|Category||Drama||Main Menu Audio & Animation|
|Year Of Production||1999|
|RSDL / Flipper||No/No||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||1,2,3,4,5,6||Directed By||Kevin Hooks|
Eagle Home Video
Michael Jai White
David Barry Gray
J. August Richards
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||Full Frame||English Dolby Digital 2.0 (448Kb/s)|
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||None|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.33:1||Miscellaneous|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||Yes, what happened in real-life|
This is a telemovie (the closing credits even end with NBC Studios). That word usually conjures up ideas of third-rate acting (often from has-been or never-was actors), bad script, poor production values... This one is somewhat different. Oh, the production values ain't too hot, but I'm guessing that the main reason this one was made as a telemovie is that it was probably judged too risky a subject for a feature film.
This film centres on events that happened in 1944, in US naval bases at Port Chicago and Mare Island. These things really happened, but the filmmakers are careful to point out that this film is a dramatisation, and only one character (the NAACP representation, Thurgood Marshall, played by Joe Morton) is real.
During the Second World War, the US Navy practised segregation. This film begins as a new bunch of recruits arrive at boot camp, filled with enthusiasm — they want to fight for their country. Those of them who thought that the Navy was integrated are rapidly disabused of the notion: all the recruits at this camp are black, and all their trainers are white. They have been told that they will be able to apply for any kind of specialised training, but surprise: all the specialist schools are full, and the entire group are shunted off en masse to Port Chicago (in California) to work as labourers, loading ammunition of all kinds into ships. They are given no training, not even gloves, and they are handling all sorts of stuff that goes boom: shells, bombs, mines, bags of propellent (the really big guns use bags, not brass cartridges), and so forth. Oh, sure, these munitions don't have detonators in them, but the risks are still high (explosives are temperamental at the best of times, and these working conditions are hot). To make things even more dangerous, the (white) officers, like the obnoxious Lieutenant Kirby (Matthew Glave) who is in charge of the group we're following, are making bets on whose (black) team can load the fastest.
The inevitable happens: there's a large explosion. The investigating officer, Lt Commander Tynan (James Sikking), interviews only officers, and draws the conclusion that sloppy handling was responsible for the deaths of over 300 men (almost all of them black).
Immediately afterwards, the group is transferred to Mare Island — they are given no compassionate leave (Lt Kirby is on leave when they get told...). They are barely settled there when they are mustered out of the barracks and marched towards the docks. They presume they are about to be set to doing the exact same tasks again, and they react. They stop dead in their tracks, and say they will not load ammo again.
Rather than being charged with insubordination, they are charged with mutiny, which can carry the death penalty in time of war. This is a grotesque lack of justice (a charge of mutiny requires conspiracy beforehand, something the prosecution tries to concoct).
Given the similar focus on racial prejudice in the US Navy, you might wonder if this film was inspired or motivated by Men of Honor. That would be hard, though, given that this film was released in 1999, while Men of Honor came out in 2000.
This film is not the best you'll ever see, far from it, but it does get some decent performances from the three leads: Michael Jai White, David Ramsey, and Duane Martin (by the way, their names are shown in that order on the cover, but their faces are in the order Duane Martin, Michael Jai White, and David Ramsey). Annoyingly, the end of the film does not include a proper cast list, showing who played which role.
This is not a documentary. It's a quite slanted dramatisation, with only one nice white character, and only one questionable black one. I really can't recommend it, unless you've exhausted pretty much everything else in the video store. That's not because the subject isn't worthwhile, but rather because the story isn't told all that well.
This transfer is presented at an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, so it is not 16x9 enhanced. That could well be the original aspect ratio, given that this was made for TV.
The image is soft and grainy, with limited shadow detail. There doesn't appear to be much in the way of low-level noise.
Colour is reasonably well rendered. There are no colour-related artefacts, save for a couple of frames, the worst of which is at 14:34: a coding error of some kind has made the top third of the frame black-and-white, followed by some strips of solid colour, and then the accurate colour begins — this is an unusual chroma error.
There are a few tiny film artefacts, but nothing worth mentioning.
There is some aliasing, but it is mild. There's some moiré. The real flaws, however, are the glitches in the image. I think these are digital tape errors — a horizontal line of the image will be duplicated several times, almost as though the machine is stuttering. Have a look at 12:09, 14:35, 35:44, 39:56, 40:23, and 73:52, for the more obvious examples — there are many others that I didn't bother to record..
This is a poor transfer for a film made in 1999.
There are no subtitles.
The disc is single-sided and single-layered. There's no layer change. Given the limited running time, and no extras, the single layer is sufficient.
The soundtrack is only provided in English. It's Dolby Digital 2.0, encoded at 448kbps. There's nothing significant in the way of stereo separation, suggesting that this is actually mono encoded in stereo.
The dialogue is clear and readily understood. There are no obvious audio sync issues.
Lee Holdridge provided the score, and was even nominated for an Emmy for it. It's quite decent.
The surrounds and subwoofer aren't catered for by this soundtrack.
|Surround Channel Use|
The menu is animated with sound. Hope you like it, because the special features are listed as:
Aspect Ratio 4:3
Such an awe-inspiring list!
This movie does not appear to have been released in Region 1 on DVD as yet.
A so-so movie, on a completely bare-bones DVD.
The video quality is poor, especially given how recently the film was made.
The audio quality is adequate.
The extras are non-existent.
|DVD||Pioneer DV-S733A, using Component output|
|Display||Sony VPH-G70 CRT Projector, QuadScan Elite scaler (Tripler), ScreenTechnics 110. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.|
|Speakers||Front Left, Centre, Right: Krix Euphonix; Rears: Krix KDX-M; Subwoofer: Krix Seismix 5|