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Site created 12/15/97.

review added: 5/25/00

Sleepy Hollow
1999 (2000) - Paramount

review by Todd Doogan of The Digital Bits

Enhanced for 16x9 TVs

Sleepy Hollow Film Rating: B+

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): A/A/A+

Specs and Features

105 mins, R, letterboxed widescreen (1.85:1), 16x9 enhanced, single-sided, RSDL dual-layered (layer switch 32:45 in chapter 7), Amaray keep case packaging, Sleepy Hollow: Behind the Legend "making of" featurette, audio commentary with director Tim Burton, Reflections on Sleepy Hollow (cast and crew interviews with film clips and behind-the-scenes footage), photo gallery, cast and crew bios, production notes, 2 theatrical trailers, film-themed menu screens, scene access (19 chapters), languages: English (DD 5.1 & 2.0) and French (DD 2.0), subtitles English, Closed Captioned

You know, I don't understand why more people didn't love this movie. I saw it opening weekend, and just fell in love with it. But I read the reviews and while most critics had negative things to say about it, no one really had the same things to say about where the film supposedly went wrong. I guess people just didn't see the value in it. But then again, Tim Burton's Mars Attacks! falls into the same type of category. I watched it with famed E! Online gossip maven Anderson Jones (when he headed up Rough Cut and I was a writer over there). He violently hated it, but I was rolling in the aisles. All he could do was look at me like I was a mutant when I laughed at all the references to cult sci-fi flicks. I thought it was brilliant, Jones thought I was insane. Burton is just one of those, "Guess you had to be there" kind of filmmakers... and boy, I'm there every time.

To start off, this is not the Legend of Sleepy Hollow you remember seeing as a kid. This is more like Sleepy Hollow meets The Alienist. There are some major changes to the original Washington Irving story. First, Ichabod Crane isn't a schoolteacher in this one - he's a cop in turn of the century New York City, sent upstate to solve a series of mysterious murders. What he finds is an evil so black and malignant, that it will chill your soul. It seems that a real headless horseman is rampaging through a small town, killing all of its elder statesmen. Why? Well that's the mystery Ichabod must solve.

The charm in this film lies in Johnny Depp's portrayal of Crane. He's best described (as Burton described him in early press junkets) as this: Icabod Crane: Girl Detective. Crane is not a man's man. Nor is he a wuss. He's a prim and proper gentleman with educated ideas about how crime scene investigation should work. He's a flesh and blood kind of guy, not believing in mumbo jumbo. Just as it was in the original story, you have Katrina Van Tassel (Christina Ricci), whose role has changed a bit as well. But to go into her backstory would be reveling too much. Suffice to say that each and every performance in this film is very good and very Burtonesque. This is the perfect film for Tim and it all comes together quite nicely.

Paramount's new DVD is yet another wonderful entry in their cannon - and it's even a full-blown special edition (though it isn't labeled as such). We'll get to that in a second. Let's talk image and sound. The video was done with an anamorphic transfer and it looks beautiful. The quality in the blacks is quite strong, with nice contrast, which is important for Burton films. This is an almost black and white film and it's really stunning visually. It looks like they used a silver retention print, which is to say that the image is as rich as a bowl of chocolate mousse. If it appears almost white, don't fret - that's the look. In case you doubt it, wait until you see some blood and note how rich looking it is. The audio is also quite wonderful. It's a full-on experience with very nice bass (which comes in handy for the sound of hell horse hooves) and a good wide soundstage up front. The English audio is present in both Dolby Digital 2.0 and 5.1 and both sound great. For you Frencies out there, we got you covered in 2.0 as well.

The fact that this is a special edition is surprising, given that it's a Paramount disc. But that's a welcome change. There are two behind-the-scenes featurettes, a commentary and some other fun stuff. The commentary is very well done, with Burton in conversational mode. He's not too talkative, but what he does say sheds some light onto the way he thinks in terms of his films, which is nice. It's not too surprising to know that he's a fanboy like most of us. The documentaries are light in tone, but very well done. The first is a more official "behind the scenes" look at the making of the film, whereas the one listed as "interviews with cast and crew" is just that, but in doc form. You'll also find two trailers, a small collection of photos from the film and some well-written cast and crew bio/filmographies. It's a nice little set and I hope we see more of this sort of thing from Paramount.

Burton was made for DVD, and it's great to see him embracing the format with this title and Pee Wee's Big Adventure. I hope we see more of his films done with the same care and consideration as this one. I'm expecting this disc to fly off the shelves and it will definitely pass everyone's muster. Give it a chance if you haven't already. Just think of it as a love letter to the old Hammer Horror films, signed by Burton. Just don't lose your head. Okay... that was stupid, I know.

Todd Doogan
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