Details At A Glance

Category Thriller/Horror Theatrical Trailer(s) Yes, 1 - 1.33:1, not 16x9, Dolby Digital 2.0
Rating Other Trailer(s) None
Year Released 1994 Commentary Tracks None
Running Time 120:16 minutes Other Extras None
RSDL/Flipper No/No
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region 4 Director Mike Nichols

Columbia TriStar
Starring Jack Nicholson
Michelle Pfeiffer
James Spader
Kate Nelligan
Christopher Plummer
Case Transparent Amaray
RRP $34.95 Music Ennio Morricone

Pan & Scan/Full Frame No MPEG None
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1 Dolby Digital 5.1
16x9 Enhancement Yes Soundtrack Languages English (Dolby Digital 2.0 , 192 Kb/s)
English (Dolby Digital 5.1, 384 Kb/s) 
French (Dolby Digital 2.0 , 192 Kb/s)
French (Dolby Digital 5.1, 384 Kb/s)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
Macrovision Yes Smoking Yes
Subtitles English
Annoying Product Placement Yes, mildly
Action In or After Credits No

Plot Synopsis

    The third of Columbia TriStar's back catalogue discs to hit the player, and this time the quality does slip a little. A retelling of the classic werewolf story, long a staple of the genre, albeit a not necessarily remarkable one.

    On his way back by car from Vermont in some suitably poor wintery weather, publishing house editor in chief William Randall (Jack Nicholson) hits a wolf standing in the road. Getting out of his car to check the animal, which he thinks is dead, William is bitten by the wolf, which runs off into the night. The bite has some rather unusual effects upon William, which manifest themselves later. The publishing house he works for is being taken over and at a party held at the new boss' house, William has a little meeting with his new boss Raymond Alden (Christopher Plummer), during which he is effectively sacked, having been usurped by his ass kissing protégé, Stewart Swinton (James Spader). After receiving the unpleasant news, William during a little "turn" meets Laura Alden (Michelle Pfeiffer), the boss' daughter. The effects of the bite start manifesting themselves in a number of ways, as William's wife Charlotte (Kate Nelligan) soon finds out, first through an unexpected (and unseen) night of passion and later by William tracking her down at her lover's place - Stewart Swinton in point of fact. Other manifestations include increased hearing acuity, improved vision and a preference for attacking unsuspecting victims in Central Park at night. Things start to get a little out of hand as William effects a coup d'etat to usurp Stewart from the publishing house in revenge for having his wife, whilst also taking up in a passionate engagement with Laura. Unfortunately, he bites Stewart along the way, who then also begins the transition towards werewolf. Needless to say, we head for a showdown between the two werewolves, with New York's finest in hot pursuit as they try to solve five grizzly (well, wolfy) murders, including that of Charlotte. One wins, one loses, one new werewolf emerges and New York's finest are no closer to having a tangible arrest.

    It may be a classic tale, but if you have ever seen some of those old thirties horror films, you will no doubt know that the stories were never the best parts of the films. Same here. Character development is a little poor, given the two hours available, and this relies upon the acting talents of a quite distinguished cast to make it all work, to a fashion. This is the sort of role that Jack Nicholson was born to play, and even though this is not the best performance that he has ever given, it is still a very convincing job. Michelle Pfeiffer, as the love interest, is a little inconsistent in the portrayal of her role, but again she does a reasonably convincing job. Christopher Plummer does a good job as the hard nosed business man, in a limited role, and as usual James Spader plays the ass kissing protégé very well indeed, although his demonic efforts as the second werewolf are not so convincing. Some rather clever effects work helps the film along, but overall I would have to say that this is not the best film Mike Nichols has ever put together.

Transfer Quality


    Well after twelve months, this transfer is not standing up quite so well.

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

    The transfer is reasonably sharp throughout, but seems to lack a consistency to it; some parts are very good, whereas others seem to be very slightly out of focus. It is not an especially clear transfer and lacks a little sparkle in the definition. This is probably all a reflection of the relatively dark nature of the transfer intended by Mike Nichols. Shadow detail is generally good throughout, despite large sections of the film being shot in the dark.

    This is not a vibrant transfer, and the colours come up with quite a dark tone to them. Colours have been consistently rendered and there is nothing too unnatural about the look of the film. Oversaturation of colours and bleeding was not a problem at all, except for a hint of a problem with the red hallway at around the 55:30 mark.

    There did not seem to be any significant MPEG artefacts, apart from some slight loss of resolution in some panning shots early on in the film. Unfortunately, film-to-video artefacts were quite prevalent in the form of shimmer, especially during the various shots in the publishing house offices, where the venetian blinds and books caused particular problems. These did detract somewhat from the film as they were a little difficult to ignore. Film artefacts were also quite prevalent during the film, although these were never especially intrusive.


    The overall audio transfer does leave a little to be desired.

    There are four audio tracks on the disc: the default English Dolby Digital 2.0 surround encoded soundtrack, an English Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack, a French Dolby Digital 2.0 surround encoded soundtrack and a French Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. I listened to the English Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack, but sampled bits of all the others.

    The dialogue was clear and easy to understand throughout.

    Audio sync did not appear to be a problem with the transfer.

    The music score comes from Ennio Morricone, and it is the sort of thing that he composes in his sleep: not especially memorable, but contributes well to the film.

    This is something of a problematic soundtrack, as the 5.1 soundtrack seemed to be a little recessed, sounding quite muddy at times I felt. The 2.0 soundtrack seemed much more open and seemed to suit the film much better. The 5.1 soundtrack did not make great use of the surround channels, and overall there was not as much detail as I would have expected. The lack of an ethereal quality to the soundtrack was especially noted during the night scenes, like with the wolf howling. Not an especially convincing sound picture and you do not really seem to be a part of it.

    The bass channel got minimal use, mainly during action scenes where the bass made a reasonable contribution to the action.


    One of the early attempts to move away from nothing, although the trailer is not especially noteworthy.


    A decently themed menu, although lacking enhancement of any kind.

Theatrical Trailer

R4 vs R1

    The Region 4 version of this disc misses out on:     Unless the need for a pan and scan version is overwhelming, there again seems little reason to prefer one version to the other.


    Wolf is not too bad an attempt at an updated werewolf story, but is let down by a slightly disappointing (by Columbia TriStar's lofty standards) video transfer and a problematic 5.1 audio soundtrack.

    The video quality is good, but not much more.

    The audio quality is good, if a little lacking in the 5.1 mix.

    The extras package still needs to be worked upon.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Ian Morris
1st November 1999

Review Equipment
DVD Pioneer DV-515; S-video output
Display Sony Trinitron Wega 84cm. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Audio Decoder Built in
Amplification Yamaha RXV-795. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Speakers Energy Speakers: centre EXLC; left and right EXLR; and subwoofer ES-12XL