Dead Poets Society

This review is sponsored by

Details At A Glance

Category Drama Theatrical Trailer(s) None
Rating Other Trailer(s) None
Year Released 1989 Commentary Tracks None
Running Time 123:28 minutes  Other Extras None
RSDL/Flipper No/No
Cast & Crew
Start Up Movie
Region 2,4 Director Peter Weir

Warner Home Video
Starring Robin Williams
Case Amaray
RRP $34.95 Music Maurice Jarre

Pan & Scan/Full Frame None MPEG None
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1 Dolby Digital 4.0
16x9 Enhancement Yes Soundtrack Languages English (Dolby Digital 4.0) 
French (Dolby Digital 2.0 )
Italian (Dolby Digital 2.0 )
Theatrical Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
Macrovision ?
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired Smoking Yes

Plot Synopsis

    Dead Poets Society is set at the very stuffy Welton preparatory school. Boys are sent here to prepare them for prominent careers. Discipline is paramount. Individuality is frowned upon.

    New English teacher John Keating (Robin Williams) is about to change this. He has a love of poetry, and he inspires his students to carpe diem ('seize the day') and to make something of themselves and their lives, before it is too late.

    The story concentrates on the development of the students' individual passions; Neil Perry (Robert Sean Leonard) pursues acting despite his father's insistence on his becoming a doctor, Knox Overstreet (Josh Charles) persists in his love of an apparently unattainable girl, and Todd Anderson (Ethan Hawke) comes out from behind the shadow of his famous brother with the aid of Mr Keating.

    This is an ensemble movie, with the entire cast contributing more-or-less equally to the outcome. A slow and slightly pretentious start is rapidly improved upon, and the movie becomes both a celebration of the human spirit and a tragic depiction of what happens when this spirit is suppressed.

Transfer Quality


    The video transfer of this movie is excellent.

    The transfer is presented at an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, 16x9 enhanced.

    The transfer was sharp and clear, and belied the age of the movie. Shadow detail was reasonable, and there was no low level noise.

    The colour was well saturated throughout.

    No MPEG artefacts were seen. Film-to-video artefacts were not noticed. Film artefacts were very rare.


    There are three audio tracks on this DVD; an English Dolby Digital 4.0 soundtrack, a French Dolby Digital 2.0 surround-encoded soundtrack and an Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 surround-encoded soundtrack. I listened to the default English Dolby Digital 4.0 soundtrack. As with all Buena Vista titles, you cannot select the audio track on-the-fly, but must select it from the main menu, which is quite an annoyance.

    The English soundtrack is presented in a most unusual audio format, Dolby Digital 4.0. This has discretely-encoded Left, Centre, Right and Surround channels. It is unclear as to whether this is simply the matrix-encoded soundtrack decoded into a discrete 4.0 mix with professional equipment, or whether this soundtrack has been encoded from the original discrete 4 channel audio stems prior to their combination into the surround mix. I would like to think that the producers of this DVD went back to the original 4-track discrete master recording to create this soundtrack, but it is probably more likely that this is simply a "pre-decoded" surround mix. The Region 1 version of this disc contains the more usual Dolby Digital 2.0, surround-encoded soundtrack.

    Dialogue was always clear and audible, critically important for a dialogue-driven movie such as this one.

    There were no audio sync problems with this disc.

    The musical score was by Maurice Jarre. It had a somewhat dated synthetic feel to it, though the majority of the film's soundtrack was comprised of classical music.

    The surround channel had limited use for the odd special effect and some music, but was basically silent. The soundtrack was basically a front soundstage mix.

   The .1 channel was not encoded for the majority of the movie, but between Chapter 11 and Chapter 20 (or more precisely, between 51:30 and 103:52), the .1 channel indicator on my processor was lit, though there did not appear to be any signal sent to the subwoofer. It is a little difficult to define this audio mix as either a 4.0 or a 4.1 mix, but I decided to classify it as a 4.0 mix given that the .1 channel seemed to only appear transiently, and was superfluous to the overall sound of the mix.


    There are no extras on this disc. Nada. Nil. Zip. The Amaray case has a small booklet which lists chapter stops, but this doesn't count as an extra. Neither does the little piece of paper stating that the disc is compatible with Region 4 players even though the disc label says Region 2.

What's Missing / What's Extra

    The Region 1 version of this disc is not 16x9 enhanced.


    The main menu is plain and functional. It is 16x9 enhanced.


    Dead Poets Society is a great movie on an excellent disc. Highly recommended. Given that our version of this DVD is 16x9 enhanced, this is another time when the Region 4 product is clearly superior to the Region 1 product, no question about it.

    The video quality is excellent.

    The audio quality is good.

    The extras are non-existent.

Ratings (out of 5)

Extras nil

© Michael Demtschyna
9th June 1999

Review Equipment
DVD Pioneer DV-505, using S-Video output
Display Loewe Art-95 95cm direct view CRT in 16:9 mode, via the S-Video input. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Audio Decoder Denon AVD-2000 Dolby Digital AddOn Decoder, used as a standalone processor. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Amplification 2 x EA Playmaster 100W per channel stereo amplifiers for Left, Right, Left Rear and Right Rear; Philips 360 50W per channel stereo amplifier for Centre and Subwoofer
Speakers Philips S2000 speakers for Left, Right; Polk Audio CS-100 Centre Speaker; Apex AS-123 speakers for Left Rear and Right Rear; Yamaha B100-115SE subwoofer