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Fox Home Entertainment presents
Predator: Collector's Edition (1987)

"There's something out there, waiting for us. And it ain't no man. We're all going to die."
- Billy (Sonny Landham)

Review By: Rich Rosell  
Published: August 09, 2004

Stars: Arnold Schwarzenegger
Other Stars: Carl Weathers, Bill Duke, Jesse Ventura, Sonny Landham, Richard Chaves, Kevin Peter Hall, Elpidia Carrillo
Director: John McTiernan

Manufacturer: DVCC
MPAA Rating: R for (violence, gore, language)
Run Time: 01h:46m:20s
Release Date: August 10, 2004
UPC: 024543115809
Genre: sci-fi


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A- BB-B+ B

DVD Review

Predator.

The badass mutha from another planet became a veritable genre icon with this noisy 1987 jungle/sci-fi/action film, and that's with just two films to its name; that is something of a real coup considering the first Predator was, on paper, an Arnold Schwarzenegger vehicle. Sure, in hindsight you can even say that this is probably one of the only sci-fi/action movies to star not one, but two future United States governors, because it's hard to not remember a cigar chomping Governor Ahnuld spitting out lines like "if it bleeds, we can kill it", or Governor Jess "ain't got time to bleed" Ventura with his handheld Gatling gun, but when the day is done it is the lasting impression of an advanced weapon savvy and dreadlocked, mandible mawed alien with shimmering powers of invisibility that stays with you the longest.

Schwarzenegger is an army major named Dutch, the crack leader of a testosterone-heavy rescue team who get called in on a secret mission in the jungles of Central America to allegedly rescue a downed chopper in guerilla territory. The mission is suspicious from the get go, especially since the film's opening sequence features an ominous alien spacecraft jettisoning a small probe toward planet Earth. The hackles of suspicion on Ahnuld's wide neck get justifiably raised when Dutch's equally muscled old pal Dillon (Carl Weathers), now a mysterious CIA operative, attaches himself to the operation. When skinned bodies begin to appear dangling from tree limbs and a sweaty female prisoner (Elpidia Carillo) starts muttering about how the jungle came alive—a "demon who makes trophies of man"—the hunters soon become the hunted.

I've seen this film countless times, and each time I see it I am even more amazed at the thinness of the plot that director John McTiernan is able to expertly juggle and pad with enough explosions, guns and brief glimpses of the title character that he is somehow able to temporarily blind viewers into thinking that maybe there's more here than there really is. In the harsh light of day, Predator isn't much more than any of countless films where secondary characters get picked off one by one until the hero is left to go mano a mano against the main villain, but McTiernan keeps the pacing moving at a quick clip. The tough guys of the rescue team, made up of Ventura, Sonny Landham, Bill Duke, Richard Chaves, and Shane Black are so one-note macho that they look like they fell out of a Sgt. Rock comic book, and it is only in this universe of McTiernan's that the visage of Ventura firing the aforementioned massive Gatling gun (nicknamed "Old Painless") from his hip almost seems believable—for a minute.

The Stan Winston Studios stellar Predator design, worn here by the late Kevin Peter Hall, is a study in efficient, and thankfully forsakes some of the usual overdone CG enhancements that have come with later films of this ilk. It's a design that holds up remarkably well (earning Winston and crew an Oscar nomination), and is probably one of their finest works, in my estimation; I still get a charge out of that magical moment when the Predator finally removes his helmet to an understandably repulsed Ahnuld.

McTiernan's film has already been released on DVD a few times, and this latest go round is a two-disc set, releasing a few short weeks before Alien vs. Predator opens in theaters. Coincidence? I don't think so.

Regardless, this is the most comprehensive release to date, with a few glossy layers of behind-the-scenes footage and current recollections from a number of cast members thrown in amidst a lackluster transfer and the same old 5.1 and DTS mixes we've heard before. The need to upgrade is iffy if you already own it, though the artwork is markedly less garish and more stylized than earlier versions.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: B

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: This collector's edition has been issued in a rather disappointing 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer, one that doesn't appear that all different (if at all) from the previous Predator DVD release, which means its fair to middlin at best. The quality of the print varies dramatically during its run, moving from a jarringly awful and grainy Fox searchlight logo opening to edge halos to frequent bouts of specking and other minor detritus. When the transfer is on its game, it looks fairly good, with its solidly reproduced fleshtones offset by often soft background coloring.

It's a tolerable transfer, but this title deserves better treatment, image-wise.

Image Transfer Grade: B-

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
MonoSpanishyes
DS 2.0Frenchyes
Dolby Digital
5.1
Englishyes
DTSEnglishyes


Audio Transfer Review: The pairing of Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS tracks is a nice touch, but it was already done on an earlier release, so we're not really getting anything new here. The good news is that they're both pretty active mixes, and though you can dicker and bicker about the subtle differences, you will likely find the DTS choice offering an enhanced .LFE channel; as a whole neither mixes over do the rumble quotient. The minimal dialogue is presentable, and the rear channels are aggressively mixed, so when the big fight sequences take place the mood is appropriately frenetic. The real winner, however, is the depth and fullness of the macho posturing of the Alan Silvestri score.

A French 2.0 surround and a mono Spanish track are also included.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+

 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 25 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
2 Other Trailer(s) featuring Alien vs Predator, Alien Quadrilogy
1 Deleted Scenes
1 Documentaries
12 Featurette(s)
1 Feature/Episode commentary by John McTiernan
Packaging: Tri-Fold Amaray with slipcase
Picture Disc
2 Discs
2-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual
Layers Switch: 01h:03m:12s

Extra Extras:
  1. Photo Gallery
  2. Text Commentary
  3. Predator Profile
Extras Review: I'm sure the real motivation for this collector's edition release is to hype the franchise for the upcoming theatrical release of Alien vs. Predator, and while this two-disc set has about the right amount of extras to make it seem well stocked, there isn't anything that really is essential, other than the good stuff that is found on Disc 1 (a John McTiernan commentary and a text commentary).

DISC ONE

McTiernan's commentary might come as something of a shock to those used to quicker paced chats, but he relates what he refers to as "a terrifying learning experience" with regard to helming Predator. McTiernan has a slow, quiet and measured delivery—almost sounding bored—but that's just the way the man talks. He may have a few silent gaps, but there is a hell of a lot of content here, and is well worth a listen if you're a die hard fan of the film.

The other interesting thing found on disc one is a surprisingly readable text commentary option, which if used, will take the place of subtitles. Hosted, as it were, by film journalist/historian Eric Lichtenfeld, this segment offers a ridiculously detailed amount of history and behind-the-scenes information from a number of key production personnel, including co-supervising sound effects editors Richard Anderson and David Stone, second unit director/stunt coordinator Craig Baxley, casting director Jackie Burch, special effects coordinator Al Di Sarro, editor Mark Helfrich, visual effects supervisor Joel Hynek, editor John Link, cinematographer Donald McAlpine and screenwriters Jim and John Thomas. Like McTiernan's commentary, this thing is info rich.

The Inside Look section includes a quick look at the upcoming Alien vs. Predator (02m:11s), focusing on the enhancements made to the creature and weapon designs, followed by the film's theatrical trailer. The section wraps with a brief peek at I, Robot (02m:25s), and is the same promotional piece that has been running in theaters for the past few months.

There is also an easy to find easter egg entitled John McTiernan on Learning Film (03m:05s) where in the director explains how learned his craft, and how an instructor at the American Film Institute had him memorize foreign films shot for shot. The short piece concludes with McTiernan extolling the virtues of storyboards.

The film itself is cut into 25 chapters, and features optional subtitles in English or Spanish.

DISC TWO

This second disc has a couple of worthwhile moments, but a lot of the pieces seem to overlap somewhat. Things kick off with "If It Bleeds, We Can Kill It": The Making of Predator (28m:46s), and McTiernan explains his intent to make an "old fashioned popcorn movie". There's a lot of brand new happy crappy remembrances here, but there is also quite a bit of behind-the-scenes production footage to almost make this acceptable. This is ultimately lightweight and fluffy, but I enjoy the movie so much it was over before I knew it.

Inside the Predator consists of seven short featurettes, looking like they were culled from leftover footage from the "If It Bleeds..." doc, and for some reason there is no Play All option available here. Classified Action (05m:21s) examines the guns and all that darn jungle shooting, while The Unseen Arnold (04m:43s) is a strokefest about what a professional and all around amazing guy Ahnuld is. Old Painless (03m:30s) is rather amusing, giving centerstage to the cartoonishly large weapon that Jesse Ventura lugs around like a peashooter, and that is followed by The Life Inside: A Tribute to Kevin Peter Hall (04m:26s), a collection of fond recollections from assorted cast and crew about the late "gentle giant" who passed away in 1991. Camouflage (04m:55s) breaks out the fine points of each soldier's face paint designs, and Welcome to the Jungle (02m:55s) discusses how they went about utilizing such a freaky and threatening jungle environ for the film. Lastly, Character Design (04m:41s) takes a brief gander at each character and their unique choice of weapons.

Predator Special FX offers a series of short pre-effects sequences, and while I'm sure fascinating to those directly involved, will probably have most other folks wondering "what was the point of including that?" Included are:
Predator Red Looking Down (:58s)
Predator Red in Jungle (:54s)
Predator Red Main Walking Layer (:17s)
Camouflage Moth Test (:36s)
Camouflage Effect Layers (01m:17s)

There is a single deleted scene, an uneventful one entitled Fleeing the Predator (01m:43s). It is in a rough cut format, with no sound effects and the audio even is missing for part of it, and is basically Arnold running like crazy in the jungle as he is pursued by you know who. There are three scenes lumped under the outtakes banner, and are in rougher condition than the solitary deleted scene, and about as interesting as the stuff in the Predator Special FX section. The three scenes, and their runtimes, are:
Chameleon (:28s)
Building a Trap (02m:12s)
Sliding Downhill (:56s)

Disc 2 concludes with Predator Profile, made up of nine screens of text and artwork explaining the dreadlocked alien's specialized weaponry, a hefty Photo Gallery of 100 images, encompassing publicity stills, behind—the—scenes and the marketing campaing and a trailer for the Alien Quadrilogy.

There are also two easily accessible easter eggs on this disc, the one of which is Stan Winston: Practical Joker (03m:02s), an this was good for a quick laugh as Winston relays a misplaced saga of revenge involving a pillowcase full of giant bullfrogs and Ahnuld. Jesse's Ultimate Goal (02m:18s) is the other barely hidden egg, and primarily consists of the ex-governor sounding more like an ex-wrestler in footage from 19878, as he pontificates on how diverse an actor he is.

Extras Grade: B

 

Final Comments

Aside from introducing one of the truly great movie villains, there isn't really all that much here story-wise; though other than the high-tech baddies in the Terminator sequels, this is probably the closest Ahnuld has come to getting his ass truly kicked. This is a thunderously loud, overly macho sci-fi/action film that ranks up there with John Carpenter's The Thing as one of those bits of Hollywood escapism that, if I catch glimpse of just once scene, I have to watch the whole damn thing.

The downside is that the iffy quality of the print reveals that it has not been put through any type of noticeable cleanup, and that is really a crime.

Recommended.

 


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