Backdraft (1991)

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Released 19-Jul-1999

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Action Production Notes
Biographies-Cast & Crew
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1991
Running Time 132
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (63:56) Cast & Crew
Start Up Programme
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Ron Howard

Sony Pictures Home Entertain
Starring Kurt Russell
William Baldwin
Scott Glenn
Jennifer Jason Leigh
Rebecca De Mornay
Donald Sutherland
Robert De Niro
Case Brackley-Trans-No Lip
RPI $36.95 Music Hans Zimmer

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
Not 16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement Yes
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    Backdraft is a great movie about fire fighters. Stephen McCaffney (Kurt Russell) is Lieutenant of his fire station, and a superb fire fighter to boot. Brian (William Baldwin), his brother, watched their father die in a firefighting accident, and has struggled to find meaning in his life. He decides to become a fire fighter, but Stephen is intent on making it as difficult as possible for Brian to succeed.

    Brian sidesteps into fire investigation, where he accompanies Donald Rimgale (Robert De Niro) on an investigation into a series of suspicious fires. It seems as if there is a very lethal firebug on the loose.

    The story is well constructed, the characters are believable, and the special effects are stunning. This is another great movie from Ron Howard.

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Transfer Quality


    Warner Advanced Media Operations were responsible for the compression of this disc.

    This is a very disappointing transfer which should have been much better. Based on the reading I have done in regards to the Region 1 version of this disc, this transfer appears to have been taken from the same master as the previous laserdisc, and suffers significantly because of this.

    The transfer is presented at an aspect ratio that is stated to be 2.35:1, however, it does not look like it is at the correct ratio, rather it appears to be at a lesser ratio than this, and somewhere in between 2.35:1 and 1.85:1. It is not 16x9 enhanced, and this frequently shows during the transfer. This is one transfer that would have looked significantly better if it were 16x9 enhanced.

    The transfer was sharp and clear throughout, except for when it was shimmering. It lacked in detail compared with 16x9 enhanced transfers. Shadow detail was acceptable and there was no low level noise.

    The colours were rich and vibrant with lots of deeply saturated reds and oranges.

    There were no MPEG artefacts seen.

    Film-to-video artefacts consisted of a significant number of scenes with severe aliasing, almost to the point of making the disc unwatchable. Anything with fine detail in the image suffered from this artefact markedly. Take, for example, Chapter 3, where the entire image shimmers any time the image pans upwards or downwards, causing an enormous amount of distraction. This happens frequently throughout the movie, with distracting aliasing spread throughout the transfer.

    Film artefacts were rare.

    Subtitles can be selected from either the remote control or from the menu. The main menu selections are dependent on which Region the DVD player is set to, whereas the remote control allows selection of all the subtitles no matter what Region the DVD player is set to - clearly a slight authoring glitch which actually makes the disc better.

    This disc is an RSDL disc, with the layer change placed at 63:56, in a moderately intrusive position.


    The audio tracks available on this DVD are dependent on the Region that the DVD player is set to in the same way as for subtitles. As is the case with the subtitles, audio selections are selectable on-the-fly rather than only selectable through the menu system, and all audio selections are available independent of the Region setting of the player via the remote control, but not via the menu.

    There are five audio tracks on this DVD; English Dolby Digital 5.1, German Dolby Digital 2.0 surround-encoded, Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 surround-encoded, French Dolby Digital 2.0 surround-encoded, and Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 surround-encoded. I listened to the default English Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack.

    I felt that the overall level of this soundtrack was on the low side, and I increased it by 3dB to listen to it, which created a much more pleasing effect.

    Dialogue was usually clear and easy to understand, though a few words were hard to hear on occasion.

    There were no audio sync problems with this disc.

    The score by Hans Zimmer is excellent in applying the appropriate feel to the movie, though at times it sounded like it was trying just a little too hard to manipulate our emotions.

    The surround channels were used reasonably well, though there was not a lot of use of split surround effects. Action sequences were enveloping, with fire all around and subtle noises placed accurately within the sound field.

    The .1 channel received a reasonable amount of signal and helped to support the action sequences very well.


    There are only limited extras on this disc.


    The menu design is plain but effective.

Production Notes

    These are detailed, interesting and easy to read.

Cast & Crew Biographies

    These are also detailed and easy to read.

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 and Region 4 versions of this disc are equally bad and equally limited in features.


    Backdraft is a great movie presented on a sub-par DVD. The video quality of this title is so far below what it should be that I have decided that this disc warrants a place in the Hall of Shame. Don't get me wrong, this is no Dune, but we should have got a much better disc than this poor effort. Sadly, the Region 1 version appears to be no better.

    The video quality is far below what it should have been with frequent and severe aliasing detracting from the picture considerably.

    The audio quality is good.

    The extras are limited.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Michael Demtschyna (read my bio)
Tuesday, July 27, 1999
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-505, using S-Video output
DisplayLoewe Art-95 (95cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 576i (PAL).
Audio DecoderDenon AVD-2000 Dolby Digital decoder. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
Amplification2 x EA Playmaster 100W per channel stereo amplifiers for Left, Right, Left Rear and Right Rear; Philips 360 50W per channel stereo amplifier for Centre and Subwoofer
SpeakersPhilips S2000 speakers for Left, Right; Polk Audio CS-100 Centre Speaker; Apex AS-123 speakers for Left Rear and Right Rear; Yamaha B100-115SE subwoofer

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Comments (Add)
Love the movie, but the DVD is crap - Anonymous