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One of the most contentious discussion areas among staff at DVDAnswers is probably our favourite movies. Most of us class movies such as Star Wars in our top 20, but there are occasional choices which induce fits of laughter. I would rate Over The Top as one of my favourite movies, and while it may not find its way into my top ten, it is certainly a film I hold in high regard. When MGM announced that they were releasing the movie on DVD, it brought back fond memories of a film I used to watch often as a child. I was excited by the announcement and looked forward to reviewing the DVD, but would it still hold the same magic that I enjoyed as a child? Read on to find out…  

Over The Top
Lincoln Hawk (Sylvester Stallone) is a long-haul truck driver who is haunted by his past mistakes in life. At the point in the film where we are introduced to him, he is trying to make amends for the mistakes he has made. Hawk has been asked by his ex-wife to pick up their 12 year old son Michael (David Mendenhall) from his military school graduation ceremony. Michael is disgusted with his father’s behaviour, as he not seen his old man for many years and doesn’t understand why his father abandoned his family. Hawk is keen to make up for this, but he soon learns that Michael is not so accommodating and wants nothing to do with him.

As the pair get to know each other, it becomes clear that Michael’s mother, Christina (Susan Blakely), is in hospital suffering from a terminal illness and in fact she dies during the early stages of the film. Hawk is the obvious guardian for Michael but Jason Cutler, (Robert Loggia) Michael’s grandfather, is determined to fight for custody of his grandson. Jason holds a grudge against Lincoln and doesn’t see why the failed father should have the opportunity to make up for his past. Desperate to make amends, Hawk kidnaps his son, but soon finds himself behind bars for his actions. He realises that the best (and only) way to win him back is by getting his life back on track. Therefore he risks everything to enter a national arm wrestling championship in Las Vegas, the prize being a very expensive truck and a large wad of cash.

Watching Over The Top brought back many memories from my childhood. I remember watching it with my brother when I was younger, and after watching the movie we set about having an arm wrestling competition! The tournament normally involved one of us taking on the role of Lincoln Hawk (including the famous turning around of baseball cap). This all sounds embarrassing, but at the time we were really into the film. Fifteen years on and I was interested to see how well Over The Top has aged. Most of my childhood favourites disappoint when I revisit them, but that was not the case here. I am not naïve enough to say that it is a classic, but in the entertainment stakes it doesn’t disappoint. You could probably split the movie into two sections; the first hour is an emotional drama while the second half focuses entirely on arm wrestling. Both aspects have their merits and are probably one of the main reasons the film is so enjoyable.

Many people have compared it to the Rocky movies, and have even criticised it for this reason. The resemblance is evident for all to see, but director Menahem Golan (famous for the Delta Force movies) has created a movie which deserves to stand on its own. My next statement is going to surprise a few people, but I am going to say it anyway! Over The Top is one of Sylvester Stallone’s best performances; he has a good storyline to work with and actually has the swagger of someone who is a competent actor! If you are looking for a senseless, but extremely enjoyable night’s viewing which typifies the 80s, then you need look no further than Over The Top.

Over The Top
MGM have presented Over The Top in widescreen 2.35:1, and I would like to say that the results are good, however I would be lying! It’s no exaggeration to say that this is probably one of the worst transfers I have come across since I started reviewing DVDs a few years ago. You name it, this transfer does it poorly! For a start the colour palette is restrained and looks drained. Skin tones are pale and blacks actually appear as light greys. The image itself is full of blemishes and is generally in not very good condition. I wouldn’t be surprised if when you asked random people whether they thought this was a VHS or DVD then they would probably opt for VHS. Grain levels are excessive and compression artifacts are evident, which is disappointing considering the lack of extras with this release.  We are less than half way through the year, but I am still willing to put forward this transfer as one of the worst of 2004, it really is that bad!

There is not much to shout home about with the audio side either. MGM have supplied four soundtracks with this release, which are Dolby Digital 2.0 tracks in English, German, French and Spanish. While the tracks in question are perfectly adequate, it would have been nice to have had a 5.1 track, which would have added to the atmosphere set in the arm wrestling tournament. Instead what we are given is a bunch of soundtracks which are restrained but do their job. Dialogue levels are perfectly audible and the musical score is also portrayed reasonably well. Subtitles are also provided in Bulgarian, Danish, Dutch, English, Finnish, French, Greek, Polish, Swedish and Romanian.

While I am in a critical mood, I feel the need to comment on the menu system for this DVD. MGM have really gone back to the stone age with these menus, and I am sure a novice could have done a better job! The menus are static and have dark backgrounds with a couple of images displayed. The most annoying aspect of the menus is the icons which are not clear and cause all sorts of confusion when trying to navigate the disc.

Over The Top
This section is going to be short as there are no extras. I am sure that there must be material available for this film, but we don’t even get a simple trailer. This further emphasises the fact that MGM don’t hold this film in high esteem and felt that it would be acceptable to just release a barebones edition.

Over The Top deserves a better DVD release than this. MGM have made little effort with this disc, and unless you are desperate to own this title I implore you to give this release a wide berth. If this happens, hopefully MGM will realise the error of their ways and release a better edition in the near future. Over The Top (or Meet Me Half Way as it is called in America) has not been released on region one yet, so at the very least it is probably worth waiting to see how that will compare. If you feel the uncontrollable urge to purchase this release, then be warned, it really is that bad!  It’s a shame really, as nearly twenty years on, Over The Top is an entertaining no-brainer which shows Stallone at the peak of his career.