Desperado (Superbit) (1995)

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Released 3-Jan-2003

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Western Dolby Digital Trailer-City
dts Trailer
Rating Rated R
Year Of Production 1995
Running Time 100:12
RSDL / Flipper RSDL Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Robert Rodriguez

Sony Pictures Home Entertain
Starring Antonio Banderas
Salma Hayek
Joaquim De Almeida
Cheech Marin
Steve Buscemi
Case Soft Brackley-Opaque
RPI $49.95 Music Los Lobos
Tito Larriva

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English dts 5.1 (768Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English Smoking Yes, occasionally
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    I think that everyone with a chequered history has at least one thing that, when they look back on it, makes them shake their head and ask themselves if they really did, wrote, said, or even played that. While my early career as a reviewer is full of such things, Desperado in particular seems to be tainted with a certain flair that reflects my doing a lot of writing under the influence of drugs. Not that I'd go through that time again in any different way, mind you, because sometimes the current atmosphere of the Region 4 review scene makes me miss those heady days when DVD-Video was about to explode into mass-consumer acceptance.

    Indeed, not long after I started reviewing discs, I remember when Columbia Tristar Home Entertainment decided that they would be releasing certain titles under a Deluxe Collector's Edition banner, and charging an extra five dollars for them (forty dollars at that time). The principle was somewhat agreeable in hindsight, as this involved getting a disc that was definitely 16x9 Enhanced, a large swag of extras, and almost always an audio commentary to boot. Three years later, they have elected to try generally giving us no extras whatsoever, despite the fact that two-disc sets with plenty of extras are available for seven dollars less than the price point these discs are marketed under. The more things change...

    Desperado is a sort of sequel to, and a remake of, El Mariachi. For those who haven't seen it, El Mariachi was a film that Robert Rodriguez shot on less than a quarter of the budget of The Blair Witch Project, and showed results that looked at least a thousand times as professional. On the basis of this award-winning independent film, Robert Rodriguez was contracted to make several other pictures, and Desperado was the first of them. Another sequel to El Mariachi, interestingly titled Once Upon A Time In Mexico, is scheduled for release in the middle of June this year.

    In Desperado, Antonio Banderas plays an almost literal Man With No Name (he is credited as El Mariachi, in fact), and he is on a mission to find and kill a drug lord known as Bucho (Joaquim de Almeida). His only ally in this personal war is a rather weasly man known as Buscemi (Steve Buscemi), although he does eventually recruit the assistance of a local book store owner named Carolina (Salma Hayek). Obviously, Robert Rodriguez is not very imaginative when it comes to naming his characters, and I felt that Salma Hayek was a weak link in the casting (I find her about as attractive as a carpet tack, and with a personality that matches). However, this is more than made up for with the casting of everyone's favourite stoner, Cheech Marin, in the role of a man listed in the credits as Short Bartender.

    Two other performances worth keeping an eye out for are Danny Trejo as Navajas ("knives") and Cristos as a kickboxing champion called, well... Cristos! One can also spot him in small roles in From Dusk Till Dawn and Deep Blue Sea if they are so inclined. Another good reason to check out this film is that it contains one of the most over-the-top action sequences ever committed to film. If you want to see an example of how seven million dollars can be used to produce better results than thirty million, then don't hesitate to pick up at least one version of Desperado.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality


    Unfortunately, the one artefact in the original transfer of Desperado that I found to be objectionable is still present in this Superbit transfer. I have provided a screenshot of this reason simply because it is far easier to show viewers than to put it into words. Because we are not entirely certain of how this artefact originated, we have contacted Columbia Tristar Home Entertainment for comment, but we still await a response. (Ed. It is possibly an optical precedence effect inherent in the original source material as a result of shooting a dark foreground image in front of a bright, dotted background image. It is also possibly an MPEG averaging error.)

    In both pictures, you should notice that the outline of Antonio Banderas and his guitar look considerably blocky, especially in comparison to the shelves of drinks in the right of the frame. This problem was also noted on the original transfer at 9:33, during Morena De Mi Corazón, the fineness of which I will discuss later.

Addendum February 12, 2003: Well, no official response from Columbia Tristar Home Entertainment as yet, but Adam Barratt wins the prize for posting the most likely explanation of this artefact in his comment here. For what it is worth, after reading this comment and seeing the linked page, I believe we are seeing a film-to-video artefact, as this shot would cause all sorts of problems when converted into an interlaced format. This adds to my suspicion that this transfer is based upon the same telecine as the original Region 4 release.

    One piece of good news about this transfer is that it is presented in the proper aspect ratio of 1.85:1, and it is 16x9 Enhanced.

    Another piece of good news is that this transfer is considerably sharper than the original release of Desperado, with detail and clarity leaping off the screen like one would never believe. The shadow detail is good, although it is deliberately restricted in the few places of the film where it can be considered important. There was no low-level noise to be found in this transfer.

    The colour scheme in this film places a heavy emphasis upon reds and browns, with little instances of any other colours visible. The transfer in this instance is much brighter and more vivid in terms of colour than the original Region 4 release, with no instances of bleeding or composite artefacting.

    I've already covered the most distressing and distracting artefact in this transfer, and I don't know whether it is an MPEG artefact or a film-to-video artefact, so I will leave it at that. No other MPEG artefacts were noticed in this transfer. Film-to-video artefacts consisted of aliasing on such things as guitar strings at 22:37, cars at 36:40, 46:28, and 74:43, just to name the most objectionable examples. By far the most irritating example of aliasing in my view, however, was on the aerial of a telephone at at 51:01. Film artefacts were also noticed in small amounts that were perfectly acceptable in light of the age of the film.

    The only subtitle option on this DVD is a set of ordinary English subtitles, which are reasonably close to the spoken word, but contain no sound cues, which makes them of limited use to Hearing Impaired viewers. Burned-in subtitles are present at 19:04 to translate a Spanish conversation between Tito Larriva and Cheech Marin.

    This DVD is RSDL formatted, but the layer change eluded me again, just as it did on the last Superbit disc I looked at.

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


    Two soundtracks are presented on this DVD, both of which are renderings of the original English soundtrack (with a little Spanish mixed in for good measure). The first, and default, soundtrack is the Dolby Digital 5.1, 448 kilobit per second effort, with a DTS 5.1, 768 kilobit soundtrack for those who prefer DTS. I listened to both of these soundtracks.

    The dialogue is as easy to understand as the often-thick Spanish accents allow. Antonio Banderas is well-known for being difficult to understand, but he manages to enunciate well in this film. I did not detect any serious audio sync problems.

    If you know anyone who has bought Ricky Martin CDs or the like on the basis of them being advertised as "the Latin sound", then tell them to throw those discs away and buy the Desperado soundtrack. The music in this film consists of a few contemporary numbers, and some ripping tunes by Tito Larriva and Los Lobos, with my particular favourite being Morena De Mi Corazón, which was performed by Los Lobos with Antonio Banderas on vocals. Songs that are dominated by guitars and percussion are the order of the day here, and they sell the mood of the film brilliantly.

    The surround channels are constantly and aggressively used to build a rich, immersive soundfield. Classic examples of immersive surround use include the cigarette pack in Peter Marquardt's hands at 10:37, the notes from a guitar at 38:34, and when the guitar case that Antonio Banderas has thrown hits the ground at 94:43. There was no time at which the soundfield collapsed into stereo, although the split surround effects in this case were more of an exception than the rule. Still, this is an excellent disc with which to demonstrate the virtue of a good surround decoder.

    The subwoofer was also aggressively utilised to support the music and action sequences. My favourite examples of its usage are the gunfight at 71:42 and the ridiculously over-the-top action sequence at 84:39. If you have a powerful subwoofer and neighbours you severely dislike, then this is one disc you'll love to crank up.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    Not a sodding one. I don't care what the Superbit rules say - omitting a Robert Rodriguez audio commentary is a crime against the DVD enthusiast.


    The menu is static, silent, and 16x9 Enhanced.

Dolby Digital Trailer - City

    I've stated in a million different ways how sick I am of this trailer, so I will just leave it at that.

DTS Trailer

    This is a typical example of why DTS trailers are far better. It is short (thirty-two seconds), to the point, and not mastered at a level that seems to be twice that of the main feature.

R4 vs R1

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

    Both R4 and R1 versions are equally specified.


    Desperado is a great bit of rollicking good fun, based around some classic examples of real music from a culture that it would be a pity to lose, even if the conditions in which that culture is borne are pretty terrible. I honestly can't wait for the forthcoming sequel.

    The video transfer is good, but that puzzling artefact remains.

    The audio transfer is excellent, and a good reason to have a DTS decoder.

    There are no extras.

There are Official Distributor Comments available for this review.
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Ratings (out of 5)


© Dean McIntosh (Don't talk about my bio. We don't wanna know.)
Tuesday, February 11, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDToshiba 2109, using S-Video output
DisplaySamsung CS-823AMF (80cm). Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 576i (PAL).
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationSony STR DE-835
SpeakersYamaha NS-45 Front Speakers, Yamaha NS-90 Rear Speakers, Yamaha NSC-120 Centre Speaker, JBL Digital 10 Active Subwoofer

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add)
Supposed Flaw in picture -
re: supposed flaw in picture - tiggers (bio...organism?)
I was one of the 5 people who saw this during it's cinema run, and it was like that at the movies. - Cardiff Giant (Must have the word 'bio' or 'biography' in it)
Is it still censored? - REPLY POSTED
A movie,.....sorry.......A DVD worth paying extra for, until the Directors Cut comes out - Neil (I dont want a fucking bio)
Artefact - Adam Barratt (symbiosis)
Adam B's example - Simon O'Connor (I wouldn't suggest reading my bio)
Re: Lighting Artefact. - Rodda (This... is my *bioom* stick!)
5 people?!? - Kaiser Soze (I'm not stupid. You're not interested. But my bio is here anyway)