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Blue Underground presents
The Final Countdown: Two-Disc Limited Edition (1980)

Warren Laskey: Still think it's a dream?
Captain Matt Yelland: It's a nightmare.

- Martin Sheen, Kirk Douglas

Review By: Matt Peterson  
Published: July 08, 2005

Stars: Kirk Douglas, Martin Sheen, James Farentino
Other Stars: Katharine Ross, Ron O'Neal, Charles Durning
Director: Don Taylor

MPAA Rating: PG for (violence, some language)
Run Time: 01h:42m:30s
Release Date: March 30, 2004
UPC: 827058200493
Genre: adventure

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B BB+A- B+

DVD Review

Time travel is problematic. Despite Einstein's theoretical proof that such transit is possible, temporal paradoxes inevitably crop up and soil the affair. And what of the ethical implications? If we can travel into the future, then the future is fixed. If this is so, can free will truly exist? What of traveling into the past in order to go left when history went right? The mysteries of the universe are simply endless, and discoveries, some of which are probably misconceived, are ongoing. We can discuss and question ad nauseum, but the concept of time travel is wonderful for at least one reason: it makes for some pretty exciting movies.

The Final Countdown is one of those legendary B-movies that has finally been granted a quality DVD release. It's a nostalgic favorite of mine. It's just a solid, entertaining "what if" with some dazzling aerial footage and a detailed glimpse at our fine military personnel in action. The carrier Nimitz, commanded by none other than Kirk Douglas, has taken on a new passenger: Warren Laskey (Martin Sheen) is an efficiency expert from the Defense Department—the kind of analyst that tends to ruffle the feathers of habitual sailors. Before the inspection can begin, the massive aircraft carrier is sucked through a strange storm. The swirling blue maelstrom catapults the crew back to December 6, 1941, smack dab between the Japanese fleet and Pearl Harbor.

Disbelief sets in. Initially suspecting an elaborate hoax on the part of the Defense Department, the crew is eventually convinced by on-board history buff Richard Owens (James Farentino) that Einstein's work is no longer theory. So comes the inevitable question: does the captain decide to use the massive, technologically advanced power of the Nimitz to stop the impending invasion? Or should history be allowed to proceed unchanged? And what of their unexpected American and Japanese visitors—is the damage already done?

This is an intriguing tale that is full of action, adventure, and some generous helpings of cheese to boot. A few examples of the film's charm: the score is quite hokey in a Lone Ranger kind of way; the "anomaly" that transports our unsuspecting heroes into the past looks a bit like swirling blue Kool-Aid; and the pained anguish of the Nimitz crew as they pass through puts William Shatner's throes to shame. Aside from these eccentricities, and a tad too much footage of takeoffs and landings, The Final Countdown is a sci-fi/military buff's dream. It simply works as a fun adventure with a great concept. The heated situations here, including a pair of F-14s buzzing two unsuspecting Japanese Zeros, are thoughtfully considered, and are just a joy to watch.

The cast is solid enough, spearheaded by the chomping attitude of the skilled Kirk Douglas, along with a subdued, fresh-faced Martin Sheen, seemingly recovering from an Apocalypse Now hangover. The film is full of awkward deliveries and strange bit parts from the disco-tinged crew (some of which were producers' cameos), but their initial disbelief is perfectly believable. Even though we know exactly what is going on, watching the crew slowly realize the gravity of their situation remains compelling. True, the ending is a bit of a cop out, but quite inevitable. Don't like it? Whip up some blue Kool-Aid or find a flux capacitor and make history your playground.

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: B


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Blue Underground has delivered an impressive THX-approved anamorphic 2.35:1 transfer. Colors are somewhat subdued, and the image can appear hazy, but this is about as good as this can look. The print looks rather clean, and detail is solid.

Image Transfer Grade: B+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes
Dolby Digital
English (EX)yes
DTSEnglish (ES)yes

Audio Transfer Review: Once again, Blue Underground has included a slew of audio options. The Dolby 5.1 EX and DTS 6.1 ES mixes are impressive, featuring plenty of dynamic range, directional effects, and great ambiance. You will also find an English 2.0 stereo track.

Audio Transfer Grade: A-


Disc Extras

Static menu with music
Scene Access with 22 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
Cast and Crew Biographies
3 Original Trailer(s)
2 TV Spots/Teasers
1 Documentaries
1 Featurette(s)
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Blue Underground producer David Gregory and director of photography Victor J. Kemper
Packaging: Amaray Double
Picture Disc
2 Discs
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL

Extra Extras:
  1. Poster & Still Galleries
  2. Zero Pilot's Journey (DVD-ROM)
Extras Review: Passed between studios for several years, The Final Countdown has found a friend in Blue Underground. This two-disc limited edition—limited to 100,000 copies—features a dazzling 3-D lenticular cover that simply begs to be seen. Very cool, indeed.

Disc 1 features an audio commentary with Blue Underground producer David Gregory and director of photography Victor J. Kemper. This is an informative track with some great anecdotes. I like the idea of having a DVD producer interacting with a film's cast and/or crew; it makes for some fine conversation. You will also find two theatrical trailers, a teaser, and two TV spots (all anamorphic; the TV spots are pillarboxed).

Disc 2 begins with Lloyd Kaufman Goes Hollywood: Interview with Associate Producer Lloyd Kaufman (14m:00s, 16:9). This candid, funny piece delves into Lloyd Kaufman's production experiences on the film (which got a bit dicey), and his eventual decision to go independent (he's the co-president of Troma). Next is Starring the Jolly Rogers: Interviews with the Jolly Rogers F-14 Fighter Squadron (31m:12s, 16:9), a documentary that covers the squadron whose incredible acrobatics helped make the dogfight sequences all the more dazzling—a revealing conversation with a group of talented pilots. Disc 2 also contains four galleries, (poster art and publicity stills, U.S. pressbook, behind-the-scenes, and the U.S.S. Nimitz), and a Kirk Douglas biography. Finally, Zero Pilot's Journal, a PDF file accessible via DVD-ROM, is an article on the pilots who flew the vintage Zeros seen in the film.

The extras may not be plentiful, but there is some quality content to be had. Fans of the film will want to put down the extra change for this limited set; the cover alone is worth the difference.

Extras Grade: B+


Final Comments

This is certainly a step up from that grainy pan-and-scan TV broadcast I saw back in the day. A B-movie classic, The Final Countdown has finally found its way onto a quality DVD, thanks to Blue Underground. Fans will be pleased.


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