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One of Arnie’s best 80s action flicks, Predator has been on my ‘to buy’ list for years now. Since I got into DVD about eighteen months ago I have bought more films than in ten years of VHS purchasing, so it seemed like a good idea to pick up what I was hoping was going to be the definitive version of the film.

The story concerns a group of commandos, led by Major ‘Dutch’ Schaefer (Schwarzenegger), who are hired by the CIA to rescue a group of cabinet ministers 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 they begin their search for the hostages. 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; he 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 were no cabinet ministers, 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 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 far superior technology, is tracking them. One by one this unseen assailant picks the commandos off, until only Dutch remains. He alone must face this ultimate hunter; with whatever primitive weaponry his can muster. Alone, he must face, the Predator.

Unfortunately, I’m a little disappointed with a couple of aspects of this disc, not least the video quality. Predator is presented in 1.85:1 and is anamorphically enhanced, which is at lest an improvement over the previous release. The trouble is that the video quality varies so widely throughout the film that it becomes very distracting. The Fox logo at the start is appalling, full of grain and covered in scratches and dirt, with the opening scenes following a similar pattern. Things do get a lot better after that, but there is still noticeable grain in places throughout the film. There were times when the picture became far more akin to the DVD standards I’m familiar with, i.e. a sharp and detailed image with bright, vibrant colours, but just as I was getting into it up popped grain-o-vision again. Why the video quality is so variable is anyone’s guess, especially as the previous, non-anamorphic, release was supposed to be quite good. I can’t believe that this was the best quality transfer that Fox could have delivered.

Sound is handled well, with some nice surround effects on the DD 5.1 track. The surrounds are well used during most of the film, especially the set pieces, with the explosions and bullets flying around the room. The helicopters at the beginning of the film show off the surround effects nicely. Sound effects are good, with the Predator’s cloaking and visual enhancement technologies being accompanied by suitably alien sounds. Dialogue is always clear, so overall this is a good mix. Unfortunately.

I recently upgraded to a DTS amp, which has allowed me to re-visit Predator and listen to the DTS soundtrack. If ever you needed proof that DTS is superior to Dolby Digital, it's here. I was a little sceptical before I heard it for myself, but the DTS track is louder, fuller and simply sounds better. The roar of Blain's mini-gun is exceptionally meaty here, and I am now officially a DTS convert!

Extras are very thin on the ground, just the theatrical trailer in fact. I enjoy watching the trailers for films of this era, as they were far more simplistic and didn’t give away most of the set pieces like the trailers of today. The inclusion of DTS, while not really an extra, accounts for the score below. It has to be said that this is a pretty poor showing though.

Overall this is a highly enjoyable romp with some good set pieces, which thankfully come thick and fast after an initial, albeit short, quiet period. There is a fair amount of tension as you wait for the Predator to eviscerate its next victim, but this one is really all about the fireworks. The ‘Predator’ effects are good, even by today’s standards, but 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). Another fine film for a night in with beer and pizza, and it would have scored higher if only they’d sorted the video quality out. Oh, and I’d forgotten just how corny that ‘Stick around’ line was. Classic!

*Note – The R2 edition of Predator is heavily cut, doesn't have the DTS track and apparently suffers from the same kind of video problems as the R1 disc, so it looks as if this version is the one to get.