F/X (1986)

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Released 14-Feb-2001

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Thriller Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1986
Running Time 103:53 (Case: 102)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (55:01) Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Robert Mandel
Studio
Distributor

Twentieth Century Fox
Starring Bryan Brown
Brian Dennehy
Diane Venora
Cliff DeYoung
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $36.95 Music Bill Conti


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
Not 16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
English for the Hearing Impaired
German
German for the Hearing Impaired
French
Dutch
Swedish
Finnish
Norwegian
Danish
Portuguese
Polish
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

     Rollie Tyler (Bryan Brown) is an expatriate Australian forced to work overseas when his association with a controversial horror film, Vermin From Venus, sees him deported from the country. Rollie ends up in America where his special effects genius is appreciated. He has formed his own company where he and his assistant work freelance on whatever films come their way. Given his reputation as a great effects man, Rollie isn't often out of work. While working on set one day, Rollie is visited by a man who calls himself Joe Lightner (Cliff De Young). Lighter claims to be a well-financed producer who is looking for a good effects man for his upcoming movie. Rollie is of course interested and sets up a meeting with Lightner for the next day.

    The next day arrives and Lightner meets Rollie in his workshop where it is revealed that Lightner is in fact an agent for the U.S. Justice Department whose name is Martin Lipton. Lipton is a part of the Witness Relocation Program whose job it is to protect people who are going to testify against dangerous crime figures. Lipton goes on to explain that a well-known crime figure, Nicholas DeFranco (Jerry Orbach), is in their custody and is willing to testify against the mob provided he is protected. Their problem is that a price has already been put on DeFranco's head and the chances of him staying alive under those circumstances are slim. Lipton wants to hire Rollie to stage a fake assassination of DeFranco so that the mob thinks he is dead and thus increasing his chances of staying alive. Rollie is at first not interested but is later manipulated by Lipton and his boss Mason (Mason Adams) into agreeing.

    Rollie meets with DeFranco and Lipton so that he can begin the process of creating the makeup effects required for the fake assassination. This requires the creation of a face mask and other pieces which will take fake blood packs that will be remotely burst fooling onlookers into thinking that DeFranco is being shot. Knowing that the assassination must look as real as possible, Rollie tells Mason and Lipton that he will be the gunman and prepares himself for his performance.

    The "hit" is to take place in a crowded restaurant to ensure that there are a good number of witnesses. Rollie enters and walks to DeFranco's table. After a brief nod, Rollie opens fire - blam, blam, blam, blam, blam, blam - six shots are fired into DeFranco who falls, covered in blood, onto the next table and thence onto the floor. Rollie runs from the restaurant and straight into a getaway car containing Lipton and a driver. Rollie is relieved - as he says to Lipton, "It was great! I shot him in the middle of his shrimp!". Suddenly Rollie notices that there is plastic covering the back seat of the car and asks Lipton why. Lipton replies that "I didn't want to get any stains on the seat" and turns and points a gun at Rollie's head. A struggle ensues and the driver is accidentally shot. The car swerves across the road and crashes. Rollie escapes from the car and runs into the night. What has gone wrong? Did he really shoot DeFranco or was it the stunt as planned? Why did Lipton want to kill him? Rent or buy the movie to find out!

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Transfer Quality

Video

    This DVD contains a 1.85:1 (measured) video transfer that is NOT 16x9 enhanced.

    The level of sharpness revealed by this transfer is adequate for a disc without 16x9 enhancement. The amount of fine detail resolved  is better than VHS video but some way short of the better 16x9 transfers out there. It is also slightly variable. At 11:17-11:22 it isn't  particularly good with the label on a wine bottle near Rollie unreadable. At 59:03-59:21, none of the actors sitting around Mason's desk appear in sharp focus although this could have been a depth-of-field problem during filming rather than a transfer issue. At other times it is quite good. See 43:54-44:00 and 63:55-65:22. The black level in this film is good while shadow detail is only adequate.

    The level of colour saturation is fine, perhaps a tiny but subdued, but I'm being quite picky in mentioning this. Perhaps the 14+ years that have elapsed since this film was shot has just affected the colour slightly. Anyway, good examples of the colour level in this transfer can be found at 63:55-65:22. Skin tones are quite natural-looking and remain consistent throughout the movie. See 3:18-3:50 and 63:55-65:22 for examples.

    MPEG artefacts rear their ugly head in this transfer and take the form of pixelization. It is never really obvious and is not a distraction but is present in a larger number of scenes than one would like. See 2:00-2:08, 3:24-3:48, 13:46-13:55 and 62:43-62:51 for examples. The level of grain is quite good but becomes obvious in some scenes, especially where the sky is shown. See 48:43-48:50, 65:22-65:36  and 100:11-100:21 for examples.

    I found some film-to-video artefacts which took the form of aliasing, telecine wobble and moiré effects. Despite the lack of 16x9 enhancement, aliasing and moiré effects are fairly well-controlled. They do appear often but when compared to say The Thing, they are minor and easily tolerated. I've noted the following occurrences of aliasing for you to examine -  12:42-12:50, 17:25-17:31, 51:15-51:18 and 60:18-60:31. Moiré effects can be sampled at 6:36-6:42 and 81:10-81:33. There was some minor telecine wobble during the opening credits which settles down once the film reaches about the 1:44 mark. Film artefacts appear quite often but are normally small and unobtrusive. See 1:10-2:15, 26:06-26:08, 57:20-57:21 and 62:32-62:43 for typical examples.

    This is an RSDL disc with the layer change occurring at 55:01. It is placed during a scene and is obvious due to the loss of audio at that point. My player managed to negotiate the change within a second but someone unfamiliar with DVD disc technology would find this quite distracting.

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

Audio

    There are three audio tracks present on this disc. One is in English and the others are in German and French. All are Dolby Digital 2.0 surround-encoded tracks with a 192 Kb/s bitrate. I listened to the main English track.

    The audio transfer present on this disc has a dated sound to it. Some of the gun shots during the opening scene sound like they have been lifted from an early James Bond movie. They also lack any "bite".

    Dialogue is always clear but sounds somewhat unnatural. It sounds as if most dialogue was recorded post filming and inserted at that point. I noted one brief moment of distortion when Mason raises his voice while on the phone. This can be found at 33:42.

    The score on this film is by Bill Conti, and a workman-like score it is, too. It does its job without being fancy but, to me, uses too many clichéd thriller themes for comfort.

    The surrounds are used primarily to carry the score but also carry ambient sounds during several scenes. A good example of the use of surrounds for carrying the score can be heard during the opening titles. You can sample their use for carrying ambient sounds at 7:41-8:28 and 27:47-28:05. Surround effects are also present but are not always that convincing. You can find examples at 7:41-8:28, 28:05-28:16 30:16-30:24 and 87:57-87:59.

   The subwoofer is used to support both the score and the effects but it is only active in a few places. When it does kick in, it is well used.

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

Extras

    Extras? Well there is a Theatrical Trailer - is that what you mean?

Original Theatrical Trailer (2:23)

     The release trailer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 and is not 16x9 enhanced.

    The video quality is OK but is softer and has more grain than that of the main feature. Shadow detail is also worse than that found in the main feature.

    The audio for this trailer is Dolby Digital 2.0 surround. It is similar in quality to that found in the main feature.

R4 vs R1

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

    This disc is also available in Region 1 but I had a hell of a time finding any reviews for it. I had to resort to reading reviews from sources that we don't normally use. Both reviews comment on the fact that the Region 1 disc is not 16x9 enhanced but they are less clear as to the quality of the audio. One review thought the Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo track was good while the other felt the Dolby Prologic sound had a dated sound to it and was unremarkable.

   The Region 1 version of this disc misses out on:

    The Region 4 version of this disc misses out on:      Not a hard call to make here, I'll take the local version thanks. Neither version of this film is 16x9 enhanced which makes our version the clear winner due to the superior resolution of PAL. I can't begin to imagine the horror of having to watch the NTSC version of this film - yuck!

Summary

     FX is a good movie but really only B+ in quality. It is nevertheless a pleasing way to spend a hundred minutes or so.

    The video transfer is OK but the lack of 16x9 enhancement is disappointing.

    The audio transfer has dated fidelity but is also OK.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© John Richardson (read my bio)
Friday, February 23, 2001
Review Equipment
DVDLoewe Xemix 5006DD, using RGB output
DisplayGrundig MW82-50/8. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationDenon AVR-2801
SpeakersMains and Rears: Tannoy Mercury M1. Centre: Tannoy Mercury MC. Subwoofer: Aaton SUB-120.

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