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The Crow cover

Blu-ray Reviews: The Crow

Originally published in Sound and Image, April 2011, v.24#05
Last updated 23 February 2012

The Crow
1994 - Roadshow Entertainment
Director: Alex Proyas
Starring: Brandon Lee, Rochelle Davis, Ernie Hudson, Michael Wincott, Ling Bai, Sofia Shinas, Anna Levine, David Patrick Kelly and Angel David

Movie: 4.5 Picture: 4.0 Sound: 4.0 Extras: 3.5

In 1994 Australian director Alex Proyas announced himself to the world with his movie adaptation of James O'Barr's graphic novel of revenge. In short, Brandon Lee's character Eric Draven is, along with his fiancee, brutally murdered by a gang in a dark, grimy city dominated by crime. A year passes and he returns, literally, from the grave to avenge his beloved's murder.

The graphic novel came from a dark place: O'Barr was writing in part to deal with the death of his own fiancee at the hands of a drunk driver. The movie went to a dark place, with the star Brandon Lee -- son of Bruce Lee -- being shot on set by an improperly cleared prop handgun, and dying.

And it deals with dark matters.

Until now, the way to view it in Australia was on an early DVD release, framed 4:3, with very poor blacks (mostly darkish greys, and heavily posterised). The picture quality of this Blu-ray release will win no awards, but it is quite acceptable. Roadshow has used the MPEG4 AVC codec at a relatively modest 20.00Mbps in order to fit the whole thing onto a single layer disc. It doesn't look like the movie would gain much from a higher bitrate.

The blacks could be a little deeper, but they are good enough to make the movie eminently watchable. The special effects are limited. The, ahem, dark city backgrounds seem to be mostly models, and are relatively soft in focus. The crow links scenes together by flying from place to place, but frequently appears to be pasted onto the backgrounds a little too obviously. That is the only part of this disc you will need to make a small effort to ignore.

The sound is good, and delivers the pounding rock sound track more than adequately. The hour's worth of extras are interesting, and delivered in 576i50.

Perhaps some of the popularity of this movie may be explained by the violence associated with it, but I will finish by noting that the average of the 57,400 votes in the Internet Movie Database is 7.6/10, which suggests that it isn't just me claiming this to be a fine piece of work.

Running time: 102 minutes
Picture: 1.78:1, 1080p24, MPEG4 AVC @ 20.00Mbps
Sound: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 16/48 3/2.1 @ 2285kbps (core: DTS 16/48 3/2.1 @ 1509kbps); English Audio Descriptive: Dolby Digital 2/0.0 @ 224kbps
Subtitles: English
Extras: 3 Featurettes (576i - 56 mins); Montage of deleted footage (576i - 5 mins); 3 Alternate/Extended Scenes (576i - 11 mins)
Restrictions: Rated MA (Australian rating); Locked to Region B

The following video bitrate graph was generated by BDInfo 0.5.7:

The Crow video bitrate graph

Comparison: Blu-ray vs PAL DVD

Here are some comparisons between the Australian PAL DVD and the Australia Blu-ray version of this movie. The Blu-ray was supplied to me by Roadshow Entertainment. The PAL DVD was purchased by me in 2008.

At the top of each is the full frame (suitably shrunk down) used in the comparison, with a 250 pixel wide detail from the frame underneath. The left side is from the PAL DVD. The image was captured digitally from the disc, scaled up from its native 720 by 576 pixel resolution to 768 by 576 (to present in the correct aspect ratio) by the application. I then scaled it, in order for it to be comparable to the Blu-ray version, to 1,440 by 1,080 pixels.

The detail is from that last scaled version, and has not been rescaled again. The right side is from the Australian Blu-ray. This has not been scaled at all. Different applications were used to capture the two frames, so some caution should be exercised in judging colour and brightness.

For visitors from NTSC lands, generally the PAL DVD is just a touch sharper than the NTSC DVD.

Before getting to the comparisons, a word on framing. As mentioned above, the Australian DVD was in 4:3 format, but it appears not to have been a pan and scan release. Instead it was an opening up of the framing to use the full photographed frame. As you can see below, there is as much (or even more) seen on the left and right in the full frame from the DVD (top) as there is in the widescreen Blu-ray version.

As usual, I have scaled up the DVD to the size it would appear (relative to the Blu-ray) on a 16:9 display. Consequently, in the comparisons below, the detail on the DVD is actually smaller than the same detail on the Blu-ray making it harder to determine differences.

© 2002-2012, Stephen Dawson