Shadow Makers (Fat Man and Little Boy) (1989)

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Released 6-Jul-2004

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama None
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1989
Running Time 121:21
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (59:41) Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Programme
Region Coding 4 Directed By Roland Joffé

Paramount Home Entertainment
Starring Paul Newman
Dwight Schultz
Bonnie Bedelia
John Cusack
Laura Dern
Ron Frazier
John C. McGinley
Natasha Richardson
Ron Vawter
Michael Brockman
Del Close
John Considine
Allan Corduner
Case ?
RPI $24.95 Music Ennio Morricone

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles Arabic
English for the Hearing Impaired
Spanish Titling
French Titling
Italian 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

    Shadow Makers is a fascinating and well-made film about The Manhattan Project, which is the project initiated by the United States government to develop the atomic bomb shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor. As far as I can tell this movie follows the story as it actually happened quite closely.

    During 1942, the US decided to set up a project to develop the atomic bomb because there was great concern at the time that Germany would develop one first. Accordingly, an Army officer from the Engineers Corps was put in charge. His name was General Leslie 'Dick' Groves (Paul Newman) and he had recently completed the construction of the Pentagon. He offered the scientific lead on the project to Dr J. Robert Oppenheimer (Dwight Schultz), a brilliant scientist. Groves and Oppenheimer decided to create a headquarters for the project in Los Alamos, New Mexico to keep it away from prying eyes and ears. To this headquarters they brought some of the most gifted scientists in the US and other countries to work together on creating an atomic bomb. Amongst these was Michael Merriman (John Cusack).

    They worked on designing and building the bomb until they successfully tested it in 1945, followed shortly by its use against the Japanese in the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The movie takes an even-handed approach to this story, not being overly gung-ho but showing what an incredible technical achievement it was as well as showing the moral and ethical issues which were raised during the project and by the bomb's use. The movie shows the personal and physical cost which the scientists involved had to pay for the project to succeed.

    Other characters who are important in the movie include Oppenheimer's wife, Kitty (Bonnie Bedelia), his mistress Jean Tatlock (Natasha Richardson), the project's medico, Capt Richard Schoenberg (John C. McGinley from Scrubs) and a base nurse, Kathleen Robinson (Laura Dern).

    I found this film fascinating from start to finish, full of tension, drama and interesting historical information. I felt the cast did a good job making their characters come to life. It showed both sides of the debate over whether or not the bomb should be used against Japan. This film was called Fat Man & Little Boy when it was originally released in the US in 1989. Shadow Makers is the UK title.

    Recommended if you enjoy movies about recent history or science.

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Transfer Quality


    The video quality is very good indeed. It is one of the best transfers I have seen for a pre-1990 film.

    The feature is presented in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio 16x9 enhanced which is the original aspect ratio.

    The picture was clear and sharp throughout, with no evidence of low level noise. There was some very light grain. The shadow detail was pretty good but not quite at the level of more recent films.

    The colour was very good, despite the harsh desert light of the location.

    The only artefacts I noticed were some very mild aliasing on two sets of Venetian blinds and a small jump in the film at 58:50.

    There are subtitles in 24 languages including English & English for the hearing impaired. The English subtitles were clear and easy to read but quite heavily summarised from the spoken word. Occasionally whole lines were missing. Despite this, I do not think that any important details were lost.

    The layer change occurs at 59:41 and was not particularly noticeable.

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


    The audio quality is very good.

    This DVD contains five audio options, an English Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack encoded at 448 Kb/s, a German Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo soundtrack encoded at 192 Kb/s and the same in Spanish, French & Italian. The film was originally in stereo and has been remastered into 5.1. The remastering has been done well without going overboard.

    Dialogue was reasonably clear and easy to understand and there was no problem with audio sync, although some lines were a little indistinct and the plethora of subtitles came in handy.

    The score of this film by Ennio Morricone is very good indeed, adding significantly to the drama and tension of the film.

    The surround speakers added some mild directional effects and atmosphere. Considering the stereo source, the surrounds are well used including plane sounds and explosions. Generally, the sound was quite immersive.

     The subwoofer was also well used starting in the opening credits and then adding drama to tense scenes and significant bass to the various explosions (which are to be expected in a movie about making bombs!).

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    There are no extras at all. This is shame as a documentary about the subject would have been most welcome.


    The menu included stills, and the ability to select scenes, languages and subtitles.

R4 vs R1

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

    This movie has been released in the same basic format in all Regions, except of course for the title change and NTSC/PAL differences. On that basis you may as well buy the local product.


    An interesting and well made drama about The Manhattan Project and the making of the atomic bomb.

    The video quality is very good.

    The audio quality is very good.

    The disc has no extras.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Daniel Bruce (Do you need a bio break?)
Thursday, January 13, 2005
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV667A DVD-V DVD-A SACD, using Component output
DisplaySony FD Trinitron Wega KV-AR34M36 80cm. Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL). This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 576i (PAL)/480i (NTSC).
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationPioneer VSX-511
SpeakersBose 201 Direct Reflecting (Front), Phillips SB680V (Surround), Phillips MX731 (Center), Yamaha YST SW90 (Sub)

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