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Category:    Home > Reviews > Action > The Die Hard Collection (DTS DVD-Video Trilogy)

The Die Hard Collection (DTS DVD-Video Trilogy)


Picture: C+/B-/C+     Sound: B-/B/B     Extras: C+/D/C     Films:



Die Hard (1988) B


Die Hard 2 – Die Harder (1990) D


Die Hard With A Vengeance (1995) B-


Yippie Ki Yay Bonus DVD: C+



Bruce Willis was becoming a national sensation on the hit TV series Moonlighting when he had the chance to do an action film, something he was not considered capable of doing since all he was known for was comedy.  Michael Keaton would face this a year later with the Batman relaunch.  Willis took a big paycheck and many physical risks and the result was a hit in John McTiernan’s first Die Hard in 1988.


Much has been made of its right-of-center ideological structure, one that is even reactionary.  At the time, Japan was a rising economic power, which stirred up old angers from WWII, which was a basis for the platform that was the early Reagan era.  They now have their own giant tower that is meant to remind us more than a little of the World Trade Center towers, which is now an ironic item.


Then there is Willis’ John McClane, who is in the middle of a divorce, which is a traditional affront to his manhood and speaks of some kind of failure in that old-fashioned thinking.  He is from New York (read street) and is a police officer, but not a conventional one.  He is visiting Los Angeles (read easy, laidback and book wise) to see his wife Holly (Bonnie Bedelia, whose character is using her maiden name, which looks suspiciously like the word “generic”) to fix things, but she is very successful as a female executive in a man’s world, albeit one run by the Japanese.  Nothing is going well.


Then is gets worse for all when Euro-terrorists invade the Japanese haven and have arrived with automatic weapons, taking no for an answer.  Hans (Alan Rickman, giving the best performance in the film) is the head villain running things and thinks this will be an easy operation.  They want wealth and if they cannot get it the nice way, they’re going to get rough.  However, despite all their plans, weapons, elimination of the guards and technology, they do not expect to be foiled.  The audience does not expect (especially after the bad press and low expectation Willis had to suffer through) McClane to be able to take on the criminals, but he snaps together quickly and takes them on.


At the time, it was like watching a transformation of the character and watching his journey, but few new just what a new level of film star he was heading to be.  What makes the film hold up is the energy and pacing of the film, savvy Americanization of chunks of the James Bond formula, sly references to the Hollywood Western and illicit appeals to male dominance mentality made it a hit and new model for Hollywood Action films.  Most of the imitators were awful and it did well, though it was not a huge blockbuster its first time out.


Fox quickly wanted to capitalize on the film’s success and cash in on it, so they turned out a sequel two years later.  Unfortunately, they replaced McTiernan with the unproven (and as it turned out, often terrible disaster-meister) Renny Harlan, who delivered the remarkably awful Die Hard 2 – Die Harder.  Steven de Souza was back, but left Jeb Stuart behind for Doug Richardson and managed to write the most condescending, recycled, awful, lame, tired, boring, idiotic, unsuspenseful, unexciting, flat and even angry script possible.


The violence was increased, the story structure juvenile and the worst thing was to have the characters keep referring to the last film and saying things like “why does this always happen to us” over and over.  The biggest problem was not just being shrill when being funny, but pretending the first film was a serious action film to begin with.  William Sadler is the new opponent and the film was set at an airport.  It was so bad, fans of their first rightly claimed it was the first film in an airport, but not as good.  All imitators would be dubbed similarly for years since.  The film barely made more money than the first, shocking Fox and the industry at large who expected Lethal Weapon 2 business.  Fox lucked out later with Speed, then made the same mistake with its sequel, but was smart enough to wait longer to see if they should even do another McClane actioner.


Willis endured through bombs (Hudson Hawk) and would keep having surprise hits (Pulp Fiction, The Sixth Sense) just when you thought he career might have bottomed out.  Fox decided to try again, got McTiernan back and made Die Hard With A Vengeance five years later.  Finding a way to move on from the first film as Willis already long had, the smartest move here was to cast Samuel L. Jackson as his co-star and the chemistry made this film work, even when it became weak.  The Johnathan Hensleigh script is the least reactionary of the series (including the fourth film) and though it recycles the Bond film Goldfinger too much and Jeremy Irons is Hans’ brother from the first film out for revenge while he steals a fortune, the great pace, stunts and some witty dialogue and situations made it a worthy sequel.  It was also a larger hit than the second film.


This new 2007 The Die Hard Collection is not as thorough as the double sets made on each film that were also boxed under the Ultimate moniker.  Fox says they will be doing the films in the High Definition Blu-ray format which may or may not have more extras than this set, but if you want extras, find the old DVD double sets or wait on the Blu-rays if you have the format.  This is being issued because of the fourth film and even has a bonus disc to promote all four films, which we will get to in a minute.


All the films are presented in anamorphically enhanced 2.35 X 1 transfers, though the materials can look old for the first film and too soft for the third.  The first two were shot in real anamorphic Panavision, while the third is an impressive, bold and innovative use of Super 35mm shooting, which gave the film a new look versus its predecessors.  Jan de Bont shot the first film as a big screen action epic, Oliver Wood made the second film look big and like there was money on the screen at least and Peter Menzies pulled off the remarkable work on the third.


The transfer on the first film is weak, lame and recycles the old analog master that goes back to the 12” LaserDisc down to the few print flaws.  The second looks really good and particularly has good Video Red and the third looks weaker than it should despite Super 35 being weaker than real Panavision in definition, detail and depth.  Too bad, because I have seen all three films in 35mm and they look better than this.


Like the previous double sets, all three have DTS 5.1 upgrades, but the first film has major problems because secondary audio materials have been used for the remix as bad as the Dolby Digital 5.1 mix.  The second sounds better, but has the poorest sound design of the series just the same.  Both were released in analog Dolby in 35mm, but were also available in much better 70mm blow-ups with Dolby magnetic 4.1 stereo mixes.  The second film benefited from Dolby’s then-new improved SR (Spectral Recording) system with better fidelity and realism that even Dolby Digital sometimes lacks.  The first needs a major upgrade.  The third was a digital 5.1 film all the way, but never had 70mm blow-up prints released.  It sounds really good and maybe DTS-MA will bring out more in the Blu-ray version.  The late Michael Kamen did the score for all three films and it features some of his best work, especially one and three.


Extras include feature length director commentary tracks on all three films.  The first also has McTiernan joined on the commentary by Production Designer Jackson DeGovia, scene-specific commentary by visual effects supervisor and groundbreaker Richard Edlund, cast/crew subtitle commentary and “branching version” with extended power shutdown scene added back in.  The bonus disc includes an old featurette on the two films crossing back and forth with their respective directors called The Continuing Adventures Of John McClane featurette, long & well-made documentary on the first film called Wrong Guy, Wrong Place, Wrong Time – A Look Back At Die Hard which is thorough beyond what we see with most featurettes trying to cover their subject and we get three previews for Live Free Or Die Hard, the hit fourth film.


We actually have a review for that one from its theatrical release.  That link is:





In the meantime, this is the new version of the trilogy in print and is quickly accessible if you do not want to hunt down the larger out-of-print set and spend more money.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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