In 2005, CBS’ CSI: Crime Scene Investigation was enjoying its third straight season as America’s number one television series. The ratings for its fifth season were the highest in its history, so it was quite fitting that that season’s finale was a two-part episode entitled “Grave Danger.” More movie than television series episode, director Quentin Tarantino, a fan of the show, was enlisted to direct the two-parter giving an undervalued member of the ensemble a tour de force role to perform and viewers one of the most suspenseful and riveting episodes in the show’s history.
CSI: Crime Scene Investigation – Grave Danger (Blu-ray Combo Pack)
Directed by Quentin Tarantino
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 1080p VC-1 codec
Running Time: 85 minutes
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English, 2.0 stereo Spanish
Subtitles: SDH, Spanish
Region: no designation
MSRP: $ 24.99
Release Date: February 7, 2012
Review Date: February 4, 2012
On an ordinary night case investigating a suspicious pile of entrails, Nick Stokes (George Eads) is abducted and buried alive. When a million dollar ransom is demanded for his safe return, it appears the CSI’s number is up since the Las Vegas Police Department has a no negotiation policy, but fellow CSI Catherine Willows (Marg Helgenberger) gets the money from her millionaire father (Scott Wilson), and it’s delivered by head of the department Gil Grissom (William Petersen) to Walter Gordon (John Saxon). Once at the drop-off point, however, it becomes clear that the scenario was not a ransom at all but a slow and torturous plan for vengeance that leaves Nick’s whereabouts more of a mystery than ever.
As in all CSI episodes, the plot’s basic mystery, in this case the location of the buried Nick Stokes, depends on science for its solution, but it’s a long and frustrating road to a final denouement that brings the viewer to the edge of his seat before the closing, heart-tugging last scene. Quentin Tarantino’s story builds in suspense as Nick’s predicament grows dangerously worse as the minutes tick by, not just the fear of oxygen running out but from a series of other scripted perils (including a final surprise just when the audience thinks it’s safe to relax) that lead, in typical Tarantino fashion, to a surreal black and white sequence with the medical examiner (Robert David Hall) and Nick’s father (Andrew Prine) cracking wise over the splattered remains of Nick Stokes as he watches in amazement at their lack of political correctness. Tarantino also manages to get us into the box with Nick for minutes at a time masterfully conveying the horrifying claustrophobia and uses special effects involving shattered glass and fire ants superbly.
The situation that Nick finds himself in is the kind of juicy role an actor relishes, and George Eads gives one of his greatest-ever performances in the series negotiating all of the emotions that come for a man trapped for many hours underground. But the episode also offers all of the regular cast their own moments to shine. Especially eloquent are William Petersen fighting so emotionally for “my guy” and Marg Helgenberger calling in a favor from her estranged father that she knows will cost her dearly in the future. Gary Dourdan as Nick’s best friend Warrick Brown who could have been the victim had he been the loser of a random coin toss also registers with a highly charged and effective performance. In fact, watching this season five episode reminds one just how valuable the original cast was in establishing the show’s signature look and feel. Since several of the originals have gone on to other projects in the years after this episode, it’s great to see them all together again here and working so tightly as a unit. Tarantino managed to find a spot to work in Tony Curtis and Frank Gorshin as themselves into the show, but this indulgence is the program’s least inspired sequence.
The episode’s usual widescreen aspect ratio of 1.78:1 is faithfully rendered in a 1080p transfer using the VC-1 codec. CSI was a groundbreaking show in its sophisticated look from the beginning, and it’s always been a standout in high definition. That’s never more so than here where the 1080p resolution allows us to see enormous amounts of detail in faces and clothes. The microscopic world of their investigations comes brilliantly to life in the wonderful, evocative photography. Color is rich, and flesh tones are very natural and appealing. Black levels are superb but never at the cost of shadow detail which is sublime. There is the tiniest bit of moiré in some of the signature Vegas flyovers used between scenes, but that’s the only visible video artifact in an otherwise pristine video transfer. The episodes have been combined into one 85-minute show and divided into 10 chapters.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix doesn’t have quite the sweep of a feature film, but for an episode of network television, it packs a pretty impressive punch. Bass is the most impressive aspect of the mix, and the music score is given a nice surround encode that engulfs the viewer continually. Other sound effects don’t get quite the spread that one might hope for, and there’s little panning through the soundfield even when the on-screen action might justify it. Dialogue is always easily discernible and has been placed in the center channel.
“CSI: Tarantino Style” is a 17 ½-minute featurette with the stars of the show and director Quentin Tarantino discussing how he came to do the show and how he made the show his own. Also explained is the expansion of the story from one to two episodes which required a total of sixteen days of shooting. This is presented in 1080i.
The second disc in the set is the DVD copy of this program.
4.5/5 (not an average)
Quentin Tarantino received an Emmy nomination for directing the movie-like “Grave Danger” episode of CSI (he lost to J.J. Abrams’ direction of the Lost pilot, itself a movie-like program). The release of this memorable episode from the end of season five only whets the appetites of fans of CSI who want CBS to release additional early seasons of the show on Blu-ray. Highly recommended!