School Ties (1992)
|Year Of Production||1992|
|RSDL / Flipper||RSDL (51:16)||Cast & Crew|
|Start Up||Language Select Then Programme|
|Region Coding||4||Directed By||Robert Mandel|
Paramount Home Entertainment
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||
English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||1.78:1|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.85:1||Miscellaneous|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
The story, written by Dick Wolf (more famous recently for writing the television series Law and Order), deals with a year in the life of David Greene (Brendan Fraser), who wins a football scholarship for his final year of school, to attend the prestigious Saint Matthew's Academy in Massachusetts. Leaving behind the biker-gangs and grime of his working-class Jewish life in Pennsylvania, he heads off on a journey which will provide him with an education in more ways than one. As soon as he arrives at the school, his coach euphemistically asks David if he has " ...any diet problems? Is there anything that you can't eat?" - in other words, is he Jewish? It is subtly made obvious to David, that if he wants to fit in, then he should keep his religious beliefs - and identity - to himself. It becomes plain why this advice should be heeded when he is housed with Chris Reece (Chris O'Donnell) and is befriended the "big men on campus" - a cadre of young, handsome, "old money" brats including Rip Van Kelt (Randall Batinkoff), Charlie Dillon (Matt Damon), the curiously named Chesty Smith (Ben Affleck), Jack Connors (Cole Hauser) and the troubled McGivern (Andrew Lowery). Talk is always of which Ivy League University they will attend - largely chosen for them, based on the school attended by previous generations of their wealthy families - the eponymous old "school ties".
When one of the boys describes how he "Jewed down" the price on his new hi-fi purchase, the anti-Semitic beliefs of these apparently fine, upstanding American gentlemen begin to bubble to the surface. The rest of the movie revolves around David's frequent need to deny his Judaism as he tries to fit into the snooty world of St. Matthew's hallowed halls. David's success both on the football field and with the blonde debutante Sally Wheeler (Amy Locane) leads to a growing resentment from Dillon, and when he stumbles across David's true religious background, he maliciously uses the information to turn friends, faculty and Sally against Greene. When the spectre of cheating in exams threatens to rock the honour code of the school, David has the opportunity to demonstrate who is the true gentleman, and who really understands what constitutes honour.
The period feel of the film is well maintained throughout, with some quaint football scenes complete with cringe-worthy male cheer-squads, duffle-coats and 1950s music. The young actors seem to have been well cast and are suited to their parts. Brendan Fraser, in particular, gives one of his better performances.
School Ties addresses a controversial and still relevant topic, but it is not explored as dramatically as it might have been. Humour is used occasionally, but not enough to demonstrate any deep bonds between any of the characters, while the dramatic scenes are generally underplayed leaving the relationships between the "friends" feeling a little superficial. The movie is quite enjoyable, but it does not have the gut-wrenching impact of more contemporary films exploring racism, such as Romper Stomper or American History X, and for me was ultimately much less challenging.
The film is quite soft, with fairly noticeable grain throughout. Occasionally, some outdoor shots are remarkably sharp, particularly in the foreground, for instance the close-up of Matt Damon's face at 61:07, and this adds to the feeling that the rest of the film is too soft. Blacks look solid with no low-level noise detected.
Colours vary, with very drab greys in the Pennsylvania scenes giving way to brighter greens and autumnal golds during the opening school scenes. Indoors, there is a preponderance of browns, greys and greens due to the tweedy clothing favoured by "the chaps" and the wood-lined school rooms. Overall the colour saturation is fine, if slightly warm.
The transfer suffers from MPEG artefacts, with some macro-blocking of backgrounds and compression artefacts present throughout, which contribute to the grainy appearance of the transfer.
Film-to-video artefacts are quite frequent with an annoying amount of aliasing present. Significant examples can be seen on the bus radiator at 06:59, the power lines and weatherboard house at 08:54, and the podium at 17:32. Telecine wobble is noticeable on the opening and closing credits but is not an issue during the movie. Edge enhancement was not a problem - perhaps due to the generally soft nature of the transfer.
Film artefacts (both positive and negative) are common with specks flicking across the screen almost continuously, which I found to be mildly distracting.
There are seven subtitle tracks present on the disc, and I watched the English version. These subtitles do not follow the dialogue fully, often missing complete phrases, and I would guess that they only reflect around 70% of the spoken dialogue. They are written in English, rather than "American", with words like "honour" spelled correctly.
This is an RDSL disc with the layer change at 51:16, which causes a noticeable pause, but is quite well placed at the end of a scene.
The main soundtrack is a functional Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack in English recorded at 448 kbps. Additionally, French, German, Italian and Spanish dubbed Dolby Digital 2.0 tracks are available, recorded at 192 kbps. Listening to the main English soundtrack, the dialogue was always clear and audio synch was not a problem.
The unremarkable musical score is credited to Maurice Jarre. The contemporary pop songs played on the hi-fi or at the inter-school dance contribute much to the period feel of the movie.
The front speakers were used for some good panning effects on occasion and the surround channels were subtly used throughout the movie to carry background noise and the musical score. As the film is largely dialogue-driven, the mainly frontal soundstage is not unexpected.
Despite being cited as a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack, subwoofer usage was not noticed at any point.
|Surround Channel Use|
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
The video quality is average.
The audio quality is average.
The extras are non-existent.
|DVD||Pioneer DV-344 Multi-Region, using Component output|
|Display||Panasonic TX-47P500H 47" Widescreen RPTV. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.|
|Speakers||JensenSPX-9 fronts, Jensen SPX-13 Centre, Jensen SPX-5 surrounds, Jensen SPX-17 subwoofer|