The Hunt for Red October appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this 4K UHD Disc. This wasn’t a great image but it was more than watchable.
Sharpness generally seemed good, though ups and downs occurred. At best, the movie exhibited pretty solid clarity and accuracy.
However, matters could seem a bit mushy at times, and some digital noise reduction sapped delineation as well. Much of the movie took place in dimly-lit interiors, and those created the most obvious “soft spots”. How much these stemmed from the source versus the transfer seems up for grabs, but I thought the image leaned less distinct than probably should have been the case.
No issues with shimmer or jaggies materialized, and edge haloes remained absent. I also noticed no signs of print flaws.
Given the subject matter, October usually went with a low-key palette that favored blues and grays. That didn’t leave the 4K UHD’s HDR capabilities much room to impress, but the hues seemed well-rendered within their subdued constraints.
Blacks were fairly dark, while shadows seemed fine. Again, most of the movie came from murky settings, so some blandness resulted. Nonetheless, the low-light images were reasonably concise. This was an erratic image but it seemed acceptable.
The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundfield showed a consistently positive sense of environment. The forward channels mildly dominated the piece, and they presented excellent delineation and separation. The front speakers remained in use through the majority of the movie, and they created a setting that was lively and realistic. Elements blended smoothly, and pieces moved cleanly across the channels.
The surrounds appeared more active than I expected for a film of this era. They presented lots of excellent material for both quiet and loud sequences. In one early shot, whale sounds emanated convincingly from the right rear speaker, and the channels neatly communicated the sense of being underwater during the many sub shots.
The action scenes brought the surrounds to life as well, and other segments – like one in a shipyard – used all five channels with great effectiveness. Overall, the soundfield worked well to create an immersive environment.
Audio was also good. Speech seemed reasonably natural and concise, without notable problems. Music appeared vivid and dynamic and showed nice depth and punch.
Effects seemed positive. They displayed no signs of distortion and they powered through the various scenes with great clarity and richness.
Bass response was tight and distinctive throughout the movie, and the track gave my subwoofer more of a workout than I anticipated. Given the age of the material and the high caliber of all other elements, I felt October deserved an “A-“, as this was a strong auditory effort.
How did the 2020 4K UHD steelbook release compare to the 4K UHD from 2018? Both were completely identical, as the 2020 release simply reissued the 2018 version.
On the 4K disc, we find an audio commentary from director John McTiernan, who providedsa running, screen-specific piece. McTiernan never seemed terribly at home with the format, and those concerns continue during his dull discussion of October.
McTiernan covers a mix of topics, as he goes into changes from the book, casting, issues related to factual matters, different forms of research, storytelling concerns, and some technical matters related to effects, locations, and other areas.
That quick synopsis might make the commentary sound more informative than it actually is. Frankly, McTiernan’s useful remarks occur awfully infrequently.
Actually, any form of information crops up sporadically, as much of the track passes without discussion. The facts appear in dribs and drabs, and McTiernan often doesn’t explore them well. For example, at one point he mentions his original plan to cast an actor who physically resembled Joss Ackland to play against him in the part eventually garnered by Richard Jordan.
Why didn’t this happen? I don’t know, for McTiernan lets the subject drop without additional explanation. The director offers periodic bits of decent information, but overall, this commentary seems fairly boring and slow-paced.
In addition to the film’s trailer, the included Blu-ray copy provides a documentary called Beneath the Surface. This 29-minute program features the standard mix of movie clips, production materials, and interviews.
We get circa 2003 material with producer Mace Neufeld, director John McTiernan, actors Alec Baldwin, James Earl Jones, and Scott Glenn, screenwriter Larry Ferguson, director of photography Jan de Bont, ILM visual effects supervisor Scott Squires, ILM model shop manager Keith London, ILM chief model maker Kim Smith, ILM first assistant cameramen Bob Hill and Vance Piper, ILM directors of photography Marty Rosenberg, Patrick Sweeney, and Carl Miller, and ILM technical director Doug Smythe. In addition, Sean Connery appears via pieces shot in 1990.
The participants start at the beginning and discuss the acquisition of the rights to Clancy’s novel and various adaptation issues. They then go into casting, research for the roles, and many technical topics related to the subs and other special effects concerns.
“Surface” conveys the information well but lacks much flair. It includes a reasonable amount of material and certainly gives us more insight into the production than does McTiernan’s commentary, but it comes across as a little plodding at times. Still, at least it presents useful material, so October fans will want to give it a look.
Though I didn’t think much of The Hunt For Red October when I first saw it in 1990, I must admit it’s slowly grown on me over the years. It crams in a lot of technical issues and conveys them concisely, and it builds to a rousing and involving climax. The 4K UHD gives us excellent audio along with generally good visuals and decent supplements. This didn’t become a visual show piece but it ended up as the best version of the film on the market.
Note that this 2020 steelbook release of Hunt becomes its first individual release. The 4K UHD version of the film was available only via a five-film “Jack Ryan Collection”.
To rate this film, visit the original review of THE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER