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Category:    Home > Reviews > Science Fiction > Horror > Action > Pitch Black – Unrated Director’s Cut (HD-DVD)

Pitch Black – Unrated Director’s Cut (HD-DVD)

 

Picture: B     Sound: B     Extras: C+     Film: C+

 

 

PolyGram Pictures only lasted a few years, but with a few films like David Fincher’s The Game, Robert Altman’s grossly mishandled The Gingerbread Man and the Robin Williams vehicle What Dreams May Come, they were very ambitious.  The now-defunct record label had Gramercy Pictures with Universal until Universal bought them out.  Some films had not been released, and one they had high hopes for was David Twohy’s Pitch Black, eventually issued in 2000.

 

The film is about a crew that crash-lands their spaceship on a planet that is loaded with nocturnal alien monsters that kill.  The title refers to what it is like when the sun goes down.  Against their better judgment, they decide to release the crazed killer known as Riddick (Vin Diesel, in a star-making role that almost did not make it to the screen) to help them fight the creatures.  Even then, they looked fake, but now it is a bit worse.  However, the screenplay by Jim & Ken Wheat with Twohy was not centered on Riddick and that is why the film works when it does.  Diesel’s reserved performance helps too.

 

David Keith, Radha Mitchell (underrated in Joel Schumacher’s Phone Booth) and on-the-rise star Cole Hauser make for a compelling cast and this longer cut is a bit better than the theatrical cut if not overly so.  It also shows that a relatively lower-budget film in the Horror and Science Fiction can work today and shows up many films (including the first follow-up) as the overproduced fiascos they are.  Pitch Black may not be a great film in either genre, but it is competent and that is why it is an early HD-DVD release that is one of the better ones by default.

 

The 1080p digital High Definition image is better than the previous DVD, but still has some detail limits and issues with the image being too dark in parts.  Cinematographer David Eggby, A.C.S., shot the original Mad Max (1979) and returned to the same location for this film.  To make it look different, He and Twohy decided to exaggerate monochrome colors for the alien planet and also fooled with other locations.  Annoying in its time, we have now seen much worse thanks to digital, but this aspect of the film has not aged well and seems overdone.  Except for a 35mm film print, you are not likely to get better reproduction than here.

 

The sound was Dolby Digital 5.1 EX, as well as DTS 5.1 and SDDS (Sony Dynamic Digital Sound) 5.1 theatrically and the film has even been issued in DTS DVDs overseas, but DTS supporter Universal decided to only make a Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 mix available on this HD-DVD and that is a shame since some of their HD-DVD have had DTS.  The Dolby here is not credited as EX, but plays back that way just fine.  Though not a masterwork of sound design, the mix has its moments and Graeme Revell’s score is not bad.  It is one of his better scores and he would return for The Chronicles Of Riddick, reviewed on HD-DVD elsewhere on this site.

 

Extras are many, including Twohy introduction, seven featurettes about this film that spill over into the whole Riddick franchise and two audio commentaries that both have Twohy participating.  Diesel and Cole Hauser join him on one, while the producer Tom Engelman and visual effects supervisor Peter Chiang join him on the other.  Because this is the more interesting of the two films so far, this can be entertaining.  It left this critic asking what went wrong later.  Though not the most spectacular HD-DVD in the market, it is one of the better early ones, so enjoy Pitch Black for what does work.

 

 

-   Nicholas Sheffo


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