Customer Review

52 of 56 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Remember the Romance, November 11, 2009
This review is from: Romancing the Stone [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)
Joan Wilder (Kathleen Turner) is a shy, mousy, albeit highly successful romance novelist who weeps at her own work when she finishes each novel ("Oh, God--that's good!") and, terrified to leave her Manhattan apartment, only dreams of the adventures that her fantasy character, Angelina, lives. All this changes when she receives a letter from her sister's recently deceased husband which contains a treasure map, and receives a phone call from her terrified sister held hostage by the same kidnappers (introducing the hilarious Danny Devito and Zack Norman, two partners-in-crime who happen to be cousins) who insists that Joni must deliver the map to her in Colombia. Reluctantly, the borderline agoraphobic Joni agrees, because it's her sister.

After her bus, supposed to be routed to Cartagena but ends up crashing into a jeep filled with exotic birds in the middle of the mountainous nowhere, and she is ordered to give up her purse containing the map to the same man who murdered her husband, the evil Colonel/Minister of Antiquities/Deputy Commander of the Secret Police Zolo (chillingly portrayed by Manuel Ojeda) she is narrowly rescued by a soldier of fortune named Jack T. Colton (Michael Douglas). He becomes embroiled in the struggle for what is at the end of the map, the green, priceless emerald stone. They meet numerous crazy characters along the way and hijinx abounds!

Seeing this movie on blu-ray makes me remember the sheer VISUAL pleasure of its 35mm release! Its 2.35:1 Panavision anamorphic cinematography, lensed by horror maestro John Carpenter alumnus Dean Cundey, is lush. He cut his teeth in Carpenter's early films like Halloween, The Fog, The Thing and Escape from New York, with his trademark cobalt blue night lighting; here, the screen is a tapestry of jungle greenery, flickering orange firelight and lots of wild night hues, complimented with the cool blues of Manhattan at various times of day and night. After this, he would go on to photograph several of director Robert Zemeckis' other works, the Back to the Future trilogy and then Jurassic Park for director Steven Spielberg. His naturalistic lighting lends credibility and yet an elegance and glamour to all these films.

The legendary production designer Lawrence G. Paull, of Blade Runner fame, again works his magic here, making very little, the jungles of Mexico made to be Colombia, look spectacular.

Director Robert Zemeckis, whose career was effectively over after the dismally received (but quite goodj) I Wanna Hold Your Hand and Used Cars, was enlisted by producer Michael Douglas, who recognized the then 28-year-old lad's talent. Douglas, who originally didn't want to play the part of Colton, caved in when all his potential leads declined, and he realized just how rare good parts and scripts are!

Diane Thomas' first script is indeed a gem, filled with action, humor, passionate romance, and a wonderful sensitivity. We really root for our leads! This movie is an example of a cross-genre piece that Hollywood has since always strived to emulate: It has everything; action, romance, suspense, humor, even a rather hot, steamy after-sex scene between our two attractive leads! This makes this movie a favorite in my book. Our two protagonists go through amazing character arcs: The petrified novelista Joan learns how to live. The hardened jungle warrior veteran Jack learns how to love.

The visual quality of the blu-ray release is superb, especially considering that this film was previously only released to DVD in non-anamorphic letterbox. The details, immediately evident in the ruddy, sweaty complexion of Grogan, Angelina's nemesis in the fictitious novelista prologue pre-opening credit sequence, really pop! A real treat!

And, no small sidebar...eureka--the film's original English subtitles are there to explain the Spanish dialogue! The "Cartagena, Colombia" caption before Elaine is captured, as well as Zolo saying "You must be French" to Danny DeVito, who is attempting to do the most ghastly Spanish, Zolo ordering "Assemble your men" to his military commander, and, the most needed, when the bell-maker Juan explains to his henchmen that "this is Joan Wilder, the one who writes the books I read to you on Saturdays!", one of the biggest jokes in the movie. Without the subtitles, in previous versions, if you don't speak Spanish, you're lost.

If I find any faults with this blu-ray release, they apply to to the quality of the soundtrack. The film was released prior to the advent of Dolby Digital 5.1, so one can't expect the kind of in-your-face clarity and realism of today's 5.1 discreet mixes, but, while the sound mixers did a bang-up job of making center dialogue (the crispest I've ever heard it outside a cineplex) completely discreet from the side music and effects channels, the side and rear channels seem to be lacking almost all high frequencies, resulting in a mushy dulling of composer Alan Silvestri's sizzling Latin percussion/synthesized score and the sound of the drizzling rain. The audio also seems to be behind the image one frame in sync. Good news is: Bass, especially in the waterfall, is superb and robust.

(sigh) While the audio is disappointing, to say the least, the gorgeous visual transfer, in addition to the enchanting story and performances, makes me forgive the audio faults (for now anyway, until a future version arrives), and enjoy the ride! I really hope Fox remasters this one more time on blu-ray in the future, as it is one of their most endearing catalog titles, and since blu-ray is supposed to be the ultimate presentation format of the film.

The extras, including interviews with our now much-aged cast (ironically, Danny Devito hasn't aged at all) and sumptuous deleted scenes, which contain much of the same dialogue as their film version counterparts, and replace Joan's female editor Gloria with a seemingly docile male editor but whom we know is attracted to Joan, which adds fuel to her fear and mistrust of men, are wonderful, and enhance my appreciation of an already beloved film.

Put on your aligator boots and prepare for romantic adventure: This one is sure to please!
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Dec 16, 2009 5:16:09 PM PST
SummerKy says:
thanks for this review of the BLU-RAY, perhaps you should include that in your title as all of these other reviews Amazon brought over from the poorly transferred DVD. Why they do not I do not understand, it's a poor practice in my estimation

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 20, 2012 11:43:35 AM PST
Thanks! I agree; amazon shouldn't lump blu-ray reviews in with DVD reviews. I too find this frustrating.
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