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Details At A Glance

Category Drama Theatrical Trailer(s) None
Rating Other Trailer(s) None
Year Released 1996 Commentary Tracks None
Running Time
119 minutes
(not 123 per case)
Other Extras None
RSDL/Flipper No/No
Cast & Crew
Start Up Movie
Region 2,4 Director Jon Turteltaub

Warner Home Video
Starring John Travolta
Kyra Sedgwick
Forest Whitaker
Robert Duvall
Case Amaray
RRP $34.95 Music Thomas Newman

Pan & Scan/Full Frame None MPEG None
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Dolby Digital 5.1
16x9 Enhancement Yes Soundtrack Languages English (Dolby Digital 5.1)
French (Dolby Digital 2.0 )
Italian (Dolby Digital 2.0 )
Theatrical Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
Macrovision ?
Subtitles English
English for the Hearing Impaired
Smoking No

Plot Synopsis

    Phenomenon is a thought-provoking film about George Malley (John Travolta), a simple country mechanic who knows cars and gardening, until one day, on his 37th birthday, he sees a light coming from the sky. He cannot explain this light, but it gives him enhanced mental powers - he learns new languages at the drop of a hat, he has ideas, he manages to break a secret military code just for the sake of something to do, and he acquires telekinetic powers.

    George, however, remains quite a naive and simple man - all he wants is for his friend, Nate Pope (Forest Whitaker) to be happy, and to have his love of Lace Pennamin (Kyra Sedgwick) returned. But, complications ensue with at least some of the townsfolk threatened by the newly intelligent George.

    John Travolta turns in a great performance as George, in a very moving story. Robert Duvall is his usual excellent self as the town doctor. This is an excellent movie.

Transfer Quality


    The video transfer of this movie is variable in quality. The majority of the transfer is excellent, but there are times when there are some quite distracting artefacts.

    The transfer is presented at an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, 16x9 enhanced. I believe in this case that this was an electronically enhanced 16x9 transfer on the basis of the variable quality of the image under stress rather than a real 16x9 transfer.

    The transfer was usually sharp and clear, but at times seemed to lose some definition. Graininess was occasionally a problem. Shadow detail was satisfactory, and there was no low level noise.

    The colour was well saturated throughout.

    No definite MPEG artefacts were seen. Film-to-video artefacts consisted of moderately large amounts of aliasing at times involving all of the usual suspects. There was also some very unusual-looking horizontal image wobble which occurred from time to time. This did not appear to be telecine wobble, as usually it only involved a portion of the image wobbling horizontally. When it occurred, it was very distracting. Two specific examples of this artefact are at 55:57 - 56:41 (watch the back of the chair) and 76:44 - 76:54 (watch the house). I wonder whether this was some sort of MPEG motion compensation artefact. Film artefacts were rare.


    There are three audio tracks on this DVD; an English Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack, a French Dolby Digital 2.0 surround-encoded soundtrack and an Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 surround-encoded soundtrack. I listened to the default English Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack.

    Dialogue was usually clear and audible, though some words were a little hard to make out. The dialogue had an artificial, processed quality to it - a lot of the time it was not well integrated into the rest of the soundtrack which was somewhat distracting.

    There were no audio sync problems with this disc.

    The musical score was by Thomas Newman. It was well suited to the relaxed feel of the movie, and complemented the action superbly. It was not present all that often, but when it was, it fitted nicely.

     The surround channels were not used a great deal, being a dialogue-based movie, but there was quite a deal of ambience placed in the front channels which was very effective indeed.

   The .1 channel did little except for a few select moments, where it was called into action most impressively.


    There are no extras on this disc. Nada. Nil. Zip. The Amaray case has a small booklet which lists chapter stops, but this doesn't count as an extra. Neither does the little piece of paper stating that the disc is compatible with Region 4 players even though the disc label says Region 2.

What's Missing / What's Extra

    The Region 1 version of this disc has the Theatrical Trailer on it. However, the Region 1 version of this disc is not 16x9 enhanced.


    The main menu is plain and functional. It is 16x9 enhanced.


    Phenomenon is a great movie on a generally good disc. At least worth a rental.

    The video quality varies from mostly excellent to some poorly transferred sections.

    The audio quality is good.

    The extras present are non-existent.

Ratings (out of 5)

Extras nil

© Michael Demtschyna
4th June 1999

Review Equipment
DVD Pioneer DV-505, using S-Video output
Display Loewe Art-95 95cm direct view CRT in 16:9 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