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I'd be the first to admit it ... I loved Speed when it came out in the cinemas, it was kind of revolutionary in terms of "edge-of-your-seat" action and suspense.  I'll also be the first to concede that I don't love it as much these days, mostly because I've watched it so many times that it does tend to dampen the effect it once had on me.  That's the danger of watching your favourite movies over and over again .. it eventually wears so thin that you just wish you never saw it, only so you can enjoy it again for the first time.

"Bombs 'R Us ... How may I direct your call?"
Speed has that timeless quality to it where you could easily place the events on-screen in any time period post-'90s.  However, if there's one thing that sticks out like a sore thumb here it's the mobile phones of the day, which basically look and weigh the same as half a house-brick (and couldn't always fit easily into your shirt pocket).

You'd be surprised that this flick hasn't been parodied to death in many other movies (only half a dozen at last count) but it has been referred to in at least two dozen more.  The original revision of the script did the rounds through a few studios before Fox finally picked it up.  The main reason for its lack of interest was because noone would believe that you could make a suspenseful action movie about passengers on a bus ... but surely that'd be even more plausible than the thought of being in mortal danger whilst you're stranded on a runaway cruise-ship?  (Ouch!)

And if you haven't already picked this movie to bits with all its goofs and blunders of logic, try keeping an eye out for Sandra Bullock as she's driving the bus (isn't that a man in drag?) ... or better yet, see how many inconsistencies there are with the damage to the bus ... I bet you're ticked off now that I've said that!

Movie
What? ... You want me to spell out the whole plot for you?  Haven't you seen it already?  Alright then, if I must ... but don't blame me for any spoilers ...

Elevator falls down .. Howard Payne (Mad Bomber) [Dennis Hopper] wants money .. Jack Traven [Keanu Reeves] saves hostages .. Howard goes boom (apparently) .. SWAT team gets medals .. Bus goes boom .. Jack gets a phone call .. Jack drives like a maniac to stop another bus going boom .. Bus creates havoc at 50mph .. Bus navigates many obstacles (and dips :) with Annie Porter [Sandra Bullock] driving .. Jack saves passengers .. Bus blows up at airport .. Howard steals money from under LAPD's nose .. Jack craps himself seeing Annie strapped to an oversized party-cracker .. Howard loses head on train .. Jack speeds up train (yeah, like THAT's gonna help!)

Video
Not perfect, but damn near to it.  There isn't much to complain about with this picture, but here goes ...

Film artefacts are virtually non-existent here, except maybe for some light grain in the static shots (of which there are hardly any).  The image is very sharp, clear and well-defined with the colours at their full saturation.  However the darker scenes at the beginning and near the end of the movie do lose out on some shadow detail, but I guess you'd have to allow for something to go amiss given the small budget.

Open up!  I left my bomb .. uh, briefcase .. under the seat.
Audio
I cannot personally comment on the DTS mix as I do not have the equipment for this, but if the Dolby Digital mix is anything to go by, hold on to your bags or purses or whatever you're carrying ...

The first thing I noticed immediately was the sub-woofer ... for two reasons.  At the time of the cinematic (and subsequent Laserdisc and initial DVD) release there was never a .1 channel given to the Dolby Digital mix ... the sound engineers at the time deemed that it wasn't necessary to include it (since AC3, as it was known back then, was still in its experimental stage).  I remember playing my Laserdisc to death hoping that I might get a little more bass each time the LD went into the player and I was always disappointed that it never happened for me.  However, all is forgiven (almost) ... the sub-woofer channel brings a much wanted depth to the proceedings down below, but it's still several of notches below what I would rate as earth-shattering.

Now to check out the rest of the sound mix.  The dialogue is always clearly defined and understandable even with everything crashing and banging around the characters (no doubt since most of it would have been ADR'd). The other four channels (2 front, 2 rear :) were wild and reckless to say the least.  Everything that whooshes past or gets hit by something makes its presence known all around you.  And lastly, the musical score by Mark Mancina provides the all-famous heart-pounding suspenseful rhythm of the movie, which he achieved with a masterful combination of modern rock influence and classic orchestral instruments (he reprised this method the year after in Bad Boys).  Of course, the next generation of youth may well judge this musical hybrid as badly as we do now with the 70s mix of old and new melodic stylings ... such as Shaft ... eugh, what a thought!

From what I've read so far about the DTS mix is that it's a bit less harsher than the Dolby Digital mix, but the DTS apparently has less punch in the lower end of the spectrum (the .1 channel).  The age of the original soundmix in Speed is almost 10 years old now, so it can show its age slightly in a few places, but it did go on to win the Oscar for best sound design and editing(just as Keanu's other movie The Matrix also won the same award in 1999).

I'm tellin' you for the last time ... No anchovies!
Extras
It might be easier if I told you what this new 2-disc S.E. DVD set doesn't have.  About the only things missing here are a collectable booklet and maybe a retrospective collection of interviews from everyone involved ... but since there's already an ample supply of quotable quips recorded at the time of shooting, this really makes no-never-mind in this case (of course the audio commentaries were recorded in late 2001).  There is a lot more to this supplementary supply than initially meets the eye, and I doubt you will get through all of them in the first day.

Disc 1
There were just two things that were added on top of the feature presentation for this first disc, which are the ...

- Audio Commentary by Jan De Bont (director) ... This was his directorial debut after he had spent many years previously as a cinematographer (most famously for Die Hard) and he covers the many facets of just what it takes to make a movie (not just an action one).  It is both technical and personal in nature where he goes into what the cast & crew managed to pull off given the very limited budget ($38m to be precise) as well as De Bont's particular artistic style as a movie-maker.  However, the information he provides does tend to sidetrack away from what's happening in the movie reel - also, be prepared for his Dutch accent.

- Audio Commentary by Graham Yost (screenwriter) and Mark Gordon (producer) ... Recorded just after the events of N.Y. 9/11, these guys just have fun looking back at the film with some pride and a bit of nostalgia.  Discussion goes into topics such as the differences of making movies then and today (ie  the attitudes of using terrorism as a plot device, etc).  They also have a ball arguing with each other about who thought up what first, which tends to sound like the bickering of two children sometimes ("did not, did too"), but it does make for some great back-and-forth verbal fodder.  Add to that, they love pointing out the many sight-gags and groan moments of the film, which is pretty much how I poke the eye out of the inconsistencies and physical implausablities myself.

55 hours? ... gee, we should have plenty of time ... oh.
Disc 2
Some of the content here tends to be repeated in different featurettes, but not enough to annoy.  The initial menu navigation is pretty straight-forward and quick to get around, however there is another problem (that should have been easily fixed) whilst you are moving around the text & image material - you cannot backtrack what you've already gone past when cycling through the pages (it's especially irritating when you missed some vital info beforehand) ... Also, these sections usually end up becoming an all-or-nothing affair, meaning that you ultimately have to read through everything in one sitting otherwise there's no hope of starting anywhere in the middle.

All these featurettes are bundled together within 5 separate sub-menus, as listed below ...

- ACTION .. Bus Jump; Metro Rail Crash; Storyboard Comparisons (3 filmed, 1 unfilmed); Multi-Angle Stunts (4)
The first two featurettes really make you appreciate the logistical complexities of setting up an action sequence that, for the most part, only lasts a minute or so on-screen.  The (pencilled) storyboards are shown alongside the final film, albeit in slow-motion so you can absorb the detail.  There's also an interesting unfilmed sequence which probably would have made it into the "deleted scenes" section had it been shot anyhow.  And finally there are the multi-angle vignettes whereby you can view any one of the 8 camera angles of a particular stunt (4 in total) or have them all displayed side-by-side in one window.  Neato!

- INSIDE SPEED .. On Location; Stunts; Visual Effects; Original Screenplay; Production Design; Interviews
A nice all-round package of on-location footage showing the organisation of the various shots and stunts in the film.  The visual effects show the CGI-rendered alterations of the bus jump, which is interesting since Jan De Bont feared that the footage wasn't framed correctly to make it all work.  The screenplay is okay to read on TV, but again you can only go from start to finish on this one (it would have been better to make a DVD-ROM only version of this).  The interviews start with each person discussing their version of the plot (pointless really), but this can be skipped to the more interesting anecdotes just by pressing the forward-chapter button once.  The production design is a mixed bag of odd commodities (such as the speedometer on the bus and the elevator shaft) and it seems more interested in aesthetic colour coordination or mood rather than the practical purpose of its existence on-screen.

- EXTENDED SCENES .. Jack Shoots Payne In The Neck; Payne Lives & Cop Party; Annie's Job; After Helen's Death; Ray's Crime
This is definately all disposable exposition, deleted mostly for pacing reasons.  It's nice to see the characters getting more fleshed out so that we can identify with them better, but unfortunately that would have spoilt the frantic flow of the movie.

- IMAGE GALLERY .. Set of 18 grouped together by scenes or stunt sequences
These are mostly candid moments photographed on-set.  At least this section allows for instant referral to a certain scene from the film and the variety of images provided is very entertaining.

- PROMOTION .. Trailer and TV Spots; The Making Of Speed (HBO); Music Video with Billy Idol; Press Kit
This HBO special was first released on the widescreen VHS sold in Australia (not in the pan&scan version :) which is an acceptable compilation of behind-the-scenes info, but it has way too much movie footage in it as well as being "hosted" by Dennis Hopper struggling with the cheesy exposition.  The music video is one of those "what-were-they-thinking" moments in history with Billy Idol singing (quite ironically) about the need for speed (and not because the characters in the movie WANTed to, but that they HAD to).  The press kit is unfortunately the least beneficial of the supplements here, I couldn't find anything here worth a second reading for.

"I knew I should've taken that left turn at Alberquerque ..."
There is also an Easter Egg which shows the 'airline version' of the bus exploding.  This is meant to pacify anyone travelling on a commercial airline who has a fear of flying or crashing and it is quite hilarious to watch what (allegedly) happened to the bus after everyone was safely evacuated (you'll know what I mean when you see it).

Overall
Not to knock the talent of Jan De Bont, but I think this was the best feature he has ever directed.  He hasn't had much success with his later projects and it sort of makes his work on Speed look like something of a one-off.

This new 2-disc S.E. DVD set has got everything but the oil tray from underneath the bus.  So if you haven't seen the movie already (you've GOT to be joking!) rent or buy it now and enjoy the ride (and don't watch any of the extras until you do).  If you know this flick back-to-front (like me) then you can spend a small eternity examining the extensive supplements.

I'm being kind of generous with the overall (and extras) score even though I don't think I quite should.  One reason is because the navigation for the text and images is like driving down a One Way street - you can't go backwards.  More importantly (on principal) is that I have a little qualm about studios releasing lesser quality movie-only DVD versions first, only to finally come up with the goods a couple of years down the track.  However, if the public are willing to pay full price for a movie-only DVD initially, they then might find themselves in an awkward position when an ultimate edition finally arrives (which tends to happen, especially if it was a huge hit at the time).  I myself have been guilty of this practice many times before, but I've begun to hold back these days until the best version arrives.

Oh, I can't resist this one any longer ... "The wheels on the bus go round and round ..."


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