Missing In Action

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Details At A Glance

Category Action None
Rating m.gif (1166 bytes)
Year Released 1984
Running Time 97:11 Minutes
RSDL/Flipper RSDL (53:28)
Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Selection then Menu
Region 2,4 Director Joseph Zito
Cannon Films
Fox Home Video
Starring Chuck Norris
M. Emmet Walsh
David Tress
Lenore Kasdorf
James Hong
Case Transparent Amaray
RPI $34.95 Music Jay Chattaway

Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English (Dolby Digital 2.0 mono, 192 Kb/s)
German (Dolby Digital 2.0 mono, 192 Kb/s)
French (Dolby Digital 2.0 mono, 192 Kb/s)
Italian (Dolby Digital 2.0 mono, 192 Kb/s)
Spanish (Dolby Digital 2.0 mono, 192 Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 (Measured)
16x9 Enhancement
16x9No.jpg (4709 bytes)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
Macrovision Yes Smoking Yes
Subtitles English
English for the Hearing Impaired
German for the Hearing Impaired
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

Plot Synopsis

    After the release of First Blood, a string of films that attempted to revise the history of the Vietnam War into the action format flooded the market. Missing In Action was one such film, and its relative profits somehow managed to convince both the film studio and its star that prequels were warranted.

    Missing In Action and its two follow-ups are noted for one thing. In essence, they are known for squeezing as much brainless action into as little space as is humanly possible while throwing caution, historical accuracy, production values, and decent acting to the wind. Indeed, one of the episodes in this saga has Colonel Braddock (Chuck Norris) escaping from a Vietnamese prison camp straight into Thailand in spite of the fact that Vietnam does not share any borders with that country.

    The plot, such as it is, revolves around Braddock returning to Vietnam, where he was held captive for ten years. Once there, he attempts to uncover the location of a prison camp and rescue the prisoners in an attempt to prove that there are soldiers missing in action who are still being held captive. The moral of this story is quite clear: when a government denies a possibility that many segments of the public support, they run the risk of Hollywood making a long string of crap films about it. The other actors in the film simply serve as props for Chuck Norris to dispose of as he sees fit.

    This isn't the worst film that you will ever see Chuck in, but this is very faint praise, because he has been in some real shockers. I suspect that the major reason why nobody tells him about the lamentable badness of the material he lends his questionable acting talents to is simply because they're afraid of him. At least, that's one sound theory as to why he continues to lend his services to Walker: Texas Ranger: nobody has had the courage to tell him he's better off cutting his losses and using his bank balance to retire with. Still, if mindless action of the variety that is encapsulated so well in the Hot Shots! films, or films that are simply so bad that they are good (and then bad again), is your sort of thing, then this is worthy of looking at.

Transfer Quality


    The packaging claims that this transfer has been "enhanced for widescreen TVs". This is a worrying trend from Metro Goldwyn-Mayer releases: transfers that are obviously not enhanced to take advantage of television's future aspect ratio, presented in packaging that claims that they are. The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1, and it is not 16x9 Enhanced. In a curious disregard for the subtitling system of the DVD format, the English translations of any phrases rendered in Vietnamese have been burned into the video.

    The transfer is sharp enough for the action in the foreground to be perfectly watchable, at least most of the time. There are some sequences in which the film stock and the focus combine to make the picture look decidedly soft, but these are hardly any fault of the transfer. The shadow detail can be described as adequate, with there being just enough detail to make out who is doing what, but not much else. Low-level noise is not a problem, with all stretches of colour in the transfer being smooth and clear for the most part. However, film grain is problematic, particularly in one shot where Braddock confronts a number of Vietnamese citizens who have been stood over to testify against him, which stretches from 19:08 to 20:02. This is one of the nastiest-looking shots I have ever seen on DVD Video, which is saying something.

    The colour saturation is bright and vivid, furthering the illusion that the action is taking place in South-East Asia rather than a studio backlot. Flashes of green, red, and brown are all rendered without any serious problems, but you'll have trouble finding serious uses of any other colours in this film. The saturation varies during the more problematic shots in the beginning of the film, but becomes quite beautiful after this point.

    MPEG artefacts were not a problem with this transfer, with the bit rate sitting quite comfortably above eight megabits per second almost all the time. It was a wise move to spread this film out over two layers, considering the shape that the source material appears to have been in. Film-to-video artefacts were not a problem except for some interference on a television set in the first reel of the film, which was only visible for a few seconds anyway. There was some telecine wobble in both the opening and closing credits, but this didn't seem to be a problem during the feature itself. Film artefacts, however, are a problem for this transfer, with a large mess of flecks on the source material adding to the grain in the aforementioned shot of Braddock's confrontation with the Vietnamese citizens. In other shots, the problem is quite mild, but this one sequence has enough film artefacts to make up for the rest of the feature.

    This disc is presented in the RSDL format, with the layer change taking place at 53:28. While the layer change is noticeable, it is not particularly disruptive to the flow of the film.


    The audio transfer is serviceable, but is not the greatest transfer of an action film that you're ever going to hear. The transfer consists of five soundtracks, all of them in Dolby Digital 2.0 mono: the original English dialogue, and dubs in German, French, Italian, and Spanish. Being that I have no doubt that the dialogue is equally idiotic and cheesy in all five languages, I stuck with the English soundtrack.

    The dialogue was mostly clear and easy to understand, although there were occasional lines from the Vietnamese characters that fell below the basic level of intelligibility due to the actors' accents. It is somewhat annoying, but you can rest assured that there are no great, intelligent things you really need to hear from this film. Audio sync was not a problem in this transfer except for some lousy sound effects, but that's all part and parcel of a Chuck Norris film. A loud click can be heard at 13:55.

    The music in this film is credited to Jay Chattaway, and it is hard to determine whether he would be more embarrassed by the name or this film. Much of the music has a processed, synthetic sort of sound to it, much like the acting, and it started to remind me of the music from Plan 9 From Outer Space at times. There is so much cheese in this score that viewing the film starts to feel like eating one too many burgers from McDonald's, making it all the more hilarious that one might suspect the makers of this film wanted to be taken seriously. It's a pity that this music isn't available locally on compact disc, as it would be perfect for driving your friends and neighbours completely bonkers with.

    The surround channels were not used by this soundtrack, which is something of a pity considering the numerous sound effects that could have done with some redirection into the rears. Helicopters, powerboats, knives flying through the air - all of these sounds could have been supported by the surrounds, but were simply restricted to the front channels. This was compounded by the fact that there were no split stereo effects, as one would expect from a monaural soundtrack, which further destroyed the suspension of disbelief during the aforementioned sound effects. Thankfully, the subwoofer jumped in very frequently to support the music, the gunshots, and the myriad of explosions that came thick and fast like the cheesy dialogue. It supported all of these effects without calling any specific attention to itself.


    Well, there is a menu.


    The menu is static and it is not 16x9 Enhanced. It is, however, quite easy to navigate due to it being bereft of any meaningful choices.

R4 vs R1

    None of the more reliable web sites in Region 1 had any reviews of this disc online, so I was forced to consult the technical details at several online retailers.

    The Region 4 version of this disc misses out on;

    If you are really willing to pay good money for this film, then the local product appears to be the way to go by virtue of the fact that the disc is one-sided. But I strongly advise renting the disc first.


    Missing In Action stars Chuck Norris, and he is the most recognizable actor in the entire show. Need I say more? The DVD is watchable, but the phrase "rental only" comes to mind a lot when watching and listening to it.

    The video quality is watchable.

    The audio quality is slightly better than the video.

    The extras are non-existent.

Ratings (out of 5)

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© Dean McIntosh (my bio sucks... read it anyway)
November 7, 2000.

Review Equipment
DVD Toshiba SD-2109, using S-video output
Display Samsung CS-823AMF (80 cm), 16:9 mode/4:3 mode, using composite and S-video inputs, calibrated using the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Audio Decoder Built In (Amplifier)
Amplification Sony STR-DE835, calibrated using the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Speakers Yamaha NS-45 Front Speakers, Philips PH931SSS Rear Speakers, Philips FB206WC Centre Speaker, JBL Digital 10 Active Subwoofer