Director's Cut

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Details At A Glance

Category Action Theatrical Trailer(s) Yes, 1
Rating Other Trailer(s) None
Year Released 1997 Commentary Tracks None
Running Time 95 minutes Other Extras Featurette - "Todd Speaks" (20 mins)
Featurette - "Making of..." (8 mins)
Featurette - untitled (5 mins)
Cast & Crew Interviews
Concept Art
Cast & Crew Biographies
RSDL/Flipper No/No
Cast & Crew
Start Up Movie
Region 4 Director Mark A. Z. Dippé

Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring John Leguizamo
Michael Jai White
Martin Sheen
Theresa Randle
Nicol Williamson
D. B. Sweeney
RRP $34.95 Music Graeme Revell

Pan & Scan/Full Frame No MPEG 5.1
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1 Dolby Digital 5.1
16x9 Enhancement Yes Soundtrack Languages English (Dolby Digital 5.1)
English (MPEG 5.1)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio 1.85:1    
Macrovision Yes    
Subtitles None    

Plot Synopsis

    Spawn is a very dark movie, both in plot and in lighting. It is based on the comic book character created by Todd McFarlane who is a very dark superhero. I note that this version of the movie is the American R-rated Director's Cut, rather than the PG-rated cinematic cut. I shudder to think of how much they would have had to cut out of this movie to tone it down to a PG rating.

    The movie opens with a prologue at an airport, where four men are killed by a way-cool rocket. We then go through some amazing titles, and the movie proper begins. We meet Al Simmons (Michael Jai White), a government killer who works for a mysterious organization called A6. Al's boss, Jason Wynn (Martin Sheen) is in league with the Devil via his representative on Earth, Clown (John Leguizamo).

    Wynn is convinced by Clown to have Al killed, and Al goes up in a blaze of fire. Five years goes past and Al awakens, as Spawn. Al has been allowed to return to Earth to see his wife, Wanda (Theresa Randle) on the basis that he will lead the armies of Hell in a fight against Heaven in return for this. It is Clown's job to ensure that this happens as Spawn regains his awareness and learns about his powers. Mixed in with this is Cogliostro (Nicol Williamson) who is trying to stop Spawn from acceding to the Devil's plans. Spawn's superpowers involve a huge red cape which appears on demand, and his armour, which can be commanded to perform some pretty incredible things.

    Rather than didactically continuing to reveal the plot, I will simply say that Spawn is a very very dark tale indeed, populated with evil, sinister characters with dubious motives, both living and dead. Clown is excellent in creating a macabre evil presence and Spawn himself has tremendous depth of character.

    Spawn is a movie which has many dazzling visual effects, but fortunately, these are used to dramatically visualize the story without being a substitute for a good strong storyline or well-developed characters, which this movie also has in abundance.

Transfer Quality


    The video transfer of this movie is excellent, with essentially nothing to complain about.

    The transfer is presented at an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, 16x9 enhanced.

    The transfer was razor sharp at all times. Shadow detail was superb with a great deal of detail to be seen in the dark areas of the picture, which is fortunate considering the frequent low level of lighting throughout this movie. No low level noise was present.

    The colours were generally clear, and somewhat on the muted side except for well-lit sequences which exhibited brilliant colour saturation with never any trace of oversaturation or colour bleeding.

    No MPEG artefacts were seen. Film-to-video artefacts were non-existent. Film artefacts were few and far between, commensurate with the recent vintage of this film.


    There are two audio tracks on this DVD. The default is English Dolby Digital 5.1. This is the track that I listened to. The other track present is an English MPEG 5.1 encoded soundtrack. It looks like Roadshow Home Entertainment are beginning to see the light at last with their default audio choice.

    Dialogue was generally clear except for Clown's dialogue which I found hard to understand, but this was more Clown's fault than the fault of the mix. A more significant problem is out-of-sync dialogue from 6:22 - 10:58. This is most of Chapter 4. Fortunately, the problem corrects itself.

    The music adds enormously to the dark and grungy atmosphere of this movie, and was suitably strident in its nature. It was aggressively mixed throughout the soundfield.

     The surround channels were heavily used for ambience, special effects and music. Frequent full-range signals emanated from the rear channels to draw you into the movie, especially with the supernatural and action sequences.

    The .1 channel was used moderately for effects and music. I personally felt that a little more could have gone into the subwoofer channel to give some scenes more impact.



    The menu on the disc is quite plain, but looks nice and is reasonably functional.

Theatrical Trailer

    The theatrical trailer is present on this disc, presented in an aspect ratio of 4:3, 16x9 enhanced (windowboxed) and with both a Dolby Digital 5.0 soundtrack and an MPEG soundtrack. This is a first for Roadshow Home Entertainment for their extras, as previously, all extras have been MPEG sound only. Dolby Digital 5.0 is quite an odd choice, since the sound appears out of the left and right channels only, but it sure beats having to reconfigure my system to hear sound.

    Unfortunately, the remainder of the extras are presented in MPEG 2.0 sound only, 4:3 windowboxed.

Todd Speaks

    The major extra of this disc is a featurette entitled Todd Speaks, which is an excellent 20 minute feature hosted by Todd McFarlane as he speaks articulately on many aspects of the movie, from the initial sales pitch, to the problem of trying to gain a PG rating for the movie. This is very interesting material.

Making of...

    This is an 8-minute featurette which variably consists of uncommented video of the principal photography and commented discussion of the special effects. The second half of this featurette is far more interesting than the first half.

Untitled Featurette

    This is a 5-minute featurette, consisting of shots from the trailer interspersed with production shots and cast and crew interviews, as seems to be standard on Roadshow Home Entertainment discs.

Cast & Crew Interviews

    A good helping of Cast & Crew interviews, presented in the usual Roadshow Home Entertainment 30 second snippet format is present. As always, it would be better if they were presented as more continuous interviews rather than being chopped up like this. I would have also preferred sequential menus so that a simple press of the Enter key could have stepped you through the interviews rather than having to press the down key so much often.

Concept Art

    This is a series of 8 stills of concept drawings for Spawn.

Cast & Crew Biographies

    Quite extensive Cast & Crew Biographies round out the extras on this disc. I like the fact that you can advance sequentially through all of these screens simply by pressing the Enter key rather than by having to select each cast or crew member separately. This is good menu design which would be nice to see in the Interviews section as well.


    Spawn is quite different to what I expected. I expected somewhat of a martial arts movie, but got something I enjoyed far more - a dark, atmospheric piece with stunning visual effects and with an intriguing storyline.

    The video quality is excellent, and basically faultless.

    The audio quality is very good with aggressive surround effects, but Clown is quite hard to hear which is a bit of a problem since he has a lot of important dialogue, and a small section of the movie is out of audio sync.

    The extras are excellent, particularly the featurette with Todd McFarlane, and the only extra which would have been nice to have in addition to what has been provided would have been a director's commentary track.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Michael Demtschyna
28th December 1998

Review Equipment
DVD Pioneer DV-505, using S-Video output
Display Loewe Art-95 95cm direct view CRT in 16:9 mode, via the S-Video input. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Audio Decoder Denon AVD-2000 Dolby Digital AddOn Decoder, used as a standalone processor. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Amplification 2 x EA Playmaster 100W per channel stereo amplifiers for Left, Right, Left Rear and Right Rear; Philips 360 50W per channel stereo amplifier for Centre and Subwoofer
Speakers Philips S2000 speakers for Left, Right; Polk Audio CS-100 Centre Speaker; Apex AS-123 speakers for Left Rear and Right Rear; Yamaha B100-115SE subwoofer
have checked out my opinion of this DVD since 28th December 1998.