Soul Man (1986) (NTSC)

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Released 16-Dec-2003

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Comedy Main Menu Audio
Audio Commentary-Steve Miner (Director) And C.Thomas Howell (Actor)
Teaser Trailer-1:01
Theatrical Trailer-1:58
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1986
Running Time 104:55
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Steve Miner
New World Pictures
Simitar DVD
Starring C. Thomas Howell
Rae Dawn Chong
Arye Gross
Melora Hardin
James Earl Jones
Linda Hoy
Leslie Nielsen
Ann Walker
James Sikking
Max Wright
Julia Louis-Dreyfus
Maree Cheatham
Wallace Langham
Case Amaray-Opaque-Secure Clip
RPI ? Music Tom Scott

Video (NTSC) Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None 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, tobacco and marijuana
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

This is Harvard
I don't have to eat
I don't have to sleep
I just have to study...

    Let's get the main thing out of the way up front. Despite various things said about it, this film was never intended to be anything but a lightweight comedy. That said, it makes some interesting statements about a privileged white boy learning a bit about what it's like to be black.

    The plot setup is simple enough. Mark Watson (C Thomas Howell) has always planned on attending Harvard Law School. He is a bit of a spoiled boy who has always gotten what he wanted, although we guess that he must have studied to stand a chance of getting into Harvard. He gets in. And then his father (James B Sikking) tells him that he won't pay for Harvard — his therapist has convinced him that he should concentrate on himself. Mark is shattered. He looks through all the scholarships — there aren't any for rich white kids whose fathers have decided not to pay for them, strangely enough. He tries to get a loan, and discovers that a history of small bounced cheques doesn't make him a good risk. He tries to convince the therapist (a cameo by Max Wright) to change his father's mind — yeah, that's gonna work! His last desperate hope is a scholarship that pays full tuition plus a stipend. Catch is that it is for the best black applicant from Los Angeles. Mark salves his conscience by checking: there are no black applicants.

     So Mark starts Harvard Law as a black man. He slowly learns what it's like to be black in a largely white world. He also gets close to Sarah Walker (Rae Dawn Chong), another black law student. He tries to take advantage of being black in the class of a black professor, Professor Banks (James Earl Jones), but learns that he is mistaken. In fact, he learns that he is mistaken about a number of things...

    It's hard to believe that there were protests when this film first opened — clearly the protesters hadn't seen the film.

    One interesting coincidence: in the film, Rae Dawn Chong's character was married for two years. She and C Thomas Howell were later married 1989-1990 — kind of prophetic.

    There are some decent laughs, some painful spots of farce, and a few cringe-worthy moments, which is about average for a lightweight comedy. Plus some moments that are a bit more meaningful than is normal for a film like this. Don't expect too much, and you may be pleasantly surprised.

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Transfer Quality


    If your display won't display NTSC, stop reading — you won't be able to play this DVD.

    The DVD is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1, which appears to be the theatrical aspect ratio. It is 16x9 enhanced.

    The image is soft, but not so soft as to be unwatchable. Shadow detail is limited, with colours in shade dropping off into black rather too quickly. It's hard to tell if the softness is film grain or over-compression (from fitting the film into one layer). Low level noise is never a problem.

    Colour is not rendered too well, with skin tones often a bit orange (the worst is around 83:32). There are no other colour-related artefacts like colour bleed.

    There are some tiny film artefacts, but nothing of any consequence. There's some occasional aliasing, but it's mild, and not distracting. There's some minor moiré. There are no MPEG artefacts.

    Apart from the softness, this is quite a reasonable transfer.

    There are no subtitles.

    The disc is single-sided and single-layered. That means no layer change.

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


    There is only one soundtrack on this disc. It's English Dolby Digital 2.0, not surround-encoded, at 192kbps. There is also an audio commentary track. I listened to both.

    The dialogue is clear enough and readily understood, with only slight distortion occasionally. I didn't spot any audio sync glitches.

    The score is provided by Tom Scott. However, the important part of the music is the carefully selected songs — they have gone to some trouble to choose songs that fit very well (music supervisor David Anderle has done well).

    The soundtrack is not surround-encoded, but if you enable ProLogic decoding manually, you'll hear a bit of sound from the surrounds, and most of the dialogue will move into the centre. The subwoofer isn't provided a signal, but may respond to the bass in the soundtrack if you have bass management turned on.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use



    The menu is not animated, with a short music clip. The menu is easy to use, because there's very little to it.

Theatrical Trailer (1:58) / Teaser Trailer (1:01)

    Surprisingly, both these trailers are 16x9 enhanced. They are quite similar.

Audio Commentary: director Steve Miner, actor C Thomas Howell

    This is a reasonable commentary. It wanders around from topic to topic, but it's interesting enough. I think I'd have preferred a commentary from the director alone, but this is a lot better than nothing.

R4 vs R1

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

    This film, like Heathers, is a case of the Region 1 disc being made all-region, then released here. Feel free to buy this disc from Region 1 or Region 4 — you are buying exactly the same disc either way.


    A surprising lightweight comedy with a touch of bitter reality, a film that's better than you'd expect, on a decent DVD.

    The video quality is just good enough, but soft and with limited shadow detail. And it's NTSC.

    The audio quality is good.

    The extras are not bad, with a reasonable commentary.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Tony Rogers (bio-degrading: making a fool of oneself in a bio...)
Wednesday, September 15, 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

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