The Hoax 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. This was a consistently good transfer, though not one that stood out as particularly strong.
Sharpness seemed fine for the most part. Wider shots displayed a bit of softness, but those concerns remained modest. Usually the movie came across as acceptably crisp and well defined. Jagged edges and moiré effects caused no concerns, but I noticed mild edge enhancement. As for print flaws, I noticed a couple small specks but nothing more.
The film’s hues appeared fairly cool much of the time. The flick used a slightly golden tone for that period feel. Colors could be a little too bland at times, but they usually were adequately well developed. Blacks seemed acceptably dense, and shadows were clear. The image suited the flick but didn’t excel.
One wouldn’t expect a slam-bang soundtrack from a quiet effort like The Hoax, and the film’s Dolby Digital 5.1 audio won’t surprise anyone. The mix displayed a heavy orientation toward the front channels. Music showed decent stereo imaging, and effects created a fair sense of ambience. The surrounds added light reinforcement of those elements but didn’t do anything very substantial for the most part.
Audio quality seemed fine. Dialogue appeared natural and warm, with no signs of edginess or problems related to intelligibility. Effects usually played a modest role, but they remained distinct and accurate and lacked distortion. Music stayed in the same stark vein as the other elements, and the score seemed clear and bright, with acceptable range and fidelity. The audio of The Hoax appeared appropriately spare.
In terms of extras, we find two separate audio commentaries. The first comes from director Lasse Hallstrom and writer William Wheeler. Both sit together for this running, screen-specific chat. We learn how the two men came onto the project, research and period elements, thoughts about Clifford Irving, the facts of “the hoax” and its adaptation for the movie, cast and performances, editing and cut scenes, and a few production tidbits.
Much of the commentary examines the facts and the fiction of The Hoax, and that’s a good thing. When we learn about the reality behind the film and liberties taken, the piece becomes quite interesting. When Hallstrom and Wheeler chat about other subjects, though, matters seem less compelling. They still throw out some decent info, but I can’t claim the commentary compels. Overall, this is a fair to good examination of the film.
For the second commentary, we hear from producers Leslie Holleran and Joshua D. Maurer. Both sit together for their own running, screen-specific piece. In terms of content, the producers touch on the same kinds of issues heard in the first track. However, this doesn’t make the two terribly redundant. They provide their own take on issues and give us a lot of new information.
Actually, despite some repeated notes, I initially liked the producers’ commentary better than the first one. However, it starts to peter out after half an hour or so. Dead air becomes more common, as does general praise. There’s still enough good material to make this track interesting, but it doesn’t quite excel.
Next comes a “making of” featurette called Stranger Than Fiction. The nine-minute and four-second piece provides comments from Hallstrom, Maurer, Wheeler, reporter Mike Wallace, cinematographer Oliver Stapleton and actors Alfred Molina, Hope Davis, Marcia Gay Harden, and Richard Gere. “Fiction” looks at the movie’s background and premise, cast and crew, acting on the set, and thoughts about the scam and Clifford Irving. This is your basic promotional featurette, so don’t expect much from it. Other than two all-too-brief 60 Minutes clips with Irving, there’s nothing compelling here.
Six Deleted Scenes last a total of 13 minutes, 16 seconds. These include “Dick Is Indecisive” (1:58), “Plotting the Story” (2:05), “Nina in the Park” (2:31), “Friendship Is Complicated” (3:23), “Just a Typist” (1:32) and “The Phone Call” (1:48). The first two are good since they concentrate on the Cliff/Dick relationship; I especially like Dick’s waffling in “Indecisive”. “Park” seems less interesting, but that goes for all the Nina scenes; none of those ever becomes too compelling.
Even though it features more Cliff and Dick, “Complicated” doesn’t do much for me; it spells out some unnecessary points. “Typist” is a little better, as it accentuates Cliff’s deception of his friend, while “Call” shows Cliff’s escalating paranoia. I don’t if any of these should’ve made the final cut – maybe “Indecisive” – but they’re good to see.
We can watch these with or without commentary from Hallstrom and Wheeler. They give us notes about the scenes and tell us why they cut the sequences. Their comments prove useful.
An extended scene entitled “Business As Pleasure” runs six minutes, 27 seconds. This shows Cliff, Dick and the suits from McGraw-Hill at a business dinner. It’s always good to see more of Cliff and Dick as they bluster about Hughes, but there’s not much to make this a terribly memorable extension, even if it is fun.
Mike Wallace: Reflections on a Con goes for four minutes, 33 seconds. Here the 60 Minutes newsman discusses Irving and his impressions of the scam. “Con” proves moderately interesting, though I’d like to see more of the archival interviews.
A few ads open the DVD. We get promos for National Treasure: Book of Secrets, No Country for Old Men, and Becoming Jane. These also appear in the Sneak Peeks area along with clips for The Invisible, Eagle Vs. Shark and The Golden Door. No trailer for Hoax appears here.
The Hoax takes on a fascinating subject and creates an intermittently involving film. Parts work really well, while other segments drone and meander. The DVD provides acceptable picture and audio with a fairly good set of extras. Regard this one as rental territory.