The Hunt for Red October (1990)

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Released 6-Jul-2001

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Action Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1990
Running Time 129:38
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (68:43) Cast & Crew
Start Up Programme
Region Coding 4 Directed By John McTiernan

Paramount Home Entertainment
Starring Sean Connery
Alec Baldwin
Scott Glenn
James Earl Jones
Sam Neill
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $39.95 Music Basil Poledouris

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 English for the Hearing Impaired Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    Tom Clancy has written quite a few thrillers. I think The Hunt For Red October is one of his best. At its heart is a simple concept: the Soviets have developed a new submarine - one with a silent drive system. 

    This story is set in a different world - prior to the collapse of the Soviet Union. In that world, there are two categories of submarine: hunter/killers, and boomers. The boomers are the ballistic missile submarines. Their job is to remain undetected in case they have to launch their missiles. The hunter/killers job is to locate and track the boomers, in case they have to stop them launching their missiles. A deadly game of cat and mouse. 

    The Soviets have chosen to fit this silent drive to a boomer called the Red October. That is a dangerous decision. Fitted to a hunter/killer, the silent drive would be an advantage, but not one that would dramatically alter the balance of MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction - an insane idea, but still prevalent in the US). Fitted to a boomer, the silent drive makes the boomer a first-strike weapon - as one of the characters puts it, that sub could park a couple of hundred nuclear warheads off the coast of Washington, and the first anyone would know about it would be when they detonate.

    Jack Ryan (Alec Baldwin) is an analyst working for the CIA. He has been trying to work out the details of the Red October. When it sets sail on its maiden voyage, he is asked to brief the Joint Chiefs of Staff. When most of the Soviet North Atlantic fleet sets sail after the Red October, the Joint Chiefs assume the worst - that the commander of the Red October, Marko Ramius (Sean Connery) has gone renegade, and is planning to launch his missiles. Ryan thinks differently - he suspects that Ramius may be trying to defect. Problem is, the defence department works on a "worst case" scenario.

    This is the only time Alec Baldwin played Jack Ryan. In the other two movies, Clear and Present Danger, and Patriot Games, Harrison Ford played Jack Ryan. Ford is not bad, but I think Baldwin was better. The rest of the cast in The Hunt for Red October is high calibre, too: Sean Connery plays Ramius superbly, Sam Neill is his second-in-command, James Earl Jones plays Ryan's superior, Scott Glenn is the skipper of the USN Dallas, and it goes on. Even Tim Curry as the doctor on the Red October is well cast.

    There's a technique I find very effective at the start of this movie. It begins with the submarine setting sail, and all the actors speaking Russian (with dreadful accents, I have been assured by a native speaker of Russian). When the political officer is reading from a book the camera zooms in on his mouth, and he changes from speaking Russian to speaking English. From that point onwards, the crew of the Red October speak English. I like it.

    The music at the start and end of the movie is a massed adult male choir, singing in what sounds like Russian to me (I haven't asked a Russian speaker about that bit). It sounds marvellous, and sets the mood for the movie.

    There's one thing that seemed a little wrong. They showed many of the officers on duty wearing their ribbons (showing the medals they'd won). I don't believe that it normal practice - I thought ribbons were only worn on ceremonial occasions.

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Transfer Quality


    This movie was made in 1990. For a movie that recent, I'd have expected a fairly pristine print, and an excellent transfer. I'm sorry to say that we didn't get quite what I expected.

    The movie is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and is 16x9 enhanced. That's the original aspect ratio, so full marks there. 

    The image is a little variable in sharpness. Interiors are generally quite sharp, but exteriors vary considerably, partly, I believe, to convey the weather conditions. Shadow detail is excellent on interiors, and varies with the sharpness on exteriors. There is what looks like low-level noise in some of the underwater shots, but I suspect that is a combination of film grain, and deliberate cloudiness.

    Colours are strong, where there's any colour to show. Naval uniforms are not particularly colourful, and submarines will not win interior decoration awards for daring use of colour.

    The main film artefact is film grain, and it appears mostly in exteriors. All the underwater shots exhibit noticeable film grain (possibly deliberately), as do occasional interiors. There are a few flecks and other film blemishes, but nothing especially noticeable. There is a miniscule amount of aliasing, and it is never troubling. There is some notable pixelization on some of the underwater shots, especially at 97:13, where the dark blues break up into freckled spots. There are some optical artefacts, too - lens flares caused by the prevalence of low mounted lights in naval vessels. Don't get the wrong impression, though - the artefacts, although noticeable, are never an impediment to enjoying the movie. 

    There are two subtitle tracks, although only one can be chosen from the setup screen. The default subtitle track subtitles the Russian speech only. It is provided as a subtitle track so they can use different subtitles on the English for the Hearing Impaired track - the difference being that they indicate what speech is in Russian, and what is in English. The font used is quite attractive, and easy to read; the subtitles are white, and placed in the black bar under the wide-screen image. I spot-checked the subtitles, and they seemed quite accurate. I did notice one subtitle missing, though - I distinctly remember seeing a subtitle saying "The captain has frightened them out of the water", but that subtitle was not present on this disc (the line in Russian seemed to be there, though).

    The single-sided double-layer disc is RSDL-formatted. The layer change is located at 68:43; it is not horrible, but I have seem much better.

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


    There is just one soundtrack: English Dolby Digital 5.1. With such a dizzying choice, I decided to listen to it.

    Dialogue is clear and readily understood. I didn't notice a single glitch in audio sync.

    The score is unusual. It begins and ends with massed male voices. Some of the underwater battle sequences are accompanied by percussive music - very effective. The cat and mouse is accompanied by deep slow music, which builds tension well.

    The original soundtrack may have been Dolby Stereo - that's what the credits indicate. It has been remixed into 5.1, and they have done a good job of it. The surrounds are used for the score and for ambient effects (there's lots of those in a submarine). The subwoofer is used well for the engine noises, and for the score. I rather liked the idea of the sub reproducing the sounds of a sub...

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use



    The menus are static and silent.

Theatrical Trailer

    This is presented in an aspect ratio of about 2.35:1, not 16x9 enhanced, and with Dolby Digital 5.1 sound. The trailer is a bit grainy, but it's not bad.

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 disc misses out on:

    The Region 1 disc misses out on:

    The R1 transfer is amazingly good for one without 16x9 enhancement; it seems a touch sharper, but has a few more film artefacts. Neither version is a perfect transfer, but 16x9 enhancement makes the R4 an obvious choice.


    The Hunt For Red October has an excellent plot and is presented on a decent DVD.

    The video quality is acceptable, but could have been better.

    The audio quality is excellent.

    The extra is as basic as you get.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Tony Rogers (bio-degrading: making a fool of oneself in a bio...)
Wednesday, August 29, 2001
Review Equipment
DVDArcam DV88, 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 and Right: Krix Euphonix, Centre: Krix KDX-C Rears: Krix KDX-M, Subwoofer: Krix Seismix 5

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Comments (Add)
New Jack Ryan CEs with DTS. Why No Phillip Noyce Commentaries? - Ben H (My biography. Go on have a read...)
Shonky Subtitles Sink Sub Story - THFRO- CE - John Maher REPLY POSTED
That missing sub -