Of Unknown Origin (1983)

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Released 8-Oct-2003

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Horror Main Menu Audio
Audio Commentary-Peter Weller (Actor) and George P. Cosmatos (Director)
Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1983
Running Time 85:18
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4,5 Directed By George P. Cosmatos
Studio
Distributor

Warner Home Video
Starring Peter Weller
Jennifer Dale
Lawrence Dane
Kenneth Welsh
Louis Del Grande
Shannon Tweed
Keith Knight
Maury Chaykin
Leif Anderson
Jimmy Tapp
Gayle Garfinkle
Earl Pennington
Bronwen Mantel
Case ?
RPI $19.95 Music Kenneth Wannberg


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 1.0 (192Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 1.0 (192Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio Unknown Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
English for the Hearing Impaired
French
Dutch
Arabic
Smoking Yes, some
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    The 1983 horror/thriller Of Unknown Origin features Peter Weller (Robocop) in his first starring role on film. In it he plays an urban Yuppie who is busily climbing the corporate ladder, enjoying his wealthy wife (Shannon Tweed, Playmate of The Year and familiar to fans of Cannibal Women in the Avocado Jungle of Death...no, really!), young son and fully renovated brownstone townhouse. When his family depart for a holiday with the in-laws, Bart Hughes is left "home alone" to prepare an important business plan within a very strict two week deadline.

    Unfortunately for Bart, the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry - particularly when a related rodent determines to make his life a living hell. As the film opens we can see that Bart has a somewhat obsessive nature - he straightens pictures and picks lint from colleagues' clothing...imagine his pain then as a rogue rat roams through his immaculate residence. He first suspects he has an unwanted visitor when his newly serviced dishwasher springs a leak from the toughened hose. Slowly but surely, the enormous rat which has decided to move in becomes increasingly destructive. Foodstuffs are laid to waste, electrical circuits are chewed through and even the toilet becomes a source of playtime fun - for the rat, not Bart!

    As the ferocity of the rat's destruction increases, Bart's grasp on real life decreases proportionately. His work begins to suffer as he resorts to ever more desperate measures to rid his home of the rat. Traps, bigger traps, poison, cats and baseball bats join the arsenal in the war against his own personal nemesis. What ensues is a battle of wit and violence - will Bart lose his mind, or will the rat lose its life...?

    This film has a simple premise and very few characters - does it manage to sustain the story for the relatively short running time? Well actually it does, and it does so rather well. Some excellent cinematography with brooding shadows and innovative POV shots from the rat's perspective ensure that a high degree of tension is created and developed throughout the film. Weller's performance is credible, even if the abilities of the rat sometimes seem a little less so. This is a small story, well executed on film. Not quite a horror film, but with more than enough tension to keep all but the most hardened of slasher fans entertained, this will make most people's skin crawl quite nicely. There is a fair degree of black comedy evident in Bart's predicament and the film never takes itself too seriously. Recommended as a rental for those who have not yet seen it, and a possible purchase for devoted fans of Peter Weller.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The video quality of this transfer is generally rather good, especially given its age and an average bitrate of 5.9 Mbps.

    The video is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and it is 16x9 enhanced. I do not know if this was the original aspect ratio, but given the framing looks perfectly fine throughout I suspect it is at least extremely close. Sharpness is acceptable throughout, although there is a hint of softness in some scenes and grain does crop up sporadically (for example on the walls at 2:12) but it is not a significant issue.

    The dark scenes show deep, solid blacks with no low level noise evident. The shadow detail falls a wee bit short on occasion - particularly the dark scenes within the house - but fits the claustrophobic mood of the film quite well. Colours are generally quite vivid and on occasion are surprisingly fresh-looking for such an old flick. Skins tones appeared fine at all times.

    There are no significant MPEG artefacts. There was some occasional mild edge enhancement present (evident as a halo around the suit at 6:34 or at 65:04 for example) but this was infrequent and never distracting. Aliasing was not noticeable at all on my system.

    Film artefacts are impressively lacking. I did not notice any significant instances of either positive or negative artefacts in what is pretty well an immaculately clean print.

    The English for the Hard of Hearing subtitles are well timed and easy to read, providing appropriate audio cues for music and sound effects, plus attribution for off-screen dialogue. They follow the dialogue reasonably closely, dropping only a few words for the sake of brevity.

    Given the relatively short running time of 85:18, it is unsurprising that the disc is in DVD5 (single sided, single layered) format.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The overall audio transfer is a little mediocre, albeit in its original format.

    The sole English audio track is a very vanilla Dolby Digital 1.0 affair, encoded at 192 kbps. The remaining audio choice is a French Dolby Digital 1.0 mix also encoded at 192 kbps.

    There are no major audio defects such as hiss, clicks or pops. Dialogue, however, is sometimes a little difficult to make out. Much of this is due to Weller's tendency to mumble his lines without moving his lips much, rather than the transfer itself. I also felt that the overall volume was a little low too, and I had to listen at slightly higher than normal volume to make out what was going on at all times. Audio sync is generally fine, but there is a slight issue in the opening kitchen scenes around 2:00 where the audio seemed to be out by a heartbeat. Overall it is not a concern.

    The main score is credited to Kenneth Wannberg (who has an enviable biography as a music editor, contributing to such notable features as Saving Private Ryan, Star Wars Episode II and Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone). It does an adequate but unremarkable job and to be honest it will hardly have your feet tapping, nor will it remain with you for long once the film has finished. The sound effects are quite atmospheric though - but those used for the rat are rather overdone on occasion and, quite frankly, prove a little grating.

    The overall audio stage is unsurprisingly fully frontal - so frontal that only the centre speaker is used to transmit all of the monotone glory. I found that if you sat on a bar stool and spun around rapidly, you could simulate a mildly enveloping feel - otherwise, let's face it...it's mono.

    The surrounds and subwoofer get the night off.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    There are a couple of extras present.

Menu

    The main menu is a static photograph of Weller's face in a shattered mirror accompanied by some grating rat sound effects and a burst of the score. It allows the basic options of playing the movie, choosing one of twenty-three chapter stops, choosing the language and subtitles or viewing the following extras:

Theatrical Trailer

    Running for 1:35 and presented at 1.78:1 (16x9 enhanced) with a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack encoded at 192 kbps.

Commentary Track

    Weller and director George P. Cosmatos (Tombstone, Cobra) provide a very dry, albeit informative, commentary track. I found it quite a tedious listen to be honest, but fans of either man may be a little more intrigued as they discuss the film, and in Cosmatos' case, film-making in general. It seems that the two have been recorded separately as they never interact with each other. The commentary has numerous quiet patches and is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 encoded at 192 kbps.

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 release appears to be substantially the same, but does feature additional selected cast and crew biographies. Buy whichever is cheaper.

Summary

    Of Unknown Origin is a reasonable way to spend an hour or so. It will not change your life - or even scare you particularly. It will provide a few chills, however - particularly if you are not overly fond of rats! Worth a rental for most people.

    The video quality is rather good for a twenty year old, low budget film.

    The audio transfer is true to the original, unremarkable, mono format.

    Extras are limited to a commentary and a theatrical trailer.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Daniel O'Donoghue (You think my bio is funny? Funny how?)
Tuesday, January 27, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDHarmony DVD Video/Audio PAL Progressive, using Component output
DisplaySanyo PLV-Z2 WXGA projector. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 720p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-SR600 with DD-EX and DTS-ES
SpeakersJensenSPX-9 fronts, Jensen SPX-13 Centre, Jensen SPX-5 surrounds, Jensen SPX-17 subwoofer

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