Guarding Tess (1994)

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Released 29-Apr-2002

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Comedy Theatrical Trailer
Trailer-It Could Happen To You; Peggy Sue Got Married
Trailer-Mrs. Winterbourne
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1994
Running Time 91:37
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Hugh Wilson

Sony Pictures Home Entertain
Starring Nicolas Cage
Shirley MacLaine
Case Soft Brackley-Transp
RPI $34.95 Music Michael Convertino

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
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 Yes

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

Plot Synopsis

    Guarding Tess is a wonderful film with superb acting, great characters and a good storyline. Nicolas Cage and Shirley MacLaine both do a wonderful job in this film, as do the supporting cast. The script has just the right balance of pathos and comedy, with a little bit of action and tension thrown in for good luck. As you can tell, I liked this film, as did the group that watched it with me. Whenever I have a movie night, a wide range of people come along and finding a film that will keep everyone happy is sometimes a little difficult. This film fit the bill perfectly.

    Nicolas Cage plays Doug Chesnic, a much put-upon 'Special Agent in Charge' with the Secret Service, who has pulled what is regarded as one of the worst assignments possible, that of guarding the widowed wife of a past president out in the sticks. There is really no action or threat to the ex-first lady, and the assigned agents end up basically as glorified house servants, required to fetch the golf balls when they go off the fairway and other such dangerous activities.

    Doug has reached the end of his three year tour and heads back to Washington hoping, in fact praying, for a better assignment, somewhere where there is a chance that he might be shot at. When he arrives back in the director's office, he discovers that Tess Carlisle (Shirley MacLaine) has contacted the president himself and asked that Doug return and continue his old assignment. To say that he is upset by this is an understatement of grand proportions. When he returns, he attempts to show his displeasure by trying to run the security detail by the book - no more fetching golf balls - but of course he is way out of his depth. A personal call from the president soon has him back in line.

    While the sparks fly between these two strong personalities, someone is planning to kidnap Tess and hold her for ransom. Unfortunately, due to Tess' idiosyncrasies they succeed and the search is on. Embarrassed by their failure to guard their charge correctly, and pushed to one side by the heavies that come in to take over the investigation, Doug and his team hit rock bottom. Whether they redeem themselves is the story for the rest of the film and is well worth watching.

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

Transfer Quality


    Unfortunately, this video transfer is somewhat disappointing with some problems in the brightness and contrast departments.

    The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, which is acceptably close to the original 1.85:1 aspect ratio and it is 16x9 enhanced.

    Sharpness is pretty good throughout the film. The blacks are not quite 100% black but a very dark grey and shadow detail is a little disappointing as seen at 5:11 where the director's black suit is almost completely black. The contrast in many scenes seems very compressed, and this along with the poor black level makes many scenes look very drab and underexposed. There is only a tiny, almost subliminal amount of low level noise present.

    Colours are sometimes affected by the lack of brightness range and at other times are startlingly bright, particularly reds. There is no noise in the colours.

    There are no obvious MPEG artefacts present other than some very minor pixelization in some backgrounds. There is a small amount of edge enhancement such as the edge of the man's jacket at 5:00. There is a subtle but visible telecine wobble present throughout the entire film. One interesting artefact is the pan across the television set at 12:33 - the TV image splits quite severely as the camera pans past. Interestingly, the effect is not visible when you pause and single step. The film master is relatively free of grain and other marks or scratches.

    The English subtitles are accurate and easy to read.

    This is a single layered disc.

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


    In contrast to the video, this is a very good audio transfer.

    There are five audio tracks on this disc, the English Dolby Digital 5.1 that I listened to as well as French, German, Italian and Spanish, all encoded as Dolby Digital 2.0 with the surround flag set.

    Dialogue quality was excellent and the audio was in sync throughout.

    The music is a lovely Irish orchestral score that suits the film very well and is thoroughly enjoyable.

    The surrounds were used in exactly the right way. The music used them to reach out and expand the soundstage. The ambience for most of the film was subtle but enveloping as befits a dialogue-driven film, but when the action starts and the helicopters are flying, there are some good surround and split effects.

    The subwoofer is handled in exactly the same manner - providing subtle foundation for most of the film but with some real slam where it correctly belongs. It came as quite a surprise, actually, which added just the right touch to the scene.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use




    A simple static menu with a picture from the film and no audio.

Theatrical Trailer (2:19)

    Presented at 1.78:1 and accompanied by a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack, this is an excellent trailer for this film, not giving away too much and accurately portraying the type of film that you will be watching.

Trailer: It Could Be You (2:15)

    Presented at 1.78:1 and accompanied by a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack with the surround flag set. The theatrical trailer for another of Nicolas Cage's early films. Interesting to see the 'coming to a theatre near you' at the end of the trailer.

Trailer: Peggy Sue Got Married (2:07)

    Presented at 1.78:1 and accompanied by a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack.

Trailer: Mrs Winterbourne (2:38)

    Presented at 1.78:1 and accompanied by a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack with the surround flag set.

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 version of this disc misses out on;

    The Region 1 version of this disc misses out on;


    Guarding Tess provides a very good night's entertainment for a wide variety of tastes. A good choice when the old argument between one group wanting an action adventure and the other group wanting something with a storyline crops up (you will note that I have been politically correct and not identified either group).

    The video quality is somewhat disappointing.

    The audio is excellent.

    There are no extras to speak of.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Terry McCracken (read my bio)
Thursday, July 04, 2002
Review Equipment
DVDSkyworth 1050p progressive scan, using RGB output
DisplaySony 1252Q CRT Projector, 254cm custom built 1.0 gain screen. Calibrated with AVIA Guide To Home Theatre. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with AVIA Guide To Home Theatre.
AmplificationSony STR-DB1070
SpeakersB&W DM305 (mains); CC3 (centre); S100 (surrounds); custom Adire Audio Tempest with Redgum plate amp (subwoofer)

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