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Introduction
Following the theft of my R1 copy of Predator, I was left with the choice of either using the insurance money to buy another copy, or to hold out a few months and wait for the new R2 special edition (which promised to be a major improvement over the last release). For those of you who don’t know, when Fox originally released Predator in the UK they mistakenly used a heavily edited master intended for the German market. What this translated into was a film devoid of some of the more violent moments, as well as Arnie’s infamous “Stick around” line! Well, the special edition is finally here, and it looks like Fox have pulled out all the stops to make sure this one is a success.

Predator: Special Edition
Film
The story concerns a group of commandos, led by Major ‘Dutch’ Schaefer (Schwarzenegger), who are hired by the CIA to rescue a cabinet minister, who is being held by guerrilla fighters somewhere in Central America. They are accompanied on the mission by Dillon (Carl Weathers), a CIA agent and old friend of Dutch. During a lengthy introductory sequence, the team is dropped off somewhere in the jungle and their search for the hostages begins. Along the way they uncover the mutilated bodies of a group of Green Berets. Upon further investigation, Dutch realises that he knew the dead men and quizzes Dillon about their presence. Dillon denies all knowledge of the Green Beret’s mission. Assuming that the guerrillas must be responsible for the atrocity, the team track them down and a bloody battle ensues. After the fighting has subdued it becomes apparent that there was no cabinet minister, and that Dillon and the CIA used the team to stop a potential security threat to the United States. Angered by his friend’s deception, Dutch orders his team to retreat to the evacuation point, taking a female guerrilla along with them for the intelligence information she can provide.

Shortly afterwards the woman tries to escape, and is pursued into the jungle by one of Dutch’s team. Just as he catches up to the woman, a mysterious, almost invisible shape emerges from the jungle, cuts him down and carries the corpse off into the trees. It soon becomes apparent that the guerrillas were not responsible for what happened to the Green Berets, and that someone, or something else is stalking the commandos through the jungle. An implacable alien creature, capable of blending into the surrounding environment and possessed of superior technology is tracking them. One by one this unseen assailant picks off the commandos, until only the girl and Dutch remain. He alone must face this ultimate hunter; with whatever primitive weaponry his can muster. Alone, he must face the Predator.

Predator: Special Edition
Video
As with the R1 disc before it, the quality of the video in Predator is highly variable. This can be quite distracting at times, especially when the change occurs during supposedly continuous scenes. I can only surmise that different types of film were used during the shoot, which could explain why some parts look better than others. For example, the Fox logo at the beginning of the film is appalling, and the opening scenes are very grainy. Still, when it does clear up the image looks very nice indeed. The anamorphic 1.85:1 picture can be extremely sharp in places, with lush, vibrant colours that really bring the jungle to life. This mixed bag costs the disc points overall, but this is still the best looking version of Predator I’ve yet seen. If only the whole film had looked as good as the better scenes, this would have been a top transfer.

Audio
As with the R1 disc, sound is handled well. Fortunately, a recent upgrade enables me to enjoy the DTS track on this disc (something I wasn’t capable of when I reviewed the R1 disc). There’s no doubt about it, the DTS track is significantly meatier than the Dolby track in this instance; just wait until you hear the roar from your sub whenever Old Painless is fired for proof of that! The rears are utilised well, with some nice surround effects in evidence. In fact, the rear channels are active for most of the film, especially during the set pieces, where explosions and bullets seem to fly around the room. Sound effects are good, with the eerily alien sounds of the Predator’s cloaking and visual enhancement technologies being a particular highlight. Dialogue always remains clear, even above the ferocious combat. The soundtrack is full of militaristic sounding music, and suits the film perfectly. Overall this is an excellent, dynamic mix.

Predator: Special Edition
Extras
Here’s where the R2 package sets itself apart from its R1 cousin. Whereas the R1 disc featured only the theatrical trailer, the R2 set contains a plethora of interesting features.

The first, and potentially the most interesting extra is the feature-length commentary from director John McTiernan. He goes into a great amount of detail regarding the production, and in spite of not having the most exciting delivery in the world it’s an interesting and informative commentary. To compliment the audio commentary is a text-based commentary from film historian Eric Lichtenfeld, as well as all new material from many of the crew.

The all-new making-of documentary ‘If It Bleeds We Can Kill It’ runs for approximately thirty minutes, and examines all aspects of production. The documentary features interviews with all of the cast and crew, from Arnold Schwarzenegger to Jesse Ventura and John McTiernan, as well as a look at some of the special effects techniques used. This is an entertaining and informative documentary.

Inside Predator comprises of seven short featurettes entitled “Classified Action, The Unseen Arnold, Old Painless, The Life Inside (a tribute to Kevin Peter Hall), Camouflage, Welcome to the Jungle and Character Design.”  These cover things like the stunts, weapons and costumes used in the movie, and make for interesting viewing.

Three special effects segments and two camouflage tests are also included, which examine the “red suit” technique used to allow the creation of the Predator’s impressive camouflage effects.

Next up we have a number of deleted scenes and outtakes. In fact, there’s only one deleted scene, entitled “Fleeing the Predator” and three outtakes named “Chameleon”, “Building Trap” and “Sliding Down Hill.” The quality of the video is quite poor during these sequences, and they don’t really bring much to the package as a whole. Still, I’d rather they were included than omitted.

“Predator Profile” shows static shots of the creature with accompanying notes on armament and capabilities. This is a short, yet reasonably interesting item. A large photo gallery contains a large amount of on-the-set, behind-the-scenes and promotional images. Finally, a demo of the PC CD-ROM game “Aliens vs. Predator 2” is included for those of you with access to a PC equipped with a DVD-ROM drive.

Predator: Special Edition
Overall
Predator is a highly enjoyable romp with some great set pieces. Thankfully these come thick and fast after an initial, albeit short, quiet period, and there’s a fair amount of tension as you wait for the Predator to eviscerate its next victim. The ‘Predator’ effects are good, even by today’s standards, although some of the other special effects are starting to show their age. The climactic battle is classic Schwarzenegger, and a thrilling end to a fun movie. As far as action films go, Ah-nold really had no equals during the 80s, and in spite of him not being the world’s best actor you have to admire the man for all he’s accomplished (even if all of his recent films have been less than inspiring). Predator is a fine film for a night in with a pizza and a six-pack, and it would have scored even higher if only the quality of the video was consistent. This is currently the best version of Predator available, and is recommended for Arnold and action fans alike.


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