Spies Like Us (1985) (NTSC)

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Released 30-Sep-2002

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Comedy None
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1985
Running Time 102:03
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Programme
Region Coding 1,4 Directed By John Landis

Warner Home Video
Starring Chevy Chase
Dan Aykroyd
Steve Forrest
Donna Dixon
Bernie Casey
William Prince
Tom Hatten
Frank Oz
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $24.95 Music Elmer Bernstein

Video (NTSC) Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Pan & Scan English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 480i (NTSC)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    Spies Like Us is fun! It makes no attempt to pretend to be anything but fairly silly - a farce. It's pure entertainment, but without the arch self-consciousness that afflicts some other films of its ilk. There are other films like this: Real Men (1987) (why isn't that on DVD yet?),  for instance, and perhaps we could include Stripes. Perhaps the closest film of recent times is Men In Black.

    The plot, unimportant though it is, concerns The Ace Tomato Company (a front for the CIA, or some other US quasi-government organisation) - they are working with a couple of generals (played very straight by Steve Forrest and Tom Hatten) on a secret mission. They recently lost a pair of agents, and are about to send in another pair, but they are concerned that these agents may be detected and killed as the first pair were. They decide they need a pair of decoy agents. Cue the introductions of Emmett Fitzhume (Chevy Chase) and Austin Milbarge (Dan Aykroyd) - two men who want to be agents, but are unlikely to get their wish - they seem like perfect decoys. First they must be trained (cue a series of visual gags, many of them rather funny) by the deadpan Colonel Rhombus (Bernie Casey). Then they are despatched on their mission, with no idea of what they are supposed to do...

    If you want some uncomplicated laughs, then I can recommend this movie. Shame I can't recommend this disc...

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

Transfer Quality


    I hate that black screen at the start that says: "This movie has been modified from its original version. It has been formatted to fit your screen." Rubbish! My screen is 16x9 widescreen - and I'm not the only one. Of course, this insult comes on top of being given the movie in NTSC. About the only thing they could do to make things worse would be to give us a bad transfer...

    This DVD is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, not 16x9 enhanced. The original aspect ratio was 1.85:1. The packaging labels this transfer as 1.85:1 Regular (getting our hopes up), but that seems to be Warner's code for a 1.85:1 film presented at 1.33:1.

    This image has a little softness to it - just enough to get rid of some of the aliasing. It shows rather good shadow detail, most of the time. There is a little bit of low level noise - have a look at 82:37.

    Colour is excellent - there are some nicely saturated colours on display, and no colour-related artefacts.

    There are quite a few film artefacts, though. Spots and flecks appear pretty much continuously, mostly quite small. There are some larger film artefacts, though, including some ugly scratches on the film starting around 22:16, and appearing for some seconds - perhaps a projector defect damaged the film? There's not a lot of grain to be seen, though.

    There's not a lot of aliasing (there is some), no moire, and no noticeable MPEG artefacts.

    There are no subtitles, except for a few lines that are burned into the transfer, translating a few lines in foreign languages (Russian, Pashtu).

    The disc is single-sided (the picture label is a slightly washed out replica of the cover) and single layered. There is no layer change - that's something. A single layer is ample to contain this - a movie with no extras.

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


    The soundtrack is English, Dolby Digital 2.0, but it sounds mono almost all the way through - the closing song sounds like it has a little bit of stereo separation. There is continuous soft hiss which is quite distracting. The dynamic range has been reduced in some way - I think it has been run through a compressor or a limiter. There is some minor distortion in the sound, particularly on sounds that should be fairly loud.

    The dialogue is reasonably clear. I noticed nothing in the way of audio sync issues.

    Elmer Bernstein's score is quite apt, but it is not well reproduced - the compression or limiting hurt the score more than the dialogue.

    The surrounds and subwoofer are not required by this soundtrack. Heck, for almost all of it, all you need is your centre channel.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    There are no extras.


    The menu is static and silent - it offers Jump to a Scene (30 chapter stops), or Start Movie - that's all.

R4 vs R1

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 is identical, even to the NTSC formatting.


    Spies Like Us is a fun movie which I enjoy, given shoddy treatment in DVD presentation.

    The video quality is not good, and made worse by being Pan & Scan.

    The audio quality is poor - the continuous hiss gets very wearing.

    There are no extras.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Tony Rogers (bio-degrading: making a fool of oneself in a bio...)
Thursday, September 19, 2002
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-S733A, using Component output
DisplaySony VPH-G70 CRT Projector, QuadScan Elite scaler (Tripler), ScreenTechnics 110. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationDenon AVC-A1SE
SpeakersFront Left, Centre, Right: Krix Euphonix; Rears: Krix KDX-M; Subwoofer: Krix Seismix 5

Other Reviews
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Comments (Add)
Great film - crap transfer (again) - Darren W (It's . . . just the vibe . . . of my bio)
Re: Year Of Production - DarkEye (This bio says: Death to DNR!)
Stereo effects - MitchA (read my bio)