Oliver Stone

Columbia TriStar Home Video
Starring Tom Cruise 
Kyra Sedgwick 
Raymond J Barry 
Jerry Levine 
Frank Whaley
Caroline Kava
Willem Dafoe
Case Transparent Amaray
RRP $34.95 Music John Williams

Pan & Scan/Full Frame None MPEG None
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Dolby Digital 5.1
16x9 Enhancement No Soundtrack Languages English (Dolby Digital 5.1, 384 Kb/s) 
German (Dolby Digital 2.0 , 192 Kb/s) 
French (Dolby Digital 2.0 , 192 Kb/s) 
Italian (Dolby Digital 2.0 , 192 Kb/s)
Spanish (Dolby Digital 2.0 , 192 Kb/s) 
Czech (Dolby Digital 1.0, 96 Kb/s) 
Polish (Dolby Digital 1.0, 96 Kb/s)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
Macrovision Yes Smoking Yes
Subtitles English
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or
After Credits

Plot Synopsis

    Born On The Fourth of July is a film whose reputation is certainly impressive enough, even though for some reason I had never seen it before. Much of that reputation would seem to centre around director Oliver Stone, whose pedigree is very impressive indeed. In this instance the reputation is deserved.

    Ron Kovic (Tom Cruise) is the epitome of a young American of the sixties, determined to serve his country just as his father did before him. He dutifully signs up for the Marines, and finds himself serving two tours of duty in Vietnam during the height of the war. During those tours he faces atrocities that shake his beliefs, and the chaos of Vietnam results in his accidentally shooting dead one of his squad members, further causing him to question his beliefs. Unfortunately, Ron is severely wounded in battle and winds up in the Bronx Veterans Hospital, in conditions that border on the scandalous, as a paraplegic. After a significant time in hospital, Kovic returns home to his family and starts to feel the frustrations of a veteran from a war that is increasingly unpopular in the general population. What follows is the story of how Kovic comes to terms with his lack of respect as a veteran, and how people in general treat him, becoming a vocal anti-war and pro-human rights activist.

    This is based upon the biography written by Ron Kovic and in that respect is an extremely disturbing look at how the veterans, and especially the wounded veterans, from the Vietnam War were treated upon their return to the United States. Tom Cruise is extremely powerful as Ron Kovic and clearly shows why this earned him an Oscar nomination. But this really is Oliver Stone's film from the very beginning and a gem it is too, for which he deservedly won the Best Director Oscar. The fact that even ten years later the film still holds its power indicates the brilliance of the work of Oliver Stone. But what is so disturbing about the film is the treatment that wounded veterans were subjected to in Bronx Veterans Hospital. Also exceptionally ironic, and Oliver Stone goes to great pains to ensure that we notice, is the treatment meted out to anti-war protesters during the late sixties and early seventies. The United States is very big on condemning the likes of China for their violation of human rights at events such as Tianamen Square (justifiably so), yet the treatment meted out to the anti-war protesters has some very disturbing similarities indeed.

Transfer Quality


    Warner Advanced Media Operations were responsible for the compression of this disc, but I am doubtful that they would like to be reminded of this, for this is a poor transfer indeed. Whilst not quite as bad as Backdraft, this has serious problems that cannot be ignored. That such an important film has been treated so poorly is doubly unfortunate.

    The transfer is presented at an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, but it is not 16x9 enhanced. This alone is one of the main culprits for the quality of the transfer.

    The transfer was somewhat variable in both sharpness and clarity. The transfer is somewhat inconsistent in this regard throughout, which may be a reflection of the way Oliver Stone made the film. Shadow detail was generally adequate, although it could have been a lot better, even for a film of ten years old. There seemed to be several sections of the film exhibiting noticeable low level noise.

    The colours are somewhat problematic in their rendering, although this too may be the way Oliver Stone wanted the film to appear. The earlier scenes in the 1950's demonstrate a quite muted colourscape, whereas the later sections of the film are much richer in tone. On occasions the tone was over rich and the colours seemed a little oversaturated. This is not an especially vibrant transfer at all, and at times the contrast was not too good. At times however, the colours are quite gorgeous, most especially the night-time scenes from around 40:30. The overall colourscape of the film does take some getting used to, especially when you see the Stars and Stripes rendered in dull red and dull blue.

    There were some hints of MPEG artefacts during the film, most noticeably at about 120:15 where there appeared to be a slight pixelization of the picture. But it is the film-to-video artefacts that are the real problem throughout the film: not only is aliasing an extensive problem throughout, but it is very noticeable and quite distracting. Most of these problems would have been rectified by anamorphic enhancement, which makes it all the more difficult to accept the current transfer. Film artefacts are quite prevalent too throughout the film, although they are not distracting after the video artefacts.

    This disc is an RSDL formatted disc, with the layer change at 75:34. The layer change is noticeable but not especially disruptive to the film.


    The overall quality of the soundtrack is somewhat better than the video transfer, but is not one of the best that I have ever heard.

    There are seven audio tracks on this DVD: English Dolby Digital 5.1, German Dolby Digital 2.0 surround-encoded, French Dolby Digital 2.0 surround-encoded, Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 surround-encoded, Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 surround-encoded, Czech Dolby Digital 1.0 and Polish Dolby Digital 1.0. I listened to the default English Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack.

    Dialogue was clear throughout, although at times it was a little difficult to understand: the normal listening level needs to be upped a little to watch this one.

    There did not appear to be any audio sync problems with the transfer.

    The music score is provided by John Williams and is a very good one too, filled with quite emotive music. It contributes enormously to the film.

    This is a nicely balanced soundtrack, with some nice detail in the surround channels, especially early on. The sound picture created is quite believable and you are nicely inserted into it. Some of the effects were a little understated in the mix, but this is not especially bothersome.

    The bass channel was not used very much in the soundtrack, mainly during some of the war scenes. There could perhaps have been a little more emphasis created by a slightly more adventurous use of the bass channel.


    There is a reasonable collection of extras on this disc, although not too inspiring given the acclaim for the film..


    The menu is not especially well themed and it lacks any enhancement at all.

Production Notes

    Quite extensive and very legible.

Theatrical Trailer

Biographies - Cast & Crew

R4 vs R1

    This disc has been released in two versions in Region 1, one a featureless DTS version and the other similar to the Region 4 version. This latter version appears to miss out on:     This would seem to tip the decision in favour of Region 4, providing that the video transfers are similar.


    Born On The Fourth Of July is a superb film, let down very badly by a very ordinary video transfer. Just what has Oliver Stone done to deserve his mistreatment on Region 4 discs? It is even more disappointing knowing that Universal is capable of such superb transfers such as Shakespeare In Love and Babe. This is a flawed effort that really should not have passed quality control, and frankly even devotees of the film should be wary of the transfer - rent first to see whether it affects you as badly as it affects me. This is a monumental disappointment for me.

    A poor video transfer, not aided by the lack of anamorphic enhancement.

    The audio transfer is good.

    The extras are reasonable.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Ian Morris
15th November 1999

Review Equipment
DVD Pioneer DV-515; S-video output
Display Sony Trinitron Wega 84cm. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Audio Decoder Built in
Amplification Yamaha RXV-795. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Speakers Energy Speakers: centre EXLC; left and right EXLR; and subwoofer ES-12XL