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Pitch Black

Pitch Black
A Universal Home Video Release
1999, 112 Minutes, Color, Unrated (14A in Canada)

Starring:  Vin Diesel, Radha Mitchell, Cole Hauser
List Price:  $26.99 USD, released 10/24/00
Packaging:  Keepcase, Region 1 NTSC
Disc Format:  Single Sided, Dual Layered (DVD-9)
Aspect Ratio:  2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Audio Formats:  English DD 5.1, English DTS 5.1
Subtitles:  English
Closed Captioning:  English
Features:  Audio commentary, featurette, documentary, cast and crew biographies and filmographies, production notes, theatrical trailers, scene selection.

During a long voyage in space, the cryogenically transported passengers of a ship are awakened unexpectedly to a barrage of micro-meteorites ripping through their vessel and damaging systems. With the captain and others dead, the remaining crew attempt to regain control but discover that they’re way off course and are about to crash on an unknown planet. With only a handful of their former fellow travelers still alive, including a convicted murderer played by Vin Diesel, the disheveled survivors begin to explore their strange but fascinating environment. With three suns in the sky, there always seems to be daylight of one color or another. But when they find a hastily abandoned geological survey camp, disturbing questions begin to arise. But it’s not until one of them disappears underground that a startling discovery is made. Every 22 years a total solar eclipse shrouds the planet in complete darkness – and that’s when the local fauna, namely flying beasts with an appetite for anything alive, appear and wreck havoc. The creatures’ only weakness is the light – but since everything in the camp is solar powered, the castaways will soon run out of deterrents. With darkness rapidly approaching, they must turn to their criminal companion and his surgically enhanced eyes to guide them through the terrifying darkness.

Universal continues to maintain their high quality levels with Pitch Black presenting a wholly pleasing 2.35:1 anamorphic transfer. Sharpness is good, through I noticed some unwanted grain during darker scenes (of which there’s plenty), along with some uneven black levels. Although the video is altogether very good, the use of filters to obtain an "alien" landscape, similar to what was done in Three Kings for the desert, can create a somewhat distracting effect. I kept noticing how blue, or how red, the scene was – but of course that ends at the halfway point when everything goes black. The unusual light of the planet ends up creating the perfect claustrophobic ambiance. The dual-layered disc contains 7.9 gigabytes of data. The movie is divided into 18 chapters, with the layer change occurring at a very appropriate point at the beginning of chapter 10, or 1:02.40 into the entire film. The unrated Director’s Cut version, which we reviewed, contains about 3 minutes of additional footage that was cut from the theatrical release because it didn’t add to the action, but which the director desired for character development.

The sound side of Pitch Black isn’t quite as spectacular, but still seems to be used to good effect. Although the rear channels are used sparingly, the near routine silence makes anything coming from them – in this case the aliens – all the more frightening. You feel as if an attack could come from any direction. Bass is good in spots, but overall there’s not too much opportunity for its’ activity. Dialogue is clear and free of static or unwanted background hiss. Universal’s seen fit to include both Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1 soundtracks, similar to U-571, which means that those with DTS-equipped systems will be able to obtain a slightly higher quality sound experience. You’ll also find English and French subtitles, along with English Closed Captioning data.

The static, film-themed menus lead to plain chapter selection screens and Pitch Black’s limited, but useful, complement of special features. First is a documentary on the making of Pitch Black, which only runs about 5 minutes and is presented in full-screen video. Two audio commentary tracks are available for the film – one with director David Twohy and actors Vin Diesel and Cole Hauser, plus another with director David Twohy, producer Tom Engelman and visual effects supervisor Peter Chiang. A rather strange look is provided at the Raveworld underground parties, which were created to promote the film, and runs for about 20 minutes. Three separate theatrical trailers are played in sequence from a single menu entry. Also on the disc are text production notes, cast and crew filmographies and biographies.

Pitch Black is an unusual film that’s hard to classify as suspense, science fiction or horror. Although the movie and disc presentation don’t stand out in any particular way, it’s still an enjoyable way to spend a couple of hours... but be sure to turn the lights down low!

- Reviewed by Daniel Tonks on November 20, 2000.

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 32" XBR250 WEGA TV using Component
Nuance Spatial Baby Grand 3E & StarSat

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