This review is sponsored by

Details At A Glance

Category Comedy Adventure Theatrical Trailer(s) None
Rating Other Trailer(s) None
Year Released 1986 Commentary Tracks None
Running Time
107:13 minutes
(not 124 minutes as stated on packaging)
Other Extras Biographies - Cast & Crew
Menu Audio & Animation
Animated Scene Selections
Production Notes
RSDL/Flipper No/No
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region 4 Director Roman Polanski

Force Video
Starring Walter Matthau
Richard Pearson
Damien Thomas
Olu Jacobs
RRP $34.95 Music Philippe Sarde
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Pan & Scan MPEG None
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None Dolby Digital 5.1
16x9 Enhancement No Soundtrack Languages English (Dolby Digital 5.1, 448 Kb/s)
English (Dolby Digital 2.0 , 192 Kb/s)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
Macrovision ? Smoking No
Subtitles None Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

Plot Synopsis

    I had never seen this movie before, and I must admit I quite liked it. Basically, Walter Matthau is here at his best (in my opinion) as the wonderfully stereotypical Pirate Red, replete with his outrageous beard and wooden peg-leg. He is joined on a raft in the middle of nowhere by his lackey, whom he almost eats out of desperation for a feed until they drift upon a Spanish Galleon, proceed to mutineer the crew and make off with the gold there-contained and end up right where they started adrift in the ocean by the end of the movie. This is wonderful fun, helped also by the award-winning costumes and the absolutely amazing galleon which is basically the set of the movie. It is said in the production notes that this movie cost $31 million to make, and that the Spanish Galleon is still the largest single prop ever constructed for a motion-picture!

    Having said all that, it really is a B-movie, and that gives it free-reign to be an all-out pirating and swashbuckling affair. Most enjoyable, and a refreshing change.

Transfer Quality


    This is yet another troubled transfer from Force Video, though it is really the fault of the source material more than anything else.

    The transfer is panned and scanned in an ugly aspect ratio of 1.33:1, and it is not 16x9 enhanced. This really takes me back to the brutal days of VHS (you remember that format of the last millennium....), and any framing of the 2.35:1 format intended by director Roman Polanski is well and truly butchered in this version. Do you get the impression that I don't approve of pan & scan? Well done! This alteration of the film to fit "the shape of our TVs"   is not acceptable at all, and any sea-sickness you might feel as the image swings abruptly here and there, coupled with the rocking of the galleon, is completely understandable!

    This is quite a poor print, and it exhibits very mediocre qualities. Whilst the image is fairly sharp, detail is not up to scratch. Shadow detail was non-existent - poorly lit areas were simply a uniform black, with no gradation - to my eyes, this effect was worsened due to the contrast level being too high, which also affected the colour balance. There was no low-level noise throughout the movie which I noticed above and beyond MPEG artefacting.

    Colours were somewhat over-saturated. The opening credits, which are red on black, bled dreadfully though thankfully this did not happen during the movie itself.

    Now then, this movie runs close to two hours and it is compressed onto one side. Couple this with fully enhanced menus, and the amount of bandwidth to compress this movie is reduced to below adequate levels. MPEG compression artefacting rears its ugly head almost all the time throughout the movie; especially during quick pans or fast-action. Low-level, low-contrast picture information is worst hit by this, and motion-blur occurs frequently. Whether this is a result of the transfer or compression is difficult to say, but nonetheless it is there. Having said that, the actual print itself simply does not demand any better; had this been a clean, 2.35:1 transfer in the first place, then I would say we need an RSDL disc because the movie itself is quite good.

    Film-to-video artefacts are not problematic. On the other hand, film artefacts are abundant though not particularly distracting; they consist mostly of small flecks and scratches, and only occasionally are they severe.


    The audio fares rather better than the video, and is surprisingly good.

    There are two soundtracks, both English. One is Dolby Digital 5.1, the other Dolby Surround 2.0. Whilst it is always nice to have a 5.1 mix, I am thankful that Force decided to also include a matrix-surround mix also as this is far better! Whilst the original movie used a 6-track audio print, this 5.1 mix is simply a re-hash of the surround mix, with the front-stage delayed and repeated in the surround channels. This makes for a very echoey sound, as if you had your surround processor set to "Large Hall"! It is odd to hear sounds on a wooden raft in the middle of the ocean "echo" around the room - quite unnatural sounding, and I tired of it quickly. The Dolby Surround mix was, on the other hand, well balanced and much easier to listen to.

    Dialogue was at all times very clear and easy to understand; this is because all voices (and other sounds) we re-recorded by necessity given the nature of the on-location shooting, which sometimes gave them an unnatural sound but were on the whole well integrated into the mix.

    There were no real problems with audio sync during the movie.

    The musical score by Philippe Sarde is a most lively and fascinating one, and I enjoyed it quite a lot. Certainly, it fits the mood and is most appropriate for the action. It is well recorded, and very clean. With the 5.1 mix, it fills the room very nicely given that it is mostly orchestral work, however I did not listen to the whole movie in 5.1 given the above mentioned problems. In the 2.0 surround mix, it was less enveloping and quite centre-speaker biased.

    Surround presence is very nice in the Dolby Surround soundtrack, having subtle yet noticeable presence in the rear speakers when necessary. The Dolby Digital 5.1 mix, whilst sounding wonderfully enveloping initially, quickly became tiresome.

    The subwoofer was used a great deal, giving a nice bottom-end to cannon shots, guns and at times the score.



    There is a real dichotomy in action here. A mediocre film presentation, with wonderfully (if a little odd) high-quality menus. At all times throughout the menu structure, there is audio and animation enhancement. Scene selections are animated, and even the bios are animated. The scene selections are slightly strange in that you get to choose either a straight text list of all the chapters, or an animated scene-selection option. I really get the feeling that if Force Video could get their hands on decent transfers they could make very nice discs ....

Biographies - Cast & Crew

Production Notes

R4 vs R1

    The R1 version misses out on:


    Quite an enjoyable movie, with a great performance from Walter Matthau. A message to Force Video - please get hold of better source material. I would be most interested in seeing this movie in its correct aspect ratio.

    The video quality is ugly and really lets the movie down.

    The audio is average.

    Great menus! Wow!

Ratings (out of 5)

Video sr.gif (100 bytes)sg.gif (100 bytes)
Audio sg.gif (100 bytes)sg.gif (100 bytes)sg.gif (100 bytes)sg.gif (100 bytes)
Extras sr.gif (100 bytes)
Plot sg.gif (100 bytes)sg.gif (100 bytes)sg.gif (100 bytes)
Overall sr.gif (100 bytes)sr.gif (100 bytes)
© Paul Cordingley
3rd January, 2000
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