White Sands (1992) (NTSC)

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Released 25-Sep-2001

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Thriller Main Menu Introduction
Menu Animation & Audio
Scene Selection Anim & Audio
Theatrical Trailer
Trailer-Chill Factor; Diabolique; Pacific Heights
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1992
Running Time 100:45
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Roger Donaldson

Warner Home Video
Starring Willem Dafoe
Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio
Mickey Rourke
Samuel L. Jackson
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $34.95 Music Patrick O'Hearn

Video (NTSC) Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 480i (NTSC)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    White Sands is one of those movies that has both the basis of a fantastic plot and a collection of quality actors, but it lacks the direction and finish that is afforded to larger budget films. This production could have been so much more if a little more time was put into the plot. I felt that the ending tried to sum up too many loose ends in a few minutes and my enjoyment of the movie as a whole suffered as a result.

    The movie is about Sheriff Ray Dolezal (Willem Dafoe) who is responsible for maintaining law and order in a small sleepy town. You get the impression that his most exciting "cases" involve handing out parking tickets - that is, until he is called out to investigate a dead body in the desert. The deceased is holding a pistol and has a hole in the side of his head where he apparently shot himself. The briefcase at the scene holds a large sum of money and the sheriff wonders why someone holding a large sum of cash would want to end their life.

    Through some old-fashioned detective work, Dolezal finds out that the deceased is an undercover FBI agent and was most likely murdered. The Sheriff decides that the best way to investigate the crime further is to take on the FBI agent's identity and see where it leads him.

    His investigations steer towards a sinister weapons runner, Gorman Lennox (Mickey Rourke), and Dolezal soon realises that he is in partnership with Lennox. The FBI, headed by sting operative Greg Meeker (Samuel L. Jackson), have been trying to catch Lennox for over 2 years and start to wonder what has happened to their inside man.

    There are a lot of nice twists in the middle of the movie and it really gets you thinking as to which characters are on which side of the law. Lane Bodine, played by Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, is thrown into the mix to add further uncertainties  to the plot and to provide a romantic interest for one of the characters.

    To say any more would mean giving away too much of the plot and spoiling the show. This movie works best when you don't know what is going to happen next. Regardless, when you think you have it worked out, it changes anyway.

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Transfer Quality


    Other than poor shadow detail, the transfer quality of this movie is quite good.

    The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and is 16x9 enhanced. The transfer is NTSC formatted, so your equipment will need to be NTSC compatible to view it.

    The transfer is clear and sharp. Below average shadow detail resulted in the scenes that were shot indoors being too dark, but if you control your room lighting it will be passable. There is no detectable low level noise.

    The colours were not strong and vibrant but appeared quite natural. The cast mainly wore drab coloured clothing anyway, but the background scenes during the rare daytime shots were clear and realistic to look at. There were no irregularities with the colour rendition of this transfer.

    The only MPEG artefact noted was seen at 12:28, where the wall exhibited some mild pixelization. Aliasing is very rare and very mild when it does occur. Film artefacts are very rare and not distracting at all, other than one large film artefact that appeared for a split second at around 36:34

    The subtitles were in quite a large font and were a bit overpowering during long sentences. The subtitles also included Hearing Impaired prompts.

    The packaging for this DVD incorrectly claims that this is a Dual Layered disc. It is not.

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


    It's a shame that the audio section of the disc was not handled as well as the video was.

    The dialogue was clear and easy to understand at all times.

    Audio sync was not a problem at all with this transfer, and was completely spot on.

    The musical score by Patrick O'Hearn was well-suited to this movie. The action sequences tended to have a lot of background music which was married nicely to the on-screen action. The only criticism I would have of the music is that at times during the action sequences, I felt that the level could have been a little lower. You first notice the overpowering use of the rears during the Introduction.

    The surround channels were very aggressively used for ambience, music and for lots of special effects. Directional effects and precise sound placement were not handled very well within the soundfield. When the freezer door at the morgue is opened and closed between 10:14 and 10:23, it sounded completely unnatural. It felt as if there were actually two doors, one in front of the listener somewhere and the other behind. At 35:21, the footsteps were so loud that instead of someone walking into a room, it sounded like King Kong had entered, wearing high heels! The only place in the movie where the surround sound usage was excellent and really added to the movie was at 18:35, and that didn't last long enough.

    The subwoofer was highly active at 8:15 and 15:39 during some of the action sequences. At 16:00, it was very active for the sound of a car but an explosion at 39:06 sounded more like a child's pop gun.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    The extras are very limited and not overly impressive.


    The menu design is themed around the movie but is not 16x9 enhanced. The main menu features an animated clip from the movie and Dolby Digital 2.0 surround-encoded audio.

Theatrical Trailer

    This is of poor quality and is full of film artefacts. They really should have cleaned this up before using it. It was presented full screen and therefore not 16x9 enhanced and with Dolby Digital 2.0 surround-encoded sound.


    This covers the four main movie characters and gives an itemised list of the movies they have starred in to date.

Morgan Creek DVDs

    Short trailers are shown here for 3 more Morgan Creek movies; Chill Factor (2.35:1) , Diabolique (Full Screen) and Pacific Heights (1.85:1). They all feature Dolby Digital 2.0 surround-encoded audio.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    Both versions appear identical.


    White Sands was a good, but not a great movie.

    The video quality was quite good, but the general darkness of the transfer means that you will see more of the movie if you control ambient light when viewing this disc.

    The audio quality is unfortunately poor at times. Although the vocals are easy to hear, the rears are overused, sometimes inappropriately. The subwoofer was not well utilized.

    The extras are poor.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Peter Mellor (read my bio)
Monday, October 01, 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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