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Romancing the Stone

20th Century Fox/20th Century Fox . R4 . COLOR . 106 mins . G . PAL


I notice that there seems to be quite a slew of older titles released suddenly. I often scan the discs for the ‘Copyright film 1984, this disc 2001’ label; it reminds me of what is going on right now. DVD has gotten to a stage where the older catalogue is made available for sale after the big blockbusters like 'Gladiator' and 'The Matrix' have hit the market. The cynical among you might say that the companies have soaked us on the big titles and so can now sit back and soak us again on their older back catalogue.

Of course we hope that the discs are of adequate quality and economy so that we can replace our old VHS tapes conveniently. Paying over $30 for old, old titles dumped onto DVD haphazardly isn’t going to make for happy customers. Maybe we’ll see older title DVD’s litter the aisles of supermarkets like VHS does now…

Fox have released ‘Romancing the Stone’ recently (disc says 2001 :-) in a package, presentation and price that is quite commendable.

I think just about everyone has seen this movie – it’s been repeated ad infinitum. Basically it’s an adventure like the Indiana Jones series with the talents of Michael Douglas, Kathleen Turner and Danny De Vito.

Turner is a romance novelist whose sister has been kidnapped by Colombian criminals who wish to retrieve a treasure map in exchange. The corrupt Latin police also want a piece of the action. Turner is aided by an adventurer/rogue in the form of Douglas who convinces her to retrieve the treasure themselves. I bet you guys can even picture the ending sequence!

I know, I know, it’s a life size cartoon with caricatures for characters but I think everyone enjoys a Saturday afternoon matinee flick like this once in while.

Even a hardened, old cynic like me (who is waiting for a double shot of Criterion ‘Silence of the Lambs’ and ‘Hannibal’) likes a bit of popcorn fluff in every once in a while.

I liked the slicks and the static menu pictures which are suitably comic book style.

Zemeckis is responsible for many wholesome, family oriented hits like 'Contact' and 'Castaway'.


The picture is 2.35:1 anamorphic. I found the compression quality to be quite high. I was pleased with the lack of artefacts and the excellent colour quality although things can be fairly pale sometimes. Sharpness is not common either. Michael Douglas’ craggy face seems to have smoothed out a bit not due to plastic surgery but due to the softness of the film stock. Sharpness on close ups is not common either :-).

You can see this quite easily in any shot of the Mexican jungle (not Colombian as the story goes). The foilage is a mass of green rather than individual plants and leaves like in modern films. Night shots are ok with good blacks and decent contrast with bright patches.

There is minor artefacting on small movements on large static backgrounds. This is evident when you have shots of people in the background walking in wide panoramic shots.

Obviously the original film stock is the limiting factor. Overall I found the quality to be quite pleasant.


Well this is 1984 when analog Dolby Stereo was the standard… this disc is Dolby 2.0 English only, even though the little speaker pictogram shows the presence of a mono surround and centre. I could detect no surround activity – I found that quite disappointing as I find my Pro Logic processor can usually make recordings of rain scenes emanate from all speakers (even television) but not in this case!

Vocal intelligibility is fine. Stereo effectiveness was fine. What’s not as good is the dynamic range and the poor fidelity of various effects. The relative loudness of effects was also of poor quality, that is, gunshots, explosions etc. sounded like a loud transistor radio – there was no body or ‘timbre’ to peak sound effects. I didn't find the sound objectionable but I was transported back to when discrete was a adjective and not a noun. I think it might be a combination of poor quality post sound production and poor tape technology.

Music and scoring is unobtrusive - a typical track for 1984 in other words. It is Alan Silvestri however.


No extras really except for the comic rendered menu picture (as a treasure map!) and the trailer and some European subtitles.


I’m quite pleased with how this disc turned out – it is a quality disc of quite a popular movie. Nice to see Michael Douglas in an early role and I expect people to replace their VHS tapes with this disc and not be disappointed.

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