Sudden Impact 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. 1980s movies often offered muddy visuals, and that held true for Impact, at least to a moderate degree.
Actually, I sometimes found it tough to discern which problems came from the film stock and which concerns stemmed from cinematic choices. Take sharpness, for instance. There’s a slight gauziness to much of the movie. I thought some of that occurred due to the generally flat look of the era’s stock, but I also wondered if the movie went with a somewhat soft look to melt a few years off an aging Eastwood. Most of the flick showed decent to good delineation, but it could also be less defined than I’d like.
I noticed no issues with jagged edges or shimmering, at least, and edge enhancement remained minimal. Source flaws also failed to create too many concerns. I noticed the occasional speck or piece of debris, but those instances were infrequent. The majority of the flick seemed clean.
I suppose it’s ironic that the 1980s were known for bright, dynamic colors but so many of the era’s movies suffered from bland tones. That trend cropped up during Impact, as it displayed consistently dull hues. Though I didn’t think these looked bad, they tended to appear a bit drab and lifeless. Blacks were inky, and shadows could be too dense, though those varied; some low-light shots were fine, while others were a little thick. All of this added up to a watchable but unmemorable image.
At least the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Sudden Impact impressed. All four movies to date have offered terrific audio, and Impact continued that trend. The soundfield opened up matters to a satisfying degree. Vehicles moved around the spectrum in a satisfying way, and action scenes used gunfire and other elements to immerse the viewer in the material. Music boasted good stereo imaging, and the surrounds contributed a solid layer of information.
Audio quality held up well over the years. Speech was natural and concise, with no edginess or other problems. Music sounded lively and full, and effects seemed the same. Those elements came across as crisp and accurate throughout the movie, and we heard good bass response. This was a consistently solid soundtrack.
With that, we move to the set’s extras and an audio commentary with film critic Richard Schickel. He presents a running, screen-specific look at cast and crew, story and characters, the impact of the movie’s big catchphrase, reviving the “Dirty Harry” franchise, and some interpretation.
As I mentioned when I reviewed the first Dirty Harry, Schickel’s commentaries tend to be blah, and this one is no exception. Oh, the critic touches on a smattering of interesting subjects, but he just doesn’t tell us enough of significance to sustain our attention through a two-hour movie. This becomes especially true in the slow-paced second hour of his chat; that portion gets really tedious. The overall result is a snoozer of a commentary.
The Evolution of Clint Eastwood runs 25 minutes, 37 seconds as it provides notes from actor/director Eastwood, Schickel, former WB executive John Calley, cinematographer Jack N. Green, authors Neal King, Emanuel Levy and William Beard, editor Joel Cox, filmmakers Allen and Albert Hughes, Jay Cocks, Paul Haggis, Peter Hyams, John Lee Hancock, Tom Fontana, John Milius, James Fargo, Steven E. de Souza, Joe Carnahan, and Michael Butler, and actors Michael Madsen, Hal Holbrook, and Tyne Daly. The show takes a look at Eastwood’s directorial work over the years. That means you should expect a lot of praise for Eastwood here. A smattering of decent insights emerge, but not enough to create a particularly involving piece.
The set finishes with a Trailer Gallery. It includes ads for Dirty Harry, Magnum Force, The Enforcer, Sudden Impact and The Dead Pool.
One of the most successful “Dirty Harry” movies, Sudden Impact also stands as possibly the most three-dimensional of the bunch. It seems inconsistent and often comes across like two barely connected movies combined into one, but I admire it for trying something ambitious. The DVD provides very good audio along with decent picture and bland extras. This is a mediocre release for a generally positive flick.
A purse-strings note: you can buy Sudden Impact on its own or as part of a seven-DVD “Ultimate Collector’s Edition” boxed set. That package includes Impact along with Dirty Harry, Magnum Force, The Enforcer, The Dead Pool, 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.