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Anchor Bay presents
Death Before Dishonor (1986)

"Combat is death, yours or the enemy's! Let's just pray to God you people don't have to find that out."
- Joseph "Gunny" Burns (Fred Dryer)

Review By: Daniel Hirshleifer   
Published: May 12, 2001

Stars: Fred Dryer
Other Stars: Brian Keith, Joanna Pacula
Director: Terry Leonard

Manufacturer: Crest National
MPAA Rating: R for (violence)
Run Time: 01h:36m:27s
Release Date: May 29, 2001
UPC: 013131140798
Genre: action

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer

DVD Review

Well, Fred Dryer fans, the two of you can rejoice. Death Before Dishonor has finally arrived on DVD. Of course, you'll have to forgive me if I'm a bit underwhelmed. I prefer movies with plausible plots, good acting and directing, and something resembling three-dimensional characters. Let's just say Death Before Dishonor has none of the things I look for in a movie.

Master Sergeant Joseph "Gunny" Burns is sent to the Middle Eastern country of Jamal to defend the American Embassy. Wasting no time, Arab terrorists steal vital weapons supplies from the Americans the day after they arrive. And wouldn't you know it; the terrorists kidnap Burns' colonel and his escort the next day. Burns wants to move against the terrorists, but the American ambassador won't hear of it. Burns must fight with those in command while also trying to fight the terrorists.

What we have here is a movie that no one in his or her right mind would want to see. This movie can't even count as a guilty pleasure. Everything about this movie is mediocre. The direction is rudimentary, the acting is poor, and the plot has more holes in it than a George W. Bush sentence has grammatical errors. Yet, for all of that, the movie manages to find a balance between bad and good. The directing is rudimentary, yes, but serviceable. There's nothing atrocious about the way he directs. Granted, instead of moving the camera he would cut to a different angle, but that's his prerogative. Dryers can act a little, and the little he can act prevents his performance from being terrible. Some of the other actors are truly horrible, and it's fun to watch them ape human emotions and speech. Notice I don't actually acknowledge their status as human beings, mostly because they are almost certainly robots programmed to say lines. You know those computer programs where you type in a sentence and it repeats it on your speakers, except it would have strange inflection and pronounce words incorrectly? That's what these actors remind me of. And while they are funny, they're really annoying. Also, you'll have to excuse my hyperbole regarding the plot. It's not really as bad as a George W. Bush sentence; I just couldn't pass up the comparison. The plot is forgettable, certainly, and stupid at some points, but overall it exists in order to facilitate the action.

Ah, but the action is where the film truly fails. Not one scene was exciting. A few shots during the final battle caught my eye momentarily, but they aren't enough to keep interest in the sequence as a whole. During every action scene, I sat there, dull-faced, waiting for my pulse to go over 50. These are the parts where the director's insistence on cutting would have worked in the film's favor. But no matter how many explosions Leonard threw at us, no matter how many people got blown away, I wasn't impressed. I think the problem is that the characters are so annoying that I was glad they were dying. There's no way to keep tension when a character is killed and the audience says, "Good riddance." Also, the fact that the film has sound effects that seem like they were taken from a Looney Tunes cartoon doesn't help create tension and suspense. When a man throws a knife into a wall and it goes "BOOOING!" I promise that you cannot keep a straight face, let alone stay involved in the story and the atmosphere it tries to create.

Another problem with this film is the sinking feeling that it condones American imperialism. There are a couple of scenes that deal with the idea of whether American imperialism is right or wrong. In the end, it is determined that the Americans did the right thing by stepping in. Of course, had the Americans not been there, the weapons they were giving to the Jamalis wouldn't have been stolen. But enough logic for one day. The fact is that the film touches lightly upon the subject of America's foreign involvements, but it does so in a superficial way that comes off as unintelligent and jingoistic. I cannot find even one compelling reason to see Death Before Dishonor.

Rating for Style: D
Rating for Substance: F


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Anchor Bay knew they weren't dealing with a grade A film, and so they didn't give it a grade "A" transfer. While anamorphic, the film is grainy and looks washed out. Some scenes look so faded that I'm surprised they came from the same print. I couldn't see any artifacting, however. Considering what the film is, I don't blame Anchor Bay for the transfer, but I'm still going to grade them down.

Image Transfer Grade: C


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishno

Audio Transfer Review: This isn't too bad of an audio transfer. The rear surrounds are used once in the film as far as I could tell. It did a good job of locating different sounds in different front speakers. The sound effects sound especially cartoon-like and clear. However, I felt the whole thing needed more bass. There are a lot of explosions in this film, and some decent bass would have been a nice addition.

Audio Transfer Grade: B-


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 28 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English
1 Original Trailer(s)
Packaging: Alpha
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: A theatrical trailer, matted at 1.85:1. This trailer is better than the film, in that there is action, as well as bad dialogue in the form of narration, all in less then two minutes.

Extras Grade: F


Final Comments

Don't see Death Before Dishonor. Just don't.


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