Romancing the Stone (1984)

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Released 14-Feb-2001

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Action Theatrical Trailer-(DD2.0, 4:3, 1:31 minutes)
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1984
Running Time 101:23
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Robert Zemeckis
Studio
Distributor

Twentieth Century Fox
Starring Michael Douglas
Kathleen Turner
Danny DeVito
Alfonso Arau
Manuel Ojeda
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $36.95 Music Alan Silvestri


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/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 Czech
Danish
English for the Hearing Impaired
Finnish
Hebrew
Hungarian
Icelandic
Norwegian
Polish
Portuguese
Swedish
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement Yes, but minimal
Action In or After Credits Yes

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

Plot Synopsis

    First of all, here is a big admission - Romancing The Stone was the first film I ever took a girl to see. (Just to set the record straight, nothing happened.) Perhaps due to this, I look back on this film with much affection, but more so, I think, because it's such a fun little film.

    Released in 1984, its production came hot on the heels of the remarkable film Raiders Of The Lost Ark. That film resurrected in grand style the tradition of the old B-grade adventure film. Romancing The Stone is certainly not a clone of the Indiana Jones franchise, but its style and character are very much in the same mold as those films. The two central characters are Joan Wilder (Kathleen Turner), a hopelessly romantic, innocent, helpless, Romance-Adventure novelist, and Jack Colton (Michael Douglas), a reckless adventurer seeking his fortune in South America. The opening pre-credit scene immediately prepares the audience for the type of entertainment to follow in a glorious example that could have been taken from any number of old B-grade western films. Tongue-in-cheek is very definitely the mode of operation and this never lets up for the next couple of hours.

    The real story begins as Joan receives a package from her recently-murdered brother-in-law in Colombia. She doesn't realize that the package contains a treasure map leading the way to a fabulous jewel, and that there is literally an army of nasty characters after it. After her sister is kidnapped in Columbia by the relatively harmless Ira (Zack Norman) and Ralph (Danny DeVito in a romp of a performance that virtually catapulted him to success after many years of frequently good work) she must go there herself to bargain for her sister's life. In the process she ends up on the wrong bus and caught up in the middle of the Colombian jungle. After being attacked by the particularly nasty Zolo (Manuel Ojeder), she is rescued by Jack who happens to get caught up in the action purely by accident. The rest of the film is essentially a great mixture of classic film chase and treasure hunt, blended with big doses of old fashioned romance between two characters who literally glow with the stuff.

    It's rather difficult to say too much about the plot because, frankly, it's pretty thin. What's far more important is the way in which Joan and Jack romance their way into the viewers' hearts as they try to elude Zolo while also hunting for the jewel. The swashbuckling action comes thick and fast, but also makes time for slower moments and lots of humour. For those few people who haven't yet seen the film, the ending stays ambiguous (although far from surprising) until the last scene.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    Thankfully the film is reproduced in its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio, and even more thankfully, it is in glorious 16x9 enhanced mode.

    The image is remarkably sharp, surprisingly so for a film of this age, and there really wasn't even a hint of grain. That must say something for the attention to detail that went into its original production. Internal scenes and close-ups showed crisp and clean detail, and external shots looked simply lovely. Shadow detail was similarly great, even in the many wide-angled night shots spread throughout the film. The transition from lit to shadow areas was completely natural. Low level noise is non-existent.

    At times I found colours to be muted, especially in Kathleen Turner's facial tones. However, I suspect this might have been something to do with the original filmmakers' intentions because for the most part colours come through realistically and almost fully saturated. External shots show up particularly well and there is certainly a lot of colourful location shooting to be admired.

    Some minor aliasing is discernible on a number of occasions, but do not become intrusive in any sense of the word. No other compression artefacts were identified. The print from which the transfer was taken was generally quite clean, but it did suffer from rather common white scratch marks. That said, with so much to look at on the screen the overall effect was still extremely good.

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

Audio

    The disc offers a sole English soundtrack. A little sadly, it comes only in the original Dolby Stereo Surround format. A proper remaster into full digital 5.1 mode would have lifted the whole experience into something a lot more spectacular. Nevertheless, the audio comes through effectively enough, with a wide soundstage and enough depth to draw the viewer in.

    Dialogue tends to be slightly muted in comparison to the rest of the soundtrack. It is always clear but I feel that the balance is weighted just slightly too far against it. Audio sync is always fine.

    The musical score is most rousing in the opening scene, and is reminiscent of adventure films of old. After that it tends to become more conservative and is carried along with a couple of main themes that stack up nicely against the storyline. It could perhaps be summarized by describing it as a satisfying accompaniment that leaves a pleasant aftertaste.

    Surround activity via the matrixed stereo soundtrack is limited and misses many opportunities to add real audio fireworks. However, there's no denying that the soundscape feels real and involving and is anything but flat. Occasionally this relatively passive approach is replaced with more aggressive instances of surround activity just to emphasize the existence of your surround speakers. The subwoofer was totally silent - even the odd explosion didn't register a murmur in this department.

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

Extras

    Extras are light on here. This fun film is too good to let go without at least an audio commentary. In the event, we get:

Theatrical Trailer

    Presented in full frame (4:3) format and Dolby Digital 2.0 audio. Running time is 1:31 minutes. This is not a good transfer and is evidently sourced from a rather poor quality video tape original. The picture is grainy and colour reproduction is far from satisfactory. Audio is mildly distorted and loaded down with scratches. The transfer quality of the film was so good - why couldn't the same effort have been applied for just an extra minute and a half's worth???

R4 vs R1

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

    The Region 4 release of the film misses out on nothing (although, let's face it, some more extras would have been nice).

   The Region 1 version of this disc misses out on;

    The Region 4 version wins without question on the basis of the better picture quality. From a number of reviews I've read of the R1 release, the non-enhanced NTSC picture apparently suffers, as you'd expect, from visible line structure and lack of brightness. It really is wonderful to see so many local releases getting the widescreen enhancement that they deserve.

Summary

    Everything is right with this film - the casting could hardly have been better, the three principal characters (including Ralph) are endearing and the story moves seamlessly across a whole range of situations. The ending is just about perfect. It could never be described as being a great film, but would most certainly be a worthy, entertaining and eminently watchable addition to most libraries.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Murray Glase (read my bio)
Sunday, February 11, 2001
Review Equipment
DVDToshiba SD-K310, using S-Video output
DisplayPioneer SD-T43W1 (125cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationPioneer VSX-D906S
SpeakersRichter Wizard (front), Jamo SAT150 (rear), Yamaha YST-SW120 (subwoofer)

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