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Fox Home Entertainment presents
The Vanishing (1993)

"If they can put it in a book, it's not romantic. Romance has to be secret."
- Barney (Jeff Bridges)

Review By: Nate Meyers   
Published: September 16, 2004

Stars: Jeff Bridges, Kiefer Sutherland
Other Stars: Nancy Travis, Sandra Bullock, Park Overall, Maggie Linderman
Director: George Sluizer

Manufacturer: PDMC
MPAA Rating: R for terror and violence, language
Run Time: 01h:49m:35s
Release Date: September 07, 2004
UPC: 024543128403
Genre: suspense thriller

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
C+ DB+C D-

DVD Review

American cinema is a fantastic creation, complete with excitement, drama, comedy, and everything under the sun. Frankly, it's sickening to hear people degrade it as artless and hail European and Asian cinema as the hallmark of the medium. That is why a movie like The Vanishing—a remake of a fantastic 1988 French-Dutch co-production—is such a travesty, because it gives critics of American film plenty of ammunition. The contrast between these two productions is not a contrast between American and European filmmaking, but between bad and good filmmaking.

Many will compare the two movies for all the wrong reasons, seeing it as an opportunity to flaunt the supposed superiority of European film. These two films need to be compared to one another, but only in that they are two tellings of the same story. Bearing that in mind, perhaps if there was no original production, this new version would play a lot better to audiences. Unfortunately this is not the case and we have to accept that the American remake of The Vanishing will only spoil the immensely taut experience of viewing George Sluizer's original. The fact that Sluizer agreed to remake his own film is somewhat of a curiosity, because this new version seems to contradict all of the themes of the original.

Unlike in the European version, this new movie tells its story chronologically. The opening scenes portray Barney (Jeff Bridges) as he plans some sort of experiment that he is keeping hidden from his family. It is clear that Barney's plans are sinister, but the exact nature of them will fuel the narrative. Whatever it is that Barney does, it involves Diane (Sandra Bullock) disappearing at a gas station, leaving her boyfriend, Jeff (Kiefer Sutherland), to become obsessed about her whereabouts. The disappearance scene is the highlight of the film, with a very strong sense of dread and suspense that are reminiscent of Sluizer's direction of the original.

Three years later Jeff is still trying to learn what happened to Diane, which puts strains on his new relationship with Rita (Nancy Travis). Thankfully for Jeff, however, Rita is totally committed to this relationship and will stop at next to nothing to make it succeed. The character of Rita is the largest deviation from the original's story, in which the new lover (Lieneke, who is played by Gwen Eckhaus) is not a willing enthusiast of her boyfriend's obsession. Frankly, the filmmaking here is solid, if not exciting. The problem is the script, plain and simple. The three leads (Barney, Jeff, and Rita) barely resemble the original trio from Sluizer's 1988 version, which makes this less of a remake and more of a sanitized thriller that is inspired by the earlier work.

The most notable flaw is the portrayal of Barney. The original villain, played by Bernard-Pierre Donnadieu, was a perfectly ordinary man with an unflinching desire to push the limits. To label him a sociopath, psychopath, or any other disorder would be to mistake his monstrosity. Bridges' incarnation of Barney is a far less scary figure, because he plays him as a bizarre, anti-social man who is rather unattractive in appearance. It is difficult to imagine most people falling victim to Barney's prowl, while Donnadieu's performance made it seem like it would be next to impossible to survive his lurk.

Fans of the original will be disgusted at the new ending provided here, which totally undermines anything that Sluizer put forward with his first telling of The Vanishing. Yet even before the climax at Barney's cabin surfaces, Jerry Goldsmith's inapt score and the pacing will put many off. Never does the viewer feel comfortable with the material and as a result this remake can only ruin the effect of the original.

Rating for Style: C+
Rating for Substance: D


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - P&S1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Rationoyes

Image Transfer Review: The Vanishing is presented in both pan-and-scan and 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. Each version is presented in a single layer on a two-sided disc (one version per side). The widescreen version is to be preferred because it preserves the original aspect ratio with solid results. Contrast is good, with blacks looking sharp and a good amount of depth to create a film-like look. The climax at Barney's cabin contains a lot of detail that makes this a nice transfer, despite some evidence of age.

Image Transfer Grade: B+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0French, Spanishyes
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: For this DVD release, Fox has presented The Vanishing in Dolby Digital 5.1. The mix is primarily front heavy, with limited use of the surround speakers. The final third of the movie gets a more revved up sound treatment. Dialogue is easily understood and ambience is well handled, but the mix doesn't sound much different than a Stereo track does. There are also Spanish and French Dolby Stereo tracks available.

Audio Transfer Grade: C


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 28 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
Packaging: Amaray
1 Disc
2-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: The only supplemental feature on this DVD is the original theatrical trailer (2m:18s). The trailer is shown in nonanamorphic 1.85:1 widescreen with Dolby Stereo surround and inexplicably gives away the ending (for those who watch carefully).

Extras Grade: D-


Final Comments

This release does nothing to entice shoppers. The transfer is good, but the Dolby Digital 5.1 sound mix is too front heavy to engage home theater enthusiasts and the extras are scarce.


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