Predator: Special Edition (1987)
Main Menu Introduction
Audio Commentary-John McTiernan (Director)
Featurette-Making Of-If It Bleeds, We Can Kill It
Featurette-The Unseen Arnold
Featurette-The Life Inside (Tribute To Kevin Peter Hall)
Featurette-Welcome To The Jungle
Featurette-Predator Special Effects-'Red Suit' Special Effects (3)
Featurette-Predator Special Effects-Predator Camouflage Tests (2)
|Year Of Production||1987|
|RSDL / Flipper||
Dual Disc Set
|Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||2,4||Directed By||John McTiernan|
Twentieth Century Fox
|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)
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||1.85:1|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.85:1||Miscellaneous|
English for the Hearing Impaired
|Smoking||Yes, have a cigar...|
|Annoying Product Placement||Yes, mildly|
|Action In or After Credits||Yes, a cast montage in credits|
Those who remember my review of Predator 2 will recall that I consider it to be the superior film in pretty much every respect, due to far superior character development and a plot that makes some sense. While it has become rather dated, it is far less so than the film which preceded it, Predator. Generally, people are divided into two groups about Arnold Schwarzenegger films, but I happen to form part of a third group - the one that feels that when Arnie's head swelled so much that he thought he could make intelligent political/moral statements, his credibility went right out the window. This third group was formed after stinkers like End Of Days and The Sixth Day were released, for reasons I'm sure most will not need to have explained.
Predator represents Schwarzenegger at what was almost his peak, with a ridiculous script and a performance that gave him ample chance to show off that powerful bod. Of course, he would be in far better form three years later with a certain film he rallied to get made, and which eventually was made under the direction of one of the greatest directors of the past twenty-five years, but that's all an aside. The plot in this case, such as it is, revolves around Major Dutch Schaefer (Arnold Schwarzenegger) and his merry band of rescue-team operatives. Mac (Bill Duke) is the token black commando, Billy (Sonny Landham) is the token Native American commando, Poncho (Richard Chaves) is the commando with the grenade launcher, Hawkins (Shane Black) is the token nerd commando, and Blain (Jesse Ventura) is the token mentally impaired commando. Or at least that's the impression one will have after one classic(ally stupid) line.
Oh, and of course, there's Dillon (Carl Weathers), a CIA operative who invites himself along for the ride after greeting his old friend Dutch with a friendly arm wrestle. Anyway, after we are introduced to this group of clods, we are transported out to a central American jungle where a group of guerrillas are ostensibly holding some friends of the American government hostage. However, after killing all the guerrillas, levelling the compound, and destroying all of their hardware (not to mention scraping a knee in the process), Dutch learns that they were really talked into a First Strike operation against a group of separatists, or something like that. Exceptionally upset with his former friend, Dutch leads his men, and one prisoner who eventually reveals her name as Anna (Elpidia Carrillo), towards the evacuation zone. On the way, however, Hawkins is killed by an alien that is capable of camouflaging itself by literally bending the light around its body, which, although never specifically named in the film, has since come to be known as the Predator (Kevin Peter Hall).
Those who remember this film in all of its goofiness will not be surprised to learn that the original concept for this film originated as a joke, based around the statement that the only person Rocky Balboa had yet to fight was E.T. (now there's a match I'd pay to see). According to director John McTiernan, the invisible appearance of the Predator was originally portrayed by Jean-Claude Van Damme in a blue-screen suit, but he quit after a couple of days because he was unhappy with being cast as an uncredited special effect. So, after redesigning the alien, it was eventually played by the seven-foot-two Kevin Peter Hall, who effectively puts in a much better performance and has also put in appearances in such films as Harry And The Hendersons. Anyway, I won't bore you any more by trying to apply intellectual criticism to a film where the lead survives a nuclear explosion with only another scraped knee to show for it. This is strictly popcorn material, so let's dive right in.
The first thing I thought when I saw the Twentieth Century Fox logo, and all the grain that was featured therein, was "oh no, this is going to be a disaster", and the first twenty minutes of the film did little to change my mind. The rest of the film is very well-transferred from source materials that could use a good clean-up, but I think this is probably the best that Predator is ever going to look in the home until HD-DVD becomes a reality.
The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1, and it is 16x9 Enhanced. While it is true that the film was shot on a 1.33:1 negative, opening the mattes to this ratio has often revealed some hilarious blunders, such as Carl Weathers' real arm, or the microphone in the scene with Weathers and Bill Duke hiding under a log, so this widescreen transfer is quite simply the only way to present Predator.
The sharpness of this transfer varies slightly, with the infra-red POV shots having noticeably less resolution than the rest of the film, and especially so compared to the same shots in Predator 2. There are some times when the resolution is compromised by shots that appear to have been zoomed in post-production, but ninety percent of the film is sharp enough that it won't get any better within the limits of current technology. The shadow detail is good, although not great, but it is enough that the night-time sequences will make perfect sense, and there is no low-level noise.
The colours in the film emphasise dull, earthy tones, especially hues of green and brown, while the Predator's blood is a luminescent green colour that shows up quite well in the overall scheme, which also helps a number of shots make more sense. The transfer renders this colour scheme perfectly, with not a trace of bleeding or composite artefacting in sight.
MPEG artefacts were not found in this transfer, thanks to there being quite a healthy bitrate throughout the feature. Film-to-video artefacts consisted of some early wobbling that I suspect was introduced in the telecine stage, especially during the opening credits. This problem settles down in the first five minutes of the film, thankfully. Some minor aliasing was noticed on a wire at 21:35, but this was very minor, and the most objectionable instance of aliasing that I noticed to boot. Film artefacts, unfortunately, can be found in this film with a vengeance - they literally pepper the picture at 1:25, and some extreme grain can be noticed at 10:13. Thankfully, this problem also settles down to a more acceptable level after a while, although it does remain a constant reminder that we're watching a fifteen year old film here.
There are English for the Hearing Impaired subtitles present on this disc, and while they are pretty faithful to the dialogue, they do contain some rather glaring omissions at times.
This disc is RSDL formatted, with the layer change taking place while Carl Weathers is staring at Bill Duke at 61:30. This is between Chapters 14 and 15, and while it is one of the better places for a layer change in this film, it still sticks out like a sore thumb due to the interruption to a musical cue.
There are three soundtracks present on this DVD: the first, and default soundtrack, is the English Dolby Digital 5.1 384 kilobit soundtrack. Then there's the 768 kilobit English DTS 5.1 soundtrack, and finally there is an English Dolby Digital 2.0 96 kilobit audio commentary by John McTiernan. I listened primarily to the DTS soundtrack, while comparing most of the film in Dolby Digital and listening to about half the audio commentary (more on this in a moment).
The dialogue is reasonably clear and easy to understand, but there are numerous lines that are either mumbled or screamed in such a manner that they could easily be misunderstood. Thankfully, there are no obvious audio sync problems.
The music in this film is composed by Alan Silvestri, and it rescues the film from being just another silly premise, adding a level of tension and horror to it that definitely isn't there in the actors' performances. There is a lot of use of percussive elements in the score, which gives the whole arrangement a sort of jungle feel, without being too cheesy.
Unfortunately, the surrounds are not used to great effect by either the Dolby Digital or DTS soundtracks. This film was originally released in Dolby SR, so this is not exactly a surprise. However, there are a few opportunities to insert some creative uses of the rears that are never taken, and the whole affair has quite a front-heavy feel to it. Again, this is not exactly a surprise, given the film was released a few years before digital soundtracks became all the rage, but surely someone could have made a more active remix out of the source elements.
The subwoofer made up for the lack of action in the surrounds, especially when Jesse Ventura uses what my mother called the "vacuum cleaner" when I first saw the film about fourteen years ago. The one standout use of the subwoofer came at 24:15, and while the subwoofer is never used with force, it does add a nice, subtle floor to the violence that more than justifies its inclusion.
In regards to the old DTS versus Dolby Digital debate, this is not exactly the most ideal film to argue the point with, given its origins, but the DTS soundtrack does win by a nose. It has a slightly clearer, brighter feel that immerses the viewer just that little more in the action, but those who only have Dolby Digital capable set-ups are not going to lose sleep over it.
|Surround Channel Use|
The original R4 release of this film had no extras at all. This DVD release fixes all of that. All of the making-of featurettes are presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 with film footage in 1.85:1 with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio unless otherwise specified.
The main menu features an animated, Dolby Digital 2.0 introduction, but is otherwise static. It is neither a bad menu nor a great one.
I'll get the bad news out of the way first - John McTiernan is not the most interesting commentator, as this Dolby Digital 2.0 effort attests. However, very few directors can do solo commentaries and remain interesting from start to finish, so I will not hold that against him.
These are transcripts of snippets from interviews with various crew members about casting decisions, special effects, editing, and so forth. While they are not nearly as interesting as the ones that appear on most Doctor Who releases, they do make a nice adjunct to the Audio Commentary.
The DVD-ROM content on Disc One essentially consists of a demo for the upcoming video game Aliens VS. Predator II, which can be installed if you insert this disc in a DVD-ROM drive. However, given that the original Aliens VS. Predator game required a PC with some very serious hardware, including a 3D accelerator card, most users will need to think twice before attempting to run and install this demo.
This twenty-eight minute and forty-nine second featurette goes through the process of writing the film, casting actors, creating the Predator, and so forth. It is worth watching just to see the original Predator design that was scrapped for very obvious reasons.
This five minute and twenty-two second featurette is more of a standard extended trailer, although it does reveal some interesting things about how the combat sequences were achieved.
This four minute and forty-four second featurette describes how Arnold Schwarzenegger got along with his co-stars and generally paints him as a nice, likeable fellow.
This three minute and thirty-one second featurette describes some of the technical aspects of how the most ridiculous weapon in the film (the "vacuum cleaner") was simulated. According to the crew, the six-foot-five, 250-pound Jesse Ventura would only be able to carry enough ammunition to fire it for a five second burst (it is, after all, a miniaturisation of the guns you find on attack helicopters). Well, they do also acknowledge that it is a basic popcorn film in the other featurettes.
Kevin Peter Hall, the giant of a man (at least a foot taller than Arnie, in fact) who was inside the Predator suit, passed away in 1991. Obviously, he was held in high esteem by his fellow castmates, as well as other members of the Hollywood community (he was also the bigfoot in Harry And The Hendersons). This featurette doesn't say much about the circumstances of his death, instead focusing on the way he lived. I'm sure he'll remain sorely missed for at least another eleven years.
Apparently, most of the principal cast members are combat veterans, and thus they were put into boot camp for a while to prepare them for their roles. This two minute and forty-one second featurette briefly describes some of the insane competitiveness that went on behind the scenes between actors like Ventura and Schwarzenegger.
Yes, you read that right - this four minute and forty-three second featurette goes into how the characters were made as distinct from one another as possible. It doesn't really add up to much, but it is kind of interesting to hear about.
This four-minute and fifty-six second featurette describes how the camouflage patterns used in the film were tailored according to the characters and the actors' physical appearances. Not the most interesting featurette, but still worth a look.
These three special effects tests, totalling two minutes and fourteen seconds, are presented in an approximate 1.85:1 ratio with a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack that is actually silent.
These two special effects tests, which total one minute and fifty-five seconds, are presented in an approximate 1.85:1 ratio with another silent Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack.
This deleted footage, totalling one minute and forty-five seconds, is actually a very rough cut of some footage that wasn't used in what I presume was the final battle. There is some minimal sound, and it is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1 without 16x9 Enhancement.
Three outtakes are presented in the same menu as the deleted scene. All of them are in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1, with Dolby Digital 2.0 silent sound, with a total running length of three minutes and forty seconds.
This small gallery describes the Predator's equipment, but doesn't get really in-depth by showing things that anyone who's seen the films wouldn't know.
A collection of unannotated stills.
There is censorship information available for this title. Click here to read it (a new window will open). WARNING: Often these entries contain MAJOR plot spoilers.
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
The Region 1 version of this disc features an additional Dolby Digital 2.0 surround-encoded soundtrack, as well as a higher-bitrate Dolby Digital soundtrack, but if the Widescreen Review description is accurate (and I don't doubt it is), then the only extra other than a forced advertisement is the theatrical trailer. I have to give this one to Region 4.
Predator is strictly a no-brainer with limited replay value, but it is generally far more entertaining than anything Arnold has put out in the last ten years. Since the makers have no illusions about this being anything other than a popcorn film, that makes it generally okay.
The video transfer is good, but the source materials need a bit of work.
The audio transfer is very good, but still very frontal and uninspiring.
The extras are very good, especially the making-of featurettes.
|DVD||Toshiba 2109, using S-Video output|
|Display||Samsung CS-823AMF (80cm). Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 576i (PAL).|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.|
|Amplification||Sony STR DE-835|
|Speakers||Yamaha NS-45 Front Speakers, Yamaha NS-90 Rear Speakers, Yamaha NSC-120 Centre Speaker, JBL Digital 10 Active Subwoofer|