The River (1984)

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Released 9-May-2001

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Production Notes
Biographies-Cast & Crew
Theatrical Trailer
Web Links
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1984
Running Time 118:39
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (67:48) Cast & Crew
Start Up Programme
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Mark Rydell

Sony Pictures Home Entertain
Starring Sissy Spacek
Mel Gibson
Scott Glenn
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $36.95 Music John Williams

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    The River is a film detailing one family's struggle to keep their farm, fighting against massive financial debt, land developers and the environment.

    Farm owners Tom (Mel Gibson) and Mae Garvey (Sissy Spacek) are battling to keep their farm from the bank after many years of poor harvests and dropping crop prices. Tom loves the farm that has been in his family for many generations but his wife Mae is tired of struggling to make ends meet and feels no connection to the land. Local businessman and Mae's former love interest John Wade (Scott Glenn) offers to purchase their farm and the surrounding properties in a plan to flood the valley and build a dam. Tom refuses to accept the offer and will go to any length to keep the land he loves.

    The River received a Special Achievement Academy Award for Sound Effect Editing and was also nominated for Best Actress, Best Cinematography, Best Sound and Best Music. While all the principal actors give excellent performances, the movie still often feels like a tele-movie or an HBO production due to the nature of the content.

    The River is sure to appeal to viewers that enjoy a story of people battling against adversity but many viewers will find the story a little too predictable.

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Transfer Quality


    When viewing the initial release of this disc, a problem occurs during playback at 23:46 with what appears to be an error in the data stream. This results in severe macro blocking and either a pause for a few seconds with major digital dropouts or total player lockup at this point. This problem seems to only affect only a few seconds of video that may be avoided by skipping to Chapter 5. The initial pressing of this disc has been recalled and a new version without the error has been released. These versions may be identified by the identification number relating to the first layer present on the disc's inner rings. The original release has the number U1 20427V2.1.A VA01 while the remastered version has U1 20427V2.1.A VA03.

    The feature is presented at an aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and is 16x9 enhanced.

    This transfer is quite sharp throughout but becomes a little soft in a small number of dark scenes. At no stage during the transfer was any low level noise detected. During the numerous darkly lit scenes excellent levels of shadow detail can be seen.

    The colour displayed in the film is always consistent, but slightly muted as typically found in films of this age.

    No MPEG artefacts were detected at any stage during the feature.

    Aliasing does pose a number of problems for this transfer with numerous occurrences throughout the film. Some examples of aliasing can be seen at 11:06, 22:35, 31:18, 39:55 and 60:05. While none of the aliasing seen in the movie is extremely severe, its frequent occurrence is slightly disruptive to the viewer.

    Consistently throughout the transfer, numerous minor film artefacts can be seen. These artefacts are generally quite minor and only slightly disruptive to the viewer. Examples of these artefacts may be seen at 0:30, 2:20, 4:27, 11:49 and 15:28. Some minimal film grain is also visible during a small number of the dimly lit scenes.

    Fourteen different sets of subtitles are provided on the disc. I sampled the English set and they appeared to be consistently accurate.

    The layer change occurs at 68:48, part way through Chapter 9. This change is in the middle of a conversation and is rather disruptive to the viewer. Numerous other suitable points for a layer change are available and should have been selected by the disc's author.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    Five different audio tracks are supplied on this disc. The primary audio is a Dolby Digital 5.1 384 kbps English track. Dolby Digital 2.0 192 kbps surround tracks are also provided in German and Italian, as well as a Dolby Digital 2.0 192 kbps mono audio track in Spanish and French. I listened to the English track and very briefly sampled each of the other tracks.

    The dialogue is always clear and easy to understand but during a number of scenes it is a little soft. If you are listening to the movie at low levels you may find yourself turning the volume up at a number of points.

    At no stage in the mix were any audio sync problems or dropouts detected.

    The score by John Williams is used extensively throughout and is very typical of his work, supporting the on-screen action very well.

    The surround channels are used extensively throughout the transfer providing an excellent enveloping soundfield. The surround effects utilised in the transfer do not appear to have much directionality and the transfer appears to be very similar to the original surround mix. The sub channel is used for supporting the score and sound effects and never draws attention to itself.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use



    The non animated menu is 16x9 enhanced and has also been encoded with 4x3 Pan & Scan information. The result of this is that both 16x9 viewers and 4x3 viewers, including letterbox, are presented with a full screen menu.

Trailer (3:27)

   The trailer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 with a Dolby Digital 2.0 192 kbps soundtrack and English, French and German subtitles. Significant film artefacts can be seen throughout the trailer.

Cast and Crew Biographies

   Biographies and selected filmographies are provided for Sissy Spacek, Mel Gibson, Scott Glenn and director Mark Rydell.

Production Notes

   A series of eight pages of information is provided detailing work on the film. This covers subjects such as the filming locations and the design of the flood scenes.

R4 vs R1

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

    Other than a difference in audio and subtitle choices, both versions of this film appear to be identical and I therefore would have no preference for either version.


    The River is a film that should appeal to a number of viewers and many Australian farmers will undoubtedly be able to easily relate to the story.

    The video transfer shows no significant problems but the aliasing and film artefacts are a little disappointing.

    The audio transfer for this film is very good and supports the on-screen action well.

    The minimal extras provided are reasonable quality and provide a little insight to the making of the film.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Anthony Kable (read my bio)
Wednesday, July 11, 2001
Review Equipment
DVDToshiba 1200, using S-Video output
DisplaySony KP-E41SN11. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationFront left/right: ME75b; Center: DA50ES; rear left/right: DA50ES; subwoofer: NAD 2600 (Bridged)
SpeakersFront left/right: VAF DC-X; Center: VAF DC-6; rear left/right: VAF DC-7; subwoofer: Custom NHT-1259

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