Panavision - 2.35:1
2.35:1 - 16:9 - 1.37:1
Screenplay by: Tony Puryear and Walon Green
Directed by: Charles Russell
Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, James Caan, Vanessa Williams, James Coburn, Robert Pastorelli
The very first DVD I watched after picking up my player was Eraser, and I don't think I could have made a better first choice. Not only was this a terrific DVD to watch, but it was an absolutely fun film as well! The film received mixed reviews at the box office, and while I can't say how it worked on the big screen, it makes for a wonderful some viewing experience.
Directed by Charles Russell (who was also responsible for the utterly cool The Mask), the film stars box-office mega-monster Arnold Schwarzenegger as John Kruger, a U.S. District Marshal code-named "Eraser". Assigned to to the government's witness relocation program, Kruger's job is to completely wipe out any trace of informants' past lives so they can hopefully continue living. The film mostly covers his time trying to protect Lee (Vanessa Williams), an executive working for a U.S. Government weapons contractor. Lee's stolen documents proving that the company she's working for is welching on a government deal to develop and build a new futuristic superweapon, and is instead selling the product directly to terrorists (apparently the terrorists pay better than Uncle Sam...maybe this is because of current foreign exchange rates). Needless to say, not many people are happy with Lee's activities, and lots of people are out to get her. James Caan stars as Deguerin, Kruger's traitorous boss, and Caan proves that he still has what it takes to play a movie heavy. The ever-enjoyable Robert Pastorelli shows up in the opening sequences, and makes a reappearance about halfway through the film to help out Kruger and Lee. James Coburn also makes a few short appearances as well. The film is essentially composed of non-stop action sequences, surprisingly good acting for a film of this sort, and lots of stunts and special-effect sequences. One neat sequence involves a number of computer-generated crocodiles which seem to move quicker than the Tyrannosaurus in Jurassic Park.
Anyway, as I stated earlier, Eraser was a lot of fun both as a film and as a DVD. Released by Warner Bros., Eraser is presented in both a widescreen and standard versions (the widescreen version is on one side of the disc, the standard on the other). The widescreen version has been letterboxed at an approx. 2.28:1 aspect ratio, which perfectly preserves the original 2.35:1 anamorphic Panavision photography (it is also enhanced for 16:9 widescreen TVs). The image is always razor sharp and the colors are rich and crisp. The film seems to have a lot of blue lighting, and all of it is duplicated here without any color noises problems whatsoever. While I noticed no obvious digital artifacts with this transfer and nothing distracted from the overall excellent viewing experience, there was something that I wasn't quite sure of. At the very end of the film, there are a couple of shots of Arnold where he is partially obscured by a heat-distortion effect caused by rising flames (it's at 1:48:53-1:48:56 and again at 1:49:01-1:49:03) - the heat rippling looked slightly strange for a moment, and we're not sure if this is something in the original photography or an artifact of the transfer. It was by no means annoying, just something I was curious about. I hope to check out this scene on the laserdisc edition of Eraser in the near future.
As for the standard version, the film has been severely cropped and lots of picture information is missing off the sides. Scene compositions often don't make much sense, all the two-shots are completely ruined, and everything has this horrible "blown up" and cramped feeling to it...yuck! Although the standard transfer is extremely good as well, you owe it to yourself to stick with the letterboxed version instead. The same weird "heat-distortion effect" was there as well, but looked exactly the same as in the letterboxed version.
Both versions of the film are accompanied by a powerful Dolby Digital Surround soundtrack in English and French. The sound, music and effects are extremely rich, and the gunshots and explosions shoot out in every direction to bring you smack into the film with Arnold and his buddies. While both the English and French soundtracks are both great, the English tracks outshines the French. On the French, the music and most of the major sound effects are on par with the English tracks, however, the dialogue tracks echoes a little and sounds overly artificial. Also, some minor sound effects seem much more subdued. The disc has been programmed so that the two audio tracks can be instantly switched back and forth via your remote.
English, French and Spanish subtitles accompany both versions of the film, with some minor paraphrasing for long dialogue sequences. Additionally, whoever did the French and Spanish subtitles also took the time to translate much of the non-spoken on-screen text (such as text on computer monitors, etc.), although the French subtitles do it more often than the Spanish. Again, you can instantly switch between the three subtitle tracks via your remote. Standard English closed-captioning is also encoded onto the disc, but it requires the use of an external decoder.
Following both versions of the film, the DVD switches over to an identical interactive menu offering you several programming choices (which you can, of course, also go to at any time by hitting the "menu" button on your remote): scene access, language and subtitling options, a theatrical trailer, and a cast listing. Although the DVD is encoded with 44 chapter markers (listed in the packaging), the scene access option only gives you a selection of 9 main scenes to jump to, complete with a still picture and description - for any other chapters, you have to either use the "skip" button or program it in, both very easy things to accomplish. The 2m12s theatrical trailer (I believe it's the regular release trailer, not the teaser) is in excellent condition, and is presented in both letterboxed (approx. 1.71:1 aspect ratio, widescreen side) and cropped (standard side) versions. As for the cast listing, it contains short biographies and filmographies for Arnold Schwarzenegger (2 frames), James Caan (2 frames), Vanessa Williams (2 frames), James Coburn (2 frames), Robert Pastorelli (2 frames) and director Charles Russell (1 frame).
The Eraser DVD is encoded for Region 1 players only (U.S., U.S. Territories, Canada), and comes in Warner Bros. "keep case" packaging - a rather flimsy plastic and cardboard case that's a little bit bigger than your average paperback book (it's about 7-1/2" high, 5-1/2" wide, and about 1/2" thick). I would have preferred a standard jewel box to save shelf space (gee...how hard would that be, and how hard would it have been to include a multi-page booklet like CD releases?), but that's life. The inside flap contains a full listing of all 44 chapters, and the packaging includes an insert sheet featuring a "DVD Regional Coding" world area map on one side, and "Doing Right By DVD" care tips on the other. I have no idea where this disc was manufactured.
Review by Jeff Krispow
Original Review: 05/02/97
Last Updated: 08/22/97