Meet Joe Black

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Details At A Glance

Category Drama/Romance Theatrical Trailer(s) Yes, 1
Other Trailer(s) None
Year Released 1998 Commentary Tracks None
Running Time 172:52 Other Extras Biographies - Cast & Crew
Featurette - Spotlight on Location (9 mins)
Production Notes
Web links
RSDL/Flipper RSDL (92:31)
Cast & Crew
Start Up Movie
Region 2,4 Director Martin Brest

Columbia TriStar
Starring Brad Pitt
Anthony Hopkins
Claire Forlani
Jake Weber
Marcia Gay Harden
Jeffrey Tambor
RRP $34.95 Music Thomas Newman

Pan & Scan/Full Frame No MPEG None
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1 Dolby Digital 5.1
16x9 Enhancement Yes Soundtrack Languages English (Dolby Digital 5.1, 384 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)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
Macrovision Yes Smoking No
Subtitles English
Annoying Product Placement No

Plot Synopsis

    Death, otherwise known as Joe Black (Brad Pitt), comes to visit mere mortals on his holidays, choosing a successful businessman, William Parrish (Anthony Hopkins) as his guide and mentor; for Joe also wants to learn more about life. The holiday is somewhat of a busman's holiday however as he is also there to escort Bill Parrish through his imminent death, but does a deal to give Bill as much time as possible to live as long as Bill teaches him about life. In the process, Joe soon becomes an inseparable part of Bill Parrish's personal and business life. Which is fine until he falls in love with Bill's beautiful daughter Susan (Claire Forlani) - and who wouldn't? The story basically revolves around Bill's final weeks on earth, including the loss of his company through the conniving of his daughter's boyfriend and generally nasty person, Drew (Jake Weber) and the regaining of his company and reputation with the help of Joe. The film climaxes with Bill's 65th birthday party, after which he accompanies Joe to the hereafter - or does he?

    This is a most unusual film in that it is almost three hours long and it travels at a fairly leisurely pace, yet it never seems to lose your interest. Whilst Anthony Hopkins is a stand out as usual (is he capable of a poor performance?), Brad Pitt once again proves that he is a quality actor, with an exceptionally engaging performance as Joe Black. This is a performance of charm, naivety and innocence from Brad Pitt that would, in my view, have to be his finest performance in film, and in most respects he upstages Anthony Hopkins. Claire Forlani is most convincing and engaging as the beautiful and intelligent daughter, and a finer trio it would be hard to imagine. The story is beautifully crafted and wonderfully directed by Martin Brest, with some wonderfully moving sequences and some rather unexpected twists.

Transfer Quality


   Overall, this is another very good quality transfer from Universal.

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

   Overall, the transfer is very sharp and nicely defined, although a little grainy. Given the consistency of the transfer, it is possible that the graininess is inherent in the original film, but irrespective of that, one soon adjusts to the image without concern. Shadow detail is very good. Some of the effects work involving Joe's arrival in the library is extraordinarily surrealistic.

    Colours are very nicely rendered, and have a nice vibrancy, without being garish. There is no hint of oversaturation in the colours and the transfer has a wonderful naturalness to it.

    There were no MPEG artefacts noted. There were no video artefacts noted. There were no noticeable film artefacts noted, and overall this is an almost unblemished transfer - something of a rarity for a modern film.

    This is an RSDL formatted disc, with the layer change occurring at 92:31. The layer change is noticeable, but not disruptive to the flow of the film.


   The audio transfer is overall of very good quality, although it does make little use of the rear channels.

   There are four audio tracks on the DVD. The default is an English Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack, the other options being: French Dolby Digital 2.0 surround sound, Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 surround sound and Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 surround sound. I listened to the English default.

   The dialogue was clear and easy to understand at all times, although some may prefer to raise the volume on this one a little above their normal listening volume. Some of the dialogue involving Joe Black and the woman in the hospital benefits from this treatment.

   Audio sync was not a problem with the transfer at all.

    The music score by Thomas Newman is wonderfully atmospheric and complemented the film very well indeed.

    The surround channels were not especially well used during the film, being balanced very much in favour of the front and centre channels: little use is made of the rears, except late in the film during the party sequence. This is not to say that the soundtrack is flawed, as even with this balance there was an ethereal quality to the soundtrack that I believe was intentional and certainly suited the style of the film.

   The bass channel was barely used during the film; this is not an aggressive soundtrack at all, and minimal use was made of bass at all.


    A quite decent collection of extras rounds out a very nice DVD package.


    A very plain menu, lacking any form of enhancement whatsoever. Unusually for Universal, it is relatively easy to determine the highlighted icon in the menu.

Theatrical Trailer

   Actually of very good quality. It is presented at an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, with a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack.

Featurette - Spotlight on Location

   Of pretty good quality, this almost ten minute featurette is presented full frame (with excerpts from the film at an aspect ratio of 1.78:1) with a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack. Comprising interviews with the main cast members and the director, it is not especially illuminating but nonetheless a welcome addition to a lengthy disc.


   Nicely detailed biographies of all of the main cast members and director, with some quite detailed filmographies.

Production Notes

   Some quite extensive notes that are both informative and legible, for a change.

R4 vs R1

    It would appear that there is no difference between the Region 1 and Region 4 releases, so the deciding factor would have to be the superior resolution of PAL compared to NTSC, making the Region 4 release the better choice.


    Overall, this is a touching and moving film, highlighted by great performances from Brad Pitt and Anthony Hopkins. Despite its length, it never flags and is certainly demanding of your attention.

    The overall video quality is very good indeed with a virtually unblemished transfer albeit a little grainy.

     The audio quality is very good, with a nicely atmospheric soundtrack.

    The extras were somewhat better than other discs in this batch of releases from Universal.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Ian Morris
3rd September 1999

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