Pretty Woman

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Details At A Glance

Category Romantic Comedy None
Year Released 1990
Running Time 114:46 minutes
RSDL/Flipper FLIPPER (58:41)
Cast & Crew
Start Up Movie
Region 2,4 Director Garry Marshall
Touchstone Pictures
Warner Home Video
Starring Richard Gere
Julia Roberts
Ralph Bellamy 
Jason Alexander
Laura San Giacomo
Hector Elizondo
Case Transparent Amaray
RPI $36.95 Music James Newton Howard

Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English (Dolby Digital 2.0 , 192 Kb/s)
French (Dolby Digital 2.0 , 192 Kb/s)
Italian (Dolby Digital 2.0 , 192 Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.83:1 (measured)
16x9 Enhancement
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
Macrovision ?Yes Smoking No
Subtitles English
English for the Hearing Impaired
Annoying Product Placement Yes
Action In or After Credits No

Plot Synopsis

    Rather belatedly, we catch up with one of the earlier Buena Vista releases in Region 4, and almost the prototypical romantic comedy of the 1990s to boot. A very successful romantic comedy, too, with US box-office takings alone of well over $170 million. Not a bad return on the initial investment I would think! So, one of the biggest romantic comedies of the 1990s gets a superb DVD debut...not.

    Pretty Woman is broadly a 1990s remake of the Cinderella story, and how many of these have there been? Just in case you happened to miss the film, Edward Lewis (Richard Gere) is a very successful, very handsome businessman specializing in corporate raiding. He is also the king of impossible relationships. Leaving a party after breaking up with his girlfriend over the telephone and borrowing his lawyer's Lotus, he finds himself a tad lost in Hollywood. Contrary to the popular version of Hollywood, the place is not exactly terrific, and at night is the gathering point of prostitutes, amongst a lot of other even seedier elements. Edward pulls up lost on Hollywood Boulevard and attracts the attention of Vivian Ward (Julia Roberts), who in the absence of any other business opportunities for the evening, agrees to give personal directions to Edward in exchange for $20. So commences a rather unusual week in Beverley Hills. Not quite fitting in to the usual crowd of Beverley Hills, when shopping Vivian is refused service at a store and then faces the inquisition from Barnard Thompson (Hector Elizondo) the hotel manager. With his assistance, and Edward's money, she gets on the right track to make an impression and get the offer of a lifetime.

    Nothing too mind-blowing as far as the story is concerned, but the film has always transcended the rather banal little story through the somewhat inspired casting. Julia Roberts was in the halcyon days of her first period of super stardom, and nailed the somewhat starry-eyed, love-stricken prostitute. Richard Gere was a perfect foil and the pairing was so successful that they of course were later reteamed in The Runaway Bride. However, for me the film was made by the supporting cast and in particular Hector Elizondo as the rather stern manager of the rather posh Beverley Hills Wiltshire Hotel, who comes to warm to Vivian. Another obvious highlight is Laura San Giacomo as Kit De Luca. Jason Alexander does an adequate job as the lawyer, but for me never really captured the sleazy side of a lawyer enjoying the hunt and kill. The whole film was nicely realized by Garry Marshall and the success the film achieved, at least commercially, was well deserved. However, ten years on and multiple viewings later it has to be said that, whilst still an eminently watchable film, it is losing its lustre just a little. Nonetheless, there are very few romantic comedies made that have this easy-going nature that have worn so well.

    A most enjoyable film it may be, and certainly one that can be chucked into the player on a reasonably regular basis for a bit of entertainment, but Buena Vista have done it absolutely no favours here at all...

Transfer Quality


    Buena Vista, how do I loathe thee? Let me count the ways. One: lack of 16x9 enhancement. Two: flipper formatting. Three: poorish transfer... Yes, this effort demonstrates just about everything bad about the way Buena Vista does DVD.

    The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.83:1 (measured), and as indicated it is not 16x9 enhanced. I simply cannot continue to find words to express my utter disgust at distributors who fail to ensure that all widescreen DVDs are 16x9 enhanced. Let me assure you that if you want an absolutely perfect example of what is so bad about non-16x9 enhanced DVDs, just watch this on a widescreen television or in 16x9 mode. It looks bad. In fact, at times it looks almost unwatchable. Whilst I would not go so far as to say that 16x9 enhancement would have cured all that ails this transfer, I will suggest that it would certainly have rendered the film far more watchable on the sort of television that we will all be watching in five years time with the advent of high definition digital television. As for how bad this would look on a large screen, I can only hazard a guess.

    The transfer is reasonably sharp and well-detailed throughout, although there do appear to be a couple of noticeable lapses in focus at times. Certainly not the worst thing Buena Vista have done but certainly not the best either. Clarity was in general good, and there did not seem to be too much of an issue with grain here at all, although it is obviously present. Shadow detail was on occasions just a little disappointing - the opera house scenes for instance - but overall more than acceptable. There did not seem to be any low level noise problems with the transfer.

    The colours come up pretty well here and are generally nicely vibrant with a very nice saturation to them. There were no real hints of oversaturation, although some scenes like the bar could just be on the border, depending upon your own setups. There is a nice tonal depth and tonal consistency to the colours that seemed to be a highlight of earlier Buena Vista DVDs, but one that seems to have gone missing on more recent efforts. There are no colour bleed problems here.

    There did not appear to be any significant MPEG artefacts in the transfer. However, the problems with film-to-video artefacts are amazing. Shimmer is absolutely rife here and with the experience of 700 plus DVDs and 250 plus reviews, it has to be said that it is now an extremely noticeable problem and in my view is far worse than many non-16x9 enhanced NTSC DVDs I have. Indeed, such is my feeling now that I completely withdraw any earlier comments I may have made about the supposed quality of the transfer. Just about every straight, sharp line, especially if involved in any sort of minor movement, demonstrates quite noticeable aliasing. At times it gets really ugly - just check out every shot of the limousine in the second half of the film. There are some noticeable problems with shimmer in some of the suits worn by the actors and at times it looks like moiré artefacting is about to break out big time. It might not be quite as bad as Backdraft for sheer disturbance value, but this would have to rate as being amongst the worst efforts I have seen in Region 4 as far as these problems go. There did not seem to be any really noticeable problems with film artefacts, which for a film of this age is not a bad achievement. The shimmering problems really drag this transfer down however, and there are segments here that I simply now have difficulty watching.

    Even so, the main issue here is that this is a FLIPPER DVD with the enforced interruption coming at 58:41. Whilst perhaps not quite as bad a placement as the loathsome location of the flip on The Rock, this is still a shockingly bad one. Ignoring the fact that of course this should have been produced as an RSDL formatted DVD, the location of the flip is what really gets my anger rising. The reason? Well, no more than one minute earlier, the piano scene ends with a downward pan to a dark (black?) screen which would have been an infinitely better place for the flip, as it is a natural break in the film, rather than where it has been located, which is not a natural break and is disruptive to the flow of the film. It is almost like the DVD producers have gone out of their way to find the most lamentable place to stick the flip, without any consideration to film flow whatsoever.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    Thankfully there are not quite as many problems with the audio transfer here, although I really do think that we should have gotten something better.

    There are three audio tracks on the DVD, being an English Dolby Digital 2.0 surround-encoded soundtrack, a French Dolby Digital 2.0 surround-encoded soundtrack and an Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 surround-encoded soundtrack. I listened only to the English default soundtrack. I have not mentioned it for a long while, but like all Buena Vista DVDs, you cannot change the soundtrack on the fly - you have to annoyingly go back to the language selection menu. This is another thing that annoys me about Buena Vista DVDs that I really wish they would address.

    Dialogue is clear and easy to understand throughout, and there did not appear to be any significant problems with audio sync.

    The musical score comes from James Newton Howard, and is a suitably sweet effort. It complements the film very well, but it is of course overshadowed by a great selection of popular songs that resulted in a nice soundtrack album and lead to something of a rediscovery of the great Roy Orbison through the magnificent title song.

    To be honest, I really do miss not having a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack here. As it is, the Dolby Digital 2.0 surround-encoded soundtrack is serviceable and not a whole lot more. There are many scenes in the film that just cry out for some rear channel ambience and all you get out of the rear channels is silence. Naturally, there is no bass channel here, either. The overall sound really does not seem to have much in the way of surround presence at all and it almost seems like this is unremastered stereo, just like the film's original theatrical release. At least it is free of distortion or other problems, and certainly is not congested at all. Decent enough but the film cries out for something better.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    Another thing I really hate about Buena Vista DVDs is the complete lack of extras. When you see what is on the latest Region 1 DVDs, you will begin to wonder why Buena Vista so seems to enjoy giving the Region 4 consumer the proverbial finger.


R4 vs R1

    There are two Region 1 DVDs, an ordinary release from 1998 that is, I believe, no longer available and a 10th Anniversary Edition that is currently available. Just to make the comparison a little fair, I shall stick to comparing this DVD with the now unavailable ordinary Region 1 release. In comparison to that release, the Region 4 version misses out on:     The Region 1 version misses out on:     Given that both are not 16x9 enhanced, the choice obviously rests with Region 1 version. Now if you take into account the additional extras on the 10th Anniversary Edition - such as an extended director's cut, the theatrical trailer, the music video of Wild Women Do and a production featurette - not only is Region 1 the way to go, but I would also suggest that when you buy the Region 1 version, you let Buena Vista Home Entertainment know why in no uncertain terms.


    Pretty Woman is an enjoyable film, perhaps more a "chick flick" than a family film, but its presentation on Region 4 DVD is completely unacceptable in every way: not 16x9 enhanced, Flipper formatted, and completely lacking extras. To add insult to injury, the dreaded VHS tape format has now been blessed with the director's cut that we do not have on DVD. This is definitely a DVD to be avoided until such time as we get a re-release that has RSDL formatting and is the director's cut, at the very least. Buena Vista have made more than enough out of this film over the past ten years in order to be able to afford to fix up this shocker of a release.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Ian Morris (have a laugh, check out the bio)
29th September 2000

Review Equipment
DVD Pioneer DV-515; S-video output
Display Sony Trinitron Wega 80cm. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Audio Decoder Built in
Amplification Yamaha RXV-795. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Speakers Energy Speakers: centre EXLC; left and right C-2; rears EXLR; and subwoofer ES-12XL