This Month's Featured Equipment Reviews
Written by Mel Odom
Tuesday, 22 December 1998
|New Line Home Entertainment
||Wesley Snipes, Stephen Dorff, Kris Kristofferson, N’Bushe Wright, Donal Logue
"Blade" stands as an explosive fist-in-the-viewer’s-face. An exotic
blend of action, horror, and superhero mythology, the story seizes the
audience by the throat and doesn’t let go until the final hand is
dealt, until the final card is turned over — and it’s winner take all.
Chapter 1 opens up in an emergency room. Orderlies wheel a bloodied
patient through double doors into the trauma unit. Frenzied
conversations by the doctors and nurses are muted as though they’re
taking place under water. This effect reminds anyone who has been
through any kind of serious trauma of the disassociation that occurs
while the body and mind try to come to grips with what has happened.
The basso undercurrent walloping through the subwoofer is as regular as
a metronome, a heartbeat that underscores the action taking place and
the helplessness of the young victim.
Chapter 2 shifts into high gear as the opening credits roll. A man and
woman in a sports car zip through downtown traffic and end up at a
meatpacking warehouse. The bass beat stays with the viewer, keeping him
or her wired for the slightest sudden movement. The racks of meat pass
by, zipping through the center and front speakers, sounding like
they’re missing the viewer by mere inches.
Inside the after-hours club proper in Chapter 3, the surround sound
system gets hotwired for frantic, driving licks from a blast of techno
music. The voices of the rave crowd drift through the front and back
speakers as the hapless guy is led to what looks like his impending
doom, giving the watcher the sensation of being in the middle of the
whole show. Deacon Frost (Stephen Dorff), who becomes the hero’s
nemesis, can be seen in a brief cameo shot marked by the sudden
"whoosh" of sound that rolls through the center and front speakers to
signify the speed of vampire movement.
In the next few seconds, blood spews down from the fountains overhead,
punctuated by a crescendo of music hammering from the surround sound
system. The crowd’s roars and the screams of the potential victim whip
through the speakers in a dizzying aural spectrum. The impact of the
blows as the poor, unsuspecting guy is pummeled by the bloody-faced
vampires is too loud for real life, but just fits into the over-the-top
auditory venue of the violence about to be unleashed. Then the blood
stops flowing from the fountains, and the viewer listens as the
dripping recedes from the center speaker to the main and rear speakers,
then disappears entirely.
Blade (Wesley Snipes) arrives and the viewer knows the party is over
for the vampires. However, the techno beat returns, savaging the
subwoofer and smashing through the main, rear and center speakers as
the vampire hunter lashes into his fanged foes in Chapter 4. Blade’s
footsteps, the shotgun’s explosions, and the heavy gunfire all echo
through the speakers and the subwoofer, making the viewer who has a
surround sound system feel like he or she needs to duck to avoid danger.
Quinn, one of Blade’s primary enemies, puts in an appearance. Blade
pulls his sword and the rasp of steel fills the speakers. The spikes
Blade fires home into the wall to pin Quinn are thunderclaps relayed by
The audio settles down a bit in Chapter 5 as Blade makes his escape
through an alley. The sound engineers take care to spin the noise of
the papers flying through the speakers so that the listener gets the
impression that he or she is in the middle of the maelstrom.
Chapter 6 opens with another crash of emergency room doors as Quinn’s
burned body is rolled into the hospital. The heavy action and the crash
of the sound system picks up again in Chapter 7 with Blade’s arrival.
His footsteps crash across the floor, followed by the fight with the
revived Quinn, and the gunfire of the police officers. Quinn’s escape
through a window resonates with the crash of broken glass, then ends
with the solid thump of Quinn dropping onto an arriving ambulance.
The action in Chapter 7 continues as bullets ricochet from the walls
and from Blade’s bulletproof armor, fading from the center speakers to
the front speakers. Another fine feature is the shift from center
speaker to main speakers as the point view changes from near to far on
the police sniper. Under all the action, though, the heavy wallop of a
heartbeat echoes constantly.
Chapter 8 is primarily quiet, but features a train passing from right
to left through the speakers that makes the viewer want to put his or
her foot on a brake pedal to slow the car’s approach. Chapters 9
through 13 are likewise relatively quiet, character-developing
stretches. The film features heavy action, then rests for the audience
before slamming them with adrenaline-fueled mayhem and carnage again,
making the step back into the action much more exciting.
Chapter 14 revs up the action with the power V-8 roar of Blade’s car
and the tires screeching across pavement. The body impacts from the
fights in Chapter 15 aren’t realistic, but are welcome all the same.
Chapter 16 features a tire-shredding chase scene, a nice parlay over
the speakers. Listen for the swirl of papers in the alley again,
threaded through with the V-8’s roar.
In Chapter 17, the subwoofer picks up music inside a club, the strains
of the high-pitched voices of two girls singing erotic entertainment,
and the crash of pots and pans in the kitchen.
In Chapter 18, the view shifts to Deacon Frost’s penthouse apartment.
The music roars through the speakers, but the front speakers pick up
the delicate liquid rush of water in the swimming pool.
Chapter 20 and 21 burn with the driving crash and thunder of gunfire,
explosions, shouts, breaking glass and martial arts blows. A particular
standout among these comes when one of the vampire’s grabs Blade’s
booby-trapped sword and loses a hand to the hidden blades. The
explosions are enough to send chills down the viewer’s back.
The arrival and departure of the subway train in Chapter 21
particularly inspires heart-pounding excitement. With the way the sound
is set up through the surround sound system, the viewer feels as though
he or she is trapped down in the subway tunnel with the characters.
Chapters 22 through 25 are quiet, plot-tightening moments again, which
are welcome after having the adrenaline levels driven up in the
preceding two chapters. Pay attention to the well-executed crashing
surf effects in Chapter 24, as well as the sounds from burning pyre
that one of Frost’s vampire enemies becomes.
In Chapter 26, Frost faces off with Blade. The action and tension are
incredible. The audio track includes Frost’s whispered challenge that
somehow carries to Blade (special vampire hunter senses?) as well as
passing traffic, gunshot explosions and the crash of the destroyed bus
booth. Note the pre-"Matrix" bullet effect as Frost dodges Blade’s
marksmanship. Then Blade is nearly run down by huge trucks that echo
throughout the surround sound system.
Chapter 27 promotes a particularly creepy bit of laughter rolling
through a warehouse. The subwoofer echoes the laughter as well as the
thunderous gunshots and the body blows of a vicious beating.
Chapter 28 is subdued to a degree as Blade learns disturbing facts. But
even on the quieter side, the subwoofer still thunders. Chapter 29 is
likewise quiet, but the full roar of the action returns in Chapter 30
as Blade assaults Frost’s penthouse fortress.
The approaching elevator noise keys the viewer up, then the crashing
thunder of the motorcycle’s arrival puts the audience away. Splintering
glass and gunshots punctuate this chapter, underscored by the
walkie-talkie communication traffic from the main speakers. When Frost
orders the penthouse to be locked down, steel plates lower over the
windows and close off doors, and the crash of those heavy barriers
falling into place runs through the surround sound system from right to
left. Body explosions leave a definite gruesome impression.
The hiss of the steel vault gives the watcher a chill, knowing that a
vampire is emerging. The surprise of who the vampire is makes the
moment more chilling still. The arrival of trucks pass through the
speakers, and the watcher expects the ground to tremble because the
heavy vehicles sound so close.
In Chapter 33, there are good echo effects during a dialogue sequence.
Another fight again features the over-the-top body blow impacts.
Chapter 34’s noises like the snick of knife blades inside a restraining
device are deceptively quiet but will probably cause cringing on part
of some viewers. Chapter 35’s blood dripping reaches titanic audio
levels, rumbling through the subwoofer. The subwoofer accompaniment
continues through Chapter 36’s arrival of the winged skeletons. From
there on, the movie is a rumbling roar of explosions, gunfights, and
martial arts mayhem that glue the audience to the screen and to the
surround sound system.
The extras include commentary by Snipes, Dorff, and writer David S.
Goyer, among others, that is often funny as well as enlightening. One
of the most interesting aspects is the special effects section that
deals with the green screens and filming the subway scenes in the
movie. "The Origins of Blade" is another interesting feature that
imparts a lot of knowledge, especially about the Comics Code Authority,
where it came from and what it did. The alternate ending for the movie
shows a much different final battle, and also gives the viewer a
glimpse of what the finished movie might have looked like without all
the production work.
For the action adventure movie watcher, for the vampire fan, and for
the horror film enthusiast, sheer enjoyment and pulse-pounding
excitement just doesn’t get any better than this. "Blade" is going to
stand as a high-water mark for all of these movies for some time, just
as "Matrix" will hold its own among the SF crowd. The audiophile
interested in true and complete carnage, martial arts body blow
impacts, and driving techno music will be remiss if he or she doesn’t
add this DVD to the collection.
|English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround; English Stereo Surround
|2.35:1; Enhanced for widescreen TVs
Commentary by Actor/Producer Wesley Snipes, Actor Stephen Dorff, Writer
David S. Goyer, Director of Photography Theo Van De Sande, Production
Designer Kirk M. Petruccelli and Producer Peter Frankfurt; Isolated
Score with Commentary by Composer Mark Isham; "La Magra: Witness the
Story’s Evolution" Featurette with Deleted Scenes, Alternate ending and
Interviews with David S. Goyer, Peter Frankfurt and New Line Executive
Michael De Luca; Production Design, Makeup and Special Effects Design
Featurette with Interviews with Kirk Petruccelli, Richard "Dr." Baily,
Greg Cannom and Jeff Ward; "The Origins of Blade: Exploration of Dark
Comics" Featurette with Stan Lee, Brian Clemens, Mick Farren and Gareb
Shamus; "The Blood Tide: A Look at Vampire Mythology and Real-Life
Blood Rituals" with Interviews with Nina Auerbach, J. Gordon Melton,
Dr. Gary Schiller and Father Gregory Coiro; Pencil to Post: Pencils
Sketches through Production Designs; "House of Erebus" Vampire
Bloodlines Featurette; Cast and Crew Biographies and Filmographies;
Original theatrical trailer; English Closed-Captioning; DVD-ROM Features
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