Dead Man (Shock) (1995)

If you create a user account, you can add your own review of this DVD

Released 19-Jun-2001

Cover Art

This review is sponsored by

Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Western Main Menu Introduction
Main Menu Audio & Animation
Theatrical Trailer
Music Video-"Dead Man Theme"
Deleted Scenes
Trailer-Madman Propaganda Trailers
Rating Rated R
Year Of Production 1995
Running Time 116:07 (Case: 122)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (58:10) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Jim Jarmusch
Shock Entertainment
Starring Johnny Depp
Gary Farmer
Robert Mitchum
Lance Henriksen
Michael Wincott
Iggy Pop
Billy Bob Thornton
Jared Harris
Crispin Glover
Gabriel Byrne
John Hurt
Alfred Molina
Mili Avital
Case DV-4
RPI $34.95 Music Neil Young

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
Not 16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    Johnny Depp seems to be determined to spend the rest of his career working hard to get rid of his "pretty boy" image, acquired on 21 Jump Street. That, or he simply likes to choose strange movies. Don't know. Either way, Dead Man is definitely a strange movie.

    This film is set in the dying days of the old West. Johnny Depp plays a young man, an accountant, who has just spent all the money he has to catch a train from Cleveland to a small town in the West called Machine. The train ride is protracted, to emphasise to the viewer how great a distance there is between Cleveland and Machine, in miles, mores, and mindset. He arrives, and presents himself at the Dickinson Metalworks plant, expecting to take up the job as accountant that he has been promised. He finds that the job has already been filled. Without a job, and with no money, he gets involved with a girl, and in a gunfight, which leaves him wounded. He leaves town fast, on a stolen horse, and is framed for murder. He is found by a lonely Native American (we don't say Indian, now, do we?) who tries to remove the bullet, but declares it to be too close to his heart - he is a "dead man". The bulk of this movie is filled with what the dead man and his pursuers do.

    There are many deaths, all violent, many of them more than a little gruesome. There are a couple of moments I found quite distasteful. (I'm sure they'll be defended as "artistic", although I don't see a lot of "art" in cannibalism.) If you are feeling at all squeamish, I'd recommend against watching this.

    The other thing to bear in mind when deciding whether you want to watch this is your hearing. The score (by Neil Young) is loud, distorted, and grating (another "artistic" choice?) - if you have the volume up high enough to hear the dialogue you can be deafened by the score on occasions; it is certainly likely to set your teeth on edge.

    The use of black and white photography is an unnecessary affectation, but it doesn't hurt. At least the director didn't feel it necessary to fill the image with artificial film artefacts in his quest to evoke the atmosphere of the old West.

    I think this could have been an interesting film, especially with a few edits and a better score. The story is challenging, and ultimately worthwhile; it is only the incidentals that are unpleasant. Johnny Depp's performance is impressive, as has become expected. Lance Henriksen is not too easy to recognise, and very convincing. Robert Mitchum is simply going through the motions, but his part is small. Gary Farmer is strange, which is intentional; I did not believe him to be genuinely Native American (he is), but that, too, is intentional.

    There are some famous names in some of the smaller roles, names like John Hurt as the unhelpful office manager, Alfred Molina as the slimy trading post missionary, and Gabriel Byrne as the boyfriend.

    I have great difficulty with this movie - I want to suggest that you might like it, but there is so much about it to dislike. One thing I can say about it is that it is easy to keep watching (possibly in gruesome fascination). Another thing I can say is that I find this film less revolting than The Cook The Thief His Wife and Her Lover. Damned with faint praise?

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality


    The picture is presented in an aspect ratio of about 1.85:1, but it is not 16x9 enhanced. It should have been. It is black-and-white.

    The picture is generally quite sharp, with occasional momentary losses of sharpness. Shadow detail is generally a little restricted, as can be expected in back-and-white; there are a few moments with near-zero shadow detail - very contrasty. There is no low-level noise. There are periods when you can see a faint bar travelling down the picture.

    Colour? Nope.

    There are some film artefacts, mostly negligible, although there's a nasty little mark at 22:27. There are tiny traces of aliasing, and moire, but they are not troubling. There's quite a bit of light shimmer in the backgrounds. The nasty problem in this transfer is a couple of ugly MPEG artefacts: at 70:03 (top fifth of the screen obscured) and 70:06 (top third of the picture covered); with the state of the art in DVD production it is really difficult to accept that such errors still get through to pressing.

    There are no subtitles.

    The disc is single-sided and dual layered (RSDL-formatted). The layer change is placed at 58:10. The screen has faded to black, and the soundtrack faded to silence - makes it rather hard to spot the layer change.

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


    There is a single soundtrack, in English Dolby Digital 2.0.

    The dialogue is not too easy to understand. At times it is obscured by the score. At times it is very quiet - possibly by design. There are no audio sync problems, though.

    The score is a mix of acoustic and electric guitar, mostly electric. Much of the electric guitar is distorted; a lot of it excessively distorted, and too loud for comfort. At some points (especially around 106:55) the sound is horribly distorted, jangly, and discordant. It might be Neil Young, but it is unpleasant.

    The soundtrack is straight stereo, no surround encoding, so the surrounds and subwoofer are inactive.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use



    The menus are animated, with interesting transitions, and more of the unpleasant score. The menu design is quite stylish, and well-themed to the movie.

Trailer (2:34)

    Presented in exactly the same form as the movie.

Music Video (3:20)

    Even more of the discordant stuff that is the score, presented with some pretentious grainy film.

Outtakes / Deleted Scenes (16:22)

    Lots of hiss on the soundtrack. Easy to see why these were deleted from the film - they explain too much. The outtakes with Robert Mitchum are kinda funny.


R4 vs R1

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

    The Region 1 version of this disc appears to have all the same features, but is 16x9 enhanced. I really feel that this film would benefit heavily from the enhancement, so I must recommend the Region 1.


    Dead Man is a difficult movie, presented fairly poorly on DVD.

    The video quality is mostly OK, with two ugly MPEG errors in the middle. It would have been better 16x9 enhanced.

    The audio quality is adequate.

    The extras are reasonable.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Tony Rogers (bio-degrading: making a fool of oneself in a bio...)
Wednesday, November 14, 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

Other Reviews
DVD Net - Shaun B

Comments (Add) NONE