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PLEASE NOTE: Michael D's is currently in READ ONLY MODE. Anything submitted will simply not be written to the database.
Lots of stuff is still broken, but at least reviews can now be looked up and read.
Jacob's Ladder (1990)

Jacob's Ladder (1990)

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Released 16-May-2006

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Main Menu Introduction
Main Menu Audio & Animation
Theatrical Trailer
Filmographies-Cast & Crew
Featurette-Jacob's Ladder - A Vision By Adrian Lyne & Bruce Joel Rubin
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1990
Running Time 108:34
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Adrian Lyne

Universal Pictures Home Video
Starring Tim Robbins
Elizabeth Peņa
Danny Aiello
Matt Craven
Pruitt Taylor Vince
Jason Alexander
Patricia Kalember
Eriq La Salle
Ving Rhames
Brian Tarantina
Anthony Alessandro
Brent Hinkley
S. Epatha Merkerson
Case ?
RPI $19.95 Music Maurice Jarre

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    In 1990, scriptwriter Bruce Rudin had his dream come true. In that year two of his scripts saw the light of day, or as it were, the darkness of the cinema. One, Ghost, was an international success and the other, Jacob's Ladder, played to much smaller houses. Released on DVD as a mid-priced offering, Jacob's Ladder is a compelling thriller horror movie that deserves more than its current cult following.

    Describing the plot of Jacob's Ladder is an exercise in caution. It is a film from the "what the hell is going on" school later turned into an industry by M. Night Shyamalan. The best explanation is as follows. Jacob Singer (Tim Robbins) is a soldier stationed in Vietnam in 1971. Just when things are looking peaceful, an attack begins that leaves his division shredded. He is badly injured. Years later and Jacob is a troubled man. After a family tragedy that has seen the death of his youngest son his marriage has broken down. He has found new love in the form of fellow postal worker Maria (Elizabeth Pena). He has started having disturbing visions and vets from his old unit start turning up dead. One morning he wakes up beside his old wife and explains the dream he has had about living with Maria. He can't explain the demonic visions to anybody except the veterans and suddenly they have shown a distinct lack of interest. Like I said : " What the hell is going on?"

    Just what is real and what is a dream? Who is Jacob really married to? What really happened in the Mekong Delta that fateful day in 1971? These questions and more are answered in the movie.

    As well as the engaging storyline Jacob's Ladder also features a cast of well known actors before they were famous. For example: Jason Alexander, S Epatha Merkenson, McCauley Culkin (prior to Home Alone) and Ving Rhames. Danny Aiello gives a quality performance as Jacob's chiropractor who works Jacob's mind as well as his back.

    It was a strange choice of movie for Adrian Lyne to sign on to direct. After all, his recent projects (Flashdance, Nine and a Half Weeks and Fatal Attraction) were often shallow exercises in style, all gloss and glitter, whereas Jacob's Ladder is drab and downbeat. Nevertheless, he connects well with the material and presents a psychological thriller which is consistently compelling without being over-dramatic. The visuals are suited to the material but there is no trace of excess. The only real visual innovation is a twitching, frightening "fast head" motion that is quite unnerving.

    The script, which had apparently joined the list of 10 best unproduced screenplays of all time and stayed on there for many years is clever and only seems unsubtle on repeated viewings. Like The Sixth Sense it is a film you may want to watch again just to see the clues to unscramble the truth.

    The fact that the film does not really belong to any particular genre may frustrate pure horror fans as there is little gore and it is too slow moving to excite action junkies. The sense of paranoia and dread wraps the movie in a blanket. It does, however, offer many pleasures. The early scenes (particularly the train station scene) are creepy and scary. The acting is good all over and the film wraps up with a conclusion that is both shocking, semi-logical and quite moving.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality


    Jacob's Ladder was shot on 35mm film at an original aspect ratio of 1.85:1. It has been transferred to DVD in the same ratio and is 16x9 enhanced.

    The transfer has distinct grain in some scenes and is a little soft. The colours are not too bright but the look of the film is decidedly drab anyway in keeping with the downbeat subject matter. Having said that, this is probably the best the film has looked and no-one could be disappointed in the effort expended in bringing the movie to DVD.

    There are rare artefacts but generally the print is quite clean.

    There are no subtitles.

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


    The sound for Jacob's Ladder is English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s). The sound is generally excellent and the sound design adds greatly to the creepy feeling permeating the film. Take for example the train scenes from about 7.23 onwards where subtle effects such as a rolling bottle on the floor of the carriage and jangling lights near the platform heighten the creepiness factor.

    Dialogue is clear and easy to understand. There are no lip synch issues. The use of surround sound is effective, particularly in the opening scenes set during the Vietnam war where discrete explosions helped convey the horror and confusion of battle.

    The score, by multi-Academy Award winner Maurice Jarre, is subdued and unobtrusive.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


Theatrical Trailer

    In fact, there are two trailers for the film on this DVD. The first is longer and sets up the movie quite well. Interestingly, it includes some moments which were deleted from the final film. The second is a short teaser trailer.

Filmographies-Cast & Crew

    These are a text only pair of biographies of Robbins and Lyne.


    This is a short group of stills from the film.

Featurette Jacob's Ladder - A Vision By Adrian Lyne & Bruce Joel Rubin

    The only sizeable extra on the DVD, this is an interview with Adrian Lyne and Bruce Rudin of approximately 24 minutes length. They describe the filming preparation process as well as the film itself. Both explain their vision of the film as a spiritual journey and also explain how the original script evolved from something more overt and special effect based to a personal story reliant upon the power of the actors.

R4 vs R1

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

    The Region 1 release has a Director's commentary as well as 3 deleted scenes. It also includes a different Making Of feature. Whilst these extras would have been interesting they do not, in my view, justify purchasing anything other than the local product (Ed. I would have to disagree.).


    Jacob's Ladder is a quality psychological thriller/horror movie rendered nicely as a mid-priced DVD release. When I first saw it over 10 years ago the plot surprises seemed to me a little anticlimactic given the frightening build-up. On reflection, the movie has aged well and the ending seems more complete and in keeping with the intentions of the writer and director. Recommended for anyone who likes a thriller with a twist.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Trevor Darge (read my bio)
Saturday, June 17, 2006
Review Equipment
DVDOnkyo DV-SP300, using Component output
DisplayNEC PlasmaSync 42" MP4 1024 x 768. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-SR600 with DD-EX and DTS-ES
SpeakersJBL Simply Cinema SCS178 5.1

Other Reviews NONE