Lethal Weapon (1987)
|Year Of Production||1987|
|RSDL / Flipper||No/No||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||2,4||Directed By||Richard Donner|
Warner Home Video
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||
English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||1.78:1|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.85:1||Miscellaneous|
English for the Hearing Impaired
Italian for the Hearing Impaired
|Annoying Product Placement||Yes, very mildly|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
Anyway, I'll continue with my description of the plot. Together, Riggs and Murtaugh investigate the somewhat mysterious death of a young prostitute named Amanda. As luck and a good script would have it, this particular prostitute is the daughter of Michael Hunsaker (Tom Atkins), a man who saved Murtaugh's life in Vietnam on one occasion. As a further matter of fact, this same man is rather heavily involved in a drug-running ring with other Vietnam vets being led by a man credited only as The General (the character's full name is General Peter McAllister, and he is played rather woodenly by Mitchell Ryan). His lieutenant, who is only known throughout the film as Mister Joshua (Gary Busey), is like a vicious sort of Anti-Riggs. The climactic fight sequences in the last twenty minutes of the film are especially enhanced by his presence. However, nothing in the film compares to the sequence in which The General, after having lost his driver to a bullet and having been hit by a bus, finds himself trapped in a wreck with several about-to-detonate grenades. Thrills and spills might not quite come in abundance with this film, but when they do come, they're very intense. Did I also mention that this instalment has the best story line?
The film is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 with 16x9 enhancement.
Given the film's age, this transfer is remarkably free of artefacts. The occasional speck of dirt shows up on the negatives here and there, and there's that lovely speck of water on the lens of the camera to give away the age of the film, but otherwise, this is an excellent transfer. Apart from a line on the film at 64:05, film artefacts went unnoticed. The most telltale sign of the film's age lies in the lighting setup, where flares from the sun show up regularly, and Mel Gibson's hairdo (of course). If haircuts and technology were truly timeless, then one would be forgiven for thinking that they were looking at a film of very recent vintage. Shadow detail is remarkable for a film of this age, as is the sharpness and the lack of low level noise. Most of the details that were lost in darkness on the VCR version of the film have been rescued from the depths on this DVD. This makes Warner Brothers' failures with other Lethal Weapon films, and other films from the mid-to-late eighties, all the more frustrating. Film-to-video artefacts were mild, coming from the usual suspects. The occasional car grille showed a little aliasing here and there, as one would reasonably expect. It was rather hard for me to tell if the occasional losses of definition in background details were bona fide artefacts or just hangovers from the 1987 photography (it's more likely to be the latter). However, when all is said and done, this film has come out exceptionally well from the digital treatment. The only sequence in which the quality of the photography is not optimal is the climactic hand-to-hand fight between Riggs and Mr. Joshua, and this is only because clarity was a secondary consideration when it was originally photographed.
(Addendum March 27, 2000: One moderate MPEG artefact occurs during the conversation between Martin and Roger after the dinner with the Murtaughs, at 47:28. It consists of some pixellation on the screen that may or may not be a digital dropout. This only occurs for half a second at most, and is not enough to deduct points over in spite of its noticeability.)
Like a lot of Warner Brothers titles, the subtitles only bear a passing relation to the actual dialogue. While they are helpful during moments when the dialogue isn't quite meant to be understood, they are otherwise a pain. The subtitles are offered in a choice of English, French, Italian, Dutch, Arabic, Spanish, Portuguese, German, Romanian, Bulgarian, English for the Hearing Impaired, and Italian for the Hearing Impaired. Would it really be asking too much, Warners, for subtitles that are fully concurrent with the screenplay?
Audio sync doesn't appear to be a problem on my trusty Grundig, although it appears that a lot of allowances were made in the principal photography of the film for any such difficulties. A lot of the speech occurs when the principal characters are off-screen, obscured by props, or in the midst of rapid movements. The only times when this doesn't occur was during the introduction of the characters, and the classic dinner sequence. However, a problem avoided during principal photography is perfectly fine as it won't stick out like aliasing during the non 16x9 enhanced version of The Thing. The surround channels were mainly used to support the music and special effects. The subwoofer worked hard to support the gunshots, explosions, impacts, and music. In other words, it got a reasonable amount of exercise from start to finish.
The score music by Michael Kamen and Eric Clapton is very good for contemporary music applied to film. It is difficult to imagine the Lethal Weapon series without it, although it still fails the ultimate test of film music - making the listener unable to believe that either the music or the film existed before one another. In any case, I've certainly heard much worse soundtrack music in my lifetime, so I'll leave this lot be.
The video quality is excellent, especially in comparison to the VHS version that hasn't been seen on store shelves for the better part of a decade. A houseguest I had over recently happily confirmed this fact by comparing a freeze-frame of Mel Gibson's buttocks with how she remembered the VHS version.
The audio quality is also excellent by virtue of comparison, especially with the Dolby Digital remix. The use of a subwoofer alone puts a floor on the sound effects that makes the film just that little bit more exciting.
Now, one would think, given how much money the Lethal Weapon franchise has made Warner Brothers, that they would be gracious enough to provide us with one measly extra. An audio commentary by Mel Gibson would have been especially welcome given how pivotal in his career this role was.
|DVD||Grundig GDV-100, using Composite output|
|Display||Panasonic 80cm. This display device is 16x9 capable.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver.|
|Amplification||Sony STR DE-835|
|Speakers||Panasonic S-J1500D x2, Sharp CP-303A x2, Sony SS-CN120 Centre Speaker, JBL Digital 10 Subwoofer|