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Details At A Glance

Category Drama Theatrical Trailer(s) None
Rating Other Trailer(s) None
Year Released 1996 Commentary Tracks None
Running Time 90:16  Other Extras Menu Animation 
Cast And Crew Biographies
RSDL/Flipper Flipper (alternate aspect ratio)
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region 2, 4 Director Danny Boyle

Starring Ewan McGregor 
Ewen Bremmer 
Jonny Lee Miller 
Kevin McKidd 
Robert Carlyle 
Kelly MacDonald
RRP $34.95 Music Various Artists
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Pan & Scan MPEG None
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1 Dolby Digital 5.1
16x9 Enhancement Yes Soundtrack Languages English (Dolby Digital 5.1)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio 1.66:1
Macrovision ? Smoking Yes
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired Annoying Product Placement Yes, occasionally
Action In or After Credits Yes, just after the credits start

Plot Synopsis

    Trainspotting is the story of a bunch of ultimate losers. You get three heroin addicts: Renton (Ewan McGregor in the role that really made him famous), Spud (Ewen Bremmer), Sick Boy (Jonny Lee Miller), and a sports addict who will soon become a fourth addict in the shape of Tommy (Kevin McKidd). Then there's the vicious psychopath Begbie (Robert Carlyle in a role that made him famous, too). Also along for the ride is the precocious schoolgirl vixen Diane (Kelly MacDonald). Before I go any further, I thought I'd just say that it's refreshing to see so many obviously Scottish names in the cast. Then again, this is the sort of film that the American film industry can only screw up beyond the possibility of recognition. Anyway, to make a long story short, this film is a wonderful black comedy about the self-destructive behaviour of people with seemingly nothing better to do with their lives. The way in which Renton attempts to drag himself out of the gutter, only to have his so-called friends grab him and drag him back in is something I can certainly relate to.

    There are two versions of this title doing the rounds, and they are in identical packaging, which explains some annoyances I'll get into later. The first version of this DVD to be released in Australia was the European version - uncut and with a choice of languages. Sadly, in spite of the fact that people have a right to expect that they are getting the whole thing they pay for when they buy a title, the censors in the USA, Europe, and Australia seem to all disagree. There's only two ways to tell if you have the censored version of the film. The first of these is to play the disc, as the uncut version gives you a choice of languages before it goes to the main menu. The other way is to examine the inner spindle of the disc, which is hard to read unless you look at the disc obliquely in the light. The uncensored version has the number 047 800-2 09# 50758 865 50 on the Widescreen side, and the number 047 800-2 08# 50758 883 51 on the Full Frame side. The censored version has the number 047 800-2 09# 50823 631 50 on the Widescreen side, and the number 047 800-2 08# 50823 643 51 on the Full Frame side. Should you find that you have had the censored version foisted upon you, and you're not completely happy about this, you've basically got two choices. Either get in touch with Universal to have them send you a new slick which lists only English, or have your money refunded. I strongly encourage people to take the latter solution in order to let the censors know that we don't want this sort of thing to continue.

Transfer Quality


    The video transfer of this film is pretty much the same as the VCR version, except in a higher resolution. In that sense, it carries over somewhat average shadow detail and clarity at some points, but this goes well with the addiction theme of the film. The film is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, which is slightly wider than the theatrical version. Thankfully, the film is also 16x9 enhanced, although you have to flip the disc in order to see that version of the film. I'll get to complaining about that in jig time, anyway. Getting back to the positives, the photography may not be the focus of this film, but it is presented in a clear, reasonable fashion. Unfortunately, with the exception of some shots of Scotland's natural beauty, there isn't that much in the actual photography for the eye to be dazzled by. Nonetheless, the visuals are perfectly fine, and, as the film demands at times, sickening. A Pan and Scan version is also available on the opposite side of the disc.

    As I have mentioned, this disc is a flipper, with the Pan and Scan version on one side and the 16x9 Widescreen version on the other. Given that the Widescreen side appears to display a Pan and Scan version when the player is set to Pan and Scan mode, this is patently unacceptable, especially when you consider that both versions of the film would easily fit on an dual layer disc with plenty of room to spare. I mean, a flipper for a 90 minute film that has nowhere near enough extras to fill a single-layer, single-sided disc? Polygram must be joking, surely.


    Again, the audio transfer is simply the same as your old VCR version, but in a much higher resolution. All of the audio tracks are in Dolby Digital 5.1, with a choice of English, French, and Spanish, at least according to the packaging. However, the only audio language that is actually present on the disc is English. According to the packaging, subtitles are offered in English, French, Spanish, Dutch, and English for the Hearing Impaired. However, a quick examination of the menu and a few quick presses of the subtitles button on your remote also confirms that only the last of those options is actually present. As an amusing side note, these particularly subtitles also provide the viewer with lyrics for some of the music, including Iggy Pop's immortal classic Nightclubbing. While this is amusing for those of us who aren't deaf or hard of hearing, these subtitles become a little hard to follow as a result. The fact that they are not explicit enough about which character is speaking the line in question at times doesn't help matters any. As a side note - the subtitles presented during Spud's and Tommy's conversation about their girlfriends are left on regardless because they were part of the original theatrical exhibit. The conversation in question is hard to understand without them, anyway. Unfortunately, the subtitles, even the ones actually included in the original theatrical version of the film, rarely coincide with what the characters are actually saying.

    Apart from that one moment for which subtitles are provided anyway, the dialogue is mostly easy to follow. Unless you have a major problem with Scottish accents, in which case, the English for the Hearing Impaired subtitles are a real help. Most of the characters speak in a mildly to moderately thick accent, which takes some getting used to. Audio sync isn't much of a problem with this disc, although the subtitles frequently fall behind the audio. The music, containing contemporary tunes from many well-loved (and not so well-loved) performers highlights the feel of the film quite well. The aforementioned Iggy Pop song is quite well-placed. Most of the speakers received a real workout, although the subwoofer was mostly restricted to supporting some of the music, spending the rest of the 90 minutes twiddling its thumbs.


    No real extras are present on this disc, making it even harder to justify the double-sided formatting.


    The menu is themed around the movie, and is presented in 4:3 format on the Pan and Scan side of the disc and in 16x9 enhanced mode on the 16x9 side of the disc. The main menu is simple to navigate, but is very much on the ugly side (in keeping with the ugly theme of the film, I suppose). The scene selection menu features animated clips from the film for each chapter, and it is much more functional than most menus I've seen so far. However, the lack of a Resume button in the menu made for some confusion at first. A minor (if you're not like me) annoyance is that the Play Movie option was not the default selection in the main menu, which means that a minimum of three key presses are required to start the film. However, I'll let this one slide given how much easier to use the rest of the menu is.

Cast and Crew Biographies

    A comprehensive display of biographies for most of the major players in the film are included. Some of them are very revealing and interesting, while others are simply informative. In keeping with the theme of the other menus, however, they are very bland, ugly, and generally hard on the eyes. A viewing on a 90cm set allowed me to confirm that at least the readability improves when you have a bigger television.


    As with all PolyGram DVDs, a booklet is provided with a vague plot synopsis and a list of chapters. It would have been nice if the chapter listing was a little more accessible, but I assume that if you're going to buy this film, you'll soon familiarize yourself with the chapter contents. This, however, brings me to one thing I should have a dig at PolyGram for: the packaging and disc contain two contradictory and slightly inaccurate reports of the programme length. The back cover states that the film runs for 89 minutes, while the printing on the inner ring of the disc states that the film runs for 87 minutes. A little consistency goes a long way, PolyGram.

R4 vs R1

    Believe it or not, Trainspotting is distributed in America by Disney. This alone leads me to believe that it should not be sourced from there because of my major beef with the Disney corporation. However, we have reasons with more economical substance here, which is also a good thing for comparison purposes.

    The Region 4 version of this disc misses out on;

    The Region 1 version of this disc misses out on;     As far as I am concerned, the extras for Region 4 heavily outweigh those offered in Region 1, especially given that the Region 4 version has the added bonus of 16x9 enhancement, and both versions are flippers. I believe that there are titles far worthier of importation from Region 1, anyway. You might hear more from me on this topic if Brassed Off! or The Velvet Goldmine ever get a Region 4 DVD release.


    Trainspotting is a great film with which to make faint-hearted relatives sick, presented on a good DVD.

    The video quality is little different from the VCR version, except for the massively superior resolution.

    The audio quality could be described in the same way, but to a greater extent.

    The extras may as well be non-existent.

Ratings (out of 5)

© Dean McIntosh
9th January 2000
Review Equipment
DVD Grundig GDV 100 D
Display Panasonic 51cm, 68cm, and Sony 90cm
Audio Decoder None
Amplification Sony STR-DE535
Speakers Panasonic S-J1500D x2, Sharp CP-303A  x2, Sony SS-CN120 Centre Speaker, subwoofer