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Details At A Glance

Category Horror Theatrical Trailer(s) None
Rating Other Trailer(s) None
Year Released 1990 Commentary Tracks None
Running Time 105 minutes Other Extras None
RSDL/Flipper No/No
Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Selection then Menu
Region 4 Director Rob Reiner

Starring James Caan
Kathy Bates
Frances Sternhagen
Richard Farnsworth
Lauren Bacall
RRP $34.95 Music Marc Shaiman

Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame MPEG None
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None Dolby Digital 2.0
16x9 Enhancement None Soundtrack Languages English (Dolby Digital 2.0 )
German (Dolby Digital 2.0 )
Spanish (Dolby Digital 2.0 )
Theatrical Aspect Ratio 1.85:1    
Macrovision ?    
Subtitles English

Plot Synopsis

    Misery is a horror movie based on the Stephen King book. It stars James Caan as Paul Sheldon, the successful writer of a franchise of books based on the character Misery Chastain. Paul has just completed a new book, not based around Misery, and is driving back to New York when he has a car accident in the middle of nowhere. He is rescued by Annie Wilkes (Kathy Bates), who nurses him back to life. She feels privileged to do so, since after all, she is his "number one fan". Not only that, but she gets to read his new book before anyone else.

    This is where things start to go wrong. Paul's new book does not meet with Annie's approval - too much "cock-a-dandy" swearing for her tastes. However, Annie also gets hold of Paul's latest Misery book, and things are good again for a while...until Annie finds out that Misery dies. Then, things really go wrong for Paul as he realizes that he is being kept a prisoner and it is unlikely that he will ever be found.

    Misery is a great movie, with brilliant acting by James Caan and Kathy Bates. Kathy Bates, in particular, plays her character superbly, alternating between charming and evil. The story is finely crafted, and moves through suspenseful moment to suspenseful moment, with a number of twists along the way. At least one scene, involving a block of wood, will make you cringe, and is one of the most shocking scenes I have ever seen on film (this is praise, not criticism).

    The supporting cast consists of the cynical, wise-cracking local Sheriff, Buster (Richard Farnsworth) and his equally cynical and cheeky wife, Virginia (Frances Sternhagen), and a cameo appearance by Lauren Bacall as Paul's literary agent, Marcia Sindell.

Transfer Quality


    The video transfer of this movie is acceptable, but only just. It appears to have been made from the same master as the Laserdisc.

    The transfer is presented at an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 (4:3). It appeared to be a Full Frame transfer rather than a Pan & Scan transfer. As always, I would have preferred a widescreen matted presentation, however, we are unlikely to see this any time soon. I note that the Region 1 version is a dual-format disc.

    The transfer was quite sharp and clear, with good shadow detail, and no low level noise. It wasn't quite up to current generation transfers, but was certainly acceptable. Comparing it to the Laserdisc, the DVD was significantly sharper and had much deeper and better looking blacks given the absence of low level noise on the DVD.

    The colours were nicely rendered in this transfer, and I was very happy with them. Overall, they are well-saturated, more so than the Laserdisc, with no colour bleeding at all.

    No MPEG artefacts were seen.

    Film-to-video artefacts were a problem with this transfer, with frequent aliasing present on a number of scenes. In particular, any scene shot in the snow was a problem, and any scene involving a car was a problem. The usual problematic venetian blinds also caused some aliasing, but not badly so. The added sharpness of DVD makes these aliasing artefacts more noticeable compared with the softer Laserdisc image.

    Film artefacts were surprisingly few and far between.


    There are three audio tracks to choose from on this DVD. The default is English Dolby Digital 2.0, surround-encoded. This is the track that I listened to. The other tracks present are a German soundtrack in Dolby Digital 2.0, surround-encoded, and a Spanish soundtrack in Dolby Digital 2.0, surround-encoded. There are no MPEG tracks on this DVD.

    Dialogue was completely clear all of the time, important for a movie such as this one.

    The music complemented the on-screen action without standing out particularly.

     The surround channel was used frequently for music and also to add some ambience, such as during thunderstorms. The soundtrack was reasonably enveloping, but more could certainly have been done with the sound to make it even more enveloping.

    The .1 channel was not specifically used, however my surround sound processor sent some signal to the subwoofer, mainly music. It never needed to work hard at all, except here and there.


    Like When Harry Met Sally, there are no extras on this disc at all. Nothing. Just Scene Selections and Language/Subtitle selections.


    The menu design on the disc is very straightforward given that there are only three options to choose from.


    Misery is a great movie, and a reasonable quality of transfer given the apparent age of the master used to create this version. It is a pity, however, that we were denied a matted widescreen version of this movie.

    The video quality is of generally good quality, but did suffer quite marked aliasing problems at times, making this overall a just barely acceptable transfer.

    The audio quality is of reasonable quality, and in particular has very clearly recorded dialogue.

    The extras are non-existent.

Ratings (out of 5)

Extras nil

© Michael Demtschyna
11th January 1999

Review Equipment
DVD Pioneer DV-505, using S-Video output
Display Loewe Art-95 95cm direct view CRT in 4:3 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