The Hunt for Red October: Special Collector's Edition (1990)

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Released 7-May-2003

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Action Main Menu Audio & Animation
Audio Commentary-With optional subtitles, John McTiernan (Director)
Interviews-Cast & Crew-Beneath The Surface (29:00)
Theatrical Trailer-1:32
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1990
Running Time 129:36
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (75:04) Cast & Crew
Start Up Subtitle Select Then Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By John McTiernan

Paramount Home Entertainment
Starring Sean Connery
Alec Baldwin
Joss Ackland
Tim Curry
Peter Firth
Scott Glenn
James Earl Jones
Jeffrey Jones
Richard Jordan
Sam Neill
Stellan Skarsgard
Fred Dalton Thompson
Courtney B Vance
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $29.95 Music Basil Poledouris

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English dts 5.1 (768Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/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 Greek
English Audio Commentary
English Alternate Subtitles
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

This is (at least) the second version of The Hunt For Red October on DVD in this region. I reviewed an early Region 4 version here that version was released in 2001. This review is of the new R4 Special Edition, released in 2003. I will not be surprised to see this title get released again, even though we don't need another version this one is good. The two big differences between this one and the previous one are the extras and added soundtracks. The previous disc had the trailer as its only extra, and only Dolby Digital 5.1 for sound. This one has a director's commentary and an excellent making-of featurette, and sports a dts soundtrack in addition to the Dolby Digital. All good stuff.

I watched the movie again, and you know what? It hasn't changed. So I won't go through the plot again (see my previous review for a description of the plot). I would like to say, though, that I appreciate some of the subtleties of the writing more, now that I have listened to the commentary. And I was amused to see the Chief of the Boat, now that I knew he was the screenwriter (courtesy of the featurette). So I can testify to the value of these extras.

I noticed something that looks like a mistake: they use the terms "left" and "right" when referring to the submarine's course I would have expected them to use "port" and "starboard".

Since I bought the first version I've watched it two or three times it's my favourite of the Jack Ryan films, and a fine movie also, with an excellent soundtrack. I won't be watching that disc any more, though I'll probably only watch this in dts now.

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

Transfer Quality


This disc, like the previous one, is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, 16x9 enhanced. As that's the original aspect ratio (this film was shot in anamorphic Panavision), this will do nicely.

The image is a touch soft, but plenty clear enough this slight softness seems to be just enough to alleviate the discrete pixel nature of DVD, so I am not complaining about it. Shadow detail is not wonderful, but it's more than adequate to tell the story. Film grain is visible at times, but it is never at a level that distracts from enjoying the story. There is no low-level noise I have learned that what sometimes looks like low-level noise in the underwater shots is actually a deliberate representation of particulate matter suspended in the water (added digitally, because the models were filmed in smoke, rather than water).

Colour is not a big feature of this film lots of blacks and greys but what colour there is seems to be rendered well. There is a fair bit of coloured light (mostly blue or red), but that's not a mistake. There are no colour-related artefacts.

There are some film artefacts, but they are generally fairly small, and not troubling a few scratches, some flecks and spots. There are a few optical artefacts, caused by light catching the edge of the camera's anamorphic lens; these are not frequent, and not irritating when they occur.

There is some aliasing, but it is mild. There's some pixelisation, most noticeable at 103:34, in the underwater shots, in the darker areas.

Subtitles are provided in seven languages, including English. There are two additional English subtitle tracks: the first is the default subtitle track, and subtitles only speech in Russian; the second subtitles the commentary (a nice touch that I wish were on more discs it allows hearing-impaired viewers to enjoy the commentary as well). There's a silly mistake in the default subtitle track: at 121:00 a subtitle appears, reading "The Captain has scared them out of the water"; it should have appeared at 120:25. The mistake is quite obvious, and worse because it has been present in previous versions you'd think they would have fixed it by now! Note that this error only occurs with the default subtitles the full English subtitles are correct.

The disc is single-sided and dual-layered, formatted RSDL. The layer change falls at 75:04, and it is not fabulous there's a somewhat noticeable pause on all the players I've tried, but no image break-up.

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


There are three audio tracks on this disc, all in English. The first and second are the soundtrack, encoded in Dolby Digital 5.1 and dts. The third is the director's commentary. I listened to all three, but I started with the dts (I get few enough chances to use my dts decoder, and I like to give it exercise). The dts track is recorded fairly quietly I boosted it by 5dB but is excellent nonetheless. Note that the previous disc had only the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack, and that was at 384kbps, whereas this one is at 448kbps.

The dialogue is clear and easy to understand, and there are no audio sync issues.

The score, from Basil Poledouris, is superb. I really love the massed male voices used in the opening and closing titles (I checked the credits for the choir, but none are listed). This film is significantly enhanced by the music it builds tension and emphasises formality; this is one of the best features of this movie.

The soundtrack makes excellent use of the entire surround system, with constant ambient noises you can tell where you are by the ambience. The subwoofer is well-used, particularly when it is reproducing the throb of submarine propulsion, or the sound of any of several aircraft. There are plenty of low-frequency effects, so the LFE channel is well-used. There are few films which make better use of the subwoofer.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


There aren't a lot of extras here, but the ones that are present are of high quality.


The menu is animated with music and transitions. Unlike some menus, they haven't gone overboard you don't have to wait a long time after choosing a command.

Theatrical Trailer (1:32)

Widescreen, not 16x9 enhanced, but with a full 5.1 soundtrack this is a good trailer, but has a few spoilers, as usual.

Featurette: Beneath the Surface (29:00)

This is an excellent making-of featurette, with interviews with the big stars and the important members of the crew, including the director, director of photography (Jan de Bont, who has since directed Twister, Speed, and The Haunting), screenwriter, and producer. This is not a fluff-piece; this is a really well-made little documentary, and full of interest. One thing comes through clearly they feel they are justified in being proud of this film (I agree with them).

Commentary: director John McTiernan

A good commentary, with McTiernan taking pains to comment on where things went well, and where he feels they were less than successful. Like all fine directors, he can't help seeing the flaws, and he points them out. His comments are considered and full of information. There are some lengthy gaps in the commentary, but I'd rather that than have him waffling meaninglessly. He points out some of the more interesting lesser members of the cast, including the screenwriter and the original editor, both of whom got bit parts, and the actor who is now a Senator in real life.

I noticed one error: he mentions noticing Sam Neill in Breaker Morant. A bit difficult, given that he wasn't in that film...

R4 vs R1

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

The Region 1 version of this disc available today is the same as this one, with the same extras, the same sound (the R1 has one extra soundtrack in French, but the R4 has a wider choice of subtitles), and reportedly the same quality of transfer. Seems to me that you could easily be happy with either version.


Possibly the best Jack Ryan movie, given a decent transfer to DVD.

The video quality is good, but not excellent. It might be the same video transfer as used on the previous disc, but it might be different if it is different, it is of roughly the same quality.

The audio quality is better than the previous version, and now offers a choice between Dolby Digital and dts.

The extras are excellent, and a big improvement over the previous disc.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Tony Rogers (bio-degrading: making a fool of oneself in a bio...)
Sunday, October 12, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-S733A, using Component output
DisplaySony VPH-G70 CRT Projector, QuadScan Elite scaler (Tripler), ScreenTechnics 110. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationDenon AVC-A1SE
SpeakersFront Left, Centre, Right: Krix Euphonix; Rears: Krix KDX-M; Subwoofer: Krix Seismix 5

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Comments (Add)
Soundtrack info - REPLY POSTED
left and right are correct terms -
re: left and right are correct terms - Corey (