DVD Movie Guide @ dvdmg.com
Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main


Mike Hodges
JRosanna Arquette, Jason Robards, Tom Hulce
Writing Credits:
Mike Hodges

A young female medium on tour sees a hitman killing a whistleblower in her vision.

Rated R.

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
English DTS-HD MA 2.0
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 103 min.
Price: $39.95
Release Date: 7/7/2020

• Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Mike Hodges
• Audio Commentary with Film Writers Kat Ellinger and Samm Deighan
• “Message in a Bottle” Featurette
• Archival Interviews
• Archival Featurettes
• Trailers


-LG OLED65C6P 65-Inch 4K Ultra HD Smart OLED TV
-Marantz SR7010 9.2 Channel Full 4K Ultra HD AV Surround Receiver
-Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player
-Chane A2.4 Speakers
-SVS SB12-NSD 12" 400-watt Sealed Box Subwoofer


Black Rainbow [Blu-Ray] (1989)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (August 2, 2020)

Filmmaker Mike Hodges started the decade with 1980’s Flash Gordon, a much-hyped sci-fi flick. Though now seen as something of a cult classic, it became a big-budget flop back then.

Even with that blotch on his record, Hodges began the 1980s better than he ended it. 1989’s Black Rainbow got only the most token of theatrical release, and even then didn’t see many US screens until 1991.

At least these delays spared Hodges the comparisons to a similarly titled 1989 film, Black Rain. Given the Ridley Scott effort did decently at the box office, though, Rainbow might’ve benefited from the confusion.

Psychic Martha Travis (Rosanna Arquette) claims she can access spirits of the departed. She does so at public performances for audiences.

Matters complicate when Martha passes a message from Tom Kuron (Olek Krupa) to his wife Mary (Linda Pierce). The issue? Tom remains among the living.

It turns out Martha’s abilities do allow her to see the future, so she knows when Tom will die and who will kill him. When the prospective murderer learns of Martha’s prediction, he plans to take her out as well.

Shades of Minority Report! Despite thematic similarities related to pre-observed crimes, though, the two don’t show much in common.

Report exists in a sci-fi world, whereas Rainbow stays much more in reality. We see Martha’s supernatural abilities as they reflect the common setting of 1980s America.

Though we initially see Martha as a con artist, the film quickly makes it clear that she does possess real skills, and that adds intrigue – in theory, at least. In reality, Rainbow mostly winds up as a turgid melodrama.

Rather than emphasize its themes as a supernatural thriller, Rainbow prefers to indulge in tedious character moments. We get a lot of Martha’s semi-toxic relationship with her manipulative father Walter (Jason Robards), and we also get small town newspaper reporter Gary Wallace (Tom Hulce) involved much of the time.

I guess Hodges thought this character emphasis might allow us to connect to the roles and care about them, but we don’t, partly because he paints everything in such broad strokes. Martha and Walter feel like absurd characters out of some Tennessee Williams knockoff and we never believe them as real people.

Gary attempts to ground matters, but that doesn’t really work. He exists mostly as an expository role, not one who develops his own personality or purpose.

Hodges also robs the story of tension due to its opening scene. Though I state that the movie is set in “present day”, the opening reveals the main tale as events that took place 10 years earlier than this prologue – and a post-script as well.

The pre/post scenes damage the film because they remove tension. Since we know these characters survive, we don’t fret about their fates.

That said, Hodges attempts to toss a curveball via some ridiculous methods. The climax seems wholly absurd, as does as a revelation that comes during the post-script.

It feels like Hodges realized what a mess he’d created. He figured that if he finished with a nutso bang, audiences would forget that the prior 90 minutes offered such a morass of melodrama.

This doesn’t work, and the overqualified cast can’t redeem the material. Arquette seems overwrought and shrill, while Robards hams up a storm.

It does seem fun to see Robards and Hulce together, if just because it reminds us that they’d appear as father and son a year later via 1990’s Parenthood. My memories of that superior film becomes the most enjoyable aspect of Rainbow, as the 1989 movie turns into a dud.

The Disc Grades: Picture B-/ Audio B-/ Bonus B

Black Rainbow appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. I don’t expect much from late 80s movies, but Rainbow looked fairly good.

Overall sharpness worked fine, as the majority of the movie offered nice delineation. Occasional shots felt a bit soft – and not always for logical reasons - but most of the flick seemed well-defined.

I saw no issues with jagged edges or moiré effects, and the image lacked edge haloes. The movie came with a nice sense of light grain and kept print flaws minimal, as I noticed a handful of small specks and nothing more.

Colors tended toward a mix of natural tones, and the Blu-ray replicated them well. This meant the hues appeared full, albeit on the amber or green side to suit the material.

Blacks seemed dark and dense, while shadows were largely appealing, though a few low-light shots seemed a bit thick. Overall, the visuals worked mostly well.

As for the film’s DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack, it seemed fine but not memorable. The soundscape lacked much breadth, as it often leaned toward monaural.

Music showed pretty solid stereo imagery, but effects remained restrained. Ambient elements spread to the sides but other components felt more centered.

For instance, a moving train stayed stuck in the middle and lacked the expected sense of dimensionality. A few shots opened up a bit, but the focus remained largely centered, and surround usage was nearly non-existent.

Audio quality seemed fine. A few lines sounded a little stiff, but most of the dialogue was natural and concise.

Effects fit in with the track well, as those elements appeared accurate and well-defined. Music fared best of all, so the movie’s score appeared warm and rich. This wasn’t a slam-bang soundtrack, but it was satisfactory.

When we head to extras, we find two separate audio commentaries. The first comes from writer/director Mike Hodges, as he provides a running, screen-specific look at the project’s origins, story and characters, cast and performances, sets and locations, music, photography and other elements.

For the movie’s first half, Hodges delivers a mostly good look at the film. He rants a little too much about social areas that don’t really connect to the flick, but he still brings a useful examination of production areas.

Unfortunately, Hodges tends to fade during the film’s second half. While we still get some decent info, he goes AWOL too often, so this becomes a spotty chat.

For the second commentary, we hear from film writers Kat Ellinger and Samm Deighan. Both sit together for this running, screen-specific discussion of Both sit together for this running, screen-specific look at story/characters, genre areas, cast and performances, locations, themes and interpretation, and connections to other films.

Though they occasionally get into nuts and bolts aspects of the production, Deighan and Ellinger instead concentrate on more introspective areas. They do a good job of this and deliver a fairly rich view of the film, even if I don’t always agree with their assessments.

Called Message in a Bottle, a “making of” featurette runs 19 minutes, 19 seconds. It brings notes from Hodges and producer John Quested

“Bottle” looks at the project’s origins and development, story/characters, cast and performers, themes and some production elements. Given that only two people appear here and Hodges dominates, “Bottle” repeats a fair amount of info from the commentary. It’s not a bad program but it lacks the perspective one expects from a “making of” show.

Archival Interviews breaks into three domains: “Jason Robards” (2:23), “Rosanna Arquette” (2:17) and “Tom Hulce” (2:22). We also get a little from Quested.

They tell us a little about the characters and involvement, but we mostly see movie snippets in these promotional reels.

In addition to the film’s trailer, we conclude with four Archival Featurettes: “8 Minutes” (8:22), “Disasters” (2:12), “Seeing the Future” (2:19) and “Behind the Rainbow” (20:32). Across these, we hear from Hodges, Arquette, Quested, Robards, Hulce, and co-producer Geoffrey Helman.

These reels examine story/characters, cast and performances, themes, sets and locations, and a few other production topics.

Though we get some new material, much of this repeats from the other programs. “Behind” is semi-worthwhile, though, so if you don’t want to watch all the disc’s featurettes, go with it as the best of the bunch.

With a potentially clever plot, Black Rainbow comes with the potential to create an engaging supernatural thriller. Instead, it wallows in melodrama and cheap plot twists. The Blu-ray comes with mostly good picture and audio as well as an erratic but sometimes useful array of bonus materials. Rainbow squanders its strengths to deliver a disappointment.

Viewer Film Ratings: 2 Stars Number of Votes: 1
0 3:
View Averages for all rated titles.

Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Main