Top Gun: Special Edition (1986)
Main Menu Introduction
Main Menu Audio & Animation
Featurette-Making Of-From the Ground Up - Pre-Production
Featurette-Making Of-Playing With The Boys - Production: Land And Sea
Featurette-Making Of-The Need For Speed - Production: Air
Featurette-Making Of-Back To Basics - Visual Effects
Featurette-Making Of-Combat Rock - The Music Of Top Gun
Featurette-Making Of-Afterburn - Release And Impact
Storyboards-Multi-Angle, With Optional Commentary
Featurette-Behind The Scenes
|Year Of Production||1986|
|Running Time||105:07 (Case: 109)|
|RSDL / Flipper||
Dual Disc Set
|Cast & Crew|
|Start Up||Language Select Then Menu|
|Region Coding||2,4||Directed By||Tony Scott|
Paramount Home Entertainment
Clarence Gilyard Jr.
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||
English Dolby Digital 5.1 EX (448Kb/s)
English dts 6.1 ES Discrete (768Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||2.40:1|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||2.40:1||Miscellaneous|
English for the Hearing Impaired
English Audio Commentary
German Audio Commentary
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||Yes, during credits.|
Just in case there is someone out there who doesn't know what Top Gun is about, however unlikely that is, here is a brief synopsis. A young pilot and his RIO are sent to the air combat training school in Miramar, California to learn the lost art of dog fighting. There they compete with the best of the best to fine tune their skills and take their place among the best pilots in the world. Add to the mix Tom Cruise, some great 80's rock, and the best aerial cinematography in existence and you have Top Gun - the most blatantly pro-war and pro-American movie ever made but one that never ceases to entertain and thrill me despite countless repeat viewings spanning nearly two decades. Yes the script is corny, the flag waiving is obvious and the plot is, well, simplistic, yet for whatever reason the critic in me is compelled to switch off and just enjoy what is a rollercoaster ride that travels faster than the speed of sound.
The aerial footage in Top Gun will, if you'll pardon the very obvious pun, take your breath away. To this day it has never been topped nor is it likely to be any time soon. The support of the United States Navy played an integral part in the production and ultimate success of Top Gun. With their support filmmakers were able to attach cameras to the F-14 aircraft where they had never been attached before. What this achieved was some truly incredible angles the likes of which had never been seen by audiences before (and rarely since). A personal favourite of mine in fact is the reverse angle on Maverick's F-14 after it takes off from the deck at 88:15 - it is a shot that never ceases to amaze me. The culmination of cinematography, music and sheer adrenaline is a film that despite its weak script remains just as impressive nearly 20 years after its theatrical release.
If at any time you feel the need for speed then Top Gun should be your drug of choice. It is probably the best popcorn movie of all time - it is certainly the biggest American w*** of all time (and I don't mean that to be derogative) and it is a film that will always have a place in my movie collection. This new special edition DVD does the film justice after many years of neglect on substandard DVDs around the world. The original DVD pales in comparison, so be warned - it will become but a coaster once you've experienced the vision, sound and extras of this new special edition release.
Firstly, the news you all want to hear: this is a brand spanking new transfer. The film has undergone a complete remastering although perhaps not a complete restoration. While still not perfect, it excels over the old transfer in just about every conceivable way. To avoid any confusion I'll be referring to the transfers as the old and new ones.
The transfer is presented in 2.40:1 and is 16x9 enhanced. The 'official' theatrical aspect ratio of Top Gun tends to vary depending on what webpage you look at. It's either 2.35:1, 2.39:1 or 2.40:1. Given the minute difference between all three I think there's little point in dwelling on it - I'm declaring 2.40:1 the original theatrical aspect ratio (or close enough). This marks the first occasion that Top Gun has been presented in its original theatrical aspect ratio on any home video format, be it VHS, Laserdisc or DVD. All previous widescreen releases have been presented in roughly 2.00:1. To achieve the 2.40:1 framing the matt has in fact been closed a little, meaning the 2.00:1 versions actually have slightly more image at the top and bottom. Having said that, the top and bottom of frame are not missed, the cinematography completely lending itself to the 2.40:1 framing. There has been a lot of discussion on this widescreen cropping lately so I must reiterate that this is the original aspect ratio as it was seen in cinemas and indeed it looks much better this way. For the record, Top Gun was not shot anamorphic but Super 35 because, as cinematographer Jeffrey Kimball explains on Disc 2, anamorphic lenses would have made the cameras attached to the exterior of the F-14s too heavy.
The new transfer is very sharp and detailed, however, this has accentuated some of the film grain, thankfully not to the point of distraction. The level of detail in the new transfer clearly excels over the old one with edges far more defined. Indeed, I have always suspected the old transfer was a not a true anamorphic transfer but merely an ARCed (aspect ratio converted) transfer of a non-anamorphic master - the original Region 1 release was after all not 16x9 enhanced. Another major improvement with this new transfer is an increased contrast range which translates into brighter whites and deeper blacks. The old transfer by comparison is flat and at times very washed out. Shadow detail as a result of this increased contrast range is very good but not excellent. There are a few moments of shadow detail loss on the actors' faces because the faces are often lit profile rather than flat, the result being a shadow on one side of the face - this is where some shadow detail loss was noticed.
The entire film has been colour corrected resulting in much more natural and vivid colour reproduction with increased skin tone accuracy. The colours of the old transfer are by comparison very flat and have a distinct red tone throughout, something which has been thankfully fixed with this new transfer. There is also no shortage of shots in which graduated filters were used, resulting in some very warm and well saturated colour schemes throughout.
There are no MPEG artefacts present with the transfer having been given a healthy bit-rate which frequently hovers above the 6Mbs mark. Film-to-video artefacts consist of some minor aliasing from time to time but nothing major. There is some minor telecine wobble visible during the titles and credits but again it doesn't represent a problem in my view. Film artefacts are my only major sore point with this new transfer. While an A/B comparison reveals that the new transfer is certainly cleaner than the old one, it is still frequented by a number of annoying film artefacts. As with the old transfer the film artefacts are often, but not always, isolated to specific aerial shots where they momentarily 'break out' and then disappear again the moment the shot cuts. This in my view suggests they were introduced to the film prior to creating the master interpositive which this transfer is probably from. It is a great shame these artefacts could not be removed, be it practically or digitally - the film grain I suspect may have been an inhibiting factor. Having said that, there is dust, the odd hair and even a small drop of water noticed in the main unit footage, footage which doesn't have the same level of film grain is some of the aerial footage. At 30:30, during one of the aerial shots, there is a strange white pulsating dot at the bottom right of frame. It is also present in the old transfer.
There are swag of subtitles present. I sampled the English track and found it to be very accurate.
Both discs are RSDL formatted but due the buffer in my Pioneer DV-676A I didn't spot either. If you happen to spot either of them can you please be so kind as to leave a comment down the bottom. The file size of the main feature is 6544Mb.
The freeze frames below from the old and new transfers illustrate nearly all my above points in a single shot. Firstly, the colour difference and red tone in the old transfer is plainly obvious to anybody. Secondly, the contrast improvement can be seen - the triangle of light between Tom and the aircraft is significantly hotter in the new transfer. Thirdly, the big ugly film artefact to the right of Tom's head probably signifies that both transfers have come from a common print. Lastly, the difference in aspect ratio can also be clearly seen.
The audio is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 EX (448Kbs) and DTS 6.1 ES (Discrete) (754Kbs). The Dolby Digital 5.1 track is not EX flagged. As with the video transfer, the audio been treated to a complete remix which improves over the old mix in a few key areas. It must be said, however, that the original soundtrack was never too shabby thanks to the existence of a 70mm print 6-track audio mix. The first time the new mix really makes itself known is when we first hear Kenny Loggins' Danger Zone kick in at the start of the film. The vocals have been mixed far more prominently into the centre than before - a definite improvement in my opinion. The next improvement is in the effects. The direction of the effects are now far more apparent. With the old mix, I found the effects tended to get lost with their placement in the room a little less defined. The last major improvement is in the LFE channel - the bass is now tighter and better defined in both mixes but more so with the DTS - less woofy would probably be the best way to describe it. Finally, it's also worth noting the old mix was 384Kbs - we can now enjoy the audio of Top Gun with full-range definition, something which only the music really benefits from.
Dialogue is clear and easy to understand - there are no problems in this area at all.
The music is Harold Faltermeyer, whose main claim to fame is the Top Gun anthem, one of the most instantly recognisable pieces of music in cinema and one which I have heard played at every single air-show I have been to without fail since 1986. You could say the Top Gun anthem has become synonymous with fast jets. Among other music cues by Faltermeyer throughout the film there are several 80s rock classics including the previously mentioned Danger Zone by Kenny Loggins and Take My Breath Away by Berlin. It's worth mentioning that the CD soundtrack is one of the highest selling soundtracks of all time, and remains a hot potato to this day according to a few retailers I have spoken to. Top Gun is certainly a film that owes much of its impact and success to the songs it was cut to - it is also a film in which the music editor deserves a lot of kudos. The energy and adrenaline of the music, particularly Danger Zone, quite simply gives the soundtrack of Top Gun the thrust of an F-14.
The surrounds are used frequently for effects and music although the rear centre was noticeably underutilized, particularly in the DTS track. The lack of rear centre use could probably be contributed to the simple fact that the onscreen action never really requires it. As such there are really no directional effects in the rear centre, just general ambience. The left and right rears on the other hand are used for extensive panning effects from front to rear and visa-versa during the aerial sequences.
The subwoofer is used frequently to support the effects, of which the jet engines make up a significant part. The LFE track on both the Dolby Digital and DTS tracks doesn't quite have the extreme low end punch found in more recent recordings like say Master & Commander, but it still provides a very satisfying subwoofer experience.
As for the Dolby Digital and DTS differences it was somewhat difficult to make an accurate comparison as Paramount have locked out on-the-fly switching of the audio tracks (which I absolutely hate). I will say, however, that there is a little more use of the centre rear in the Dolby Digital EX track simply because the sound designers had less control over it due to the matrix encoding. Inevitably some of the in-phase effects which may have been placed in the left and right rears in the DTS-ES track are redirected to the rear centre (by the receiver) in the Dolby Digital EX track. The DTS track I also found was a little richer and fuller overall, no doubt thanks to the higher bitrate. I guess for the most accurate decoding and sound placement, the DTS-ES 6.1 Discrete track would be the obvious track of choice.
|Surround Channel Use|
Unless otherwise noted all the all extras are presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 with 16x9 enhancement and Dolby Digital 2.0 (surround) audio.
A very well animated menu with audio with a somewhat overlong intro. As far as I'm concerned, if a menu intro is more than a couple of seconds long it should be skippable. Indeed, if it were up to me, I would ban the use of the PUO (prohibited user operation) feature of the DVD format altogether.
Audio Commentary - Tony Scott (Director), Jerry Bruckheimer (Producer), Jack Epps Jr. (Co-Screen Writer), Captain Mike Galpin, Pete Pettigrew (Technical Advisor) and Vice Admiral Mike McCabe.
This is a very enlightening and fascinating commentary from some of the key members of the production. Scott, Bruckheimer and Epps appear to have been recorded separately. The Navy guys, however, have been recorded together so there is quite a bit of conversation between them. Although it is a cut & paste commentary, it has been skilfully edited and flows very well. Tony Scott starts the ball rolling, explaining how he was actually fired not once but three times from the production for various reasons including shooting slow-motion footage on the aircraft carrier and making Kelly McGillis look like a whore (no, that's not a typo). The technical aspects and accuracy are also addressed in detail by three members of the Navy (one formerly) but not to the extent that they debunk the action on-screen. Because they were all involved in the production, they clarify that the lapses in accuracy were necessary to translate the action and story onto the screen. To be honest, I was expecting a little more on this topic - perhaps if a second commentary had been dedicated to the military perspective (like the commentary on the Black Hawk Down CE DVD), the technical discussion would have been a little more in-depth.
This commentary is essential listening for every Top Gun fan or aircraft enthusiast. My only complaint, if I had to make one, is that this one edited commentary could have so easily been three self-sustained commentaries. Having said that, much of what is discussed in here is also reiterated in the Danger Zone: The Making Of Top Gun documentary on Disc 2 - perhaps this is the reason why there is only one commentary.
Music Videos (x4) (17:01) (1.33:1)
These are without doubt the epitome of hairstyles and fashion in the 80s. Most of the songs quite rightly remain classics to this day, but these music videos should have been destroyed for the good of all mankind. I must confess I pay little attention to fashion at the best of times, but I am compelled to say that the eighties represent the lowest point in fashion of the 20th century in my view. The video quality here is pretty ordinary at the best of times, so perhaps a like-minded someone has already destroyed the good quality copies. There is also a very audible hiss from time to time reflecting the analogue audio source. I can't help but wonder how easy it might have been to sync the track from the CD soundtrack to these videos to improve the audio quality. There is the option to Play All or to select them individually.
TV Spots (x7) (3:53) (1.33:1)
A collection of seven vintage TV spots, presumably for American television. Once again the video quality is very ordinary, but three letters adequately describe it: VHS. Again there is the option to Play All.
A similarly themed menu to Disc 1 although less extravagant.
Documentary - Danger Zone: The Making Of Top Gun (Featurettes x6) (147:40)
The following six featurettes below are actually all part of one large retrospective documentary entitled Danger Zone: The Making Of Top Gun with a total running time of nearly 148 minutes. Evidence of this is simply the presence of the previously mentioned title at the start of the first featurette and credits at the end of the last. This is an increasingly common practice now with DVD. I often thought that it was done exclusively to pad out the back cover (yes Columbia Tristar I am talking about you) but an anonymous reader by way of user comment in my I, Robot review has informed me otherwise. He or she explained that if a documentary runs over a certain time then the actors have to get paid and receive royalties from it. That time is believed to be 30 minutes which would make sense given that the longest documentary on this DVD runs exactly 30 minutes to the second. While I can't officially confirm this, I have to say it does sound about right and would explain an awful lot.
The documentary is presented in 1.78:1 and is 16x9 enhanced. It has thankfully been shot using proper 16x9 cameras and not just cropped or ARCed - a rarity for American documentaries. Having said that, the archival footage used throughout has been cropped to fit the 16x9 frame, but it would be a hard task to pick it. With the exception of Tom Cruise's interview which has been far too darkly lit for some reason, this is an extremely high quality, well shot and well edited production all the way that covers nearly every aspect of the production in detail. I would go so far as to say that this is the second best making-of documentary I have had the pleasure of watching, second only to Hearts Of Darkness: A Filmmaker's Apocalypse which featured Francis Ford Coppola's descent into madness. This is everything I had hoped a documentary on Top Gun would be. Finally, there is the option to Play All or individually.
1.From the Ground Up - Pre-Production (30:00)
This first part of the documentary covers the pre-production process and begins what is a plethora of very candid, honest and enthusiastic interviews with nearly all of the cast and crew including Tom Cruise, Val Kilmer, Michael Ironside, Rick Rossovich, Tony Scott, Jerry Bruckheimer and the real Navy pilots and advisors who were involved in the production. The only notable absentees are Kelly McGillis, Meg Ryan, Anthony Edwards and Tim Robbins, but to be honest, they're not really missed. A major point covered here is the compromises that were made by producers to secure the support of the US Navy, without which the film simply would not have happened. These compromises often consisted of changes to result in better technical accuracy, however, in spite of this, certain liberties were still taken in order to make a coherent film. As writer Jack Epps states: "Never let the truth get in the way of a good movie". Also looked at is the safety training of the cast which was required before they were allowed to fly in the F-14s, most of the footage from which ironically never made it into the film for reasons explained further on. There's lots of behind-the-scenes footage of the cast including Cruise being dunked in water tanks, catapulted in ejection seats and getting high during low oxygen, high altitude simulations.
2.Playing With The Boys - Production: Land & Sea (26:40)
Part two of the documentary looks at the experiences of the cast and crew in making the film. This is where we get to hear all the dirt about the production although it is all in good humour. Rick Rossovich for instance was at one point evicted from the aircraft carrier due to certain misbehaviours on his part. The most notable piece of trivia which almost defies belief comes from the lips of Tony Scott. Moments before rolling the camera on the deck of the aircraft carrier, the carrier changed direction, ruining the light. In order to get his light back again, Scott hastily wrote a personal cheque of $25,000 to the captain to cover the expenses of turning the aircraft carrier around. As he explains, he essentially rented the aircraft carrier for 5 minutes - there really can't be too many people who can claim to have done that!
3. The Need For Speed - Production: Air (28:26)
Part three of this documentary looks at the aerial sequences, in particular the challenges faced in filming some of the truly astonishing aerial footage. Cinematographer Jeffrey Kimball discusses his choice of cameras and explains why the film was shot Super 35. As previously mentioned, the technical accuracies and inaccuracies are also addressed by three members of the Navy who were involved in the production. They explain that you simply couldn't tell a story by shooting it as reality. The proximity of the aircraft to one another is probably the best example of this. In reality, the aircraft are usually kilometres away when they engage - obviously this is too far away to put on film. The actors also speak about their training for the role and how all but one of them (Anthony Edwards, who played Goose) got sick during at least one of the F-14 flights. The footage which was destined to be used in the film turned out to be unusable because, among other reasons, most of the actors had turned a shade of green or blue. Finally, the death of stunt pilot Art Scholl during the filming of the flat spin background plates is addressed by the cast and crew. The film was subsequently dedicated to him.
4. Back To Basics - Visual Effects (17:07)
Part four of the documentary looks at the special effects of the film which of course being 1986 consisted mostly of miniatures and pyrotechnics. Interestingly, simple off-the-shelf F-14 models were used for the miniature photography. I guess if it works why not - it's a cheap and effective way to make a film - now it would be done digitally but still be no more realistic.
5.Combat Rock - The Music Of Top Gun (21:32)
Part five of the documentary looks at the music of Top Gun including the background and development of what are arguably the defining songs of the 80s. It includes interviews with Harold Faltermeyer, Kenny Logins and Terri Nunn (who sang Take My Breath Away). Here we learn that the Top Gun anthem was actually written and recorded before principal photography and served as inspiration during the production of the film. One small point of annoyance is that the editors have used jump cutting during some of the interviews, presumably to tighten up a few 'ums & ars'. While it has for the most part been done well with minimal disruption, I found it particularly annoying during Terri Nunn's interview.
6.After Burn - Release & Impact (23:55)
This final part of the documentary looks at the post-production and release of the film including the disastrous first screening of an early cut. The editing is particularly focused on here - the love scene between Cruise and McGillis for instance was actually shot long after principal photography (and after negative cutting) due to audience demand. The ultimate success of the film as you would expect is also addressed here, including the Navy's success with the film. Ultimately, Top Gun became the best recruiting campaign they could hope for. In fact, recruiting officers actually waited outside cinemas to sign up adrenaline pumped male fans after they'd watched the film. Very unscrupulous tactics one would have to say.
Storyboards - Multi-Angle With Commentary (6:56)
This is a brief look at the storyboard sequences of two scenes with optional commentary from Tony Scott. He explains here the importance of storyboards in his role as director, particularly how they're much more useful to the crew than a script. There are two angles - one angle is the storyboards alone, the other is split screen with the storyboards and the final film.
Featurette - Behind The Scenes (5:32) (1.33:1)
This is a vintage EPK that looks like it was shot entirely on film. The video quality, like the music videos, is quite ordinary. It is more of a novelty than anything else.
Featurette - Survival Training (7:32) (1.33:1)
This is a vintage featurette covering the survival training of the cast which was required before they were allowed to fly in the F-14s. Some of this footage can be seen in the From the Ground Up - Pre-Production featurette. Tom Cruise and Anthony Edwards trying to play patty cake during the low oxygen simulation would have to be the highlight.
Interview - Tom Cruise (6:42) (1.33:1)
This is a vintage interview with Tom Cruise where he speaks about how he got involved in the production, his training, flying the F-14 and his experiences on the carrier. The video quality is very poor and has obviously been sourced from a VHS tape. It comes complete with time code.
Production Photo Gallery
A collection of publicity and behind-the-scenes photos, many of very high quality. These are definitely worth a gander as some photos provide a perspective of the film behind-the-scenes that is not seen in the documentary or elsewhere. The collection is presented in 1.78:1 with 16x9 enhancement but given the aspect ratio of the photos, 1.33:1 would probably have been better.
The Region 1 SE version appears to be identical to ours. Stick with the Region 4 version for nothing else than the superior merits of PAL over NTSC.
Top Gun is, in the words of the late Don Simpson, "full tilt boogie rock & roll in the sky". I don't often offer praise to Paramount, but this special edition of Top Gun represents the best DVD they have ever released bar none, which is just as well given the long wait we have had to endure. They have almost redeemed themselves for showing up to the DVD party in Australia a few years late.
The video quality improves over the old transfer in every way, although the presence of film artefacts means it is still not perfect.
The audio quality is excellent, although those expecting a lot of rear centre action may be disappointed.
The extras are top class - a well earned 5 stars. Danger Zone: The Making Of Top Gun is one of the best making-of documentaries I have yet seen - those responsible for its production certainly deserve commendation for the effort.
|DVD||Pioneer DV-655A, SACD & DVD-A, using S-Video output|
|Display||Loewe CT-1170 (66cm). Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable.|
|Audio Decoder||Pioneer VSX-D1011, THX Select, DTS-ES 6.1 Discrete, DTS 96/24 & DD 5.1 EX. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.|
|Amplification||Pioneer VSX-D1011, THX Select, DTS-ES 6.1 Discrete, DTS 96/24 & DD 5.1 EX|
|Speakers||Front & Centre: Monitor Audio Bronze 2, Surrounds: Sony SS-SRX7S, Surround Back: Paramount Pictures Bookshelf Speakers|