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review added: 5/3/01



Big Trouble in Little China
Special Edition - 1986 (2001) - 20th Century Fox

review by Todd Doogan of The Digital Bits

Enhanced for 16x9 TVsEncoded with DTS & Dolby Digital 5.1 Digital Surround

Big Trouble in Little China Film Rating: B+

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

Audio Ratings (DD/DTS): B+/A-

Specs and Features

Disc One: The Film
99 mins, PG-13, letterboxed widescreen (2.35:1), 16x9 enhanced, Amaray keep case packaging, audio commentary track (with director John Carpenter and actor Kurt Russell), single-sided, RSDL dual-layered (layer switch 51:38, in chapter 24), animated film-themed menu screens with sound, scene access (44 chapters), languages: English (DD 4.1, 2.0 & DTS 5.1) and French (DD 2.0), subtitles: English, Spanish and French, Closed Captioned

Disc Two: The Supplements
NR, letterboxed widescreen (2.35:1), 16x9 enhanced, full frame (1.33:1), Amaray keep case packaging, single-sided, dual-layered (no layer switch), 3 theatrical trailers, 5 TV spots, teaser trailer, 7 deleted scenes (from both work print and back-up video), storyboards for altered scene (with alternate angle of the scene used in film), extended ending, production notes, music video for Big Trouble in Little China by The Coupe DeVilles, production featurette, cast and crew filmographies, American Cinematographer and Cinefex magazine articles, video interview with visual effects supervisor Richard Edlund, stills gallery, screenshots from Activision's Big Trouble in Little China video game (1986), animated film-themed menu screens with sound, scene access (44 chapters), languages: English (DD 2.0), subtitles: none


Who doesn't love this frickin' movie? If you've seen it, it holds a special place in your heart. If you haven't seen it, well... there's no excuse for you. Big Trouble in Little China follows the adventures of Jack Burton (Kurt Russell, in one of his best roles ever), as he goes block-head to hollow-head with an ancient Chinese wizard, who is holed up underneath Chinatown waiting to take over the world. Burton's an idiot though. He's the type of man that's so self-absorbed, that he refers to himself in the third person. His days are spent hauling pigs from one coast to another to local wholesale markets (in his truck "The Porkchop Express") and waxing moronic on his CB radio. His latest trip sets him up with an old friend who, as the story unfolds, keeps getting ol' Jack deeper and deeper into trouble. But half the fun of this film is letting its wackiness unfold as you watch it. If you've ever seen Big Trouble, you know what I'm talking about. If not, pick up this disc and you'll quickly learn what I mean.

Big Trouble was made long before special effects relied on CGI and wire erasing technologies. This is an old-fashioned, chop-suey serial and it's a whoppin' fun flick. The pace is razor sharp and oh-so quick, the writing is witty and all of the effects are pretty impressive - even by today's standards.

Although it's not classified as such, this DVD is easily on par with Fox's 5 Star editions, and it should be considered as such. This two-disc special edition presents the film in a beautiful anamorphic widescreen transfer with a lot of detail and minus any unwanted blemishes (which is very important on a film this needle-point intricate). The sound is amped up to the max in both DTS 5.1 and Dolby Digital 4.1. I liked the DTS sound a bit better here, because there's more balance to it. But those of you without DTS aren't going to be disappointed with the 4.1 track.

Extras include, on Disc One, a wickedly funny audio commentary track with director John Carpenter and Russell. These guys love each other and every track they've done is wonderful. Half the time, they simply talk about their lives and it's a nice change of pace (made nicer by the fact that they actually have a lot of interesting points to make about life, Hollywood, the current state of directors, writers-turned-directors and the true meaning of the impending writer's strike). Disc Two gives us a plethora of deleted scenes (7 in total) which can be viewed either as a work print (which is slightly better viewing quality in full anamorphic widescreen) or from a back-up video which shows how the scenes fit into the final film (but isn't quite "DVD ready"). Among the deleted scenes is one that's more storyboard than actual footage, and which shows how a scene in the final film was originally imagined. It's pretty fascinating and, through alternate angles, you can compare the storyboards to the final scene as you watch. There's also an extended ending, magazine articles about the making of the film, trailers, TV spots, an interview with the visual effects supervisor Richard Edlund (in his book-strewn office), a stills gallery and a wonderfully kitschy music video for the film's theme. Yes... that's Carpenter on lead vocals. And that's the original Michael Myers on keyboard as well. Scary huh? But overall, I'd say the best thing on this DVD - the thing that makes this set most fun - is the menu design, which is pretty damn cool. It fits the film beautifully and doesn't annoy (very important). Oh... and look through the credits for an equally enjoyable Easter egg.

Just to get this classic film on DVD is reason enough for you to run out and pick this disc up when it streets. Add to that the extras on this set, and your decision should be a no brainer. The commentary track alone is worth standing in line for. Carpenter and Russell talk about getting together again for something in the near future... and I say let's have at it. These two guys are magic together and this new DVD edition of Big Trouble in Little China proves that. Do check it out.

Todd Doogan
todddoogan@thedigitalbits.com




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