Primary Colors (Magna Pacific) (1998)

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Released 23-Jul-2001

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Main Menu Audio & Animation-Yankee Doodle theme
Biographies-Cast & Crew-Covers the main six characters.
Interviews-Cast & Crew
Production Notes
Featurette-TV Clips (5)
Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1998
Running Time 137:30 (Case: 143)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (83:01) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Mike Nichols

Magna Home Entertainment
Starring John Travolta
Emma Thompson
Billy Bob Thornton
Kathy Bates
Adrian Lester
Case Click
RPI $29.95 Music None Given

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 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

    Primary Colors is a story about Senator Jack Stanton (John Travolta), a political candidate who is running for the Democratic Presidential Primary election. Jack firmly believes that one man can make a difference if he is elected, but his previous infidelity is coming back to haunt him. It is up to his political advisors to see that Jack jumps through the appropriate hoops and makes it to the finish line.

    As the cover says, this movie has a very Clinton feel about it, and exposes similar problems to the ones that Bill faced when trying to run his Presidential Campaign in 1992 (although there is an absence of the infamous "blue dress" fiasco, and Monica Lewinski is absent throughout). The movie is based on the book of the same title written by "Anonymous", since revealed to be Joe Klein. Joe worked for Newsweek at the time, and was well-known for his scathing attacks on Clinton in his column. Naturally, to write a book that showed politicians, and supposedly Clinton, in such a pleasant light was totally out of whack with his daily writings on the subject.

    As with anything based in the political arena, there are a lot of scandals and general back-stabbing amongst the other candidates. There are frequent clashes between the Senator and his political staff, who have a full-time job trying to keep his mind on the campaign and not chasing his next female conquest.

    In order to control any future damage that may be caused to the campaign, Libby (Kathy Bates) is called in to unearth any possible dirt on the other campaign members and to disprove any allegations made against the Senator. Libby worked for the Senator on a previous unsuccessful campaign and is well aware of his antics and the possible roadblocks they may come up against. This is where the fun begins and the movie heads towards a surprise ending.

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Transfer Quality


    The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and is 16x9 enhanced.

    The transfer quality of this movie is quite good, with sharp clean images throughout the length of the movie. Some scenes had a strong background blur whilst sharp focus was maintained on those speaking, most evident early on at 13:49. I felt that this was intentional on the part of the cinematographer, in order to maintain your focus on those talking in the scene and not to become lost in the background. I say this because at 95:48, where they all jump into the back of a van, the camera maintains focus on the three rows of seats and all of the actors' faces are clearly defined. This would have been a difficult shot to maintain clarity in, especially in a cramped area like a vehicle. There was no noticeable edge enhancement or low level noise during the entire movie.

    The colours are natural and there was no hint of any coloured tints that detracted from the image. In general, however, I felt that colours could have been a little brighter in the indoor scenes.

    No MPEG artefacts were detected in the transfer of this film, and neither was any aliasing. There were some minor film artefacts on the image at 49:33 but you would have to look very hard to find them.

    This is an RSDL disc with the layer change placed at 83:01 at the end of a scene. It was well placed and did not affect the flow of the movie.

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


    There is only a single audio track on this DVD; English Dolby Digital 5.1. Naturally, this is the audio track that I listened to.

    The dialogue was clear and legible throughout the movie and there were no audio sync problems noted, with the exception of the speech at 36:13.

    The music by Ry Cooder suits the movie and is used tastefully for the entire length of the feature. The use of a large orchestra to play the "Yankee Doodle" theme was a very effective way to give a short jingle the depth of sound that it deserves.

    The use of the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack was a little tame for my liking. Some of the crowd scenes could have used the rear channels more to give you the effect of standing in amongst the crowd rather than standing in the back row with all the noise coming from the front channels. About the only time the rear kicked in was during scenes featuring background music, and then the soundfield enveloped you to complete the "feeling" for the scene. The sub-woofer was used sparingly and blended well with the scenes. Personally I would have used the sub more at 12:04 during the plane ride because there was no dialogue and it would have given a better feel to the plane's engines.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    The extras on this disc are rather limited.


    This carries animation and a looping "Yankee Doodle".

Biographies - Cast & Crew

    The biographies are quite detailed and give a complete background on the actor as well as a full list of the movies they have previously featured in.

Cast & Crew Interviews

    I found the interviews rather boring and short. They offered little in the way of information on the movie and gave the impression that they were filmed at the last minute, purely as a space-filler.

Production Notes

    The production notes consist of several pages of text giving an explanation of how the movie was conceived, and some background information regarding the director's previous creations. I found this to be rather dull. It would have been more interesting if the Director had presented an on-screen interview about the production, rather than having to read a few paragraphs of text.

Featurette- TV Clips (5)

    This is a selection of scenes from the movie, without any voice-over or differences from the actual movie scenes. I cannot see why they have been included here.


    This contains some short uncut sections of the movie. There are also some different camera angles and funny behind-the-scenes shots of what actually appears in the actual movie.

Theatrical Trailer

    Shown in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, this trailer gives an excellent "snapshot" of the movie, albeit overselling the titillation angle somewhat.

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 DVD misses out on:

    The Region 1 version of this DVD misses out on:

    As I didn't think all that much of the extras anyway, I would say that the Region 1 and 4 are probably comparable, although the inclusion of the B-Roll on the Region 4 version of this disc is a bonus.


    Overall, I found Primary Colors enjoyable, but the frequent bad language and sexual references makes it unsuitable for family viewing. Naturally, being a movie about politics it won't suit everyone. But, at least it's more exciting that a movie about Australian politics would be. Now that would be a great cure for insomnia...

Ratings (out of 5)


© Peter Mellor (read my bio)
Friday, August 10, 2001
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer XV-DV55, using S-Video output
DisplayLoewe 72cm. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationPioneer XV-DV55
SpeakersPioneer S-DV55ST-K Satellite wall mouted 5-Speaker System; Pioneer S-DV55SW-K Powered Subwoofer

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