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Stargate: SE

Stargate: Special Edition
An Artisan Home Entertainment Release
1994, 128 Minutes, Color, Rated PG-13

Starring:  Kurt Russell, James Spader, Jaye Davidson, Viveca Lindfors
List Price:  $29.99 USD, released 10/26/99
Packaging:  Keepcase, Region 1 NTSC
Disc Format:  Single Sided, Dual Layered (DVD-9)
Aspect Ratio:  2.35:1 Widescreen
Audio Formats:  English 5.1
Closed Captioning:  English
Features:  Both Theatrical and Special Editions, Director’s Commentary, Cast & Crew Bios, Production Notes, Scene Selection, Interactive Menus, Theatrical Trailers

Ever since I purchased a DVD player I’ve been waiting to buy Stargate. Sure it’s been available for some time already, but only as a dual-sided flipper – something that didn’t seem to make sense for a mere two-hour film. Finally, Artisan has listened to our requests and released this as a single-sided, dual-layered disc. As an added incentive they’ve even made this the Special Edition with an additional nine minutes of footage – footage that helps explain many of the finer points in this special-effects laden film.

A mysterious woman makes Professor Daniel Jackson an offer he can’t refuse: help them decode ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics on an unusual artifact, which in turn could prove his theories that the great pyramids weren’t originally built by the Egyptians. He ends up on a secret Air Force military base with Colonel Jack O’Neal (Kurt Russell), the troubled mission leader. Jackson manages to translate the strange symbols and soon they’re off to an ancient civilization on a distant planet at the other side of the known universe. But not everyone is as friendly as the locals they first meet up with.

Artisan made the unusual move of including both the theatrical and special editions on a single disc. Were they to have encoded each version with completely separate files it would have added up to over 247 minutes of video, close to the maximum possible on a 9-gigabyte dual-layered disc. As it is, the disc has only 6.6 gigabytes worth, leading me to believe they "insert" modified chapters containing new footage on the fly – a technique known as "seamless branching". This is partially confirmed by the layer change which occurs at the same point in both versions. As a slight disappointment the video is not anamorphically enhanced, which I’m told is due to the fact that Artisan chose not to retransfer the entire film from their earlier release. As it stands, black levels are solid and colors are extremely well saturated. Sharpness is also very good – a bit too good, as a fair amount of aliasing can be seen on sharply contrasting horizontal lines. Film elements seem very clean and there is little noise or grain in the transfer. This disc contains an impressive 54 chapters, with the aforementioned layer change occurring at 0:59.51 in the special edition and 0:54.44 into the theatrical version, placed in the middle of a scene.

The Dolby Digital 6-channel soundtrack is quite superb, with astonishing amounts of bass. Soundstage imaging is fantastic with a solid center channel and glorious use of the rear channels for both effects and musical ambiance. I heard absolutely no clipping or unwanted background noise, although I did notice a few trivial dropouts. No alternate language tracks or subtitles are included.

Although this is billed as a special edition the complement of extras doesn’t completely live up to that moniker. Still, there’s a respectable arsenal: an insightful commentary track featuring both director Roland Emmerich and producer Dean Devlin; extensive text production notes; cast and crew biographies plus both the theatrical teaser, in full-screen video and stereo audio, and the trailer, in 1.85:1 widescreen and stereo sound. DVD menus are animated, although the scene selection screens are static. This is one of my favorite science fiction movies and it’s a complete pleasure to watch the extended version on this DVD. Even if you already own the original release this version is worth checking out, if only for the additional footage.

- Reviewed by Daniel Tonks on November 15, 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 32" XBR250 WEGA TV using Component
Nuance Spatial & Star Series Speakers

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