The Untouchables (1987)

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Released 7-Sep-2001

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Mob Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1987
Running Time 114:30
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (60:36) Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Programme
Region Coding 4 Directed By Brian De Palma

Paramount Home Entertainment
Starring Kevin Costner
Charles Martin Smith
Andy Garcia
Robert De Niro
Sean Connery
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $39.95 Music Ennio Morricone

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/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 Greek
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    On October 28, 1919, the American Congress enacted the National Prohibition Act - more often known as the Volstead Act. Chicago was already a lawless place with crime gangs, corrupt officials and police. The Volstead act opened up a whole new market for these gangs. Probably the most famous head of these gangs was Al Capone, the man responsible for the St. Valentine's Day Massacre. Due to corruption of the police, fear of reprisals towards witnesses and the fact that Capone was a very smart operator, he was never in any real danger of being charged with his many crimes. Enter an equally famous name on the side of law and order, Eliot Ness. In an attempt to bring Al Capone to justice, Eliot Ness was given the task of finding a group of honest men from within the Prohibition Bureau, apparently a very difficult task due to corruption. He eventually chose nine men. These became the untouchables. This group went on to bring Al Capone to justice, not for his many heinous crimes and murders, but for the act of tax avoidance!

    The Untouchables is loosely based on this story. We have Kevin Costner playing Eliot Ness, Robert De Nero playing Al Capone with consummate skill and Sean Connery as one of the band of untouchables, in this film reduced to three. The slant of the story differs somewhat from history. Eliot Ness is depicted as an honest but slightly naive officer from the treasury department sent in to catch Capone. Sean Connery's character, Malone, plays the part of an old, tough beat cop with lots of street sense. Malone becomes the 'father figure' educating Ness on the facts of life in Chicago and how to fight Capone. We follow both sides of the conflict as they battle for supremacy

    As a film The Untouchables, is thoroughly enjoyable. The cast play their parts very well and you find yourself drawn into the struggle between good and evil. There is a good balance between the drama and some lighter moments, in particular some very typical Sean Connery humour.

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Transfer Quality


    The video transfer is good but not great, which is a shame for such a great film. I found the transfer a little dark overall which exacerbated the slight lack of shadow detail.   

    We are presented with a 2.35:1 ratio transfer, which appears to be the original ratio, that is 16x9 enhanced.

    The transfer is good as far as sharpness goes, with a good level of detail visible. There was no low level noise visible. Unfortunately, shadow detail was somewhat lacking. Most noticeably on indoor and night shots, the shadows become somewhat opaque and lacking in any real detail. The transfer was a little dark overall. An interesting comparison is at 35:33 where our main characters line up for a photograph. To me, it is a little underexposed as compared to 35:38 where they show the photo that has been taken.

    The colours were good, although somewhat muted in parts but I believe this was intentional to promote a certain feel for the movie. Certainly full saturation is available as seen in the lush red carpet in the hotel where Capone lives, seen at 19:14. There was no chroma noise evident.

    There were no MPEG artefacts in this transfer nor were there any film-to-video artefacts such as aliasing or telecine wobble. There were some film artefacts noted, consisting mostly of white specs. These seem to come in flocks. There would be a period of time with no flecks, then a series of them all together, then another period with none. Examples are at 3:31, 3:44, 14:54, 21:55, 26:06 and so on. I found these a little distracting, but maybe only because I was fascinated by their unusual grouping.

    I turned on the English subtitles for a while at the start of the film. They were not the most accurate that I have seen. They often left out words that had been spoken by the character. This was probably to try and keep up with the dialogue and the omission did not drastically change the meaning. They still conveyed the meaning of what was being said.

   This is an RSDL disc with the layer change at 60:36. The scene is a tender moment between Mr and Mrs Ness. They lean forward for a kiss and as their lips touch they linger for a moment. This is actually the layer change, and a very clever one at that. If you were not looking for it, you would have missed it completely.

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


    The audio is good from a dialogue point of view, but terrible as a Dolby Digital 5.1 effort. The sound stage was totally frontal. For the first third of the film, there is no surround activity at all. I got up several times to put my ear against the speaker as I could not believe that a big film like this would not have surround activity. When the surrounds do make some very short appearances later in the film, they are at such a low level as to be unnoticeable. The subwoofer was also pretty much silent throughout the film, with nothing on the LFE track and only minor effect redirected from the other speakers. There was also a quite noticeable hiss in the centre channel, which during the third quarter becomes loud enough to be a distraction. All in all, a very poor effort.

    There are four audio tracks on this disc. The default is an English Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. There is also a French Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack, a Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 surround-encoded soundtrack and an Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 surround-encoded soundtrack. I listened to the English track and sampled the others. In particular, I checked the French Dolby Digital 5.1 track and found it to be as bad as the English.

    The dialogue quality was good and easy to understand, apart from the distraction of the hiss. The only dialogue problem was a Scotsman trying to portray an Irish cop.

    There were no transfer-related audio sync problems. There were a couple of moments where the ADR was out a little but you had to be quick to catch it.

    The music score by Ennio Morricone is great. It adds both an atmosphere appropriate for the '20s and helps to bring the story to life, dramatic where needed and tender at the right moments. This is an example of a great match between the music and the story being told, the total becoming greater than the sum.

    As previously mentioned, there very little surround presence in this soundtrack.

    As also previously mentioned, some great opportunities were missed during this film for the subwoofer to make its presence felt.


Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    The only extra is the theatrical trailer.


    The first menu presented is a language selection page with English as the default selection. Press Enter and you move onto the movie. The main menu has a static background picture with no audio.

Theatrical Trailer

    The trailer is presented in 1.85:1 and has a Dolby Digital 2.0 audio track. It is of similar quality to the main feature.

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 disc misses out on;

    The Region 1 version of this disc misses out on;

    Now normally the presence of an English Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround track on a disc with Dolby Digital 5.1 would be of no consequence, but in this case there are reports that the 2.0 Pro-Logic track may be superior to the Dolby Digital 5.1 effort. This may be a slight incentive to consider the Region 1 version of this DVD.


    If they had not attempted to produce and advertise a  Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack and simply given me the original soiundtrack, but in good condition, I may not have been as upset. It is not good to promise one thing and deliver something less. Still, The Untouchables is a great film that I enjoy watching. Kevin Costner's Eliot Ness may not be historically accurate, but it is a character he plays well.

    The video is acceptable.

    The audio is terrible.

    One extra is not enough.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Terry McCracken (read my bio)
Friday, September 07, 2001
Review Equipment
DVDSkyworth 1050p progressive scan, using RGB output
DisplaySony 1252Q CRT Projector, 254cm custom built 1.0 gain screen. Calibrated with AVIA Guide To Home Theatre. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD player. Calibrated with AVIA Guide To Home Theatre.
AmplificationSony STR GA-8ES
SpeakersB&W DM305 (mains); CC3 (centre); S100 (surrounds); custom Adire Audio Tempest with Redgum plate amp (subwoofer)

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