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  • Widescreen 2.35:1
  • 16:9 Enhanced
  • Dual Layer ( 49)
  • English: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • English: DTS 5.1 Surround
  • None
  • Theatrical trailer
  • Audio commentary
  • 2 Featurette
  • Animated menus
  • Music video - Van Halen - Humans Being
  • DTS trailer - the piano one

Twister: SE

Universal/Universal . R4 . COLOR . 108 mins . PG . PAL


Hi there, I’m a Hollywood geek. You might know me as the young and talented up-and-coming actor earning his stripes, or the B-list, semi-attractive star without the talent or sex appeal to draw the crowds or a really decent salary. I have adventures. Really cool adventures. Cool enough to make expensive movies about. Cool enough to convince normal people to suffer upwards of two hours of my visage on the big screen. Cool enough to make them want to be me. Well almost. Cool enough to get my adventures green-lit, but not cool enough for a decent script. I am stargazer, maths prodigy, hacker, storm chaser. I am B-film fodder.

Witness Twister, the 1996 precursor to a string of effects-driven, decidedly poor disaster films that heralded a short-lived return to the pulp-cinema of the 1950s. Telling the simple tale of one boring man's and one insipid woman’s quest to learn the truth about one of nature’s most destructive forces, Twister follows recently separated meteorologists Bill (Bill Paxton) and Jo (Helen Hunt) who, in between contemplatively furrowing their brows, chase tornadoes across small-town USA. It tells the story of their life’s dream: to get a bunch of little sensors, code named ‘Dorothy’, inside a spinning tornado to study its structure. It tells the story of their posse; a bunch of like-minded geeks who join the chase in a convoy of ramshackle vehicles. But mainly it tells the story of advances in flashy CGI particle simulations and impressive audio mixing technology. That is to say, it tells us very little.

That is not to say that the visual and audio effects showcased in Twister aren’t impressive. On the contrary, they are absolutely fantastic. But when we get down to brass tacks, the film itself is fairly poor. A collaboration between writer Michael Crichton and Speed director Jan de Bont, Twister’s writing is lacklustre and the performances from its leads are, frankly, dull. Despite being unattractive enough to make the perfect Hollywood geek-girl, watching Helen Hunt is about as interesting as watching paint dry. Certainly de Bont’s choice to dress her in a white singlet for the duration of the film, even soaking her to the bone on a number of occasions, should feel sexily exploitative - but it doesn’t. Bill Paxton too is a total yawn. Now I loved Bill in Aliens as much as the next person, but the more I see him in these lead roles, the more I can’t escape the thought that he really is that pathetic car salesman from True Lies. What could have been Twister’s saving grace - a talented supporting cast including the likes of Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Alan Ruck - just isn't given the screen time to shine.

All in all, despite starting with a reasonably novel premise, Twister is a desperately derivative disaster film; high on effects, but low on re-watch potential. Chock up another one for those unappreciated Hollywood geeks.


Despite one or two slight glitches, the video transfer afforded this 'Special Edition' of Twister is, for all intents and purposes, perfect. Sharp and detailed without undue aliasing-related artefacts, the anamorphic (2.35:1) image supplies the requisite amount of detail, both in brightly-lit and low light conditions, to showcase those flashy particle simulations. Although a little film grain can be seen lurking in some of the film’s darker scenes, shadow detail is fantastic (a must given the predominance of stormy scenes), as is colour saturation; the crop-filled American prairies alive with colour during the patches of infrequent sunshine. In terms of the compression process things are almost flawless, with only a single instance of macro-blocking seen to affect the large twister that menaces our heroes at a drive-in. Interestingly, this artefact is detectable only through a component video signal and was effectively hidden in my player’s SVideo output.


Ever since its arrival on DVD, Twister has been justifiably lauded for its reference-quality audio. And with the addition of a DTS 5.1 audio track over and above the existing Dolby Digital 5.1 mix; Universal’s 'Collector’s Edition' release has upped the ante considerably. Whether listening to this new DTS mix or the original Dolby Digital, Twister is an awe-inspiring sound experience. Both mixes are beautifully balanced between the front and rear channels, with an almost continuous amount of surround and subwoofer activity throughout. In addition to all the normal directional and panning effects associated with cars, voices and other typical foley effects, the sound ascribed the film’s titular natural phenomena literally fills the room. Growling and whipping across, around and down the soundstage, all manner of howling winds and crashing debris fill your living room. When the film isn’t paying witness to a storm in full flight, the score too is nicely handled, mixed to the centre of the soundstage and creating, even during the film’s quieter moments, a nicely immersive viewing experience. Thankfully, (or maybe not) even during the film’s noisiest moments dialogue is never obscured; emanating clearly and distinctly, without synch problems, for the duration of the film.

When the two audio options are compared, the DTS track certainly wins out over its Dolby Digital counterpart. With noticeably better fidelity, and displaying an obvious increase in the amount of sonic detail that can be differentiated, it provides more discrete sound elements with which the panning and swirling effects can work. The results are a far more dazzling presentation, improving greatly on an already impressive Dolby Digital mix.


Animated menus, quite inappropriately displaying a montage of the film’s key scenes, provides access to a reasonable number of extras; quite a grab bag compared to the trailer and cast/crew bios that Columbia shipped with their original release.

  • Commentary – director Jan De Bont and visual effects coordinator Stefen Fangmeir: The duelling accents of Jan and Stefen narrate the action, providing insights into the development of the film scene-by-scene. Although Jan does most of the talking, the two are very chatty, never leaving much of a pause in the discussion. Certainly a reasonably interesting commentary as far as they go.

  • Theatrical Trailer: (1:58) You’d think it was a slasher film from the over the top scare factor they try to inject here. Quite a bold misrepresentation of the final film, and certainly good for a laugh.

  • The Making of Twister: (13:52) Interviews with cast and crew give a nice overview of the film, the scale of the production, and the various elements that went into the final product. It also gives a bit of background on the real storm chasers on which the film is based.

  • Anatomy of the Twister: A lot more wanky, MTV meets E! featurette, cut with a hard-rocking soundtrack and with a dumb-ass voiceover guy. Contains some of the same interviews, plus a quite good overview of how ILM built up the realism in the visual effects.

  • Music Video: Humans Being by Van Halen: (3:26) Oh my god! Did I really just sit through that?


Twister is one of those titles that inevitably ends up in your collection; not because it’s a great film, but because it looks and sounds so good through your expensive home theatre set up. In terms of sound, it remains a DVD release with which to impress your friends. But don’t be surprised if that’s the only time you end up trundling it out. Certainly with its impressive DTS audio mix and a number of interesting extras, Universal’s re-release of Twister will have fans re-opening their wallets. Personally, I suggest a rental before committing your hard-earned.

  • LINK: http://www.dvd.net.au/review.cgi?review_id=2360
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      And I quote...
    "Big sound, big effects, and now a DTS 'Collectors Edition'. But sadly, Twister still blows…"
    - Gavin Turner
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Toshiba SD-2108
    • TV:
          Panasonic TC-68P90A TAU (80cm)
    • Receiver:
          Yamaha RX-V795
    • Amplifier:
          Yamaha RX-V795
    • Speakers:
          B&W 602
    • Centre Speaker:
          B&W CC6 S2
    • Surrounds:
          JM Lab Cobalt SR20
    • Subwoofer:
          B&W ASW-500
    • Audio Cables:
          Standard Optical
    • Video Cables:
          Standard Component RCA
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