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Blade Print E-mail
Tuesday, 22 December 1998


New Line Home Entertainment
MPAA rating: R
starring: Wesley Snipes, Stephen Dorff, Kris Kristofferson, N’Bushe Wright, Donal Logue
release year: 1998
film rating: Five Stars
sound/picture: Five Stars
reviewed by: Mel Odom

"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 subwoofer.

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.
more details
sound format:
English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround; English Stereo Surround
aspect ratio(s):
2.35:1; Enhanced for widescreen TVs
special features: Audio 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
comments: email us here...
reference system
DVD player: Pioneer DV-C302D
receiver: RCA RT2280
main speakers: RCA RT2280
center speaker: RCA RT2280
rear speakers: RCA RT2280
subwoofer: RCA RT2280
monitor: 42-inch Toshiba HD Projection TV

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