Speed: Special Edition (1994)

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Released 3-Jun-2002

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Action Main Menu Introduction
Main Menu Audio
Audio Commentary-Jan De Bont
Audio Commentary-Graham Yost & Mark Gordon
Featurette-Bus Jump; Metrorail Crash
Storyboard Comparisons-3 (Multi-Angle) + 1 unfilmed storyboard
Multiple Angles-Stunts (4)
Featurette-On Location; Stunts; Visual Effects
Screenplay
Notes-Production Design + Images
Interviews-Cast & Crew
Deleted Scenes-5
Gallery-18
Theatrical Trailer
TV Spots-11
Featurette-HBO First Look: The Making Of Speed
Music Video-Speed-Billy Idol
Production Notes
Easter Egg-Cargo Jet Explosion: The Airline Version
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1994
Running Time 111:10 (Case: 116)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (76:17)
Dual Disc Set
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Jan De Bont
Studio
Distributor

Twentieth Century Fox
Starring Keanu Reeves
Dennis Hopper
Sandra Bullock
Joe Morton
Jeff Daniels
Case Soft Brackley-Transp-Dual v2
RPI $36.95 Music Mark Mancina
John Van Tongeren


Video Audio
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
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles Croatian
Czech
Danish
Dutch
English for the Hearing Impaired
Finnish
Hebrew
Hungarian
Icelandic
Norwegian
Polish
Portuguese
Swedish
Turkish
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    Unless you've been stuck down a bug-hole on Klendathu for the last eight years, there's a good bet that Speed is already familiar to you. I myself have seen the film about ten times since it was released in 1994, on each of its VHS, TV and laserdisc incarnations. After so many viewings, one tends to forget the exhilaration of that first encounter with a breathless cinema audience.

    Jan de Bont's kinetic thriller endures as one of the classic mainstream action pictures. Made for a modest $28 million, Speed still holds your attention with its ingenious perils, appealing lead characters, neat special effects and savvy direction. And as with all sentimental favourites (Star Wars, Top Gun, and The Rock to name a few) the flaws and cheesiness that once made us cringe now make us smile.

    What follows is a list of assorted observations about Speed. Please note that spoilers are embedded at random.

    I like Speed, flying buses and all. Jan de Bont succeeded brilliantly within the parameters of the studio system. I also believe that his European sensibilities gave Speed a distinctive look and feel. Sadly, this quality has diminished with each new picture. Twister is reasonable fun, but there's nothing positive to say about Speed 2 or The Haunting. Will he return to any kind of form with next year's The Courier?

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality

Video

    Shot anamorphically and framed at 2.35:1, Speed has received another superb video transfer on Region 4 DVD. Judging by the assessment made by Ian Morris in his review of the movie-only release in January 2000, this recent transfer is similar, if not identical. Prepared two years later, the special edition may have benefited from newer telecine equipment and compression routines. It is certainly an improvement over my ancient laserdisc.

    The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and is 16x9 enhanced.

    As Ian said in his review, the title sequence immediately reveals sharpness, clarity and shadow detail. Although, if anything, shadow detail and sharpness is a little sluggish in the opening elevator drama, at least compared to later films. Outdoor shots fare better, thanks to more favourable lighting conditions and faster film. Too much edge enhancement would have ruined this transfer: there are countless high contrast transitions, but apart from the nearly invisible quantity added by my 76cm widescreen Loewe, none is evident. A larger display might reveal a different result.

    Colour saturation is perfect. Colour bleed and low level noise problems are absent, and skin tones are natural. This is a well-balanced transfer that is rich and life-like when it needs to be, without going overboard.

    The source materials were virtually devoid of film artefacts – this is a very clean transfer. Film grain is apparent in a handful of shots, yet it was so fine as to be inconsequential. The frame jump reported by Ian at 97:37 also appears in this rendering. With all the shaking inside the train, I assume it was caused by a freak camera jerk, since other sudden sideways lurches occur in this shot, but none are as conspicuous. Slight aliasing is noticeable at 11:50 (steel girders), 31:25 (shelter rooftops), 53:19 (radiator grill shimmer) and 76:25 (front of a car). Such fine lines are nearly impossible to eliminate at this resolution without sacrificing sharpness.

    I missed the layer change – it was that well placed. The switch happens at 76:17 on the wide shot of Howard Payne's house in suburbia, just as the cop cars pull up outside. This is exactly where the first DVD cuts over. Fox are now manufacturing dual-layer DVDs in silver, not gold.

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

Audio

    Partnering the lush video transfer are two wall-slamming 5.1 surround tracks, one Dolby Digital track compressed to 384 Kb/s, and a dts 5.1 track compressed to 768 Kb/s. The two audio commentaries are Dolby Digital 2.0 at 96 Kb/s. A tall order for any PAL disc to handle, but it's all here. The original release contained a Dolby Digital 5.0 384 Kb/s track missing the subwoofer channel. A Fox THX laserdisc released on 10 June 1998 contained a dts track.

    I watched the dts track in its entirety and most of the Dolby Digital track. Hence, the evaluation and ratings apply to the dts track only. A comparison of the two follows.

    Dialogue is crisp and clear in dts. Sibilants are bright, almost too bright, as if the 768 Kb/s compression exaggerated the treble. Another theory is that dts has replicated the deficiencies of the original dialogue stems recorded in 1993. The audio is always in sync, taking into account the vagaries of ADR.

    The original music score by Mark Mancina (Training Day, Con Air, Code Name Vengeance, Space Mutiny) is instantly recognisable with its sinuous, overlapping melodies, pounding drums and clichéd little stings. It is given great presence and body by the surrounds (sometimes exclusively) while never hijacking the sound effects. The Billy Idol song at the end is suitably bombastic.

    The fidelity dts offers is first class, although I'd love to hear it compressed at 1536Kb/s. Regardless, this track is spacious and detailed from go to whoa. All front and surround channels are active throughout the feature, scattering ambient noises and echoes around the room. Loud crashes, clanging metal, sirens, bursting water barrels, explosions, roaring engines, scrapes, and gunshots give the ears a good pounding. There are a number of split rear effects and some side-wall imaging. While the dynamic range is muscular, the frequency response favours the mid-to-upper ranges. It's not hard to see why Speed won Oscars for Best Effects / Sound Effects Editing, and Best Sound. One may assume that the same engineers created the 5.1 remixes.

    The subwoofer channel and lower frequencies in general seem to be subdued in the dts track. The three major explosions (bus, house, plane) rate low on the Richter Scale.

Dolby Digital vs dts

    The Dolby Digital track lacks the resolution of dts, which is brighter, especially the centre channel dialogue. The same dialogue on the Dolby Digital track had no problems with harsh sibilants, but it also sounds more compressed and blunt in this regard. The Dolby Digital track packs more punch in the lower frequencies, lending a slightly fuller, more aggressive overall sound; the dts track sounds marginally thinner at times.

    It is a close call. The dts track is recommended if you have a choice. What would a Dolby Digital 448 Kb/s track sound like?

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

Extras

    Disk one contains the movie and two commentaries. Disk two contains all other extras.

Menus

    The main menus are 16x9 enhanced, static and silent, with animated transition segments. All headings are clearly identified and easy to navigate.

    Most of the featurette footage is presented full frame (composed for 1.85:1) with Dolby Digital 2.0 Pro-Logic sound. This footage was assembled from the HBO documentary The Making of Speed and is in excellent shape. The extras are listed in menu order. I listened to the commentaries last of all.

1. ACTION

Featurette - Bus Jump (9:17)

    Shows footage of the one-off attempt at the freeway gap-jump sequence, including planning and setting up the stunt, safety procedure lectures, Jan de Bont burying his head in his hands afterwards because the front of the bus unexpectedly surged above the 2.35:1 frame. You win some, you lose some.

Featurette - Metro Rail Crash (6:05)

    This section shows the various components of the subway sequence, from its beginning in the terminal through to the ending on Hollywood Boulevard. Seeing the 1:8th scale miniatures before and during shooting was fascinating.

Storyboard Comparisons

    The storyboard to film comparisons include:

Multi-Angle Stunts

   Up to eight angles represent shots from the various cameras rolling for each stunt sequence. They are repeated three times, thus allowing you time to see most of it all from a variety of angles. The 'Play All' option splits the screen into three or eight windows, each showing a different point of view. While this is an excellent extra for filmmakers to study, I did not dwell on it for too long.

2. INSIDE SPEED

    A more in-depth look into the making of Speed is provided here, with the work of our old friend the Wandering Behind the Scenes Camera presented in three loose featurettes, together with pages of text for the production notes and screenplay.

Featurette - On Location (7:04)

    Covers the logistics of filming on the yet-to-be completed freeway and on the streets of Los Angeles.

Featurette - Stunts (11:39)

    They let Keanu do several of his own stunts in order to keep him more involved, since this was his first action picture. The question of why there is so much safety lecture footage is explained in one of the commentaries: it is usually recorded in case something goes wrong.

Featurette - Visual Effects (8:52)

    SFX artists discuss their contributions. The digital work done for the bus jump sequence was amazing.

Original Screenplay by Graham Yost

    This version contains the modifications made by Jan de Bont, hence it is the shooting script, not the "original" screenplay. Therefore it lacks all those discarded scenes and concepts that sound so warped after the fact. Still, some curious but minor variations are here, including coverage of Jack's apartment and the usual dialogue alterations. I enjoy reading screenplays and got through 75% of this one in the limited time available. (Still, that didn't stop me from booking in Episode 2: Attack of the Groans on the first Saturday night after its national release.)

    The paging mechanism was clunky, with bundles of pages allocated to a chapter, thus causing the screen to go black for two seconds while my Pioneer lurched forward to grab the next batch, which probably equates to one block or buffer's worth of MPEG-2 data. Despite the difficulty of reading text on a TV screen (100Hz is so nice in this regard), I believe that every extras package should contain the script, if not in a GUI, then added to the DVD-ROM content or made available on the Web.

    Graham Yost's other writing credits include The Last Castle, Challenger, Mission to Mars, Hard Rain and Broken Arrow.

Production Design Notes & Images - Written by Jackson DeGoiva

    Two direct quotes describe the tone of this interesting feature better than I can. (a) "The square font we picked for the numbers (on the speedometer) was nixed. I think the zeros in the final version are too pointy on the ends, and wish we'd stuck with the first font." (b) "They used a combination of classic rear projection technique and inspired cheating to produce an exciting sequence, which today would be done with boring perfection in front of a green screen using computer generated effects."

    Certain references to drawings or finished work are accessed by invoking the bus icon. Again, this was a hard slog: blackouts occurred before and after each detour, but it was worth all the effort.

Interviews (x5)

    This interview footage appears to be unabridged takes prepared for the HBO making of documentary.

3. EXTENDED SCENES (10:54)

    You can either play one scene or play them all in sequence. Unlike the scenes stupidly deleted from American Pie 2, these ones are definitely disposable. The video is 16x9 enhanced and the inserted shots are lower in quality.

4. IMAGE GALLERY

    I had meant to sample only a handful of photos before bouncing on to the next extra, but ended up trekking through the whole portfolio. Most of the shots capture candid behind-the-scenes moments. With such a likeable cast you're bound to get many little gems. Photos taken by Alan Ruck (the tourist) are here, too. The photos are grouped into 18 categories and they can all be viewed in sequence.

5. PRO-MOTION

    Yes, very clever. This submenu contains various Speed promotional items.

Theatrical Trailer (2:41) and TV Spots (x11)

   The theatrical trailer is 16x9 enhanced and framed at 2.35:1, with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. The image quality is not as good as the feature, being softer with muted colours, while the sound delivers an adequate punch. It was great to have the trailer 16x9 enhanced to match the movie.

    All TV Spots are 30 seconds long. The image is on the soft side, with the occasional cross-colour artefact appearing.

Featurette - HBO First Look: The Making of Speed (23:15)

    Before seeing this documentary I wondered why it was not in the INSIDE SPEED submenu. Now I know. Even the DVD producer recognised this beast for what it is: a 24 minute Speed infomercial. Still, my one and only pet hate about these promotional featurettes is the quotient of movie footage shown. Obviously pitched at an audience who have never seen the movie, such footage drives a number of people I know up the wall.

    The documentary is hosted by Dennis Hopper, who appears to be having a ball doing the gig; he even blows up the Hollywood sign at the end of it. It was mentioned several times in various places: many people were surprised at how well Speed turned out. You can see the pride on Hopper's face as he does his little skits for this featurette.

Billy Idol Clip - 'Speed' (4:23)

    And that's 4 minutes 23 seconds too long. Billy Idol and his band of hard rockers and rollers play on stage in a crowded basement nightclub. Obviously galvanised into euphoria by the thrill of one day appearing on a DVD supplement, the attractive patrons dance up a storm for the cameras and their idol, Billy. This song plays over the end credits of Speed. I think it was a sly attempt to make audiences leave faster.

Press Kit (19 pages)

    I doubt the credentials of the press kit author. He or she refers to Dennis Hopper's "chilling work in Blue Velvet and True Romance." Granted, he was a rather nasty villain in the David Lynch film, but apart from the wintery locale, I don't recall Mr Hopper being all that menacing in True Romance.

6. EASTER EGG - Cargo Jet Explosion: Airline Version (0:52)

    As the page of text explains, films shown on long flights have any visuals of planes crashing deleted. This snippet contains the airline version of the bus's demise at LAX. While you don't see the plane blowing up, it is clearly inferred. A nice little extra which the DVD producers hid as an Easter Egg. It is easy to find on the main menu.

7. AUDIO COMMENTARIES (x2)

Jan de Bont (director)

    Jan de Bont delivers a commentary crammed with details and opinions. He has an easy going, softly spoken voice coloured with a Dutch accent. He talks about the special effects elements, shooting on location, the cast and crew, screenplay changes, how he came to do the project, why he decided to try directing, and many other topics. Any occasional pause tends to be brief. He was clearly enthusiastic about doing the commentary and still cared about the film. Strewth, if my directorial debut was something like Speed I'd be proud, too.

Graham Yost (screenwriter) and Mark Gordon (producer)

    Now, as fine as Jan de Bont's commentary is, this second track by the writer and producer is even better. Or rather, de Bont provides the formal, measured overview of Speed, whereas this pair of chattering monkeys gives us one of the most entertaining commentaries since From Dusk Till Dawn.

    Recorded two weeks after the September 11 terrorist attack, fast-talking Graham Yost and Mark Gordon fall over each other to comment on scenes and generally tell tall tales. Yost the writer related a number of background anecdotes about how the screenplay got written: where ideas came from, influences (Runaway Train naturally), making the movie, script changes and rewrites (for example, Annie was originally African American). He also mentions the WTC terrorist attacks, moaned about not being invited onto the set, disowned the woeful sequel, et cetera. Producer Gordon threw in his own associations to this info, as well as explaining his connections to the project, criticising aspects of the film (which they both did), and quoting lines of dialogue. This became a running gag between the two of them, and by the end of it all both were in top gear...not unlike the movie itself.

    Before hearing this marvellous commentary, I was already quite satisfied with the fat extras package, which took me a few nights to digest. Discovering what a gem it is only sweetened the cake that much more. Icing doesn't taste much better than this.

R4 vs R1

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

    One set of detailed specifications for Speed (Five Star Collection) due for release in Region 1 on 23 July 2002 is almost the same as our DVD.

    The Region 1 version misses out on:

    The Region 4 version misses out on:

    Given the technical details on hand, the Region 4 and Region 1 DVDs are an even match. I will update this section as more information is confirmed. I am still not sure if the Region 1 English Dolby Digital track is 448 Kb/s or 384 Kb/s.

Summary

    Hollywood action pictures don't come much better than Speed. If you have never seen it before, then track down this special edition, dim the lights, shoot the neighbours and crank up the sound. And while you're at it, let me know what Klendathu is like this time of year.

    This special edition DVD presents the movie with a gorgeous video transfer and two glossy 5.1 surround sound tracks. The extras are also generous, increasing my fondness for the film. The two commentary tracks alone are worth gold. A recently produced making-of documentary is the only item not created by Fox that would have made this bundle perfect.

    This edition of Speed is being released five days short of the 8th anniversary of its US debut, which falls on 10 June.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Rod Williams (Suss out my biography if you dare)
Wednesday, May 22, 2002
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-737, using Component output
DisplayLoewe Ergo (81cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderDenon AVD-2000 Dolby Digital decoder and Denon AVD-1000 dts decoder.
AmplificationArcam AV50 5 x 50W amplifier
SpeakersFront: ALR/Jordan Entry 5M, Centre: ALR/Jordan 4M, Rear: ALR/Jordan Entry 2M, Subwoofer: B&W ASW-1000 (active)

Other Reviews
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Jeff K's Australian DVD Info Site - Kevin S
DVDAnswers - Warwick G

Comments (Add)
What the ****? :-) - Anthony H (read my bio)
The profanity - Rod W (Suss out my biography if you dare)
Speed:SE rating - Khai L (My biodegradable bio)
96kbs audio sounds awfull - Ben H (My biography. Go on have a read...)
Commentary bitrates [reply] - Ben H (My biography. Go on have a read...)
Speed Classification Rating is M - Rod W (Suss out my biography if you dare)
Commentary bitrates - Rod W (Suss out my biography if you dare)
Region 1 does have DTS. - Ben Gourlay (read my bio)
DTS specification in Region 1 - Yes! - Rod W (Suss out my biography if you dare)
SE Rating revisited - Khai L (My biodegradable bio)
r1 version - DarkEye (This bio says: Death to DNR!) REPLY POSTED
Dolby 5.1 Bitrate - Ben Gourlay (read my bio) REPLY POSTED
MA rating - chaossphere
Rod W. -
re:oflc - chaossphere