Black Rain appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Much of the movie looked quite good, though not strong enough to merit “A”-level consideration.
My main minor complaint related to shadow detail. A dark film, Rain used lots of low-light situations, and these often came across as just a little too opaque. I expect much of this was intentional, but I still thought the shadows were a smidgen too tough to discern. Blacks were deep and firm, though, and within the flick’s very stylized palette, colors seemed strong. Rain favored the metallic neons of urban Japan and displayed these well. Otherwise, the movie offered a somewhat brownish tint due to all the dark segments, though the tones stayed perfectly solid within the design parameters.
Sharpness was pretty solid. A little edge enhancement meant wide shots tended to be slightly soft, but those concerns were minor. Most of the movie looked nicely crisp and detailed. No issues with jagged edges or shimmering occurred, and source flaws appeared to be absent. I noticed no signs of specks, marks or other concerns. Overall, this was a very satisfying transfer.
In addition, the Dolby Digital EX 5.1 soundtrack of Black Rain was strong. Music dominated the soundfield. The mix used the score in an aggressive way across all five speakers. For some movies, that might cause distractions, but here it worked well within the movie’s parameters. The active music made sense for the story and fit the action.
Effects also helped create a nice sense of atmosphere and became involving when necessary. Usually they stayed in the realm of ambience, but they spread out well and turned more active during some of the action scenes. In particular, motorcycles zoomed around the room. The soundfield opened up matters in a satisfying and realistic way.
Audio quality also seemed positive. Although speech occasionally betrayed a little edginess, lines remained intelligible and acceptably concise. Effects sounded clean and tight, with good range involved. Music presented especially solid elements. The score was bright and dynamic, and bass response appeared surprisingly full and deep. I thought the audio of Rain worked well for the flick.
This new “Special Collector’s Edition” of Black Rain presents a mix of extras. We start with an audio commentary from director Ridley Scott. He offers a running, screen-specific discussion. Scott begins with notes about why he came onto the project and then digs into the nuts and bolts of the production. He discusses shooting in New York and Japan, actors’ relationships and the atmosphere on the set, cinematography and working with his DP, music and audio, production design and editing, stunts, and other production issues.
Some of the commentary’s best parts come from its most general. When Scott chats about his various preferences for working on a movie, the chat becomes a terrific lesson in filmmaking. He talks about his casting process and other issues that come up on his movies. The director mixes these more general thoughts with specifics about Rain in a fluid manner. Scott usually offers good commentaries, and this is one of his best.
In addition to the film’s trailer, we get a multi-part documentary. Black Rain: The Script, The Cast starts things with a 20-minute and 20-second program. As with the other pieces, it mixes movie clips, archival elements, and interviews. We hear from Scott, screenwriter/executive producer Craig Bolotin, screenwriter Warren Lewis, actor/producer Michael Douglas, producers Sherry Lansing and Stanley R. Jaffe, costume designer Ellen Mirojnik, and actors Andy Garcia and Kate Capshaw.
The show looks at the story’s origins and development, what attracted various parties to the project, how Scott came onto the film, and casting, characters and performances. “Script” covers the pre-production basics well. It offers a tight little look at the issues and benefits from the presence of so many principals.
Next we get Black Rain: Making the Film. Part One of this goes for 28 minutes, 36 seconds, while Part Two fills nine minutes, 15 seconds. They include notes from Scott, Lansing, Douglas, Garcia, Jaffe, Capshaw, Mirojnick, Lewis, Bolotin, director of photography Jan De Bont, and actor Ken Takakura (from 1989). “Making” examines issues related to the multi-national crew and different locations, Scott’s working and planning methods, the actors’ research, set and photography specifics, complications in Japan, costumes, some story and character points, stunts, and various scene specifics.
“Making” continues our journey through the production with lots more good information. Inevitably, some of this repeats from Scott’s excellent commentary, but the additional participants help bring out new perspectives and details. “Making” goes through the subjects well and entertains as it informs.
Finally, Black Rain: Post-Production runs 12 minutes, 25 seconds and features Scott, Douglas, Garcia, Lansing, Jaffe, Capshaw, editor Tom Rolf, and composer Hans Zimmer. We learn about editing, music, rections to the film, and final thoughts about the flick.
“Post-Production” offers a good close to this series of featurettes. It throws out nice details about the various processes and fills in the gaps. All of these components add up to make a solid look at the creation of Rain.
While Black Rain always looks great, the movie fails to ever engage the viewer. It uses clichés and one-dimensional characters without substance and doesn’t manage to ever become anything more than a predictable cop drama. The DVD offers very strong picture and audio along with a surprisingly good collection of extras. Given the DVD’s very low list price of less than $15, this is a great buy for fans of the film. It also may entice new viewers to snag it, but I’d push for a rental before you bite; I just don’t think the movie’s a worthwhile “blind buy”.