Devil In A Blue Dress

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Details At A Glance

Category Crime/Film Noir Theatrical Trailer(s) Yes, 1
Rating Other Trailer(s) Yes, 2 - Bone Collector, Dolby Digital (City)
Year Released 1995 Commentary Tracks Yes, 1 - Carl Franklin (Director)
Running Time 97:12 minutes Other Extras Menu Animation
Animated Scene Selections
Featurette-Don Cheadle Screen Test
Biographies - Cast & Crew
RSDL/Flipper RSDL (60:30)
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region 2,4 Director Carl Franklin 

Columbia TriStar
Starring Denzel Washington
Tom Sizemore
Jennifer Beals
Don Cheadle
Maury Chaykin 
RRP $39.95 Music Elmer Bernstein 

Pan & Scan/Full Frame None MPEG None
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1 Dolby Digital 5.1
16x9 Enhancement
Soundtrack Languages English (Dolby Digital 5.0, 448Kb/s)
French (Dolby Digital 5.1, 448Kb/s)
German (Dolby Digital 5.1, 448Kb/s)
Italian (Dolby Digital 5.1, 448Kb/s)
Spanish (Dolby Digital 5.1, 448Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary (Dolby Digital 2.0, 256Kb/s)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
Macrovision Yes Smoking Yes
Subtitles English
French Audio Commentary
German Audio Commentary
Italian Audio Commentary
Spanish Audio Commentary
Dutch Audio Commentary
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

Plot Synopsis

    Ezekial "Easy" Rawlins (Denzel Washington) loses his job for no good reason, and ends up doing what he thinks is a simple bit of detective work for a local shady character played expertly by Tom Sizemore. This little job turns into a bigger job, until Easy is in deep into the underworld, with the law after him as well as some unsavoury crooks. Things all fall into place by the end, and our man is free from trouble and is actually the better for it all.

    I like a good film noir now and then, and this is a good one. Set in Los Angeles in 1948, all the ingredients are in place; lots of smoking, a lot of cheap scotch drinking,  a lot of well-dressed crooks, and of course a good mystery to tie it all together. Denzel is very good in this role, which is quite different for him. He is well-suited because he always comes across as tough, strong and pig-headedly stubborn - qualities which his character needs in order to pull himself out of the mess he finds himself in with his dignity intact. The ambience is right, and the movie just works. It's that simple.

Transfer Quality


    This transfer is of reference quality in all areas, from start to finish, and is another fine example of DVD done correctly, from Columbia TriStar of course.

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

     The image was always sharp and clear, with plenty of detail visible at all times and so good as to be film-like. Shadow detail is particularly important for this transfer, as much of it is at night and dimly lit as the mood dictates, and it was beyond reproach. This is some of the best shadow detail I have seen on video, and is the stand-out of this transfer. There was no low-level noise, and only a hint of film grain.

    The colour palette used in this movie is at times bold, with strong saturation when needed, but never too much. Colours are handled superbly, with no noise or bleeding. The change from night-time to broad daylight is handled with aplomb, with colours appearing bright and clean. Skin tones were right on the money.

    There was a distinct absence of MPEG artefacting, as there was an absence of film artefacts or video artefacts.

    The DVD is RSDL formatted, with the layer change occurring between chapters 18 and 19, at 60:30 minutes. It is minimally intrusive. 

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-to-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    No less than five full soundtracks adorn this disc, with all, save the English, being in Dolby Digital 5.1, encoded at the now standard 448 Kilobits per second. The English soundtrack is Dolby Digital 5.0, however it appears that the .1 channel is silent for the other soundtracks anyway, so there is nothing to worry about on that score. This is a nice soundtrack, and is very pleasing.

    Dialogue was always clear and easy to understand, although there was the occasional obvious voice-looping which tended to stand out now and then due to the change in timbre. Audio sync was always fine.

    The soundtrack is essentially a collection of 40s period songs, making for an interesting change. This is not the highest quality for obvious reasons given the original source material for most of these songs, however the original music is of excellent quality.

    Whilst not overly aggressive, the use of the surround channels is subtle and frequent during the movie, giving a strong ambience. Certainly, the soundtrack is more active in this area than would be expected, and it added a nice touch to the presentation.

    Whilst the .1 channel is not encoded or is silent, there is a decent level of bass to the soundtrack. Effects have plenty of weight and the sound is certainly full in that regard. The subwoofer integration was seamless.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use



    This is an interesting menu, though it could have been just a little better. The main menu is themed, and represents a night-time street, with neon signs as selections. Now, these are all in strong glowing colours, and the problem is that the selected option is simply not visible, since it replaces whatever selection with another strong colour. It is not impossible to navigate, but it is certainly difficult and should be simpler. Scene selections are animated (yippeee!), though the whole menu seems to be missing something. It's called audio. This is not the first collector's edition from Columbia TriStar which has animated menus and scene selections and is totally silent, and there must be audio with these kinds of menus in my opinion.

Scene Selections (28)

Audio Commentary - Carl Franklin (Director)

    Nowadays, every man and his dog seems to want to be in a commentary, for good or for bad. This is just Carl talking in a relaxed manner about this and that, and is very listenable. He divulges much about this movie, and is most certainly worth a listen, though his relaxed manner might just send you nodding off, so be careful.

Featurette - Don Cheadle Screen Test (14:51)

    Introduced by director Carl Franklin, this is a video of Don Cheadle performing a sit-down screen test of various scenes in the movie. Personally, I am not that impressed with this actor, however Mr Franklin disagrees, and feels we should be in awe of his performance. Whatever. This featurette is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 and in Dolby Digital 2.0 mono.

Theatrical Trailers

  1.     Devil In A Blue Dress (2:28). Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, in Dolby Digital 2.0 surround.
  2.     Bone Collector (2:00). Presented in an aspect ration of 1.33:1, in Dolby Digital 2.0 surround.

Biographies - Cast & Crew

Dolby Digital Trailer (City)

    A change would be nice...

R4 vs R1

    The Region 4 version of this disc misses out on;     The Region 1 version of this disc misses out on;     The R4 version is the preferred version due to the inherent superiority of the PAL format, and since the R1 has only one layer for the entire movie, the R4 version is potentially less compressed and better still!


    Devil In A Blue Dress is quite a different movie, with film noir being a rarity these days. I enjoyed it, and once again proves that I haven't met a Denzel Washington movie that I didn't like. A solid movie.

    The video transfer is excellent, and is of reference quality.

    The sound transfer is very, very good.

    There are only limited extras, and maybe only scraping in as a Collector's Edition by virtue of the good commentary and screen test, though I would expect more to justify that title.

Ratings (out of 5)

© Paul Cordingley (bio)
7th June, 2000. 
Review Equipment
DVD Panasonic A360 (S-Video output)
Display Rear-Projection Pioneer SD-T43W1 125cm Widescreen 16x9
Audio Decoder d t s 5.1 & Dolby Digital 5.1 (DVD Player internal decoder)
Amplification Sony STRDE-525 5x100 watts Dolby Pro-Logic / 5.1 Ready Receiver; 4 x Optimus 10-band Graphic EQ
Speakers Centre: Sony SS-CN35 100 watt; Main & Surrounds: Pioneer CS-R390-K 150-watt floorstanders; Subwoofer: Optimus 100-watt passive