JFK: Director's Cut

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Details At A Glance

Category Drama Disc 1:
Main Menu Introduction
Main Menu Audio and Animation
Listing - Cast and Crew
Audio Commentary - Oliver Stone (Director)
Notes - Awards

Disc 2:
Deleted/Extended Scenes - with or without audio commentary by Oliver Stone (54:46)
Featurette - Multimedia Essays (2) (40:46)
Theatrical Trailer - 1.85:1, 16x9, Dolby Digital 2.0 (2:17)
DVD-ROM Extras

Year Released 1991
Running Time 197:17 minutes
RSDL/Flipper Disc 1: RSDL (98:58)
Disc 2: No/No
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region 2,4 Director Oliver Stone
Warner Bros
Warner Home Video
Starring Kevin Costner
Kevin Bacon
Tommy Lee Jones
Laurie Metcalf
Gary Oldman
Michael Rooker
Jay O. Sanders
Sissy Spacek
Case Black Dual Alpha
RPI $36.95 Music John Williams

Pan & Scan/Full Frame No English (Dolby Digital 5.1, 384 Kb/s)
Italian (Dolby Digital 5.1, 384 Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary (Dolby Digital 2.0 , 192 Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
Macrovision ?Yes Smoking Yes
Subtitles English
Italian for the Hearing Impaired
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

Plot Synopsis

    The dramatization of the greatest conspiracy of all time finally makes it onto Region 4 DVD. If you need to know the plot, then where have you been since November 22, 1963? Probably no single event of human history has been the subject of so much intense speculation and investigation for so little public tangible result than the assassination of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy. Broadly speaking, Oliver Stone has approached the conspiracy from the aspect of the real investigations of New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison (Kevin Costner) who to this day remains the only person to bring a case against any person involved in the conspiracy or assassination - this being the charging of Clay Shaw (Tommy Lee Jones). Whilst the outcome is obviously known from the start as it is an historical fact, that has not prevented a very powerful statement from Oliver Stone.

    Okay, so I have never believed the official line that Lee Harvey Oswald (Gary Oldman) acted alone in the assassination, for the simple reason that there are so many inconsistencies in that official line. Just about every single one of those inconsistencies has been ruthlessly exposed by Oliver Stone, utilizing whatever actual evidence is available, combined with a lot of supposition. Whilst the intent here is not to tell you who did assassinate John F. Kennedy, it is doubtful that anyone watching the film could not at least rethink what is presented here. Was it a conspiracy hatched in the highest echelons of the government and the military and kept very quiet until long after the participants will be dead - I for one have always believed so, and this film certainly provides the explanation for why, if not the who. Does it matter? That is the precise point of the film - if we cannot have the fortitude to face the truth no matter how bitter the taste, then what hope is there for any belief in the underlying principals of democracy. Unfortunately, this is a film that makes no apologies (and nor should it) for confronting in a very direct way these thoughts. Oliver Stone created a masterpiece that in no small way should be remembered come 2029 (or later) when, under the current laws of the United States, the official documents relating to the Kennedy assassination will (should?) start to be released into the public domain - and when we all hopefully finally learn the truth.

    In creating the masterpiece, Stone has brought together a quite distinguished ensemble cast led by Kevin Costner that wrings just about everything it possibly can out of a quite superb script. Making great use of available public material blended with new film material, this film is a stunning, albeit somewhat controversial, poke at what the Warren Report (the official investigation of the assassination) so obviously glossed over. A important film that you need to see at least once if only to think again about what we have obviously never been told - the truth of what really happened to culminate in that fateful afternoon of November 22, 1963.

    The above words were those I scribed many moons ago with respect to the original release of JFK in Region 4. To be honest I cannot see much point in changing them, for the basic fundamental of an obvious conspiracy in the assassination continues to hold true, and probably shall until those documents are released starting (hopefully) in 2029. However, I should perhaps stress very clearly that this is not an explanation of what happened on that fateful day in Dallas, but rather a provocative exercise in "what if?", taking as the starting point some of the inconsistencies and omission in the principal document regarding the assassination in the Warren Report.

    Oliver Stone has made some gems in his time, although he does not seem to garner the praise he deserves. JFK is a typical example - it has been more pilloried that praised, mainly by people who completely misunderstood the point of the film. This is not an explanation of who did it, nor was it ever intended to be an explanation of how they did it, but rather a valiant attempt to question the official line of dubious facts that have been the staple of the assassination. Until the truth is finally known, then we should all have the fortitude to question our governments, for until they are truthful to the people, we do not have true democracy.

    And if you want a simple answer as to why I do not believe the line that Lee Harvey Oswald assassinated John F Kennedy and acted alone, it is in that one single picture contained in the film of the dead president. You explain to me how the back of his head is missing if he was shot from the rear, as he would have to have been if he were shot from the book repository? Surely the front of his head would suffer such damage from a bullet penetration from the rear?

Transfer Quality


    It needs to be remembered that portions of this film are actual archival film material taken during that day, and some of this is of quite marginal quality - and in black and white.

    The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, and it is 16x9 enhanced - unlike the earlier release of the film on DVD. The archival film used at the start of the film is presented in its original 1.33:1 aspect ratio.

    Ignoring the archival material, the transfer is quite sharp and pretty well defined throughout. Clarity is generally pretty good, although you should note that some material has been given a deliberately grainy appearance so as to blend in with archival material and to convey a sort of detached, 1960s view of what is going on. Shadow detail is generally quite acceptable, although not in the league of more recent transfers. There did not appear to be any low level noise problems in the transfer.

    Colours are quite muted and are not overly vibrant in general, although outdoor shots certainly are treated to a more vibrant palette of colours. The colours are consistently rendered and there did not seem to be any oversaturation at all. Black and white tones are pretty well defined in general, although some archival material (or material tricked up to look archival) does not have really great tonal separation. Blacks could perhaps have been a little deeper in tone, but it would seem that there has been a general effort to keep the colours reasonably well muted to suit the time period of the film and to tie in with the archival material. There did not appear to be any colour bleed issues in the transfer.

    There were some small hints of MPEG artefacts during some panning sequences, but nothing really worthwhile getting too upset about - and the fact that it may well be source-related mitigates in favour of the mastering. The big difference between the old transfer and this new anamorphically enhanced transfer is the fact that film-to-video artefacts are somewhat less prevalent. There is still some aliasing around the place, mainly earlier on in the film, with examples being found at 7:49 (rooftop edges - just like the earlier transfer), 10:02 (furniture edges) and 12:15 (hat edge). There were also some very minor indications of cross colouration in Jim Garrison's suit jacket around the 33:30 mark. These remain relatively minor annoyances that are barely noticeable in the overall scheme of things. Film artefacts were not a significant problem during the film, and were not a distraction to the film.

    The film itself is contained on disc one, which is an RSDL formatted DVD, with the layer change coming at 98:58. Whilst it is a little noticeable, it does come at a scene change and is not really disruptive to the flow of the film - and is so much better than the flipper formatting of the earlier release that it is not funny. Disc two is a plain old vanilla single layer, single sided DVD - despite what the packaging might state.

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


    The big change here is the fact that the film has been finally given a full Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. Not before time either, and it is a good one. There are three audio tracks on the DVD, being an English Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack, an Italian Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack and an English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 surround encoded soundtrack. Not wishing to hear what travesties were perpetuated by an Italian dub, I stuck with the two English soundtracks.

    The dialogue throughout the film was generally clear and easy to understand, within the context of the film anyway. It should be noted that there is a wide range of accents and even speech on parade here and some, like that from John Candy, does take a little bit of extra attention to be truly understandable. There did not seem to be any audio sync problems with the transfer.

    That name is on the film: John Williams. Look up excellence in film scoring in any book about film making and that name will be numero uno in the list of current composers. He is number one for the simple reason that he is better than everyone else and has demonstrated it repeatedly over the years. This is another of those great efforts of his, where a great theme gets a solid workout and the entire score is nicely evocative and supportive of the film. So where is the isolated music score???

    Actually, I don't have much to say about the soundtrack really. Apart from some slight disappointment at times with the bass channel being just a little too prevalent in the mix and adding a bit of reverb that sounds a tad unnatural, there is not much issue here with the remastered soundtrack. It also needs to be remembered that this really is a very dialogue driven film and there is not a huge amount of scope for a really dynamic bass channel here. Perhaps a slightly better use of the rear surround channels for ambience could have helped at times, but really that would be a personal preference thing. The overall soundscape is quite natural, with a reasonably open sound that is not at all congested.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    One of the big issues with the earlier release of JFK was the fact that it was devoid of any extras. Well, that has been well and truly rectified in this Director's Cut release. And this 2 DVD release is available at a similar price to a regular single DVD release too, adding to the value of the package no end.


    Decent enough and reasonably well themed to the DVD cover. The main menu has a decent introduction with good audio and animation enhancement, as well as audio and animation enhancement in its own right too. All menus are 16x9 enhanced.

Disc One:

Audio Commentary - Oliver Stone (Director)

    The real issue I had with the original release of the film was the lack of an audio commentary from the director. I felt that this was essential for a film of this nature, that has suffered from attack over the representation of the information. Much of this is due to misunderstanding in my view, so the chance to now listen to Oliver Stone talking about the film is perhaps the best aspect of this new release. And this is well worth listening to. In his slightly casual sounding way, he adds a lot of background narrative to the way the film was done, the way the information was presented and indeed about other threads that were not pursued. Overall, this is the best commentary I have listened to as it seriously enhances the understanding and enjoyment of the film. It is not often that I listen to commentaries all the way through and especially ones that run more than three hours. This was the first thing I listened to on the DVD and I am very glad that I did.

Listing - Cast and Crew

    Once again all we get is just a listing of the main cast and crew - really disappointing.

Notes - Awards

    A listing of the Oscars and Golden Globes the film won. Ho hum.

Disc Two:

Deleted and Extended Scenes (54:46)

    This comprises 12 different elements, including a fascinating alternate ending, which can be listened to with either the original production sound (that is, before any ADR work) or with a commentary by Oliver Stone. Unlike those in Any Given Sunday, these are given quite an interesting commentary by him and despite the length of the final film, he obviously regrets that certain of these scenes were deleted or shortened. They are all presented in an aspect ratio of either 2.00:1 (or at least something quite close to this) or 2.35:1, are not 16x9 enhanced and come with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. Some are genuinely interesting and help the understanding of certain aspects of the film, whilst others really just extend existing scenes without providing any additional impetus to the story. The technical quality at times is a little lacking but none are that bad, but then again none are that good either. Again in common with Any Given Sunday, the serious bummer here is that we have to suffer a myriad of copyright notices right after the conclusion of these scenes.

Multimedia Essays (2) (40:46)

    Quite where the multimedia bit comes from I don't know, but this comprises two parts: Meet Mr X: The Personality and Thoughts of Fletcher Prouty (11:03) and Assassination Update - New Documents (29:43). Fletcher Prouty was the basis for the Mr X character in the film played by Donald Sutherland and was involved in the cloak and dagger of secret operations. Whilst he does not give too much away here, the credence he brings to the film is interesting. The technical quality here is about on a par with home video and is not especially wonderful. The assassination update, narrated by author Jim DiEugenio, is a fascinating update of information that followed on from the release of the film and further declassification of documents in the period 1994 to 1997. Funnily enough, some of this information starts to substantiate some of the suppositions and what ifs presented in the film. Technical quality is even worse here - there is some grotesque shimmer at times and plenty in the way of what appears to MPEG compression issues (with a fair deal of blockiness at times). These are presented in a Full Frame format and are not 16x9 enhanced. The sound is Dolby Digital 2.0. Whilst the technical quality may not be high in value, the content is.

Theatrical Trailer (2:17)

    Whilst of excellent technical quality, it really demonstrates the problem of trying to promote a film of this sort. Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1, it is 16x9 enhanced and comes with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. Nothing much wrong with it at all.

DVD-ROM Extras

    Please excuse me whilst I go into rant mode on this topic once again. When you throw disc two into the DVD-ROM drive, our familiar little friend PC(un)Friendly fires up, and you end up at the main menu where your two choices are: Play Movie and DVD-ROM features. We are concerned here with the second choice, so selecting it leads us into the following:

Special Events

    This is just the familiar automated link to the web site www.warnervideo.com/dvdevents, which is all well and good except for one slight problem: it has not been updated in aeons. It is still promoting the four Oscars won by The Matrix. It is still mentioning new releases that have been out for aeons. And I could find nothing specifically relating to JFK and therefore was quadruply annoyed by the fact that once you go to the web site, you cannot return directly to the DVD. The content is a complete waste of everyone's time and frankly it is about time Warners gave up on it.

Essays And Previews

    This is just an automated link to the web site www.warnervideo.com/jfk_articles. Well that might sound interesting, except when you click on the link you get this great message: "JFK Essays and Reviews Coming Soon. Check back soon for an exclusive Internet-DVD commentary by Oliver Stone". A complete waste of time to be avoided in the extreme.

Other Links

    Naturally the DVD-ROM content offers the usual clickable links to assorted Warner Bros. web sites if you are that interested.


    As far as we have been able to ascertain, there are no censorship issues with this title.

R4 vs R1

    From what information I am able to garner from the Internet, mainly as my preferred choices for decent information remain silent on this release for some reason, it would seem that broadly speaking the Region 1 and Region 4 2-DVD sets are the same. This release is obviously vastly superior to the earlier Region 1 release of the Director's Cut.


    JFK is one of Oliver Stone's masterpieces, and it is great that we have finally gotten a release worthy of the film. Whilst it has to be said that the additional footage does not add a whole lot to the film, the inclusion of the audio commentary is essential and 16x9 enhancement and the full Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack are serious plusses too. We can rejoice about the elimination of the dreaded flipper formatting but can be vitriolic in our anger over the atrocious DVD-ROM content. If you have the original Region 4 version of the film, then try and find some sucker to buy it off you and replace it with this one. Better sound, 16x9 enhancement, extras including an audio commentary - this is an essential purchase.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Ian Morris (have a laugh, check out the bio)
11th April, 2001

Review Equipment
DVD Pioneer DV-515; S-video output
Display Sony Trinitron Wega 80cm. 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 C-2; rears EXLR; and subwoofer ES-12XL