|Year Of Production||1993|
|RSDL / Flipper||No/No||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||2,4||Directed By||Jon Amiel|
Warner Home Video
James Earl Jones
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||
English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||2.35:1|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||2.35:1||Miscellaneous|
English for the Hearing Impaired
Italian for the Hearing Impaired
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
Basically the story involves the return of John Sommersby (Richard Gere) after a six year absence fighting in the American Civil war. Like many soldiers emotionally scarred by the experience of combat, ‘Jack’ Sommersby is no longer the man he once was. Eventually the truth is revealed during the course of events and, like a Faustian pact, the debt incurred by gaining his new lease on life must be cleared sooner or later. Is Sommersby's dream of a productive bucolic existence in the wilds of Virginia with the love of a Good Southern Woman worth the price he pays? You can judge for yourself by running this Warner Home Video DVD through your system.
Gone are the days when mediocre movies suffered the added indignities imposed by home video formatting. Sommersby at least escapes the dreaded telemovie look with its matted cinemascope presentation, giving the story the best possible chance of engaging the viewer's imagination. Unfortunately, Sommersby ultimately fails on that count, and one explanation may have something to do with the fact that the screenplay was actually based on a French film called Le Retour de Martin Guerre (1982) starring Gerard Dépardieu and Nathalie Baye. This acknowledgement is buried deep in the end credits, much like the secret Sommersby himself carries for most of the movie. Another reason is the miscasting of Richard Gere in the lead. Like Tom Cruise, Gere is best at playing roles, not characters; he lacks the emotional range and everyman quality needed to be a truly convincing Jack Sommersby. The audience can believe that two unrelated men may look alike, but there is only one Richard Gere!
The level of sharpness was quite good throughout, although dark interior scenes suffered from softness and low contrasts, perhaps done intentionally to simulate the gauzy effect of gas-lamp lighting. As a result, shadow detail was also compromised. Indeed, it became difficult to judge what was intended and what was a fault of the transfer process, as I never saw the film theatrically. Given that Sommersby dates from 1993, ageing of the source materials could have produced these problems.
Not surprisingly, most colours shown indoors or on overcast days appeared muted. Sunny outdoor scenes fared much better, such as the tobacco crop sequences, which exhibited a pleasing level of sharpness, detail and colour saturation. At the very least, the look of Sommersby suits its hard-hoeing rustic backdrop, and one can well imagine the director of photography's hand guiding the telecine process.
Film grain was kept to a bare minimum, which is a blessing considering the amount of photography undertaken in low-level lighting. As a consequence, I watched for digital noise reduction artefacts (a pet hate of mine), but saw none.
I noticed no MPEG compression artefacts. I did, however, notice some aliasing, which was usually a problem whenever straight edges appeared, although for me they were only a minor distraction. The Warner Bros logo at the start of the movie wobbled badly, but the rest of the film seemed fine.
Actual film artefacts were infrequent enough to ignore - the result of a generally spotless source print.
Dialogue was intelligible at all times, and there were no audio sync or dropout problems. My only complaint concerns a lack of overall punch to the sound, a symptom perhaps of recording technology choices the producers made at the time.
Danny Elfman's generic and forgettable score captures some of the on-screen drama but by and large it adds little to the action - the material he had to work with was hardly the stuff of inspiration. At any rate, it was presented clearly, with the imaging restricted to the forward sound stage.
The surround channel got a low-impact aerobic workout and mainly consisted of crows cawing, tree noises, and so forth. Switching my decoder to stereo mode gave marginally more focus to the proceedings. The subwoofer only came to life to deliver a handful of ominous hums to emphasize some grim on-screen business. In my lounge room, these bass effects sounded a tad woolly.
|Surround Channel Use|
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
In keeping with the limited aspirations of the film-makers, the DVD offers an adequate video transfer married to an unambitious soundtrack.
|DVD||Marantz DV-7000 (European model), using RGB output|
|Display||Loewe Ergo (81cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.|
|Audio Decoder||Denon AVD-2000 Dolby Digital decoder.|
|Amplification||Arcam AV50 5 x 50W amplifier|
|Speakers||Front: ALR/Jordan Entry 5M, Centre: ALR/Jordan 4M, Rear: ALR/Jordan Entry 2M, Subwoofer: B&W ASW-1000 (active)|