1492: Conquest of Paradise (1992)

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Released 14-Feb-2003

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Adventure Main Menu Audio
Theatrical Trailer
Interviews-Cast & Crew
Trailer-Bagdad Cafe; Cinema Paradiso
Trailer-My Beautiful Laundrette; Red Rock West
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1992
Running Time 149:00 (Case: 156)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (112:06) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Ridley Scott
Odyssey Distributors
Umbrella Entertainment
Starring Sigourney Weaver
Gerard Depardieu
Michael Wincott
Armand Assante
Frank Langella
Loren Dean
Angela Molina
Fernando Rey
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $29.95 Music Vangelis

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 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

    I must confess that I did not see this film in the cinema when it was originally released in 1992 (to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the famous journey). I don't know why, since I admire the films of Ridley Scott and the music of Vangelis, and I've certainly enjoyed other films starring Gérard Depardieu.

    Maybe it's because I could never warm to the subject matter. I was afraid it was going to be sickeningly sentimental or dumbed down for American audiences. I guess I should just learn to trust Ridley Scott, for watching bits of it on TV had since convinced me that it was finally time to settle down and watch it in full on our "big screen."

    This film chronicles the life of one Christopher Columbus - an Italian who emigrated to Spain, from his days in a monastery to him as an old, broken, man. In between, of course, he made history by being the first European to cross the Atlantic to reach the New World.

    Christopher (Gérard Depardieu) was a navigator who was convinced he would become rich and famous as the first man to discover a "third" route to Asia - the way via the Southern tip of Africa was too long, and the way by land was blocked by Turkey. His method was to sail west and cross the Atlantic and he seemed to think the journey would take a mere seven weeks.

    Of course nobody believed him, least of all the scholars at the University of Salamanca. However, some influential people, including another navigator and a banker, managed to get him an audience with Isabel, the Queen of Spain (Sigourney Weaver). Somehow, he managed to persuade the Queen to let him sail with three ships: the Pinta, the Nina and the Santa Maria. The rest, as they say, is history.

    The islands that he discovered off the coast of South America were populated by a group of islanders whose simple lives gave Christopher and his men the impression that they had stumbled upon an earthly paradise (hence the title of the film). Christopher must have been an avid Star Trek fan, because he handled First Contact with such finesse that I'm sure Captain Picard would have beamed with pride. However, they did not find the gold and riches that Christopher was hoping for.

    Christopher returned back to Spain where he was given a hero's welcome. He was given a much larger budget to colonize the islands in the name of Spain. However, his greed, arrogance and nepotism soon incurred many enemies amongst the nobility.

    When he returned to the islands, everything started to go wrong. The men he left behind from the first journey had all been killed by the natives, and attempts to build a city were met with one disaster after another.

    Of course, if you remember your history lessons, you will know what to expect but this is still a grand epic worth telling, so I won't spoil it any further.

    Curiously, this title has never been released in Region 1, but it has been released in Region 2. The Region 4 release is by independent distributor Umbrella Entertainment and The AV Channel.

    No, don't run away! The quality of the transfer (video and audio) is excellent, as we shall soon find out!

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Transfer Quality


    Unlike the UK, where the film was released on DVD with a non 16x9 enhanced transfer, we get an excellent widescreen transfer, 16x9 enhanced, in the intended aspect ratio of 2.35:1. The film was originally shot on 35mm film stock using anamorphic lenses.

    The transfer seems to be identical to the German R2 DVD release. In fact, the film title during the opening titles is in German: "1492: Die Eroberung Des Paradieses."

    This is a very good transfer, sourced from a very clean film print with minimal film marks. Detail and colour are excellent, and grain is minimal (except during dark and murky scenes in the last half an hour of the film).

    Surprisingly, for such a long film (and wait till you count the length of the extras), there are minimal compression artefacts apart from some posterization and very minor pixelization.

    Moderate edge enhancement is present in the transfer. I also noticed a lot of shimmering in the closing titles.

    There are no subtitle tracks on this single sided dual layered (RSDL) disc. The layer change occurs at 112:06 in the middle of a scene and is rather disruptive.

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


    There is only one audio track: English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s). In comparison, the German R2 release includes four audio tracks corresponding to 5.1 and 2.0 versions in English and German.

    I was really impressed with the quality of this audio track, which I would consider to be reference quality even by today's standards, and exceptional for a film that is over ten years old. It sounds as if the soundtrack has been remixed from the original stems into a full discrete surround mix.

    The sound is highly immersive and enveloping throughout, with lots of activity spread across all channels. Indeed, I noticed not only sound positioning and panning across front channels, but across rear channels as well as front to rear. An example of rear surround imaging and panning occurs at the beginning of the film, as I can clearly hear waves crashing on the shore behind me.

    I am not sure if the soundtrack is THX 6.1 EX surround encoded, but enabling THX Ultra 2 Cinema mode provided some activity in the surround back channels (particularly during the opening titles) without narrowing the surround soundstage at all. There is a scene in the film where you can hear a bullet being fired from the front centre to the rear slightly to the left - this was so well rendered that I flinched when I heard it and my body involuntarily tried to dodge the bullet!

    There are some extremely deep low frequencies present in the soundtrack in all channels, which were well supported by the LFE track.

    Dialogue was clear at all times and I did not notice any issues with audio synchronization.

    The original music score is by Vangelis and seems to be a mixture of angelic chants, a vaguely "world music" and primordial sound and stirring orchestral (enhanced by electronics) music.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use



    The menu is 16x9 enhanced. It is static but includes background audio. There is a menu introduction which is the Umbrella Entertainment logo.

Theatrical Trailer (1:41)

    This is presented in Pan & Scan and Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s).

Interviews-Cast & Crew

    I was expecting very short interview segments, so imagine my surprise when I discovered over an hour of additional footage. These seem to be largely unedited (or loosely edited) raw interview footage shot by an (unknown) Australian television crew during the marketing campaign promoting the film's initial theatrical release. Interviews include

    All interviews are presented in full frame (1.33:1) and Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s). Both Alain Goldman and Ridley Scott is interviewed by an unseen person whom I suspect is Margaret Pomeranz of the SBS Movie Show.

    The interview with Gérald Depardieu appears to have been captured on several cameras during a media press conference at the Park Hyatt hotel in Australia. Gérald mostly speaks in French, which is translated by an interpreter. He is also accompanied by Alain and the distribution manager for Hoyts Entertainment. There seems to be a glitch around 3:36 as we change camera angles.

    Ridley Scott appears to be interviewed at the Cannes beachside.

Trailer - Bagdad Cafe (1:42); Cinema Paradiso (1:28); My Beautiful Laundrette (1:56); Red Rock West (1:50)

    These are a set of trailers for other Umbrella Entertainment titles on DVD. They are presented in various aspect ratios and audio configurations:

R4 vs R1

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

    This title has not yet been released in Region 1, although there are rumours of a special edition forthcoming. Well, until that appears, the R4 appears to be a winner.

    In comparison to the UK Region 2 release, the Region 4 version has a 16x9 enhanced video transfer and a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track. The UK version has a non 16x9 enhanced video transfer and Dolby Digital 2.0 surround encoded audio. The R4 version also has a number of additional extras (the UK version only has a trailer).

    In comparison to the German Region 2 release, the Region 4 release only has one audio track, but it also has a number of extras, including interviews with cast & crew. The German version has four audio tracks (German and English Dolby Digital 5.1/2.0) and German subtitles.


    1492: Conquest of Paradise is a big-budget multi-national retelling of the life and times of Christopher Columbus and the circumstances surrounding his crossing of the Atlantic to discover the New World.

    The video transfer is excellent.

    The audio transfer is of reference quality.

    Extras include raw interview footage and trailers.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Christine Tham (read my biography)
Wednesday, February 26, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDPanasonic DVD-RP82, using Component output
DisplaySony VPL-VW11HT LCD Projector, ScreenTechnics 16x9 matte white screen (254cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials/Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationDenon AVC-A1SE (upgraded)
SpeakersFront and surrounds: B&W CDM7NT, front centre: B&W CDMCNT, surround backs: B&W DM601S2, subwoofer: B&W ASW2500

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Comments (Add)
But that layer change.......... - wolfgirv
Layer Change - Trigger Mike (The Bio Of An Egomaniac)