Summer of Sam (1999)

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Released 3-Feb-2004

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama None
Rating Rated R
Year Of Production 1999
Running Time 136:14
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (81:09) Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Spike Lee

Walt Disney Studios Home Ent.
Starring John Leguizamo
Mira Sorvino
Jennifer Esposito
Adrien Brody
Michael Rispoli
Bebe Neuwirth
Saverio Guerra
Patti LuPone
Brian Tarantina
Al Palagonia
Ken Garito
Joe Lisi
Spike Lee
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $14.95 Music Terence Blanchard

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
English for the Hearing Impaired
Spanish Titling
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement Yes, a certain soft drink company gets an obvious plug
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    If you are expecting a film about David Berkowitz, the "Son of Sam" killer who terrorised New York during the summer of 1977, then you will be disappointed. If you are looking for another fine film from Spike Lee, then you will again be disappointed.

    This film traces the lives of a number of New Yorkers during the period of the Son of Sam murders. Hairdresser Vinny (John Leguizamo) is cheating on his wife Dionna (Mira Sorvino) due to his sexual hang-ups about marriage. Richie (Adrien Brody) is a punk rocker who talks in an acquired English accent while working in a sleazy strip joint. A bunch of Vince's Italian-American friends deal drugs and hatred against anyone different from them. Detective Petrocelli (Anthony LaPaglia) is not above asking for help from the local Mafia don (Ben Gazzara), who claims he is just a plumber.

    Vinny and Dionna's marriage disintegrates while Richie is romanced by Ruby (Jennifer Esposito) and Vince's drug-dealing mates decide to take the law into their own hands. Meanwhile, Berkowitz rages maniacally in his apartment before going out to shoot couples in their cars.

    This film does not hang together dramatically, and is a major disappointment. The only sympathetic characters are the two women, Dionna and Ruby, both of whom have problems in their relationships. Mira Sorvino has rarely been better. The relationship between the murders and the lives of these people is only superficial, and the era of disco and drugs has been better explored in films like Boogie Nights and The Last Days of Disco. There is too much concentration on sleaze, and the look of the film suggests that Lee has seen too many Oliver Stone movies. He drives every point home with a sledgehammer. If Lee's portrayal of everyday life in New York is accurate, with its constant racial tension and the boorish characters who inhabit it, then we should be glad we do not live there.

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Transfer Quality


    The film is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and is enhanced for 16x9 displays.

    The transfer is not especially sharp but it is acceptable. The film appears to have been reasonably well lit, but shadow detail is lacking in some scenes. This may have been deliberate in order to create a particular mood, though it is hard to tell. Colours are generally subdued.

    Film to video artefacts appear in the form of some aliasing at 13:54, and a fairly jerky pan shot at 34:30. Film artefacts are present in the form of white and black specks. Grain is present throughout, at times at distracting levels. There are several shots that have deliberately had the grain increased.

    The film is presented on an RSDL-formatted disc with the layer break occurring at 81:09. The layer break occurs at a cut and I did not notice it during an initial viewing of the film, so it is well positioned. Subtitles in various languages are available, and from a brief inspection the English subtitles seem to be accurate to the spoken word.

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


    There are two audio tracks provided. The default audio track is an English Dolby Digital 5.1 affair, with an alternative Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 track available.

    The default audio track is quite satisfactory. Dialogue is well transferred, though the accents and speech patterns are sometimes difficult to understand. The surround channels are used sparingly, as is the subwoofer. The overall sound picture is good but it does not leap out from the speakers with any sort of realism or presence.

    The original music score is by Terence Blanchard and would have been a good score for a different film. Blanchard's score is sombre and heavily orchestral, which does not suit this film. Better are the songs of the era which are interpolated into the soundtrack, although the timing and choice in some cases is heavy-handed.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    No extras are provided.


    There is censorship information available for this title. Click here to read it (a new window will open). WARNING: Often these entries contain MAJOR plot spoilers.

R4 vs R1

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

    This film has been released in Region 1 with only a theatrical trailer as an extra, and without 16x9 enhancement. The UK Region 2 disc, on the other hand, has a number of extras:

    Judging from reviews of the Region 2 disc, the issue with grain experienced in the Region 4 is not present, making the Region 2 version a clear winner.


    A fairly average film, which means a disappointment for Spike Lee fans, presented on a reasonable DVD that looks perfect for the rental shelves. It is also pretty cheap if you want to own a copy, but if you want a copy to keep, then maybe you should consider the Region 2 disc.

    The video quality is average.

    The audio quality is quite good.

    No extras are provided.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Philip Sawyer (Bio available.)
Tuesday, February 24, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-S733A, using Component output
DisplaySony 86CM Trinitron Wega KVHR36M31. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD player, Dolby Digital, dts and DVD-Audio. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationYamaha RX-V596 for surround channels; Yamaha AX-590 as power amp for mains
SpeakersMain: Tannoy Revolution R3; Centre: Richter Harlequin; Rear: Pioneer S-R9; Subwoofer: JBL SUB175

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