Mississippi Burning

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Details At A Glance

Category Drama Theatrical Trailer(s) Yes, 1 - 1.33:1 non-16x9, Dolby Digital 2.0 mono
Rating Other Trailer(s) None
Year Released 1988 Commentary Tracks None
Running Time 121:33 minutes Other Extras Biographies - Cast & Crew
RSDL/Flipper No
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region 2,4 Director Alan Parker

Columbia TriStar
Starring Gene Hackman
Willem Dafoe
RRP $34.95 Music Trevor Jones

Pan & Scan/Full Frame No MPEG None
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1 Dolby Digital 2.0
16x9 Enhancement Yes Soundtrack Languages English (Dolby Digital 2.0 , 192 Kb/s)
French (Dolby Digital 2.0 , 192 Kb/s)
German (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 Yes
Subtitles English
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

Plot Synopsis

    There is nothing to my mind so disturbing and upsetting as Man's inhumanity to Man. Mississippi Burning is a study in that very condition which at times is deeply moving and powerful in its telling, and also in its consequences - for this is based on truth and portrays actual events which took place in the southern states of America in 1964.

    The plot involves two FBI agents investigating the disappearance of civil rights workers in Mississippi. Willem Dafoe plays Ward - a straight suit who is disgusted with what he finds, yet plays it straight down the line all the way. Gene Hackman is superb as the ex-small town Sheriff, a man who is street-wise in the backward towns of southern America. Their relationship throughout the movie is uneasy and strained, yet they both have the same motive - to get to the truth. They are confronted by a town steeped in their ways of hatred for black people; indeed, even the local law are members of the Klan. This is a town at war with justice and basic human rights.

    The acting in the movie is superb, and the plot runs at a well timed pace. Perhaps the events in this movie did not happen as shown, but certainly no one can deny the truth behind the story.

Transfer Quality


    This transfer is as troubling as the subject matter, and not at all in keeping with Columbia TriStar's usual high standard.

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

    Very early on it is apparent that this transfer is problematic, and the first indication of this is during the dark beginning scenes. Shadow detail here and throughout the movie is quite poor - dim areas appear black rather than dark. The transfer has quite a soft look to it, with little detail or clarity. There is a harshness to the image which is difficult to pin down to one particular area. I have my suspicions that this transfer is not a genuine PAL master, but simply a rehash of the old non-anamorphic NTSC transfer; however, I cannot confirm this. There was no low-level noise to speak of.

    The colours throughout the movie appear very odd. Again, it is hard to say why. Certainly the opening scenes with the flaming buildings are rendered very well, but in the brightness of day the colours appear recessed and muted. Skin tones do not look very natural, and there is a general faded quality to the image in this regard.

    There were at times image breakup due to MPEG compression artefacts, especially evident during the dusty introduction to the town of Mississippi. Motion blur was often apparent and particularly distracting. Of particular note is the style in which the movie is filmed. For some reason, parts of the movie are shot with high shutter speeds. This is VERY distracting as it destroys the persistence-of-vision illusion which motion pictures rely on the look natural and smooth; this is the same technique which sports events are often shot in to capture fine detail of fast movement, and is not appropriate for a motion picture at all. Film artefacts were prevalent and distracting during the first chapter, but virtually disappeared afterwards. Film-to-video artefacts consisted of mildly problematic aliasing.


    There are five audio tracks on this disc. English Dolby Digital 2.0 surround, French Dolby Digital 2.0 surround, German Dolby Digital 2.0 surround, Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 surround and Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 surround. I listened to the default English soundtrack.

    Dialogue was at all times clear and easy to understand.

    There were no problems with audio sync during the movie.

    The musical score by Trevor Jones is a mixture of deep, pulsing electronic tones and rich sometimes dissonant strings which effectively created tension and underpinned the emotional nature of many scenes. The front soundstage is very wide and detailed with a wonderful clarity and presence. Whilst not up to contemporary standards, it is nonetheless a fine soundtrack and was very satisfying.

    Surround presence is subtle yet effective. Whilst never calling attention to itself, the surround channel helped deepen the soundstage, particularly with the score.

    The subwoofer was called upon to strengthen the score and was well used at times.



    The static menu design is sombre and drab, and is not 16x9 enhanced.

U.S. Theatrical Trailer (1:08)

   Presented in 1.33:1, it is not 16x9 enhanced and is in Dolby Digital 2.0 mono. It has an unusual style, and gives a slightly biased indication of the plot.

Biographies - Cast & Crew

R4 vs R1

    The R1 version misses out on:     The R4 version misses out on:     The audio commentary is a serious omission for the R4 version, and I believe the transfer is not true 16x9. In light of this, the R1 version is the preferred choice.


    A powerful, stirring and well-crafted movie with superb acting.

    The video quality is poor.

    The audio is very good for a surround mix.

    Little extras - and where's the commentary?

Ratings (out of 5)

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© Paul Cordingley
6th December 1999
Review Equipment
DVD Panasonic A350A S-Video output
Display Pioneer SD-T43W1 125cm Widescreen 16x9
Audio Decoder Internal Dolby Digital 5.1 (DVD Player)
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