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Fox Home Entertainment presents
Taps (1981)

"I haven't spent a lifetime fighting just to roll over and play dead now."
- General Harlan Bache (George C. Scott)

Review By: Mark Zimmer   
Published: March 05, 2002

Stars: George C. Scott, Timothy Hutton, Tom Cruise, Sean Penn
Other Stars: Ronny Cox, Brendan Ward, Evan Handler, John P. Navin Jr., Billy Van Zandt, Giancarlo Esposito
Director: Harold Becker

Manufacturer: DVCC
MPAA Rating: PG for (language, violence)
Run Time: 02h:06m:17s
Release Date: March 05, 2002
UPC: 024543009122
Genre: drama

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B B+B+B- D+

DVD Review

From all appearances in the trailer, and indeed for the first hour or so, this looked like the perfect movie to usher in the Reagan Years. Full of ideas of military glory, notions of honor, it also devolves into a veritable Lord of the Flies type situation, except this time the boys have heavy weaponry. Gen. Harlan Bache (George C. Scott) heads up the Bunker Hill Military Academy, a school for boys aiming at West Point and military service. Brian Moreland (Timothy Hutton) has become the new Cadet Major, and is set to enjoy the summer session before his senior year with friends David Shawn (Tom Cruise) and Alex Dwyer (Sean Penn). But when the trustees of the academy decide to shut down the institution and Bache suffers a heart attack, the cadets, left to their own devices, refuse to surrender the school and turn it into an armed camp, leading to a violent standoff with the military and civilian authorities.Best known today for helping propel both Penn and Cruise to stardom, Taps is still a pretty intriguing film. Without skipping a beat from Patton, Scott continues his patented hardass military role. The focus is really on Moreland, though, who idolizes Bache and wants to live up to his ideals, but finds out some ugly sides to those ideals, as well as the difficulties of standing up to those ideals when dealing with the civilian world. The film nicely works with that transition, spending the first half of the film entirely within the confines of the Academy, and bringing the viewer into the mindset of the cadets and their general. However, the perspective shifts wildly when the outside world is involved, exposing the groupthink aspects of the conduct of the cadets (as well as the weasely aspects of the civilians).This varying perspective helps keep the viewer's interest through the entire running time. Although some of the rather schmaltzy military glories early on seem to run long, they're essential to bringing the viewer into the academy's mindset and beautifully sets up the plausibility of the events that occur afterwards. Although Hutton is a bit colorless and bland (sort of an underage Tom Hanks), the supporting cast is quite good. Cruise is a standout as the trigger-happy Shawn, and even the smaller boys come off well, such as Brendan Ward. The ending is a bit by-the-book Hollywood, but otherwise this film stands out as a thoughtful drama that's worth checking out. The varying perspectives make this more unpredictable than one might suspect at first look.

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: B+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The anamorphic widescreen transfer is decent, with excellent color and good black levels and shadow detail. Hardly any frame damage is visible, but this is probably a result of excessive digital video noise reduction. One of the side effects of this process is an excessive softness to the picture and loss of fine detail. At least Fox didn't slap on some edge enhancement to try to fake up a sharper picture; I'd rather have soft than phony detail. After a few minutes, the softness will bother only the most critical viewers, since the picture is otherwise so good.

Image Transfer Grade: B+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: A DD4.0 English track is provided, along with a Dolby Surround track. The 4.0 version provides for much clearer directionality, although at times it's almost too extreme, such as footsteps approaching from very, very far left. During the sequences involving a PA system, the surrounds provide a convincing echo effect. However, the entire audio track is plagued by a severe hiss and an intermittent electronic hum. Some digital processing should have been applied to remove these defects as well. For the French speakers, there is a mono track that avoids much of the hissiness of the English tracks.

Audio Transfer Grade: B-


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 33 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
Cast and Crew Filmographies
2 Original Trailer(s)
4 Other Trailer(s) featuring Cast Away, Edward Scissorhands, Planet of the Apes (1968) and Romeo+Juliet
1 TV Spots/Teasers
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL
Layers Switch: 00h:58m:47s

Extras Review: The only extras are a set of trailers. These include the teaser and theatrical trailer, as well as the Spanish trailer (which is identical but with Spanish dubbing). All three are presented in anamorphic widescreen. Three pan & scan trailers, for Cast Away, Edward Scissorhands and Planet of the Apes (1968) are also included. The last of these is not actually a theatrical trailer, but a combination trailer for the movies in the DVD boxset. Wrapping up the extras is a nonanamorphic 1.85:1 widescreen trailer for Romeo+Juliet. Chaptering is good, and there are a couple of subtitle options. But that's as good as it gets.

Extras Grade: D+


Final Comments

A serious drama about the clash between civilian and military life surrounding the closing of a boys' military academy, with good performances and a nice transfer (though a bit heavy on the digital noise reduction). Trailers are about it for extras, though.


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