Taps (1981)

If you create a user account, you can add your own review of this DVD

Released 10-Jun-2004

Cover Art

This review is sponsored by

Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama None
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1981
Running Time 121:11
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (48:56) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Harold Becker

Twentieth Century Fox
Starring George C. Scott
Timothy Hutton
Ronny Cox
Sean Penn
Tom Cruise
Brendan Ward
Evan Handler
John P. Navin Jr.
Billy Van Zandt
Giancarlo Esposito
Donald Kimmel
Tim Wahrer
Tim Riley
Case ?
RPI $19.95 Music Maurice Jarre

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 4.0 L-C-R-S (448Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 4.1 L-C-R-S-Sub (384Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 4.0 L-C-R-S (384Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 4.0 L-C-R-S (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 Dutch
French Titling
German Titling
Italian Titling
Spanish Titling
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    Watching a film like Taps is much like looking back through an old family photo album. There's some fondness for what you see, plenty of memories and nostalgia, but everything looks a little daggy and dated. The photo album analogy seems somewhat appropriate here for a couple of reasons. Firstly because this is a film that would have appealed so much more when first released, but looking at it now it is clear that the passage of time has not been kind to it. Secondly, it provides us with a glimpse, almost like a high school or baby photo might, of two of today's leading superstar actors right at the beginning of their careers. Made in 1981, Taps features a young Sean Penn (he was 20) in his first feature film role, and an even younger Tom Cruise (he was 19) in just his second film role. These two may have gone on to become Hollywood legends, but it is the role played by the Oscar winner Timothy Hutton (he won best supporting actor for Ordinary People in 1980) which is effectively the lead.

    Hutton is Cadet Major Brian Moreland. He is the senior ranking cadet at the prestigious Bunker Hill Military Academy - a school for 12-18 year olds that for some 140-odd years has turned out the sort of men that become leaders and thinkers in both the military and mainstream society. Honour, tradition, discipline. They are all virtues of the staff and students at Bunker Hill and are reinforced daily by the school's leader General Harlan Bache (George C. Scott). Moreland is the epitome of the school's code of conduct. Well respected by all his peers and subordinates, he confides heavily in his lieutenants Alex Dwyer (Sean Penn), and David Shawn (Tom Cruise) and all the students look up to him for leadership.

    The boys love their school and the school loves them, but not everyone shares this fondness for a military academy for young men. When it is discovered that the board of trustees has decided this somewhat anarchistic institution is to be closed to make way for a housing development, the peaceful existence that has endured for more than a century is about to be broken. The controversy is fuelled even further when an unfortunate incident in front of the academy's gates involving some local youths gets out of control, resulting in the death of one of the youths and the admittance of General Harlan to hospital with heart problems. As a result, the cadets are left at the school to fend for themselves. But as a result of the tragedy, the decision to close the academy is moved forward and they are all asked to leave immediately, Major Moreland takes matters into his own hands and vows to defend the school against all odds.

    Things rapidly escalate out of control with the boys fortifying the campus and arming themselves to the teeth with all manner of automatic and heavy artillery. The police are called, but when it is clear that the boys are not moving, the heavily armed National Guard arrives with all manner of weapons including some armoured tanks at their disposal. Surely they won't be forced to use them against a bunch of kids, will they? From here the story spirals towards the dramatic conclusion and along the way the resolve and determination of the cadets and Major Moreland in particular will be tested. I must say I found myself cringing often during this film, with the lines of dialogue and actions of the cadets appearing almost comic in their delivery. There also isn't a whole lot of empathy generated by any of the main cast here and the characters are incredibly one-dimensional. The whole film seems just plain dated and contrived and harks back to a different time and place from where we live now. It is certainly a far more complex and sophisticated era that we now live in in regards to our opinions of the military institutions and the men that command them.

    And in case you were wondering about the name of the film. Taps is the American equivalent of what we know as The Last Post - the bugle call played to signify the end of the soldier's day and also incorporated into funeral and memorial services as a final farewell. It symbolises that the duty of the dead is over and that they can rest in peace.

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

Transfer Quality


    This transfer is presented in its original theatrical ratio of 1.85:1 and is also 16x9 enhanced.

    This is really a pretty average looking transfer all round with only a moderate level of sharpness and some scattered edge enhancement contained throughout. Several scenes offer a definite below-average effort in clarity and detail. Shadow detail is compromised on several occasions, mostly in the latter half of the film when the boys are under siege in the school and the lighting levels are significantly reduced. There is no low level noise.

    Colours are really quite dull for the most part, except for the parade ground uniforms which are bright, vivid and extremely colourful. The skin tones take on quite a red cast at times. Overall it is probably best to describe the colours as uneven.

    Overall there are no compression artefacts. Film-to-video artefacts are quite limited in appearance, with a tiny bit of aliasing on a couple of surfaces. Film artefacts are present, some quite large, some small and unobtrusive. Overall this is quite a grimy and dirty source print.

    There are several subtitle options available. The English variety are accurate enough without being completely perfect.

    This is a dual layered disc complete with RSDL formatting. The layer change occurs at 48:56 and is well placed.

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


    There is the most amazing and varied selection of soundtracks present on this disc. First choice is the English Dolby Digital 4.0 soundtrack. This four channel soundtrack consists of left, right, centre, and mono rear channels. It is encoded at a bitrate of 448 Kb/s. It is joined by German and Spanish soundtracks of the same specification, but encoded at the lower bitrate of 384 Kb/s. The fourth choice of soundtrack consists of a French Dolby Digital 4.1 effort that is the same as the English version buts also contains a discrete subwoofer channel. Rounding out the selection is a full 5.1 channel Italian Dolby Digital soundtrack. Confusing hey!

    The English soundtrack is not superb by any stretch. It lacks any real punch or fidelity, and takes on quite a harsh tone at times. There is a reasonable amount of directional use across the front speakers, but surround use is minimal. Dialogue is at least clear and concise with no audio sync problems.

    I only sampled the other soundtrack briefly for comparison purposes while listening to the English soundtrack for the entire film.

    Music consists of a score by the well-known Maurice Jarre. It is suitably military and pompous when required.

    There is only a little surround channel use and there is no subwoofer use.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    There are no extras on this disc.

R4 vs R1

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

    The Region 4 disc misses out on;

    The Region 1 disc misses out on;

    From the Region 1 reviews I have read the image and audio quality appears to be very similar for both discs. Since I have no use for the dubbed foreign language soundtrack, the inclusion of a few extras on the Region 1 disc sees me favour that version ever so slightly. Of course the budget price of the local release (less than $20) is pretty hard to beat and swings the balance back a little bit. I think I'll declare this a draw.


    Some films do not date particularly well and Taps is certainly one of those. It almost exists now merely as a nostalgic look at very early roles for two of Hollywood's most successful actors of the last generation, Sean Penn and Tom Cruise.

    The video transfer is only average, with clarity lacking in many scenes.

    The audio is also lacking any real range or fidelity.

    There are no extras.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Darren Walters (It's . . . just the vibe . . . of my bio)
Tuesday, July 13, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDLoewe Xemix 5106DO, using RGB output
DisplayLoewe Calida (84cm). Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL). This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL).
AmplificationHarmon/Kardon AVR7000.
SpeakersFront - B&W 602S2, Centre - B&W CC6S2, Rear - B&W 601S2, Sub - Energy E:xl S10

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add)
Special Edition -
Special Edition -