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PLEASE NOTE: Michael D's is currently in READ ONLY MODE. Anything submitted will simply not be written to the database.
Lots of stuff is still broken, but at least reviews can now be looked up and read.
Eye of the Needle (ViaVision) (1981)

Eye of the Needle (ViaVision) (1981) (NTSC)

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Released 1-Nov-2018

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Thriller None
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1981
Running Time 111:35
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Richard Marquand
ViaVision Starring Donald Sutherland
Stephen MacKenna
Philip Martin Brown
Kate Nelligan
Christopher Cazenove
George Belbin
Faith Brook
Barbara Graley
George Lee
Arthur Lovegrove
Colin Rix
Barbara Ewing
Chris Jenkinson
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI ? Music Miklós Rózsa

Video (NTSC) Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 1.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 480i (NTSC)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

     London, 1940, during the Blitz. Lucy (Kate Nelligan) gets married to handsome Spitfire pilot David (Christopher Cazenove) but as they drive away to commence their honeymoon their car crashes. Faber (Donald Sutherland) is a German spy working in London. When his landlady discovers Faber radioing a message to Germany he kills her without hesitation.

     Four years later. David, who lost his legs in the car accident and is confined to a wheelchair, Lucy and their young son Joe have moved to Storm Island, a small isolated island off the coast of Scotland. David is depressed and drinking heavily, Lucy is lonely, hurt and sexually frustrated. Godlison (Ian Bannen) of Scotland Yard has identified Faber as a spy and is hunting him. The hunt intensifies when Faber discovers that the army of General George Patton in East Anglia is in reality a dummy army, with vehicles and planes made of wood, intended to fool the Germans into believing that the invasion of Europe will be in the Pas de Calais, rather than Normandy. With this vital information and photographs, Faber manages to evade his pursuers and steals a small boat to head for a rendezvous with a U-boat off Storm Island. Caught in a storm he is wrecked on the island and, half drowned, is given shelter by David and Lucy. An astute yet crippled husband, a frustrated wife and a spy who will go to any lengths to get his vital information to Germany are a deadly mixture.

     Eye of the Needle is based on the Ken Follett bestseller of the same name. It was directed by Richard Marquand and on the basis of this film he was hired by George Lucas to direct Return of the Jedi (1983) as his next film. It is a bit difficult to see why; Eye of the Needle is a rather by the numbers thriller which despite some beautiful island photography, some tense sequences and a decent cast fails to draw us into their world. I have not read the novel but my feeling is that the adaptation is the issue. The story is very episodic in nature and during the first half of the film quite slow moving, a spy drama focussing on Faber. The second half is almost a different story becoming a romance and a thriller. When Faber arrives at the island it seems a different film; everything goes a breakneck speed with little time for the developing interrelationship between the three main characters. Suddenly it is all happening at once, seduction and death as the film races towards the climax!

     I have read that Eye of the Needle follows the book fairly closely. Sometimes things that work in print don’t have the same impact on the screen.

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Transfer Quality


     Eye of the Needle is presented in the original 1.85:1 aspect ratio. It is NTSC, region free and 16x9 enhanced.

     This is a nice print for a film now over 35 years old. Some early backgrounds can be a bit soft but the photography of the cottage, lighthouse and cliffs of Storm Island (filmed on the Isle of Mull) are beautiful. Colours are natural, blacks solid, shadow detail fine, skin tones natural, brightness and contrast consistent. I did not see any obvious marks or artefacts, except in the WW2 newsreel footage.

     No subtitles are provided.

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


     The audio is English Dolby Digital 1.0 mono at 192 Kbps. The film was released in the theatre with mono sound.

     Despite the low Kbps, effects such as the storm, waves crashing, boat and train engines and gunshots have a decent ring. Dialogue was clear. The score is by Miklos Rozsa. He was nominated for Oscars 17 times and won 3 for Spellbound (1945), A Double Life (1947) and Ben-Hur (1959); his score for Eye of the Needle felt rather too epic and rousing for what is effectively a small, three actor spy thriller.

    Lip synchronisation is fine.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


     Nothing. “Play” is the only menu option.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

     Eye of the Needle has been released a number of times on DVD, including a version in Australia that was not 16x9 enhanced, and a few on Blu-ray. The Blu-rays have some decent extras, the previous DVD releases don’t as far as I can tell. This new Region All DVD from Umbrella is 16x9 but it is the NTSC version of the film, omitting the extended ending when the helicopter arrives on the island, which is available in the PAL Region 2 DVDs.


     Eye of the Needle is a serviceable WW2 spy thriller although with the source novel and the cast I was expecting more. The video and audio are fine. No extras.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Ray Nyland (the bio is the thing)
Tuesday, November 20, 2018
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S580, using HDMI output
DisplayLG 55inch HD LCD. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderNAD T737. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationNAD T737
SpeakersStudio Acoustics 5.1

Other Reviews NONE