Streets of Fire (Universal) (1984)

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Released 11-Oct-2004

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Action Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1984
Running Time 89:36
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Walter Hill
Studio
Distributor

Universal Pictures Home Video
Starring Michael Paré
Diane Lane
Rick Moranis
Amy Madigan
Willem Dafoe
Deborah Van Valkenburgh
Richard Lawson
Rick Rossovich
Bill Paxton
Lee Ving
Stoney Jackson
Grand L. Bush
Robert Townsend
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $19.95 Music Dave Alvin
Ry Cooder
Cy Curnin


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits Yes

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

Plot Synopsis

   To say that Director Walter Hill knows a thing or two about the action genre is an understatement. Hill specialises in what has become a rarity these days - macho, testosterone-fuelled, overtly violent action films that cater primarily for men over the age of twenty. His directing credits include 48 Hours, Another 48 Hours, The Long Riders, Southern Comfort, Red Heat, Johnny Handsome, Extreme Prejudice, Undisputed, Last Man Standing, and Trespass. It is fairly obvious from this list that Mr Hill has more than a passing fascination with the action genre. However, in 1984, hot off the success of 48 Hours, Hill released a wonderfully eclectic pulp adventure in Streets Of Fire. Starring Michael Pare, Willem Dafoe, Amy Madigan, Bill Paxton, Rick Moranis and Diane Lane, the film would fail at the box office, but like so many other 80's disappointments, a thriving video market would guarantee moderate success and a loyal fan base. Although not quite a cult classic in the vein of John Carpenter's Big Trouble In Little China, the film definitely deserves its cult status. With its strange combination of action, rock music, modern weaponry, and 1950's fashions all set in an alternate universe this is definitely not your normal run-of-the-mill generic actioner.

    Streets of Fire when released was billed as a rock n' roll fable, which is a fairly accurate summation of the film. Michael Pare plays Tom Cody, a soldier of fortune who returns home to rescue his ex-girlfriend Rock Diva Ellen Aim, played by the lovely Diane Lane, who has been kidnapped by a local motorcycle gang. These bikers, known as the Bombers, are led by the vicious Raven Shaddock, Dafoe chewing the scenery for all its worth. Cody, with the help of ex-marine McCoy (Amy Madigan) and Aim's Manager Billy Fish (Rick Moranis), must track down this roving band of petrol heads, before Aim is lost forever.

    There are three things that elevate this admittedly run-of-the-mill storyline from mediocrity. Firstly, the production design is so bizarre that every frame engages the senses. The film contains such a rich atmosphere that its unique setting becomes hard to ignore. At the time of production, the set required by Hill needed to be so large that a studio facility couldn't be located that could house the project. Therefore they constructed it outside and covered the whole set in a giant tarpaulin in order to control the lighting. Believe me it worked a treat. Secondly, the interesting mixture of 1950s fashions, vehicles and dialogue give the story a timeless feel that compensate for the sometime sloppy writing. Lastly, the music littering this film is absolutely dynamite. Stevie Nicks, Tom Petty, and The Fix to name but a few all feature prominently in the soundtrack, and when combined with Ry Cooder's score you are treated to something very special indeed.

    With the exception of Supernova (which Hill removed his name from), I am hard-pressed to find a film of his that I have not enjoyed on some level. Like any director his resume has a few less than stellar entries, but when Hill hits his stride there is no one behind the camera better suited to deliver tough, gritty, violent action the way they used to make them.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    Streets of Fire is presented full frame, roughly 1:33:1 and is not enhanced for widescreen viewing. This is actually the least of the transfer's problems, but annoying all the same.

    Let's begin with the transfer's sharpness level. The picture suffers from a noticeably soft image that is barely an improvement on VHS. Although there are no aliasing issues, the transfer is still sub par. Shadow depth and detail are seriously wanting. Black levels are very poor with abundant grain and low level noise interference apparent in every scene.

    There are constant film artefacts throughout the film's duration, but thankfully they are mostly dark in nature and don't call attention to themselves.

    Universal should be ashamed of themselves for this one. The R1's transfer is marginally sharper with stronger black levels, but at least it's in the correct aspect ratio.

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

Audio

    Streets of Fire has been given a solitary audio track in English Dolby Digital 2.0 surround.

    The film's dialogue, although minimalist, is clear at all times with no dropouts or audio sync hiccups.

    The film's soundtrack is unquestionably the main reason to purchase this DVD. You would have to go a long way to find a better collection of songs compiled for the one film.

    Surround channel activity, although present, is somewhat wanting in comparison to the remixed 5.1 soundtrack available on the US counterpart. The rear channels do contain several directional effects, which are only noticeable during the three major action set pieces. Unfortunately, unlike the Region 1 disc, the rear channels fail to support the film's great soundtrack. The various rock songs are basically restricted to the front channels, although sounding fine they tend to lack the dynamic range needed for the material. The subwoofer adds the necessary bass and reverberation required.

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

Extras

Theatrical Trailer

    A non-anamorphic trailer.

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 version of this DVD misses out on:

    The Region 1 version of this DVD misses out on a cropped full frame version with an inferior 2.0 surround mix.

    The math is simple - R1 all the way.

Summary

    Streets Of Fire is one of the lesser films in Walter Hill's arsenal, but the soundtrack is dynamite. The disc is a travesty with no extras.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Greg Morfoot (if interested here is my bio)
Sunday, October 31, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-535, using Component output
DisplayLG 76cm Widescreen Flatron Television. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderSony HT-K215. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationSony HT-K215
Speakers fronts-paradigm titans, centre &rear Sony - radio parts subbie

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