The Dead Pool appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. I don’t expect much visual splendor from 1980s movies, but Pool looked pretty good.
Very few issues affected sharpness. A little softness occasionally crept into wide shots, but these usually seemed accurate and well-defined. Jaggies and moiré effects didn’t create concerns, and edge enhancement remained minimal. Print flaws also failed to distract. The movie showed a couple of small specks but nothing more substantial.
1980s flicks usually suffer from bland colors, but that wasn’t a problem with Pool. Though the tones never quite excelled, they looked perfectly solid. The hues appeared clear and concise throughout the movie. Blacks were deep and tight, and shadows looked clear. I felt pleased with this consistently positive transfer.
Since the first four “Dirty Harry” movies featured fine audio, I expected similar pleasures from the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of The Dead Pool. And that’s what I got from this nice mix. Audio quality was solid. Speech sounded crisp and clean; no roughness or other problems influences the dialogue. Music was a little lacking in low-end, though I felt that reflected the production styles of the era; the score went with a pop/rock feel, and late 1980s music tended to skimp on bass. Effects showed good dimensionality, though, and reproduced the material well.
The soundfield opened up matters in a nice way. Vehicles moved around the room in a convincing manner, and other effects like gunfire and explosions popped up in the logical spots. These elements mixed together smoothly and created a nice sense of place. The surrounds added good pizzazz to the proceedings, while music featured solid stereo presence. The audio of Pool finished the series in a positive way.
When we look at the DVD’s extras, we begin with an audio commentary from cinematographer Jack N. Green and producer Richard Valdes. Both sit together for this running, screen-specific take on the film. They discuss cast and crew, cinematography, stunts, how the flick came to be, story and development, working with Clint Eastwood, and locations.
As the sole two-participant “Dirty Harry” commentary, I hoped this one would be lively. Alas, it ends up as a pretty dull chat. The participants cover the basics in a rudimentary way but don’t go beyond that, and the conversation tends to plod. It’s a mediocre piece at best.
The Craft of Dirty Harry fills 21 minutes, 34 seconds with remarks from Clint Eastwood, Green, editor Joel Cox, composer Lalo Schifrin, former WB executive John Calley, critic Richard Schickel, filmmakers David Ayer, John Badham, George Gallo, John Lee Hancock, Peter Hyams, Shane Black, John Milius, Jay Cocks, James Fargo, and actors Andy Robinson and Michael Madsen. “Craft” looks at the work of cinematographers, editors, and composers. It provides a reasonable take on these technical elements and turns into a fairly useful little show.
The set finishes with a Trailer Gallery. It includes ads for Dirty Harry, Magnum Force, The Enforcer, Sudden Impact and The Dead Pool.
“Dirty Harry” Callahan makes his final film appearance via 1988’s The Dead Pool. The movie entertains to a moderate degree, but it doesn’t provide a particularly strong cinematic experience. The DVD presents very good picture and audio as well as a few decent extras. The quality of this release supports the film pretty well, but it’s not a great flick.
A purse-strings note: you can buy The Dead Pool on its own or as part of a seven-DVD “Ultimate Collector’s Edition” boxed set. That package includes Pool along with Dirty Harry, Magnum Force, The Enforcer, Sudden Impact, and the documentary Clint Eastwood: Out of the Shadows. In addition, the set gives fans a small book and some other non-disc-based materials that I’ll cover in the review of the package as a whole.
Purchased separately, the five movies would cost $80.90 MSRP, while the “Ultimate Collector’s Edition” goes for $74.98. If you want all the films, it’s obviously the way to go.