Heathers (Simitar) (1989) (NTSC)

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Black Comedy Main Menu Audio
THX Trailer
THX Optimizer
Audio Commentary-Director, Producer And Writer
Theatrical Trailer
Featurette-Swatch Dogs And Diet Coke Heads
Notes-Screenplay Excerpt: Original Ending
Biographies-Cast & Crew
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1989
Running Time 103:02
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (70:40) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Michael Lehmann
Studio
Distributor
New World Pictures
Simitar DVD
Starring Winona Ryder
Christian Slater
Shannen Doherty
Lisanne Falk
Kim Walker
Penelope Milford
Glenn Shadix
Lance Fenton
Patrick Labyorteaux
Jeremy Applegate
Jon Shear
Carrie Lynn
Phill Lewis
Case Amaray-Opaque-Secure Clip
RPI ? Music David Newman


Video (NTSC) Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 480i (NTSC)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes, frequent
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    I have been waiting a long time for Heathers to be released in Region 4. I pre-ordered the first release of it in Region 1 (not a very good disc), and then the Limited Edition (that came in a tin pencil case) — that was released in September 2001. Then the disc in that set went bad on me (it delaminated — the two layers split apart), so I was forced to get a copy of the THX Special Edition (same disc as the limited edition, but a different label, and just a regular case). That was September 2002, almost 2 years ago.

    So I finally see Heathers arrive in Australia, and what do we get? Gosh, it looks an awful lot like the THX Special Edition. Hmm, let's look closer. Yup, this is exactly the same disc. The disc I got from Amazon has DV11405 on the label, and D18837-1 on the inner rim of the data side, and so does this new "Region 4" disc. The cover slick and insert are identical. Both are in a dark coloured opaque case — the only difference is that the disc from Amazon is in an Alpha case, while the Australian one is in an Amaray. And the Australian one has two stickers on it, one announcing the Australian rating (M), and one warning "NTSC Playback". Que sera, sera, indeed.

    It's a shame, actually. I had been hoping that the reason it was taking so long was because they were giving this remarkable little film the high-quality transfer it deserves. No such luck, but you'll read about this below. Let's talk about the movie. If you already know about it, you can skip down to Transfer Quality for the bad news.

    The scene is Westerburg High, where the hottest clique is the Heathers — Heather Chandler (Kim Walker, in red) leads this group, with Heather McNamara (Lisanne Falk, in yellow) the token cheerleader, and Heather Duke (Shannon Doherty, in green) the bulimic introvert. The newest member of the clique is Veronica Sawyer (Winona Ryder, in blue) — she isn't completely sure that she wants to be involved, but seems to be dragged along by peer pressure and lack of a good alternative.

    There's a new student in school, Jason Dean (Christian Slater, mostly in black). He makes a quite a first impression. He and Veronica hit it off immediately. After an unfortunate contretemps, Veronica expresses a desire to see Heather dead, or at least throwing up. Jason assists, and next thing you know, there's a dead body. They cover it up as a teen suicide. Then things start to get out of hand...

    This is a black comedy; very black, and very funny. It's not for everyone — if you can't see the funny side of bloodshed and murder, then perhaps it's not for you. I'd forgotten how much coarse language there is.

    One of the many lovely touches to the production design is the association of a colour with each of the four main girls. Not only does each of them always wear her signature colour, but her family's house features the colour, too.

    This feels like such a lost opportunity. This is a brilliant black comedy, and it deserves so much better.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    If your system doesn't allow you to watch NTSC discs, stop now: this disc is NTSC.

    This film is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1, 16x9 enhanced. That's the original theatrical aspect ratio.

    The picture is reasonably sharp, but soft, apparently from light film grain (varying to heavy film grain at moments like 90:43). Shadow detail is terrible — any dark object in shadow drops off immediately into black (Veronica's hair is dark red in bright light, but black in lower light). There's no low-level noise.

    Colour is reasonably well-rendered, but skin tones are visibly off at times (usually a bit orange).

    There's nothing major in the way of film artefacts; there are tiny spots and flecks, though.

    There's minor aliasing, but it's mostly masked by the touch of softness. There is one moment of noticeable moiré on a check waistcoat. There are no MPEG artefacts.

    There are no subtitles.

    The disc is single-sided and dual-layered, RSDL formatted. The layer change is at 70:40, on a still shot. It's barely noticeable on a fast player.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    There are three audio tracks, all in English. The soundtrack is provided in Dolby Digital 5.1 (448kbps) and Dolby Digital 2.0, surround encoded (192kbps) — I listened to the 5.1. There's also an audio commentary, Dolby Digital 2.0, not surround encoded (192kbps).

    The dialogue is clear and comprehensible, making it easy to understand the oh-so-witty dialogue. There are no audio sync problems.

    The score is by David Newman. It is very good, providing support to the emotion of the story.

    The surrounds are hardly used (and aren't missed), and the subwoofer is used only for explosions.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Menu

    The menu is static (a blurry photo montage) with music. It's easy to use.

Audio Commentary — Michael Lehman (director), Denise Dinovi (producer), Daniel Waters (writer)

    This is an excellent commentary, with these three talking continuously. They discuss all manner of things about the film, from where and how scenes are shot, through the details of how the film came to be made, through to where various people are now. Oh, and they talk openly about disappointments in terms of product references and casting (including Heather Graham's parents refusing to let her take part).

Theatrical Trailer (1:50)

    It's interesting to see the touches of censorship in this trailer — even the word "b****" is censored. And for some reason it features Three Blind Mice rather than Que Sera, Sera.

Screenplay Excerpt: Original Ending

    This is almost 60 pages long — it's a strange ending.

Talent Bios

    These are much longer than the usual cursory offerings:

Featurette — Swatch Dogs and Diet Coke Heads (30:00)

    This was made in 2001, and is an interesting retrospective look at the film. Much better than a conventional making-of.

R4 vs R1

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

    The out-of-print Region 1 version (easy to tell — it has a white cover with the four female leads on it dressed in black) was single layered, not 16x9 enhanced, and had minimal extras: a trailer and a short (12:29) featurette. Don't get this one.

    The current Region 1 version is utterly identical (and I mean identical) to this Region 4 version. So I guess it comes down to where you can get it most cheaply.

    I really hope we get a better version some time.

Summary

    A marvellous black comedy, given a poor transfer onto DVD.

    The video is fairly reasonable, with minimal shadow detail. Beware that it is NTSC, rather than PAL.

    The audio quality is rather good.

    The extras are really interesting.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Tony Rogers (bio-degrading: making a fool of oneself in a bio...)
Tuesday, August 10, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-S733A, using Component output
DisplaySony VPH-G70 CRT Projector, QuadScan Elite scaler (Tripler), ScreenTechnics 110. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationDenon AVC-A1SE
SpeakersFront Left, Centre, Right: Krix Euphonix; Rears: Krix KDX-M; Subwoofer: Krix Seismix 5

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add)
Is the version available here just an import? - Andrew500 (read my bio, at your leisure) REPLY POSTED
disc problems - orangecat (my kingdom for a decent bio) REPLY POSTED
have you had problems with your LE disc? then read here! -
Release date? -
about release date -
It IS the R1 release! - REPLY POSTED
Avaliable? -
Re: Available? -