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Reviewed July 29th, 2001 by Brian White


Joy (or should that be “Ode to Joy”)! Fox has re-released Die Hard in a excellent 2-disc “Five Star” collection. Unlike the 1999 DVD release, the film is presented in anamorphic widescreen, with a HUGE number of extras. If you like explosions and stuff, then this is your bag, baby.

Ok, so action movies are pretty stupid. Everyone knows they're just about testosterone, and the eighties produced way too many lousy action movies in the wake of the success of the Rambo flicks. Despite all of this, I can't help but love Die Hard. Does it really break any new ground? It's certainly more violent than I remember a lot of films from back then. All of the stock action business is here: diabolical bad guy; innocent victims; American every-man hero; lean, mean German guys; and explosions. I think that the success of Die Hard, and its sequels, can be placed squarely on the shoulders of Bruce Willis. Sure the production values are great, but if it weren't for Willis' enjoyable performance, you would have had no real entry into this world. You like John McClane, and you want him to succeed despite the bad guys. Yippie-kay-yay indeed.

So, if you've never seen the flick, it's about some really bad Germans. They want to do some bad stuff at this big building in L.A. Innocent John McClane goes to the building to pick up his estranged wife, who becomes a hostage of the really bad Germans. McClane escapes the carnage and takes control of the situation, doing his best to foil the plans of the really bad Germans. This is quite a violent and even profane film, but that's fine. It's a big ball of fun. The intelligence level of the script seems skewed toward the trailer park, but then again so does McLane's wife Holly's hairdo.

How does the new DVD transfer look? I was impressed by the quality of the transfer, but there's a kind of softness to it. I don't think that the DVD authoring can be blamed for this. I believe it is either the result of the film stock used at the time or some cinematic technique. Perhaps it was the only way to make pastel clothing and big hair look good. All in all, it is blemish free, and quite clear at times. I just wish they'd have used the same film stock as Independence Day, so the disc would look even better.

As for sound, holy COW! You get both a DTS and Dolby Digital 5.1 surround mix on the disc. I used track 48, where McClane gets the hostages off of the roof, and the FBI buzz them with helicopters. Predictably, the DTS mix is louder, and more detailed, as you can really feel the bullet impacts. As per the genre, the mix is very active and entertaining.

For extras, you get it all and the kitchen sink. There are two commentary tracks: one by director John McTierman and production designer Jackson DeGovia; the second by special effects supervisor Richard Edlund. There is also a “subtitle” commentary by various cast and crew. You can gain access to a branched, extended version of one scene when watching the film.

There is even cooler stuff on disc two. Here, you can edit together a few sequences of the film by selecting the versions of the shots you want. There is also a little multi-angle feature to allow you to view some scenes from the various camera angles. There is a gag-reel, the entire script, deleted lines and sequences, newscasts, promotional material and DVD-ROM content. There is also a great little bit that preaches the glory of letterboxing which all pan & scan kids should be forced to watch. All of this is accessible through animated menus that I found a little difficult to navigate. Just try finding the gag reel.


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