HTF REVIEW: "True Romance" Special Edition (with screenshots)

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Ronald Epstein, Sep 9, 2002.

  1. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Founder

    Jul 3, 1997
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    Real Name:
    Ronald Epstein

    True Romance
    Special Edition

    Studio: Warner Brothers
    Year: 1993
    Rated: R
    Film Length: 121 minutes
    Aspect Ratio: 16X9 Enhanced Widescreen (2.35:1)
    Subtitles: English, French, Spanish

    "I like you Clarence. Always have. Always will"
    - Elvis Presley (Val Kilmer)
    Talk about one of the most misleading titles of
    all time. I wonder how many beefy males were
    turned away during the initial theatrical run of
    True Romance thinking that perhaps this
    was a sappy love story? Well, to be honest, it
    is part love story but more so, it's a story that
    bombards the audience with images of blazing guns,
    brutal beatings, and lots of gushing blood while
    telling the story of two outlaw lovers on the
    run from the mob. It's signature Quentin Tarentino
    all the way!
    This is the story of Clarence Worley (Christian
    Slater), a lonely guy who loves comic books, Janis
    Joplin and Sonny Chiba Kung-Fu movies. What he
    adores the most, however, is Elvis Presley (Val
    Kilmer). In fact, Clarence can often be found
    talking to the King.
    It's Clarence's birthday, and as usual, he
    celebrates by going to the movies by himself to
    watch his favorite Kung-Fu movie. It's on that
    fateful night that he meets Alabama (Patricia
    Arquette) who accidentally-on-purpose dumps her
    popcorn all over him. With the ice broken, the
    normally painfully shy Clarence winds up making
    love to her and confessing beneath a giant outdoor
    billboard. Even after she confesses to him that
    she is actually a call girl, the two find mutual
    love for each other.
    Everything would be perfect if not for the little
    matter of Alabama's pimp, dangerous Drexl Spivey
    (Gary Oldman), and his reluctance to let Alabama
    go free. When Clarence arrives at Drexl's
    place, a fight ensues. Clarence makes one of
    Drexl's girls put Alabama's belongings in a bag.
    When Clarence returns home and gives Alabama her
    bag, she opens it to find that it isn't her clothes,
    but a bag full of uncut cocaine!
    So begins an explosive journey from Detroit to
    Los Angeles as both Clarence and Alabama stay one
    step ahead of the mob who want their narcotics back.
    The story slowly builds into one of the most memorable
    gun-totin' finales ever seen on the big screen.
    Like all films from the trashy-art mind of Quentin
    Tarentino, you expect there to be moments of genius.
    This film has a rare cinematic moment that must be
    seen to believed. The scene is between Clarence's
    father, Clifford (Dennis Hopper) and mob boss
    Vincenzo Coccotti (Christopher Walken). With
    sweeping choral music in the background, Clifford
    (with a gun to his head) proceeds to tell this Don
    that Sicilians have black blood in their hearts. It
    is one of the most shining moments on-screen for
    both actors, and one of the most memorable scenes
    of modern cinema. Trust me -- this is one scene
    that will have repeated playback
    It would be greatly unjust not to also mention
    that this film features one of the greatest roles
    played by my favorite chameleon actor, Gary Oldman.
    Though just about unrecognizable, His performance
    as big time drug baron Drexl Spivey defines the
    range of talent this actor as.
    This film is packed with a stellar cast of actors
    that include Brad Pitt as a hilarious stoner, and
    James Gandolfini (Tony Soprano) in the most monstrous
    role of his career. To top this off, if you don't
    blink, you might catch a glimpse of Samuel L. Jackson
    inside Drexl's crib.
    True Romance arrives in a brand new two-disc
    special edition. A cardboard slipcover contains a
    pull-out that opens to a 3-pane gatefold. Two DVDs
    (labeled DISC 1 and DISC 2) sit in plastic hub
    housing that sit above a 2-pane photos of Clarence
    and Alabama. The far left pane contains a complete
    Scene Index from the film. On another pane
    we have listing of Disc Two's Special Features.
    How is the transfer?
    I have some bad news. This transfer could have
    looked a lot better. Though the print has been
    cleaned up and shows no visible film grain, on a
    whole, this transfer is very muddy. The film runs
    rather dark, often looking hazy and blurred. Flesh
    tones run a little too red. There's just an overall
    lack of detail here. I sort of shrugged it all
    off the entire time I was watching the film
    thinking this is the way the film must have
    looked theatrically.
    It wasn't until I popped in the original DVD
    release, that I saw how lackluster this transfer was.
    Though the 1997 DVD is not anamorphic, you can
    clearly see how much brighter, sharper and detailed
    the image is.
    So what is one to do? Obviously the 1997 DVD,
    the better of the two transfers, is a non-anamorphic
    release and thus, not a choice here. If you want
    to own this film in anamorphic widescreen with a
    sub par transfer, then this version is your only
    Fortunately, this film features a killer 5.1 DTS
    track. I couldn't believe it when I saw the words
    DTS on a Warner Brothers language menu. Thank God
    the studio still supports the sound format once
    in a while, because this DVD sports all the great
    characteristics of the DTS format, most notably,
    the spacial openness of the sound. This soundtrack
    is full of testosterone and highly souped-up. From
    the moment the film begins, you can hear how well
    the musical soundtrack plays evenly across all 5
    channels. From start to finish, the sound never
    ceases to impress itself upon the viewer. Looking
    at my notes, I made reference to thunderclaps during
    a Kung-Fu movie, and how wonderful a jukebox in a
    comic book store sounds with its echo effect making
    you feel as if you were right there in that large
    room. There's the sounds of a freight train rolling
    past the home where Clarence's father lives. Oh...
    and wait until you step into that roller coaster.
    You'll actually feel as if you are riding in the
    front car as your speakers scream across the tracks.
    Throughout all of this, the rear channels constantly
    remind us that there's city life surrounding our
    environment. I can't forget the LFE channel that
    provides deep, pounding bass. Perhaps the best
    effect you'll hear is during the Morgan Creek logo
    that appears at the very start of the DVD.
    Disc One begins with a very colorful menu
    sequence that takes place inside a tattoo parlor.
    The entire film is contained on this disc as well
    as a few extras....
    Three full-length commentaries are featured
    on this film. The first is with stars Christian
    Slater and Patricia Arquette. The second track is
    with Director Tony Scott. The third track features
    writer Quentin Tarentino. So which one did I
    listen to? Well, as much as I love Quentin, he
    seems to babble on a bit much. I started listening
    to Slater and Arquette, but was soon bored to tears
    by their giggly, constant "oh wow" and "golly gee"
    type remarks. I ultimately ended up with Director
    Tony Scott. Scott reveals that he read scripts
    for both True Romance and Reservoir Dogs
    and actually wanted to direct both, but Quentin
    would not let him. In preparing Christian for his
    role, he asked the actor to watch Deniro in Taxi
    . This was the type of darkness he wanted
    for the character of Clarence. Scott tells a story
    about how Gary Oldman created the character of Drexyl.
    Gary had a white Jamaican that hung out with him on
    the set of Romeo Is Bleeding, and it was that
    person that became the mainframe for his character.
    Oldman brought his Mother to the set, and it actually
    took him longer than expected to get the character
    traits down pat. Scott was absolutely elated at
    the way Walken and Hopper brought humor to the
    interrogation scene -- something Scott found to be
    much darker on paper. Scott talks about coming in
    budget by shooting the film in 65 days and having
    the actors work at scale. An enjoyable commentary
    thanks to the fact that Scott's words come with no
    hesitation, as he fluidly talks about his characters,
    the inspiration for many of his ideas, and those
    little subtle things that get pointed out from time
    to time (such as why Brad Pitt is using a honey bear
    bong). Definitely worth a listen!
    Now this is cool, and I think, a first! There is
    a running Director's Storyboard Track that
    can be turned on from the Special Features menu.
    When you do this, a small window appears at the
    bottom left corner of the screen during playback.
    In that screen is one of 900 storyboards taken from
    Tony Scott's script that play throughout, totally
    synchronized with the film.
    DVD-ROM content features a screenplay
    viewer with storyboards, original production notes
    and web links.
    Let's throw in in Disc Two and see what
    sort of Special Features we can find....
    Once again the DVD begins with an original colorful
    menu screen that shows a young man loading his
    pistol and sticking it into the hip of his trousers.
    This is the greatest feature of its kind I have
    seen on a DVD to date! Welcome to the set of the
    film as we take you Behind The Scenes where
    you will experience what it was like to be on the
    set during the filming of True Romance. How
    can this be done you ask? Interaction, my dear....
    Interaction. Read carefully...
    As we see several shots of Oldman, Walken and
    Slater practicing their shots, Director Tony Scott
    tells us how impressed he was with Tarentino's
    script and the fact that you never knew where it
    was going to take you next. I just loved to watch
    Gary Oldman talk about how he was approached and
    offered the part, taking it on the mere traits of
    its character. A red heart icon appears in the
    corner of the screen
    . Click on that icon and
    you are suddenly placed behind-the-camera as we
    watch Oldman and Slater act out the crib scene.
    As the featurette continues, we listen to Hopper
    talk about his character. A red heart icon
    appears in the corner of the screen
    . Presto!
    We are taken behind-the-camera where we watch the
    Sicilian scene being filmed in its entirety. This
    is the kind of stuff that fans just eat up -- and
    trust me, I was watching this documentary with two
    (length: approx. 5 minutes + bonus scenes)
    Selective Commentaries
    Five actors, Dennis Hopper, Val Kilmer, Brad
    Pitt and Michael Rapaport have recorded
    commentary for this DVD against their most popular
    scene in this film. I listened to three of the five.
    Dennis Hopper talks over his Sicilian scene,
    the one he says people most remember him for. He
    takes us from an exterior shot in Detroit, through
    his trailer door, into a Los Angeles sound stage
    where in one day, Walker and Hopper filmed that
    scene. Hopper talks about how each part was
    filmed separately with three cameras.
    Brad Pitt talks about how he was being considered
    for a much bigger part of the film, but he didn't
    quite get the premise of the film, and as a result,
    opted to play a smaller part -- a part that he
    really thought was cool. It was actually Brad's
    idea to make his character a stoner.
    Val Kilmer, in a very low-key voice, talks about
    the make-up tests he did for Elvis, only to become
    a voice in the film. Kilmer doesn't mind -- he
    thought the part was as radical as radical can get.
    There are eleven extended and deleted scenes
    presented on this DVD. Some of the best scenes include..
    * Samuel L. Jackson improvising in Drexl's crib
    as we hear more about pussy-eating.
    * Clarence and Alabama enjoying a quiet bubble
    bath as Clarence relays a story about true love.
    * Vincenzo Coccotti and his mob gang standing
    in a moving elevator. It's a terrific scene that
    gives a bit of background to its characters.
    * A rather funny scene as Elliot (Bronson Pinchot)
    gets his ya-ya's out in the hotel lobby while
    waiting for Clarence to arrive.
    Most of the material is dialogue extension of
    scenes already in the film, but the ones mentioned
    above were the most memorable. You can watch all
    of these sequences with or without added commentary
    by Director Tony Scott. As usual, I recommend
    turning the commentary on.
    And what could be better than an alternate
    ending? Using footage he shot during principle
    photography, supplemented with a few minor storyboards
    he drew while in production, we watch a rather
    tragic ending to the film told through Alabama's
    sad narration. You can view this scene with
    commentary from either Tony Scott or Quentin
    An extensive cast and crew page lets you
    click on over a dozen cast members as well as
    Scott and Tarentino to bring up a complete
    The Publicity Gallery is an entire world
    unto itself that features a handful of promotional
    First we have the film's original theatrical
    trailer. This is followed up with two short
    TV Spots
    EPK Original 1993 Featurette is a run-
    of-the-mill promotional short where the film is
    glossed over while featuring interviews with
    Slater, Arquette, Walken, Oldman and Director
    Tony Scott. Very short and nothing revealed here
    that hasn't been seen elsewhere on this DVD.
    (length: approx. 5.3 minutes)
    An animated photo gallery takes us from
    character to character as we see take a look at
    many publicity shots. There's also some behind-
    the-scenes photos of Director Tony Scott as well
    as Director of Photography Jeffrey L. Kimball.
    Some nice complete cast photos here to see as well.
    (length: approx. 5.5 minutes)
    Finally, Morgan Creek DVD gets their
    advertising due by featuring trailers of movies
    for Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, American
    Outlaws, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves
    Young Guns II.
    Final Thoughts
    True Romance has all the elements of
    great climatic cinema featuring the sharp-witted
    writing of Quentin Tarantino, Tony Scott's
    brilliant directing, and a cast of gifted actors
    who give some of the most memorable performances
    of their careers.
    What can you do about an outstanding feature-packed
    DVD with a DTS soundtrack that just rocks, but a
    transfer that sort of just lags behind? I suppose
    you can make a lot of noise, but in the end, this
    DVD still warrants a purchase.
    Release Date: September 23, 2002
  2. Paul_D

    Paul_D Cinematographer

    Jul 28, 2001
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    Ron, Great review as always.
  3. Marc Colella

    Marc Colella Cinematographer

    Jun 19, 1999
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    You've got to be kidding me.

    Warner releases all these Special Editions on the same day, and the 1 DVD that I'm most interested in is the only one that has a negative review with regards to transfer!?

    Someone please tell me that this look was the director's intent.
  4. Malcolm Cleugh

    Malcolm Cleugh Second Unit

    Jan 11, 2002
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    I'm sure I read that DTS is included as this is a Morgan Creek release and Warner are only the distributors ?
    They still seem anti for their own films.
  5. Mathias Klemme

    Mathias Klemme Stunt Coordinator

    Oct 25, 2000
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    This is a must-buy for me. But sure this is rated "R"? I thought the director's cut version was unrated (with the cut theatrical version being rated "R"). Just curious...

  6. Gordon McMurphy

    Gordon McMurphy Producer

    Aug 3, 2002
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    Was the original DVD's transfer sanctioned by Warner and this new transfer by Morgan Creek? I think that a word from someone at Warner's is in order...

  7. Mark Palermo

    Mark Palermo Second Unit

    Jun 28, 2000
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    Tony Scott's films often have a heavy smoke and fog look to them, including True Romance. I haven't seen this transfer, but it may be how the movie's supposed to appear.

  8. Rain

    Rain Producer

    Mar 21, 2001
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    I don't recall True Romance looking foggy or muddy theatrically. Mind you, it was a long time ago.
    I'll be picking up this disc, but the review of the transfer is disappointing, especially coming from WB. [​IMG]
  9. streeter

    streeter Screenwriter

    May 24, 2001
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    Great review as always, Ron! And thanks especially for giving the commentaries a spin, as I know that you usually don't care for them.
    One question though - who is the fifth actor that does selective commentary.
  10. Steve Spin

    Steve Spin Extra

    Nov 4, 2001
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    Another great review!
    I sort of shrugged it all
    off the entire time I was watching the film
    thinking this is the way the film must have
    looked theatrically.
    I did see the movie theatrically. I have always been a fan of Tony Scott ever since I have seen Top Gun. I always thought he used more colors and shades than anybody else. Even more than his brother. Just look at Crimson Tide. Anyway, I saw the movie at a 70mm theater here on Long Island and not a Multiplex. The film looked great. If I remember correctly. The film did have grain in the bathroom scenes with Elvis. I don't know if that was intentional or the negative was blown-up to obscure Val Kilmer's face. I hope this helps.
    Steve Spinelli
    My DVD Collection!
  11. Andrew_Sch

    Andrew_Sch Cinematographer

    Dec 30, 2001
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    All right, Ron, you've settled it. I'm picking this one up blind.
  12. JonZ

    JonZ Lead Actor

    Dec 28, 1998
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    Wasnt it "I LIKE you Clarence, always have, always will". I discovered this movie on LD right after it was released on home video-not knowing what to expect.What a suprise!

    Another on I cant wait for. Im gonna be poor on Sept 23
  13. Rob Tomlin

    Rob Tomlin Producer

    Jan 8, 2000
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    Yet another WB SE release that I will be picking up!

    It is surprising, and disappointing, to hear that the video transfer isn't as good as it could be, especially coming from Warner.
  14. Joseph J.D

    Joseph J.D Cinematographer

    Dec 4, 2001
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    Can't wait to get this title. After being denied of 4 Tarantino films on DVD for so long. I now have 3 of them sitting on my shelf - and this one will complete the gap that remains. Guess what I'm getting on the 24th.[​IMG]
  15. Jeff Adams

    Jeff Adams Screenwriter

    Dec 13, 1999
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    This is killing me. I love this movie and have the original. The picture quality on the original is actually okay, but the new one is worse than the original? How can this be? Oh well, I will be picking this one up anyway.
  16. Sean Patrick

    Sean Patrick Supporting Actor

    Apr 22, 1999
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    i almost always agree with Ron's assessments...this time i'm REALLY hoping I disagree with him when i get this disc. To think we'll have 2 classic Tarantino-related special editions come out with transfers that pale to the NON ANAMORPHIC originals....unthinkable!

    Crossing my fingers that Ron's TV is broken (doubt it!)

  17. Ted Lee

    Ted Lee Lead Actor

    May 8, 2001
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    this has been one of my favorite movies since day 1. even if the picture is a little soft, the story and characters more than make up for it.
    if you're at all a qt fan, then this is an absolute must to add to your collection. there is no doubt that this will be one of my favorite additions to my collection.
    btw ron - you have a release date of the 23rd. isn't it the 24th?
  18. BrianB

    BrianB Producer

    Apr 29, 2000
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  19. Todd Schnell

    Todd Schnell Second Unit

    May 21, 2001
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    I couldn't agree with you any more here Ron!
    Unbelievable scene!

    I don't own this one yet, it's about time I pick it up.

    Thanks for the review & reminding me of this excellent flick.

  20. Alex Spindler

    Alex Spindler Producer

    Jan 23, 2000
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    Great review Ron. I particularly enjoy your extended discussion on the commentary tracks. I know it is time consuming to delve into this section, I certainly appreciate it. [​IMG]
    I know I'll be picking this one up for certain. The movie itself is really excellent and was a surprise when I saw it the first time (luckily unrated by chance).

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