Secret Window (2004)

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Released 9-Aug-2004

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Main Menu Introduction
Main Menu Audio & Animation
Menu Audio
Dolby Digital Trailer
Audio Commentary-David Koepp (Director)
Deleted Scenes-With Optional Director's Commentary
Featurette-From Book To Film
Featurette-A Look Through It
Featurette-Secrets Revealed
Theatrical Trailer
Trailer-Spider-Man 2, Hellboy, The Missing
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2004
Running Time 92:01
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (79:10) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4,5 Directed By David Koepp

Sony Pictures Home Entertain
Starring Johnny Depp
John Turturro
Maria Bello
Timothy Hutton
Charles Dutton
Len Cariou
Joan Heney
John Dunn-Hill
Vlasta Vrana
Matt Holland
Gillian Ferrabee
Bronwen Mantel
Elizabeth Marleau
Case ?
RPI $39.95 Music Philip Glass
Geoff Zanelli

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
Hungarian Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
Polish Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.40:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
English for the Hearing Impaired
English Audio Commentary
Italian Audio Commentary
Dutch Audio Commentary
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement Yes, Doritos and Mountain Dew anyone?
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    Secret Window is a psychological thriller written and directed by the accomplished David Koepp. He has penned some very successful screen plays in his time (Jurassic Park, Carlito's Way, Panic Room and Spider-Man) and directed a growing list of movies including the very satisfying Stir of Echoes. This film is adapted from the novella Secret Window, Secret Garden by the sometimes master of such tales, Stephen King. King is one of the world's most popular authors, and has penned more than his fair share of magnificent tales - Carrie, Misery and The Shining amongst a dozen others. Happily for all concerned, the basic story here is excellent and Koepp has done a wonderful job in bringing it to life on the silver screen - or in this case, the silver disc.

    The film begins with a striking opening scene. Mort Rainey (Johnny Depp) sits alone in his car, willing himself not to return to a seedy motel which sits, windswept and snowbound in the background. Of course, he does return - only to discover his wife Amy (Maria Bello) in bed with another man - Ted Milner (Timothy Hutton). The film then takes a jump forward in time, taking us to a beautiful lakeside cottage in upstate New York, where Rainey is attempting to write his latest work and come to terms with his impending divorce.

    Mort is having a tough time writing (don't authors always have this problem in films?). However, an unexpected knock on the door delivers the mother of all writer's blocks to his country doorstep. The knock is courtesy of one John Shooter (John Turturro), an irate man who insists that Rainey has plagiarised his manuscript for a story entitled Secret Window, and had it published under his own name. Of course Rainey is adamant that this is nonsense, and sends Shooter away with a flea in his ear.

    When Rainey finally reads the manuscript which Shooter abandons on his porch, it becomes apparent that it bears an uncanny resemblance to his published work. In Rainey's discussions with Amy, we are made aware that he has in fact previously plagiarised another writer's work...but surely only his wife and his lawyer know that to be true? Rainey is content to conclude that Shooter has simply copied his work after it has been published and is prepared to dismiss the man as a charlatan. If only life were that simple! When Rainey discovers a threatening note from Shooter, and that his (SPOILER ALERT: highlight with mouse to read) dog has been skewered with a screwdriver it becomes obvious that Shooter is not about to go away quietly. Rainey becomes the victim of a spiralling campaign of fear and violence at the hands of the mysterious stranger, and it becomes obvious that he will have to somehow appease Shooter if he is to be allowed to return to his writing unhindered...

    Johnny Depp is a great actor - probably one of the best of his generation. Almost without exception his idiosyncratic acting performances are top notch (Donnie Brasco, Ed Wood and Sleepy Hollow for instance), as is his choice in movie roles (Pirates of The Caribbean is the obvious exception for me - a great performance in an awful movie). Here Depp delivers another totally believable, suitably quirky, and very polished performance. John Turturro also puts in a very solid turn as the menacing Shooter.

    The cinematography is very nicely done, with a number of inventive and creative shots which are discussed in some detail in the extra features. There is a quite strong thread of black humour running through the film, and whilst the plot generates a fair degree of tension, the subtle humour serves to allow the occasional brief respite from the growing suspense. Depp in particular manages to present a typically quirky character, with frequent double-takes and a general air of bemusement which does not detract in the slightest from the gravity of his plight. The use of the chess timer in the private detective's office and witty use of lyrics from Talking Heads' Once in A Lifetime also brought a smile to my face. The fact that none of the characters is sugar-coated helps to sustain the "whodunit" aspect of the plot - there are no really overt hero figures to root for, which helps keep you guessing the outcome until very close to the satisfying ending.

    Overall this is a highly enjoyable movie which I can easily recommend for purchase.

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

Transfer Quality


    The overall video transfer is top notch and approaching reference quality in almost every regard.

    The movie is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.39:1 which is essentially the original theatrical aspect ratio (variously reported as 2.35 and 2:39:1).

    The image is free from any annoying grain. Sharpness is almost always spot-on.

    Black levels are coal-mine deep with a nice level of shadow detail present whenever it is required. There is no hint of low level noise. Colours are solidly rendered with the darker night scenes and dowdy clothing of Shooter well contrasted by some vivid greens from the verdant surroundings. There is no sign of colour bleeding at all. Skin tones look perfectly natural throughout.

    I noticed no issues with MPEG compression artefacts. There was no evidence of aliasing on my set up. There are a couple of minor instances of edge enhancement (for instance around Shooter at 5:00), but these are only ever trivial. There is no evidence of telecine wobble during the movie.

    I noticed no film artefacts during this flick. Once again Columbia Tri-Star deliver a very clean transfer.

    The main English subtitles are well timed, easy to read and follow the dialogue very closely at all times. In addition, the English captions provide attribution for off-screen dialogue, and position the subtitles below the character who is speaking at the time.

    The disc is in a single sided and dual layered (RSDL) format with the brief and unobtrusive layer change cropping up at 79:10.

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


    The audio transfer is very good indeed.

    The sole English audio track is a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix encoded at 384 kbps. It is technically fine, avoiding major defects in the way of distortion, dropouts and hiss.

    The dialogue is always perfectly clear - even when Rainey is muttering to himself. I noticed no instances of problems with audio sync.

    Original music is attributed to the always excellent Philip Glass (The Hours and Candyman). It is most notable for providing a suitably tension-filled, ominous feel to the film with the requisite stabbing strings at all the right moments, with a more appropriately subtle feel during quieter moments. Whilst the stabbing score and pounding drums may occasionally induce minor heart palpitations, it is not over-used and I found that it complemented the dramatic nature of the film very well, without becoming gimmicky.

    The front speakers deliver a wide and clean front soundstage, with the dialogue never drowned out by the sound effects and the music. The dialogue is usually anchored in the centre channel, but on occasion is moved between speakers for dramatic effect. There is good use of front soundstage panning and localised spot effects (for example Depp eating Doritos at 40:15) . The surround speakers support the musical score well, creating an often enveloping feel to the audio. There is some nice ambient presence in the outdoor shots, with the crickets and assorted wildlife providing a subtly immersive feel (for instance around 58:56). Particularly during the later stages of the film, spot effects are well used and there are notable instances of front to rear pans.

    There is some nice LFE activity present to punctuate some of the more dramatic moments. The subwoofer supports the bass elements of the musical score very well in the more dramatic moments and also provides a nice bottom end to effects such as door-knocks, engine noises and various dramatic shock moments.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    There are quite a few extra features which add genuine value to the overall package.


    The main menu is a nicely animated and atmospheric affair which whets your appetite for the film from the get-go. It offers the options of playing the film, selecting one of twenty-eight chapter stops, choosing audio languages and subtitles, or viewing the following extra features:

Audio Commentary

    Writer/director David Koepp provides an easy-going but informative scene-specific commentary in Dolby Digital 2.0 encoded at 192 kbps. I'm not the greatest fan of commentaries, but found this one to be quite enjoyable.

Deleted Scenes

    A collection of four deleted scenes, some available with commentary from Koepp, these can be played individually or sequentially. In total they run for 6:05 and are presented letterboxed (not 16x9 enhanced) with a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack encoded at 192 kbps.


    Three substantial featurettes can be played individually or sequentially (a nice touch). They are all presented at 1.33:1 with letterboxed inserts from the film, and each has a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack encoded at 192 kbps. When watched individually they are interesting enough, although they do feel a little repetitious when viewed sequentially:


    Much more satisfying than the usual Storyboard feature, these computer generated sequences show how well initial concepts for the movie were translated to film. There are several scenes presented (windowboxed at approximately 2.08:1) with a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack encoded at 192 kbps. They can be played individually or sequentially:


    Trailers for the following films:

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 of this movie is essentially the same as our own. The only noteworthy changes appear to be some trivial web links and the trailers on offer, with The Missing, err missing, and the following additions:

    Unless you are an avid collector of trailers, I would suggest the Region 4 release will be perfectly satisfactory.


    Secret Window is a worthwhile addition to the thriller genre. Mort Rainey is a soon-to-be divorced author whose idyllic country retreat is disrupted by the arrival of the ominous John Shooter. After Shooter accuses him of stealing his story, Rainey realises that he cannot dismiss the man's accusation lightly and he becomes trapped in an increasingly violent game as he tries to prove his innocence. Johnny Depp and John Turturro fill the lead roles in a tense, witty and scary film experience which comes highly recommended.

    The video transfer is excellent.

    The audio transfer is very good.

    Extras, including a commentary and several quite substantial featurettes round out the disc nicely.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Daniel O'Donoghue (You think my bio is funny? Funny how?)
Saturday, July 31, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDMomitsu V880 upconverting DVI player, using DVI 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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