Friday, June 5, 2009

ROMANCING THE STONE - Blu-Ray (2oth Century-Fox 1984) Fox Home Video

Robert Zemekis’ Romancing the Stone (1984) is a throwback to 1940s Saturday matinee adventure serials. Fueled by the success of Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), producer Michael Douglas acquired the rights to Diane Thomas’ like-minded fluff yarn about romance novelist, Joan Wilder (Kathleen Turner), a spinster forced into the sordid details of a life she generally writes about when her sister, Elaine (Mary Ellen Trainor) is captured by a Columbia drug smuggler.

Against the advice of her publicist, Gloria (Holland Taylor), Joan departs the relative safety of her New York apartment for the tropical wilds. She is befriended by American wanderer, Jack Colton (Michael Douglas); the physical embodiment of heroism with a rather jaded heart and unrelenting desire to get back to civilization.

Together, the two explore hostile jungle terrain, spend a harrowing night inside the shell of a downed plane, and, are chased from village to countryside by the rebels and by police who are after Ralph (Danny DeVito) and Ira (Zack Norman), the men responsible for Elaine’s predicament. All are after one thing; the mystery of El Corazon - a fabulous gemstone hidden somewhere in the rainforest.

Zemekis keeps the pace of his eclectic comedy/adventure yarn mostly taut and moving, though on occasion he pauses to insert superfluous nonsense that does not augment, as much as it provides interludes apart from the main narrative. There is, for example, really no real purpose for Jack and Joan’s celebratory dance at an outdoor club during carnival, except to solidify what the audience already knows – that they have fallen in love. Still, the sequence is one of the most colorful and beautifully staged.

Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner have definite on screen chemistry – his glib, no nonsense fortune hunter in perfect sync with her naïve fish out of water turned wild flower with an edge of determination. Danny Devito is the perfect comic foil – making the most out of a role that is cameo at best.

At the time of its release, Romancing the Stone was a huge critical and box office success – prompting a sequel; The Jewel of the Nile. Tragically, screenwriter, Diane Thomas was killed in an automobile accident shortly after the film’s premiere in a car that was a gift of appreciation from Douglas who also produced the film.

Fox Home Video’s Blu-Ray easily bests its DVD predecessor in both color fidelity and image sharpness. Colors that were moderately engaging on the DVD are now rich, bold, refined and nicely balanced. Contrast levels are superbly realized. Age related artifacts that were present on the DVD are absent on the Blu-Ray and all of the shortcomings in edge enhancement have been eliminated.

The audio is 5.1 Dolby Digital. Like most films from the 80s, it lacks in bass tonality but is quite acceptable otherwise. Extras have all been imported from the DVD, including 3 featurettes detailing various aspects of the film’s production and deleted scenes. Highly recommended!

FILM RATING (out of 5 - 5 being the best)
4

VIDEO/AUDIO
4.5

EXTRAS
3.5

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