The Dark Half (1993)

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Released 6-Mar-2006

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Horror Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1993
Running Time 116:07
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (60:28) Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By George A. Romero
Studio
Distributor

Sony Pictures Home Entertain
Starring Timothy Hutton
Amy Madigan
Michael Rooker
Julie Harris
Robert Joy
Kent Broadhurst
Beth Grant
Rutanya Alda
Tom Mardirosian
Larry John Meyers
Patrick Brannan
Royal Dano
Glenn Colerider
Case ?
RPI $19.95 Music Christopher Young


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Auto Pan & Scan Encoded English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/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 English for the Hearing Impaired
German for the Hearing Impaired
Swedish
Norwegian
Finnish
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

During the late 1980s, American horror novelist Stephen King wrote a series of books under a pseudonym. These were Rage, The Long Walk, Road Work, and The Running Man. The pseudonym used was Richard Bachman, and those books would later be collected in a tome called The Bachman Books. What few people know is that the fifth and final book which King intended to publish under his pseudonym is now considered by most to be a modern literary horror classic and perhaps King's definitive book - Misery. However, a cluey fan outed the popular novelist before he could put Bachman and Misery together in print by following him to collect his royalty cheques. What even fewer people know is that King embarked upon this alter ego writing spree for two reasons: the first was to determine if people really liked his writing or just bought books because of his name; the second was to conduct research into what it was like to write under a pseudonym as preparation for a book about a psychopathic alter ego come to life - The Dark Half.

Another little known fact about Stephen King is that he is good friends with legendary horror movie director George A. Romero. Contemporaries from back in the day, King dedicated his most recent book, Cell, to Romero, using the creations of the father of modern zombie films as inspiration for his technological zombies wandering the Earth and killing people as they develop telepathy. It seems apt, then, that King's friend Romero would direct the author's labour of love in its big screen adaptation.

So what's The Dark Half about? In essence, it is the story of literary writer and college professor Thad Beaumont (Timothy Hutton), who writes sadistically violent pulp crime novels in his spare time under the pseudonym George Stark. Thad is a man who loves his craft but hates his creations - a writer who is not sure that he should have unleashed Stark on the world, and somewhat ashamed of the wealth this creation has brought him. When a New York low-life attempts to blackmail Beaumont with the threat of revealing his secret identity, he decides to out himself and put George Stark to rest. But in a supernatural twist, the fake grave that Thad makes as a publicity stunt gives rise to a dark creation - Stark himself. But why does Stark look exactly like Thad? And how much of this creation's inner rage is Thad's own?

I was a huge fan of King's novel about dual personalities and inner violence manifesting itself in strange ways. Violent, intriguing, and full of fascinating imagery, the catch-cry Stark cannot help scrawling "The sparrows are flying again" never seemed quite so surreal or frightening since Hitchcock's The Birds. Romero's interpretation of The Dark Half is similarly impressive, although it would be interesting to know what he would do with it now if he had the budget and technology that he had for his latest zombie instalment Land Of The Dead.

Still, all good film comes down to the basic principle of good storytelling, and this is one story well told. You are more than willing to forgive it the small faults for the returns that you get. In fact, it is quite often scarier than most films that purport to be horror films particularly amongst its laughable contemporaries, but also when matched up against modern gore fests. Romero certainly had a vision when he came to this story, and despite his budgetary constraints, this reviewer believes he has succeeded quite well.

All in all, well worth the money.

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Transfer Quality

Video

Presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1, 16x9 enhanced, I watched it in regular standard definition and upscaled to 1080i at 50Hz (which is best for PAL).

This transfer is a touch soft and a little washed out in terms of colour, but otherwise fantastic. Shadow detail is very good, and although it lacks the crisp clarity of modern transfers taken from high definition sources, you wont notice the difference until youre getting up to a 60-inch screen and above.

My only other quibble in terms of this transfer is some minor aliasing in the background. While not severe, I did get distracted by it at least once or twice during the show, which was a tad annoying.

There is also a bit of dirt and the odd hair here and there the opening credits being a major offender in this respect. But for the most part this was pretty clean.

There are subtitles available in a wide variety of languages as enumerated above. I watched the subtitles in English for the Hearing Impaired. They are quite accurate.

The dual layer pause is at 60:28. It occurs during a scene change and is barely noticeable.

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

Audio

Audio is available in Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (192Kb/s) in English, German, French and Spanish. I listened to the English track and sampled the other tracks.

The audio tracks are quite good, but far from a Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround remix, which might have added a new depth to the show. But given its lack of commercial success, I can understand the distributors not wanting to fork out the money and jack up the price.

Dialogue is clear and easy to understand.

The front soundscape was good, with some surround pitches, but nothing fantastic.

The rears and the subwoofer were silent.

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

Extras

Menus

All menus are presented in 1.78:1, 16x9 enhanced, static and silent.

Theatrical Trailer (1:35)

Presented in 1.85:1 inset in a 1.33:1 frame, 2.0 Dolby Stereo.

R4 vs R1

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

The R1 release is only available in a 1.33:1 Pan & Scan job. The R2 UK release purports to be 2.0 Dolby Surround. Our release is definitely only 2.0 Dolby Stereo. Although I believe the R2 and R4 releases to be identical, Im going to give this to the R2 just in case. In any event, the R4 is preferable to the R1 release.

Summary

The Dark Half is a very good if slightly imperfect horror film for the intellectual crowd. I highly recommend it.

This DVD transfer is good, but not perfect. However it beats the R1 release hands down.

There is an Official Distributor Comment available for this review.
read

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Edward McKenzie (I am Jack's raging bio...)
Wednesday, August 02, 2006
Review Equipment
DVDMomitsu V880N Deluxe, using DVI output
DisplaySony VPL-HS50 WXGA LCD Cineza Projector with 100" Longhorn Pro-series 16:9 Screen. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials.
AmplificationMarantz SR7000
SpeakersDigital Accoustics Emerald 703G - Centre, Front Left & Right, Rear Left & Right Satellites, Subwoofer

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add)
Great review, but unsurprising facts. - Gavin Bollard (bio - updated 9 Nov 2005)
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