American History X (1998)
Dolby Digital Trailer-Rain
Theatrical Trailer-1.85:1 16x9 enhanced, DD 5.1
Biographies-Cast & Crew
|Year Of Production||1998|
|Running Time||113:57 (Case: 119)|
|RSDL / Flipper||RSDL (75:42)||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||4||Directed By||Tony Kaye|
Roadshow Home Entertainment
|Case||Village Roadshow New Style|
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||
English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||1.85:1|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.85:1||Miscellaneous|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
Derek Vinyard (Edward Norton) is a highly-placed member of the neo-Nazi contingent on Venice Beach, a tightly organized group with a similar political view to the Pat Robertsons and Fred Niles of this world. At the film's beginning, he is in the middle of having sex with his girlfriend, Stacey (Fairuza Balk), when a pair of Afro-Americans decide to break into his car. They are spotted by Derek's younger brother, Danny (Edward Furlong), who raises the alarm in spite of what a bad time to get Derek's attention it is.
Derek responds in a similar manner to how many of us would when confronted with criminals breaking into our property - by beating them off with violence. However, in this case, the violent force he uses has lethal results for the young Afro-Americans, and Derek is sent to prison for three years as a result. Ignoring for a moment the fact that the thieves were armed, and that I find it hard to believe that a man would serve prison time for defending himself and his property (without Danny's testimony, they would barely have a case), the film jumps to a point where Danny is called before his school's principal, Bob Sweeney (Avery Brooks) to explain himself about an essay he wrote. The essay in question, entitled "My Mein Kampf", obviously ruffles a few feathers with the school's administration, but Sweeney tries to reach out to Danny, and does so by asking Danny to write another essay about his elder brother and the influence said brother has had over his life.
On the same day, Derek is released from prison, and comes home to the celebrations of his crimes by his lover, his brother, and the men he calls his friends. What they discover on his return, however, is that prison has brought him several revelations that have dramatically changed him and his perspective on life and the life he once led. The plot summation to be found on the back cover is, in fact, surprisingly accurate, even if the story is a little simplistic in terms of detail, with the support cast not being particularly fleshed out. Herein lies one of this film's essential problems: comparisons to the Australian-produced Romper Stomper are inevitable in spite of the fact that the two films are stylistically very different beasts, and in terms of entertainment, the comparisons are not necessarily in favour of this film. It's not that American History X is any less well-made, it's just that it does take its time to explain the story at the expense of the entertainment value. Still, a film with such a story as this one certainly cannot keep up the action without taking some time to explain why the men in the film are kicking, punching, and otherwise assaulting one another.
To reveal anything more about this film's plot would spoil the film for you, so I will leave the description at that because the surprises in this film should remain so. In any case, if you need a film with intelligence to while away two hours with, then American History X is definitely worthy of your consideration. Just bear in mind that it earns its MA rating, although not in the usual way that MA rated films fitting this description earn it. However, if graphic and sexual violence offends you, please consider yourself warned.
The transfer is presented in the original, accept-no-substitutes theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1, complete with the beauty of 16x9 enhancement.
The film was photographed in two ways, with the present-day footage being shot in colour, and most of the footage relating to Derek's and Danny's pasts being shot in monochrome.
Overall, the transfer is so sharp and clear that in some respects it would probably be better than the original theatrical exhibition, although some backgrounds are a little diffuse from time to time. The shadow detail varies, with the colour footage ranging from good to slightly better, and the monochrome footage having very average shadow detail. There did not appear to be any low-level noise in either manner of photography, although the monochrome shots did appear to have a little fuzz in them at times.
The colour saturation is variable between both of the main types of photography, obviously, and some footage of children running together on a beach is also used towards the end of the film that appears to have been shot with a home camcorder. This is the only time in the film when the colours appeared to be oversaturated in any manner, and I expect that this was deliberate. Most of the monochrome footage has a high amount of colour detail in it, with as many distinct shades of grey as needed being used to comprise the overall shot.
MPEG artefacts were not noticed at any point in the transfer, with the film being allocated a large number of bits in order to allow breathing space. To put it simply, the compression on this disc is completely transparent during the main feature, which is really what it is all about. Film-to-video artefacts were not noticed at any point, either, in spite of an enormous number of opportunities presenting themselves in the shape of microphones, car grilles, venetian blinds, and just about every other textbook example you could think of. Film artefacts were so absent from the main feature that I am willing to say with confidence that they aren't there, although the monochrome footage may have one or two hidden around that I didn't notice.
This disc is presented in the RSDL format, with the layer change occurring at 75:42, at the end of Chapter 21, after Derek's one-sided conversation with Lamont (Guy Torry). Although the pause is rather jarring and interruptive to the flow of the film because of its abruptness and its length, it is nonetheless extremely well-placed.
The audio transfer is presented in a choice of two soundtracks, both of which are mixes of the original English dialogue: a Dolby Digital 5.1 version, which happens to be the default selection, encoded at 448 kilobits a second, and a Dolby Digital 2.0 surround-encoded version, encoded at 192 kilobits a second. I stuck with the Dolby Digital 5.1 mix, and lamented the absence of a commentary.
The dialogue is clear and easy to understand from start to finish, within the limits of the manner in which some exchanges are screamed, and it is clear from the word go that the makers of both the film and the DVD understood how important the dialogue is to this film. Similarly, there were no issues with audio sync, and every spoken word seemed to be perfectly delivered. No distortion or noise found its way into this soundtrack, which is something of a relief after one of the other titles I reviewed today.
The score music in this film was provided by Anne Dudley, a name I am not at all familiar with, although this is certainly a competent effort given what she had to work with. Don't expect to hear a strident, powerful score, because this film focuses more on the dramatic side of the story rather than the violent action that it entails. Instead, you can expect a slow, moving, reflective score that enhances the film's driving message without being particularly remarkable on its own. In addition to this score, some music of the much-loved skinhead genre known as Oi is presented in all its ugly glory so one can get a glimpse of how inherently stupid this genre really is. It is amusing to see that the skinheads in this film take it quite seriously and sing along with it, while I found myself laughing quite a lot at the poor grammar in the lyrics and the rather silly rhythms.
The surround presence in this film was immersive, but in a subtle rather than aggressive manner, with all sorts of ambient sounds coming from the rear channels to envelop the listener. Don't expect an action-movie style of surround channel usage from this film, and you shouldn't be disappointed. The rears supported the music and the sounds of such things as spectators to an excellent degree, with the centre channel giving a more spatial feel to the voice-overs at times. Technically, this is a rather frontal mix, but this is not such a bad thing as eighty percent of the film is comprised of dialogue that needs as much clarity as possible because of the film's dependence on it.
The subwoofer was not used often, only being called into action to support gunshots, music, and other such bass-heavy sounds that do not occur with much frequency in the film. In spite of the irregular usage, the subwoofer faithfully supported every sound that it was assigned, and did so without making itself conspicuous.
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
The video quality is awesome, and truly reference material.
The audio quality is also awesome, and a reference example of what can be done with subtle material.
The extras might be limited, but there isn't a single one I wouldn't leave out if I were making the disc myself.
|DVD||Grundig GDV-100D/Toshiba 2109, using S-Video output|
|Display||Samsong CS-823AMF (80cm)/Panasonic TC-29R20 (68 cm). Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.|
|Amplification||Sony STR DE-835|
|Speakers||Panasonic S-J1500D Front Speakers, Philips PH931SSS Rear Speakers, Philips FB206WC Centre Speaker, JBL Digital 10 Subwoofer|