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Michael Keaton plays every landlord's worst nightmare ... The Tenant From Hell!  I guess the one thing this movie has in its favour is for use as a training manual for future investors in the real estate market - always get something in writing before someone moves in and changes the locks!  I keep seeing horror stories like this all the time on my local TV station and these tenants literally get away with murder sometimes.  I haven't felt the need to do anything like that with my landlord (yet :-).

Based in the exclusive (almost "Beverley Hills" type) suburbs of San Fransisco, Pacific Heights shows what happens when tenancy laws go bad.  If things haven't changed in San Fransisco since this movie was released I'd be very shocked, considering this doesn't do much for their image otherwise.  At least I can see why Dirty Harry carries a cannon in this town.

Pacific Heights
I enjoyed this film in one sense because of the hopelessness you would feel when the law only seems to work in favour of those who know it back to front, and how our innocence and our trust-worthy nature can work against us (even with the best of intentions).  On the other hand, the performance by the husband (played by Matthew Modine) is particularly hard to stomach since he continues to get angrier by the minute and just lets his emotions boil up to the surface without a single sensible thought entering his head.  Just my $0.02 worth there ...

So depending on which side of the white-picket fence that you sit on, you may view this movie as either ... a completely unnerving thriller grounded in a very possible reality, or ... an annoyingly stereotypical characterisation of people who don't seem to learn from their first 10 mistakes or so.

This movie was filmed before Melanie Griffith decided to hire somebody to sock her in the face a few times in order to end up with thick lips, which honestly doesn't improve her image - I think she did it to stop everyone getting her confused with Meg Ryan all the time.  Watch out for the cameo of the director John Schlesinger as the man in the hotel elevator.

Movie
Matthew Modine plays the (annoying and very hot-tempered) husband of Melanie Griffith who plays the (somewhat dense but ultimately super-sleuth) wife - both of whom get conned into renting their apartment to (a veritable psychopath played very disturbingly by) Michael Keaton.

Two love-birds, Drake Goodman & Patty Palmer (Matthew Modine & Melanie Griffith) decide to purchase an old Victorian house which they have split up into various apartments for rent to help pay for their mortgage.  Along comes a spider in the form of Carter Hayes (Michael Keaton) who proceeds to spin his web of deceit and destruction for reasons unknown (after having researched into his prey and sweet-talked his way in with his supposed wealth).

When the money fails to arrive for the rent, weird things start happening in Hayes' newly acquired residence, and the landlords find that the law virtually gives them no rights to immediately evict or take any action against this man.  In fact, it's the landlords who are seen to be the bad guys by the police and court system after Carter Hayes' very subtle manipulations.

Pacific Heights
Video
As far as I can gather, this R4 DVD is actually the original R1 DVD that was produced in 1999.  DVD technology has progressed significantly since then and the improved methods of encoding have helped to iron out all the bugs inherent in this format. Alas, all we get here is the now two year old encoded title ... as a result, the transfer is watchable but far from acceptable (not by today's standards).

Firstly there is considerable grain present in the image which could have been substantially reduced by today's image encoding technology.  The blacks are relatively dark but not perfect and even in the lighter scenes the characters get lost in their own shadows (maybe this is a result of the cinematography).  The image is poorly detailed especially with hair and clothing being lost in a blur, but the sharpest of details (such as the parquetry floor in the court house) get a reasonable viewing.  There are a good number of nicks and scratches that make this film look older than it actually is.  Also, the colours are so bland that not even the most basic of hues stand out.

Audio
Not bad for a low budget movie, however this wasn't exactly a low budget production.  Again, this was "remastered" in 1999 into an English DD 5.1 soundtrack.

This is kind of a heavily boosted VHS sound quality at best.  There is lots of thud (not thump) from the sub-woofer whenever Michael Keaton gets the living daylights kicked out of him.  There is hardly anything that I would consider as independent channel activity and the rears just play host to a repeat of what the front speakers are doing most of the time.  Luckily the dialogue itself comes out just clear enough for us not to start grisling about the lack of subtitles.  However, the obviously un-remastered French DD 2.0 contains a very poor dialogue audio level.

Extras
Your standard bare movie-only fare, really.  Just the theatrical trailer and no subtitles whatsoever.

Pacific Heights
Summary
I'm sorry to say that this DVD is two steps backward from what we expect nowadays, based on current expectations of the DVD format.  One, we are used to a better standard of quality in both video and audio (regardless of the source) and maybe a few more little extras here and there.  Two, because this (and all of Warners future DVDs) will probably be the old NTSC rehashes of 2-4 years ago.  I'm sorry, but I find this unacceptable.

All I can say is that discerning DVD purchasers should be more wary than ever when deciding where to spend their hard-earned cash in the video store.  Not only will they have to contend with subpar presentations (PAL or NTSC) and little or no extras, but these DVDs will still be at roughly the same prices as fully-fledged Special Editions on the market.

So if you're still interested in owning this DVD purely from the movie's standpoint, then buyer beware!


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