SplashStudio:TOUCHSTONEYear:1984Film Length:111 minutes Aspect Ratio:16x9 encoded 1.85:1 Audio:5.1 DD English Subtitles:English, French, SpanishSpecialFeatures:Audio Commentary with Director Ron Howard, Producer Brian Grazer and Writers Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel, "Making a Splash" featurette, audition video recordings for Tom Hanks and Daryl HannahReleaseDate:March 23, 2004 The Movie... Viewing Splash on DVD for me was like taking a trip back in time. Like so many other films from the era (The Toy, Beastmaster, Legend of Billy Jean, Ghostbusters), “Splash” represents an icon of 80’s culture that defines my experience of being an adolescent. I mean, would it really have been “the 80’s” without Pac-Man, Devo glasses, the Rubic’s Cube, and movies like Splash? Watching Splash now as an adult for the first time in...gasp...20 years, it has aged remarkably well and strikes me as a much better film watching through adult eyes than what I remember having viewed it in my early teens. Writing is deft and witty. Comedic timing is precise. Acting is spot-on and the chemistry between the three leads, John Candy, Tom Hanks, and Daryl Hannah, is natural and convincing. While true to the character of any good romantic comedy, the film avoids some of the more predicable pit-falls of more "typical" romantic comedies and sustains an entertaining glow without the interruption of any egregious groaners (the tropical coral reef just off the shore of Manhattan Island was an exception to this ). This Ron Howard directed-film has a sort of innocence about it that is welcoming without feeling naive. I think that Splash is overlooked by many who presume it to be a trite comedy or predictable romance and so aren’t willing to invest the time to get to know the movie. Splash is indeed a comedy (with the brilliant presence of John Candy providing a little assistance), and it’s also a touching romance. But it isn't limited by the genre because it’s got good writing, good acting, a few unpredictable turns and, most importantly, it’s got heart. Interesting movie trivia: A bit of film-history that I discovered through watching the making-of featurette on this DVD was that though tame by most modern standards, when it was time for release in 1984, Splash pushed Disney’s envelope of “racy” content (partial nudity—this is a movie about a Mermaid after all). Compelled by a desire to preserve the “family friendly” reputation of their Buena Vista label, the Disney execs created a new “Touchstone Pictures” label in order to release it! Splash was the first film released through the Touchstone label that has since become a mainstay of more adult-oriented Disney releases. Picture... Splash’s picture quality is something of a mixed bag. For the most part, the DVD presents the look of the source print faithfully without any obvious electronic signature except for an occasional “pasty” look that may be a result of slightly too aggressive DNR (a guess). The Fifth Element Splash is not. However, most of the “problems” with the picture are film-source related and not the fault of a poor film-tape transfer or subsequent mastering. Splash, like many “budget oriented” films from the 80’s, doesn’t exactly set the world’s reference standards in film-stock or general image quality. Colors are sometimes muted and flesh tones tend to be over warm and orange-red. The image is on the soft-focus side and many scenes have an abundance of film-grain. Black level is strong though at times appears “crushed” where subtle shadow detail gets lost. This varies scene by scene: the scene where Tom Hanks is walking in the rain shows excellent shadow detail, whereas the “lobster” restaurant scene has black level that looks a bit heavy and swallows up subtle shades of gray. At times contrast seems very natural and in other scenes seems artificially “pumped”. Not being familiar with the look of the actual print I cannot predict with certainty where the source for these anomalies exists, but the manner in which they vary scene-by-scene suggests that they are very likely film-source related. On my projector, despite these caveats mentioned above, Splash was a pleasure to watch. Colors are strong in some scenes, muted in others, but are always varied and the slight red-orange color shift lends a stylized look to the movie (intentional?). From a 1/1.75 image width/viewing distance ratio I noticed no “ringing” artifacts from EE though if I moved closer there may have been occasional evidence of electronic sharpening (won't affect most people). Compression seems to be well executed given this very challenging (heavy film grain) material. In a case like this, the “number” rating assigned to picture quality is not very meaningful. Your best bet to predicting what this transfer looks like is to read my comments to put your expectations in context. Like I said…demo material to impress your friends this DVD is not. Clearly, the folks mastering this DVD had some very challenging source-print material to work from so I’m cautious about finding too much fault in their efforts. And after all, the best we should hope for is that the studio locates the best source material that they can and that the DVD represent it as faithfully as possible. This 20th anniversary edition of Splash comes very close to achieving that to my eyes. Picture: 3.5 / 5 Sound... The readout on my equipment says “5.1” but the effect is more like “fat mono”. I’m not being critical here…much like the video, the audio comes across as authentic and is quite satisfactory despite the “no frills” presentation (listening to it I’m reminded of the sound of many Woody Allen films). Dialog is clear and intelligible and general sound quality is very good. Dynamic range is actually better than I expected and the soundstage is very “open” with no distortion or harshness. Bass is respectable (surprised me) and frequency response is wide and unrestricted. You won’t use this soundtrack to show off your new 6.1 setup, but while watching the movie you won’t find yourself bothered by anything “wrong” with it either. Just like with the video, please don’t pay too much attention to the “number” assigned to the rating for the audio portion of this DVD, but rather read my comments in context. Objectively, this movie doesn’t sound as “good” as reference 5.1 mixes which would indicate a low score; but at the same time the DVD is being faithful to the source which is all it should be asked to do which would generate a high score. My “rating” tries to register an average between these two (incompatible) criteria don’t read too much into the number. Sound: 3.5 / 5 Special Features... This Single-Disc DVD release isn’t dripping with a enormity of extras, but what is here is worth having. Commentary: First on the list is what in my opinion is a great commentary with the film’s director, producer, and writers. I only had time to sample a bit of the commentary at random but what I encountered was interesting and worth taking the time to hear. Commentary is “screen specific” which means it is recorded from the folks sitting together watching the feature film discussing relevant issues as they arise in context with the on-screen action. Audition Tapes: Next on the list are some audition (video) tapes of the two lead actors: Tom Hanks and Daryl Hannah (played the replicant in Blade Runner in case you were wondering where else you’ve seen her). Didn’t rock my world but it is interesting to see these actors when they were “fresh” and relatively undiscovered talent. Definitely worth historical value and I’m fans of either actors or the film in general will appreciate these archival recordings. "Making a Splash" featurette: My personal favorite (and final) special feature was the “making a splash” documentary. This 4x3 featurette covers a wide range of issues related to the film. Casting decisions, technical difficulties, interviews with the talent (cast and crew) and interesting trivia (like Touchstone Pictures being created for the purpose of releasing this PG feature) abound. Lots of historic on-set photos are mixed into this documentary which I find a more engaging way to appreciate them rather than the usual plain-vanilla image galleries. The total play time for this feature is about 24 minutes. In Closing... Oh come on. You gotta get it. Don’t have any false expectations about the picture or sound quality of this DVD—in other words, content yourself to an experience that’s faithful to the (dated) source material—and you’ll be well rewarded. Splash is a veritable icon of the 80’s and deserves to be on the shelf of anyone with fond memories of the decade. For those of you without prior sentimental attachment, Splash is worthwhile romantic comedy that won’t let you down. Extras aren’t going to compete with the Return of the King Extended Edition, but it’s a nice little bundle for this special little film. Enjoy! Recommended!!!