Quest for Fire (Guerre du feu, La) (1981)

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Released 2-Jun-2008

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Main Menu Animation
Featurette-Making Of
Interviews-Crew-Jean-Jacques Annaud (Director)
Gallery-15 slideshows with commentary
Audio Commentary-Jean-Jacques Annaud (Director)
Audio Commentary-Ron Perlman, Rae Dawn Chong and Michael Gruskoff (Cast)
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 1981
Running Time 96:12
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By None Given
Roissy Films
Umbrella Entertainment
Starring None Given
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI ? Music None Given

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None Audio Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/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 None Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

It is an age where man understands the power and usefulness of fire, but is unable to create it himself. Three prehistoric men (Everett McGill, Ron Perlman and Nameer El-Kadi) set out on a quest to find a new source of fire after their tribe lose their ongoing flame when attacked by a tribe of less evolved cavemen. Heading across diverse terrain, the trio encounter all manner of prehistoric nasties in their search, sabre toothed cats, mammoths, cannibals, and more technologically advanced tribes.

Plenty of doors were opened for Jean-Jacques Annaud after his debut feature, Black and White in Colour, won an Oscar for best foreign film. By his own confession he wasn't interested in making movies to make money, he had enough of that from his career in directing commercials, he wanted to make movies he'd like to see. The first thing he could think of: a plausible, though arguably anachronistic, story about pre-civilization man, told in a completely made up dialect of grunts and groans. While there's undoubtedly a broad cinematic appeal in fighting and fornicating, the harsh realism that the film opts for made for a bigger gamble again both commercially and critically. Against the odds, not only was the resulting film a masterpiece but a resounding commercial success. Even more surprising is how well the film holds up today.

Quest for Fire is essentially a dramatic road-trip (before they had roads) with a bit of action and an occasional black sense of humour. The film pulls no punches. It depicts violence realistically and conjures a genuine feel for each tribes' survival instincts and the animalistic traits in the people of the time. The story is told with a poetic sense of pace and rhythm that helps convey the story in an ever-engaging fashion.

The special effects are fantastic and look remarkably good even by modern standards. Give me an elephant in a woolly costume over CGI mammoths any day. The costuming looks to have come straight from National Geographic (let's just say there aren't form fitted caveman undies beneath those furs, or mud - as is the case with one tribe). The makeup, for which the film deservedly won an Oscar, is vividly realistic.

The cast are universally excellent. They manage to capture the primal nature of their characters and the intricacies of wildly differing tribes, as well as convey a moderately involved storyline without the use of understandable dialogue (the secret being how it is all said/grunted rather than exactly what is said).

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Transfer Quality


The film is presented in its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio and is 16x9 enhanced.

The video transfer is excellent for a catalogue film that is more than 25 years old. The image is sharp and quite clear. It features excellent shadow detail. Very mild film grain is present in the film. There is no sign of low level noise.

The colour palette is a little soft by modern standards, but suits the film well. Flesh tones are natural.

There is no sign of compression artefacts in the transfer. Occasional small white flecks of dust are visible in the transfer, although the number of film artefacts is surprisingly small for a film of this age.

The film is presented on a dual layer disc, however the film is presented entirely on one layer of the disc and there is consequently no layer change during playback.

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


A single Dolby Digital 5.1 (448 Kbps) audio track is present for the film (contrary to the 2.0 audio indicated on the packaging).

The audio track is well mixed and quite clear. The dialogue clearly audible (even if it isn't understandable) and appears to be well synchronised to the video.

The film features a bold score from French composer Philippe Sarde.

The there is no particularly noticeable surround or subwoofer usage in the soundtrack, in fact it pretty much sounds like a stereo track (as the packaging suggests). The audio certainly isn't impressive by modern standards, but does sound true to the original source material (which was recorded long before surround sound was common).

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


The film is complemented by a substantial collection of extras, and there is not one dud among them.

Main Menu Audio & Animation

A basic animated menu with audio from the movie.

Audio Commentary with Jean-Jacques Annaud

This commentary focuses on technical aspects of production and the process of getting the film together from concept to production to marketing. Annaud is quite frank and honest about his experiences and what he thinks of the finished product, which makes for an engaging commentary.

Audio Commentary with Ron Perlman, Rae Dawn Chong and Michael Gruskoff

Three of the film's lead actors reminisce about their experiences with the production and promotion of the film. This track is very different to the director commentary and, though it is less informative overall, equally worthwhile. The three have plenty of amusing anecdotes to fill the time.

Jean-Jacques Annaud Interview (33:06)

A recent interview with director Jean-Jacques Annaud about the film's production, its reception at the time and his views on how it has fared with time. This is a fascinating interview.

Making Of Featurette (24:49)

A making of featurette from the time of the film's release. This featurette is quite fascinating, particularly when it gets into process of forming the language in the film and the special effects.

Image Galleries with Commentary

15 slideshow galleries of images from the production of the film, with commentaries from Jean-Jacques Annaud that explain a particular aspect of production. The galleries cover such aspects as the locations, effects, creatures, makeup, costuming, promotion and acting. All up the slideshow runs around 45 minutes, making for quite a substantial package.


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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 edition of Quest For Fire includes additional theatrical trailer for the film, but misses out on the lengthy and fascinating interview with Jean-Jacques Annaud. This is a clear winner for Region 4.


Simply put, Quest for Fire is a masterpiece. The story itself is timeless and transcends the barriers of language. The storytelling is gripping.

The video is excellent for a film of this age. The audio is basic, but clear and true to the original source.

The disc features a significant number of high quality extras.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Adam Gould (Totally Biolicious!)
Saturday, August 09, 2008
Review Equipment
DVDSony Playstation 3, using HDMI output
Display Samsung 116cm LA46M81BD. Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 576i (PAL).
Audio DecoderPioneer VSX2016AVS. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials.
AmplificationPioneer VSX2016AVS
Speakers150W DTX front speakers, 100W centre and 4 surround/rear speakers, 12 inch PSB Image 6i powered sub

Other Reviews NONE
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