When the Bough Breaks (1993)

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Released 7-Dec-2001

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Menu Animation & Audio
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1993
Running Time 97:55
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Michael Cohn
Prism Pictures
Beyond Home Entertainment
Starring Ally Walker
Martin Sheen
Ron Perlman
Robert Knepper
Tara Subkoff
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $19.95 Music Ed Tomney

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Screen, not known whether Pan & Scan or Full Frame English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio Unknown Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes, heavy smoking by Ally Walker
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    When you look at the name When the Bough Breaks, a reference to the lullaby, you have to think that it's a baby-sitter thriller / horror film, don't you? That's certainly what I thought. I was expecting menacing phone calls, lots of screams, running through a darkened house, you know. Well, it's not. Oh, it's a thriller / horror film, but it belongs to the police-tracking-down-a-serial-killer genre.

    This movie is about a serial killer, whose activities come to light when a bag of children's hands is found. If that idea makes you queasy, then I strongly urge you not to watch this film.

    The story is told mostly from the point of view of Audrey Macleah (Ally Walker), a profiler (suspect analyst - profiler is apparently a term objectionable to the psychologists) sent from the Texas state crime division to Houston to assist in the investigation once the hands are found. Captain Swaggert (Martin Sheen) is not against her involvement, but some of the members of his team lack enthusiasm. Naturally, she makes more progress than they do (it is a Hollywood film, after all). She gets distracted by the case of a boy called Jordan (Tara Subkoff) who has been locked in a psychiatric hospital for 10 years - he has been drawing hands on the wall of his room. He suffers from bleeding from the wrists, without any apparent source of injury. She suspects that there is some link between this boy and the case she's working on...

    The three names on the cover are Ally Walker, Martin Sheen, and Ron Perlman. I don't know why they included Ron Perlman - he is in the film for about five minutes, and he gets maybe five lines - hardly a starring role.

    I have no proof, but I strongly suspect that this film was the inspiration for the TV series Profiler. Interestingly, this film was remade for TV as Perfect Prey, starring Kelly McGillis in the lead role, so you'd expect her to end up with the lead in Profiler (maybe she was too busy with her numerous other commitments). I'm not saying that Audrey Macleah is the same character as the lead in Profiler - she is far from it. Macleah is a complicated woman who smokes too much, and has unexplained scars on her back (the writer never gets around to giving us more than a slight hint as to the origin of those scars). She seems to empathise quite strongly with Jordan, and makes more progress in getting through to him than anyone has in the ten years he has been in psychiatric hospital. This is a bit more credible when you consider that she has a masters in psychology, amongst other things.

    Ultimately, this film is a little unsatisfying - the climax is a bit abrupt, and resolved too easily - almost as though they'd run out of money and had to wrap it up fast. They leave a few loose ends, but nothing too big. Those comments aside, though, it is a pretty good thriller.

    As an aside: the back cover blurb has a number of errors - it refers to Ally Walker's character as Maclesh, not Macleah; it uses "world" instead of "ward"; and shows a disregard for the use of apostrophes.

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Transfer Quality


    This is yet another film presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 and not 16x9 enhanced. I'm guessing that it is pan-and-scan, although there's no real indication whether it is pan-and-scan or open matte. The movie works OK in this aspect ratio - a big admission from me, given my prejudice in favour of widescreen presentation - this film has no wide vistas.

    The picture is fairly sharp, and quite clear. Shadow detail is excellent, and there is no low level noise.

    Colour is strong and well-saturated, where there's any colour to see - much of the production is amongst dull drab colours, which looks like a deliberate production design choice.

    There is a fair bit of aliasing, and some moire. It isn't particularly troubling, although it would have been reduced had we been given the widescreen, 16x9 enhanced transfer we deserve (had to say that!). There are moments of background shimmer, but not a whole lot. There are a few film artefacts, but they are microscopic. There is no macro-blocking. All-in-all, it is a fairly clean transfer.

    There are no subtitles.

    The disc is single-sided and single-layered: hence, no layer change.

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


    There is a single soundtrack in English. It is a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack, not surround encoded. There seems to be no stereo spread - it sounds like a 2.0 mono soundtrack.

    The dialogue is clear and easily understood; there is no sign of any audio sync problems.

    The score, by Ed Tomney, is unobtrusive. Nothing special, but it suits the film well enough.

    The surrounds and subwoofer are not called upon by this soundtrack.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use



    The menu is animated, with sound. It is quite well-themed to the movie - it is a shame that there is so little for it to offer: just play movie, and scene selection (19 Chapters).

R4 vs R1

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

    This film has not been released on DVD in Region 1. It is released in Germany, but I could not determine if they have received a full frame or widescreen transfer.


    When The Bough Breaks is a reasonable thriller, on a DVD of adequate quality.

    The video quality is OK.

    The audio quality is quite good.

    There are no extras.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Tony Rogers (bio-degrading: making a fool of oneself in a bio...)
Monday, December 31, 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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DVD Net - Anthony H (read my bio)

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