Die Hard: Special Edition (1988)
Main Menu Introduction
Main Menu Audio & Animation
Audio Commentary-John McTiernan (Director) & Jackson DeGovia
Audio Commentary-Richard Edlund
Seamless Branching-Extended Version
Deleted Scenes-The Vault; Turning Off The Power; The Newscasts
Scene Editing Workshop
Audio Mixing Workshop
Easter Egg-Blow-up Fox Home Entertainment
|Year Of Production||1988|
|RSDL / Flipper||
Dual Disc Set
|Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||2,4||Directed By||John McTiernan|
Twentieth Century Fox
|Case||Soft Brackley-Transp-Dual v2|
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||
English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
English dts 5.1 (768Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (96Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (96Kb/s)
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||2.35:1|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||2.35:1||Miscellaneous|
English Text Commentary
|Smoking||Yes, and lots of it|
|Annoying Product Placement||Yes, chocolate bars|
|Action In or After Credits||Yes, credits begin over the final shot of the movie|
The plot of Die Hard is at once as uncomplicated and simple as it is involving. John McClane (Bruce Willis) is a New York cop just disembarked from a plane to Los Angeles where he heads to meet up with his estranged wife (Bonnie Bedelia) at her office Christmas party. Unfortunately for McClane, a group of terrorists-turned-thieves (upper-class thieves mind you), led by the suavely evil Hans Gruber (the brilliant Alan Rickman in another great performance), have decided to crash the party. McClane is lucky enough to be in a separate room when the terrorists make their presence known, and slips away. Thus begins his tortuous time trying to both evade the terrorists and bring them down from the inside. This story has all the stereotypes present - the Big Hero, the Bad Guys, the token black guy (Reginald Veljohnston), the big-headed yet stupid police chief (Paul Gleason), the even bigger-headed and even more stupid federal agents (Robert Davi and Grand L. Bush), and the ex-wife who is really still in love with the Big Hero. All this is fine however, as it was largely Die Hard that spawned these stereotypes.
For me, Die Hard's greatest success is also its greatest weakness - the casting of Alan Rickman as terrorist leader Hans Gruber. He is simply a brilliant actor, who easily stomps all over Bruce Willis. This has the unfortunate side-effect of making his character more likeable than the hero, something that is both disturbing and annoying - especially each time I watch the conclusion to the film. This was really the movie equivalent of putting a super-charged V8 in a mini. Some may argue that this is a failing on behalf of Alan Rickman, but I believe that if the hero role had been better cast, this could easily have become the greatest action movie of all time. Having said all that, I have nothing against Bruce Willis - he is a competent actor who has proven himself on numerous occasions (especially with a very good sense of comic timing), but he just is not in the same class as Rickman.
No review of Die Hard can be complete without mention of the special effects. For their time, the effects present in this movie were absolutely first class, and look as good today as any digital equivalent. The levels to which practical effects were taken in this movie are extraordinary and serve as a good reminder and tribute to what is rapidly becoming a lost art now that CGI has taken over.
Any action fan owes it to themselves to check out Die Hard (I cannot imagine there are any out there who have not). This movie is an absolute classic and deserves to be in any DVD collection.
This transfer is presented at an aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and is 16x9 enhanced. An interesting point to note is that the 20th Century Fox logo that runs at the start of the film is stretched horizontally, as if a letterboxed 4:3 image were being stretched to 16x9 - despite the fact that it is present on a 16x9 enhanced transfer. This is not present on the R1 disc, so I do not know why it is included in the PAL transfer, as aside from that the two transfers are very similar.
This transfer is quite sharp. Certainly it is not as sharp as good transfers of more recent movies, but what is presented here is still of very high quality. Grain levels are quite well controlled, and while background grain is frequently present, there is only one occasion when the grain level went off the scale. This is at 16:22 just as the terrorists truck turns into the Nakatomi driveway. There are also portions of the transfer that are quite "hazy", such as the entire final sequence from around 115:00 on, and these times also result in a drop in the sharpness of the transfer. The shadow detail of this transfer is excellent, always giving enough information to make out any action that is occurring. As much of this film takes place with large portions of darkness on the screen, this is quite important. There was no low-level noise detected in the transfer.
Colours are represented very well, with the orange-tinged late-afternoon really feeling like late afternoon. The stark white of the fluorescent lighting on the levels still under construction also contrasts well to the location of the party that is far more naturally lit, and that has quite a sumptuous feel.
There were very few compression artefacts in this transfer, with only a small amount of background pixelization, and some more obvious pixelization when the grain level rises at 16:22. Aliasing is far more prevalent, with many examples of minor aliasing. It also breaks out wholesale on a number of occasions, such as at 18:36 and 18:45 on the car-park gates. It is also quite annoying on the picture frame that Holly has of the family, such as at 4:19. Fortunately, the instances of bad aliasing largely disappear after the first half hour, leaving the rest of the film with few problems. Film artefacts are constantly present, usually in small specks and dots, occasionally however, such as at 17:37 there are larger artefacts that considerably detract from the film.
The English dialogue subtitles are usually quite accurate, nicely placed, and easy to read. There are a few occasions, however, where the subtitles diverge from the spoken word for the sake of brevity, and lose a large part of the impact of the dialogue as a result. However, the biggest problem I found in my sampling of the subtitles comes at 101:00-101:06 where Hans has a full sentence of dialogue that is not subtitled. Annoyingly, this subtitling is present on the R1 DVD.
This is an RSDL formatted disc with the layer change occurring during Chapter 31 at 63:57. This is certainly not the best place possible for a layer change, as it occurs mid-scene, however it does not break any dialogue so the placement could have also been worse.
There are four audio tracks present on this disc. These are the original English dialogue in 5.1 Dolby Digital (at 384 Kbps) and 5.1 dts (at 768 Kbps), and two audio commentary tracks, both in surround encoded Dolby Digital 2.0 (both at 96 Kbps). The debate between Dolby Digital and DTS will not be settled by these soundtracks, as the two are virtually indistinguishable (as is often the case with half-bitrate DTS tracks).
The dialogue is clear and easy to understand at all times, never being drowned out by the effects or the score. The only real problem in this regard could be for people who have difficulty understanding heavy European accents, as many of the terrorists have been cast from non-English speaking countries and use their native accents. On a slightly more annoying level, there is considerable hiss present in all channels during many quieter (dialogue) sequences, such as from 14:57 to 15:35. This appears to be caused by the use of poor quality original dialogue recordings, and suggests that there was little to no ADR work done on the film. While this certainly helps in the audio sync department, when the noise is as noticeable and annoying as is present here, it really should have been considered.
There are no problems with audio sync during this transfer.
The score for Die Hard is by eighties action movie stalwart Michael Kamen (I do not think it a coincidence that many of the movies he has scored have also been produced by Joel Silver - as is the case here). While for the most part this score is very typical for the genre, it has one aspect that very clearly sets it aside - it heavily works in Beethoven's 9th symphony, particularly the Allegro vivace assai, more commonly known as "Ode To Joy". This is extremely effective and really sets the score apart from standard action fare in my book.
The surround channels are extensively used during action sequences, but tend to fall very quiet during dialogue sequences. When they are being used however, they really come alive, containing aggressive split-surround usage that really makes you feel like you are in the middle of a firefight.
The subwoofer use is somewhat patchy, often giving a good boost to the explosions going off on-screen, but it is just as likely to sit dormant making the action seem somewhat distant. The strangest aspect of this is with gunfire, as gunfire that is not directly represented off screen has a large bass punch, sounding appropriately muffled, but when actually occurring where the camera is, the gunfire lacks any low frequency impact.
|Surround Channel Use|
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
The Region 4 version of this disc misses out on;
The video quality is very good, but it does suffer from too many small problems.
The audio quality is also excellent, although it too suffers from numerous small problems, under the influence of which it begins to labour.
The extras package presented here is first class. A collection of extras of both the quantity and quality found on this two-disc set is rare. The only real complaint, and it is a small one, is that it would have been nice to see a featurette or two looking back on the movie, and its impact on the genre.
|DVD||Pioneer DV-535, using Component output|
|Display||Loewe Xelos 5381ZW. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.|
|Amplification||Onkyo TX-DS787, THX Select|
|Speakers||All matching Vifa Drivers: centre 2x6.5" + 1" tweeter (d'appolito); fronts and rears 6.5" + 1" tweeter; centre rear 5" + 1" tweeter; sub 10" (150WRMS)|