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A Hollywood Pictures Home Video Release
1990, 109 Minutes, Color, Rated PG-13

Starring:  Jeff Daniels, Harley Jane Kozak, John Goodman, Julian Sands, Stuart Pankin, Brian McNamara
List Price:  $29.99 USD, released 06/15/99
Packaging:  Keepcase, Region 1 NTSC
Disc Format:  Single Sided, Single Layered (DVD-5)
Aspect Ratio:  1.85:1 Widescreen
Audio Formats:  English 4.1
Subtitles:  English
Closed Captioning:  English
Features:  Interactive Menus, Scene Selection, Featurette, Theatrical Trailer

An interesting mix of the comedy and horror genres, Arachnophobia begins in the jungles of South America following an expedition out to discover new insect life in one of the many mysterious sinkholes. But when the group’s photographer is bitten by a spider he dies almost instantly and is quickly crated for shipment back to the US. Unknown to the rest of the research team, one of their new specimens hitches a ride in the coffin. In enters Jeff Daniels as Dr. Ross Jennings, who has just moved with his family to the small town of Canaima, only to discover that town’s current doctor has decided not to retire after all. While he struggles to build a practice, a series of mysterious and untimely deaths among his new patients give him the nickname of "Dr. Death" – except that he believes something else is at work.

Arachnophobia’s video presentation is in 1.85:1 widescreen preserving the original theatrical ratio, however it has not been 16:9 enhanced. The transfer is surprisingly good, with smooth, deep colors and decent if not exceptional sharpness. Certain scenes can appear somewhat dark, only to suddenly change to pleasantly bright one. Black levels have been well calibrated and are even throughout the film. Some minimal vertical shimmering can be seen, but noise and grain levels are kept well in check. The disc is single layered and contains a mere 9 chapter stops.

Audio is quite exceptional. The Dolby Digital soundtrack features 4.1 channels, though it has been incorrectly labeled as 5.1 on the box. What this means is that only one channel is recorded for surround, which is then duplicated to both the rear left and right speakers by your decoder. Activity in the back is quite high with music and sound effects at key places. The dialogue mix is excellent and always easy to make out over music and other effects. Absolutely no background hiss or noise can be heard. Prodigious amounts of bass are present throughout the film, something that quite surprised me, while trebles are kept crisp and bright. The disc contains no alternate language or subtitle tracks but is Closed Captioned.

Extras are slim, but do include a three minute production featurette and the theatrical trailer, both in full-screen video and stereo sound. Menu screens are well designed but include only static scene selection screens.

For anyone even moderately frightened of spiders this disc is great "therapy". Though it remains at Disney’s relatively expensive standard price point, I still recommend this great movie for all DVD collectors.

- Reviewed by Daniel Tonks on July 5, 1999.

Video Quality:
Audio Quality:
1-Poor 2-Fair 3-Good 4-Excellent
System Equipment
Sony DVP-S500D DVD Player
Sony STR-GA8ES 5.1 Receiver
Sony KV-27V65 27" Television using S-Video
Nuance Spatial & Star Series Speakers

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