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PLEASE NOTE: Michael D's is currently in READ ONLY MODE. Anything submitted will simply not be written to the database.
Lots of stuff is still broken, but at least reviews can now be looked up and read.
The Emerald Forest (Universal) (1985)

The Emerald Forest (Universal) (1985)

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Released 3-May-2004

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Adventure Main Menu Introduction
Main Menu Audio & Animation
Scene Selection Anim & Audio
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1985
Running Time 109:02
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By John Boorman

Universal Pictures Home Video
Starring Powers Boothe
Meg Foster
Yara Vaneau
William Rodriguez
Estee Chandler
Charley Boorman
Dira Paes
Eduardo Conde
Ariel Coelho
Peter Marinker
Mario Borges
Átila Iório
Gabriel Archanjo
Case ?
RPI $19.95 Music Brian Gascoigne
Junior Homrich

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English 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 Finnish Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    For much of the time I was watching John Boorman's 1985 film The Emerald Forest I kept wanting it to be something else. It wasn't that I disliked the content of the film. Rather, I found the narrative so unfocussed and often trite that it kept ruining the fascinating and visually exciting delve into the existence of South America's indigenous peoples. It was as if Boorman didn't quite know whether he wanted to be David Attenborough or David Lean, and because he couldn't decide, tried to be both. Unfortunately, the result is an uneven and unsatisfying film, marked by much unrealised potential.

    The film tells the story of an American engineer (Powers Boothe) who moves to Brazil with his wife and two children to oversee the construction of a dam near the fringe of the Amazon rainforest. Whilst visiting the site of the dam's construction, his young son Tommy (originally William Rodriguez then Charley Boorman - son of the director in a raw and compelling performance) is abducted by the Invisible People and disappears. To the detriment of the film I think the grief of the family is not dealt with particularly sensitively. In fact, the entire sequence that actually gets Tommy, or Tomme as he becomes, into the forest has an arbitrariness that is disconcerting. The film then jumps forward a number of years. Boothe's character refuses to give up hope that his son is lost and convinces a team to head upriver to allow him to continue his search. The party is attacked by the Fierce People, and by a twist of fate Tomme rescues his father and takes him to his adopted village and family. Not wishing to give away much more of the plot I will simply say that problems arise leading to a resolution that is as heavy-handed as it is unconvincing (the 'set piece' especially so in light of certain scenes in The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers and X-Men 2). Throughout the film are strewn numerous platitudes about the need for the preservation of the environment, and bemoaning the 'white man's' destruction of indigenous cultures, but their constant emphasis detracts from a film that conveys such important themes without need for the banging of drums, so to speak. I also wondered about the issue that if such themes were central to the film why we needed to have a white kid plunged into a unique civilisation for the story to function. I suppose the director may have wanted to demonstrate how people are ultimately products of their environment but the film suggests his focus is elsewhere. Don't get me wrong - much of the film is completely fascinating. What I did find throughout, though, was that as soon as the story took the Invisible People, as they called themselves, out of their own environment and into the urban sprawl of Brazil or the seedy construction site the life drained out of the film.

    This is a work of stunning visuals and some compelling and audacious moments that never properly cohere as a film needs to in order to sustain an audience's interest. Either Boorman, who has made some great films in his lengthy career, should have put his documentary hat on or hired a better screenwriter.

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Transfer Quality


    For a film made almost two decades ago (and one that did not garner the awards that might afford it a decent DVD presentation) this is a fantastic transfer, presented correctly at its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio, 16x9 enhanced.

    As I previously said, this is a visual film, perhaps above all else, and Boorman fills the frame with sweeping shots (only the first sequences judder significantly) of rainforests (and the blight of urbanisation), ground level traipses through the vegetation, peering at the native wildlife, along with intoxicating looks into the lives of these extraordinary South American indigenes. Shadow detail is excellent - black are well rendered, and there is only a little grain worth worrying about (see 61:51). Sharpness levels are commendable.

    Colours are rich and vibrant if occasionally seeming a little strong. Skin tones are well caught (and believe me there is a lot of skin on show).

    Film to video artefacts were not a problem - I only noted 97:45 as a problem area.

    Film artefacts were surprisingly few after the slightly problematic opening credits. I did notice some dirt apparently on the camera lens at 10:29 but thankfully this seems to have been an isolated incident.

    Subtitles for the foreign languages spoken were OK, although at 14:58 a subtitle pops up that is completely out of sync with anything being spoken (or not, as the case was).

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


    The audio is disappointing. We get a solitary 2.0 Dolby Digital stereo track that fails to deliver anything worth raving about.

    Dialogue is relatively easy to hear, although there are plenty of accents to get your head around. Audio sync was a significant problem throughout the film, and some of the dialogue (obviously looped later) just did not fit properly.

    The subwoofer got a little to do, notably at 71:17, but its use was not particularly subtle or helpful to what was happening on screen.

    For a film set almost entirely in a rainforest, with the potential for an immersive and exciting 5.1 track that creates, the stereo track just fails to create an ambience that would have certainly improved enjoyment of the visuals.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    There are no extras to speak of.

R4 vs R1

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

    It seems that there is a theatrical trailer on the Region 1 release, but considering the inherent advantages of a PAL transfer and cost, I would still go for the Region 4 version.


    The Emerald Forest is a film that in spite of its exciting visual style never really delivers an involving story.

    The video transfer is excellent, with minor blemishes.

    The audio is not good enough.

    There are no extras - a shame considering that a commentary from John Boorman may have helped explain his filmmaking choices.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Scott Murray (Dont read my bio - it's terrible.)
Thursday, May 20, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDYamaha DVR-S100, using Component output
DisplaySony 76cm Widescreen Trinitron TV. Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD Player, Dolby Digital and DTS. Calibrated with THX Optimizer.
AmplificationYamaha DVR-S100 (built in)
SpeakersYamaha NX-S100S 5 speakers, Yamaha SW-S100 160W subwoofer

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