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Old 06-16-2009, 01:32 AM
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Deep Star Six (R2 PAL)




Reviewer: Dave
Review Date: June 15, 2009

Released by: Kinowelt | Studio Canal
Release date: Unknown
MSRP: Unknown
Region 2, PAL
Widescreen 2.35:1 | 16x9: Yes
1989



In 1989 Hollywood released three "underwater monster movies", The Abyss, Deep Star Six, and Leviathan. While Cameron's The Abyss is a science fiction movie, and really not a "monster movie" at all, it's inevitably compared to the other two. But when it comes to "horror miles beneath the ocean's surface", it's Deep Star Six and Leviathan. While this review isn't going to be a Versus review, I do plan on watching the two back to back so I can give a brief comparison. Growing up my favorite was always Deep Star Six, but it got a lot more viewings for whatever reason, so who knows which it will be twenty years later.

James Cameron's big budget The Abyss has seen lots of love over the years on various laserdisc and DVD releases, while the other two haven't had quite the same attention on home video - at least here in the States. Thanks to the home video market now being world wide, horror fans often turn to imports, where some of their favorites often getting a little more attention. Such is the case with Deep Star Six. Kinowelt Home Entertainment and Studio Canal released a Region 2 DVD in Germany and in the UK several years back the features not only an anamorphic widescreen transfer (the US DVD is P&S), but contains some noteworthy supplements as well. Those supplements consist of audio commentary by director Sean Cunningham and special effector coordinator James Isaac, along with some featurettes. Lets step aboard Deep Star Six and see how well it holds up twenty years later.

NOTE: While the DVD being reviewed here is the now OOP German DVD, note that it is identical to the readily available Region 2 UK DVD.

The Story

inline Image Six miles beneath the ocean sits Deep Star Six, an underwater research platform run by the US Navy. The crews' six month tour is nearly up and all are anxious to head back to the surface. It's the beginning of a new day and crew members McBride (Greg Evigan) and Collins (Nancy Everhard) wake up in each others arms. McBride is a navy grunt, drifting from one work assignment to another, while Collins is a navy scientist hoping that their newfound fling will turn into something more. A shift change is about to take place and various crew prepare to shuttle over to Seatrak, a remote research station. When the crew arrives, they find Dr. John Van Gelder, the scientist in charge of Deep Star Six's exploration, anxious to begin setting up a missile silo platform. Gelder has a brief argument with crew member Burciaga (Elya Baskin) about when they should begin excavating the site. Gelder insists it is ready while Burciaga wants to take soundings to ensure the sea floor is stable. Gelder departs with the shift change and leaves Collins in charge while Hodges (Thom Bray) and Osborne (Ronn Carroll) begin excavastion from the Seacat, an underwater bulldozer of sorts. Gelder checks in an hour later for a progress report and discovers that Collins has ordered a halt to the excavation due to some unusual sounds from beneath the site. Burciaga and Collins suspect there is a deep cavern beneath the site. Gelder orders them to collapse the cavern with explosives and setup the missile silo on top. Junior scientist Scarpelli (Nia Peeples) pleads with Gelder to let her visit the site before they blow it up, citing reports dating back to the 1800s of English ships reporting mysterious creatures in these very waters. Collins laughs it off and denies her request.

inline Image The Seacat sets the explosives and falls back before detonation takes place. The detonation is successful, though it takes out the entire sea floor of the site. Collins sends down a remote to do some exploring but after a few minutes the signal is lost. Hodges and Osborne decide to go after the remote to try and recover it, only to be attacked by an unknown force. Minutes later the Seatrak is also attacked and pushed to the edge of an underwater cliff. Captain Phillip Laidlaw (Taurean Blacque) rides out to Seatrak with McBride to investigate. Collins is rescued but at the price of the captain's life. Collins and McBride return to Deep Star Six and shortly thereafter an approval for extraction is received from topside. Before extraction can take place, the missles must be secured. Snyder (Miguel Ferrer), the facility's repairman, begins typing commands into the central computer to secure the missiles. The computer determines the best way to secure the missiles is to detonate them, which Snyder executes successfully. The shock waves from the detonation cripples the Deep Star, leaving it with limited air supply and no power lines to the decompression chamber. With no way to decompress, the crew is stranded and cannot return to the surface.

inline Image Collins and Gelder devise a way to run an electrical bypass line into the decompression chamber. It will require a repair on the outside of Deep Star. Richardson (Matt McCoy) is loaded up into a suit and sent out to make the repair. While making the repair he is attacked. He frantically makes his way back to the hatch where the crew tries to unload him. As he's being hoisted out of the water, a massive sea creatures lunges out and tears him in half. The crew scrambles to escape and some are nearly locked in the with the sea creature after Synder ignores their calls for help. The crew load up with weapons and return to the chamber to finish the bypass. The repair is successful but more of the crew is lost when the creature attacks again. Synder, feeling responsible for not only the detonation but also for the death of a crew member, begins to become unhinged. He finally snaps and seals his fate by taking off in the escape pod without decompressing. With time running out, Collins, McBridge, and Dr. Norris (Cindy Pickett) must find a way to escape without becoming the creature's next victims.

inline Image
Friday the 13th director Sean Cunningham was back behind the camera for Deep Star Six. While I still enjoy Deep Star Six, it has not held up well with time. The biggest problem is the movie is 45 minutes could be shed from the runtime without missing much. And I say that even though I enjoyed the first half of the movie. Deep Star Six is just incredibly slow to get moving. The first appearance of the creature does not occur until after the one hour mark. That's not always a problem, but it is here simply because there isn't a whole lot of suspense to keep you interested. Cunningham does good with the character development during the first hour, and even mentions in the interviews that one of his goals was to get viewers to care about the characters - because only then will you be "scared" about what might happen to them. To Cunningham's credit, I do enjoy nearly all of the characters in Deep Star Six, so he did well in that regard. Veteran actor Miguel Ferrer, always remembered for his role in Robocop as the guy that makes the mistake of crossing "Dick" Jones, puts in a great performance as the doomed Synder. It's easy to relate with his mental breakdown, as most of us would do the same. And by the end you're pulling for McBride and Collins to make it, even though it's a given that they will. Where Cunningham goes wrong is spending too much time with character development. It needs to be balanced with suspense, action, or at least some meaningless gore to keep us entertained. That just doesn't happen during the first hour.

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The good news is, if you can call it that, is once the one hour mark hits, things really move along for the last half hour. While the creature is only seen a handful of times, the effects are decent enough and the pacing has finally kicked into high gear. But by that time, it's too little too late. For such a long wait, I was ultimately letdown that it all ended so quickly, and without much of a payoff. Sure lots of people die, but where's the gore? Besides one person getting torn in half, there isn't much to speak of. For the guy that directed Friday the 13th, that's disappointing.

inline Image This isn't a Deep Star Six versus Leviathan review, but considering they came out the same year and are very similiar in nature, comparisons are to be expected. It had been several years since I have seen either, so to be fair I watched both movies back to back. My childhood favorite was Deep Star Six, so I was rooting for that one. I remembered neither, so I was going in fresh. I went with Deep Star Six first, and while I was disappointed with it, I still expected it to be the better of the two. But when I saw Stan Winston's name during the opening credits of Leviathan, I knew I would be eating my own words. And such is the case, though it's not on effects alone. Leviathan has the better story, better pacing, and while the character development may not be quite as strong, it does a better job balancing all the elements - characters, gore, effects, and suspense. Not only are the effects are vastly superior, there's a lot more of them. Plus it has the Wonder Years voice guy - how can Deep Star compete with that?

Flaws and all, there is still some enjoyment to be found in Deep Star Six. But with the superior Leviathan readily available, I guess the question is: Why bother?

Image Quality

Kudos to Kinowelt and Studio Canal for providing a 16x9 enhanced transfer in the film's original 2.35:1 aspect ratio. This is really the main area this import shines over the domestic DVD, which sports a P&S 1.33:1 transfer. For a 2.35:1 ratio, there is no greater crime. While I would normally try to do a direct comparison of the two releases here, I've chosen to skip it one this one due to no one caring, myself included, what a P&S transfer looks like.

This widescreen transfer is solid all around. The film is soft at times, particularly in darker scenes, but is otherwise sharp throughout. Grain is minimal as are print blemishes. Colors are a bid subdued but I suspect this is as good as it gets for a low budget movie such as this. I saw no compression artifacts and overall I rate the transfer with a solid B.

Sound

English and German Dolby Stereo tracks are included. There was no noticeable channel separation and from that end, the track was a bit lackluster. The track is clean with no hisses or distortion heard, and dialogue remains clear throughout

Supplemental Material
inline Image
While the US DVD is bare bones, the import contains a good chunk of supplements. Unfortunately they are a mixed bag. The commentary track with director Sean Cunningham and special effector coordinator James Isaac is downright dreadful, primarily because while the movie runs about 90 minutes in length, they only give about 5-10 minutes of commentary. After 45 excruciatingly long minutes, I finally started to skip around to find out if they ever began commenting on a regular basis. While they do have a good 5-minute stretch when the creature makes its first appearance, that was pretty much their longest run. The rest of the track is simply several minutes of silence followed by a few brief comments. Unfortunately once they did start talking, I was too annoyed to pay much attention. About the only thing I remember is some discussion on some of the technical aspects to the movie.

The featurettes - a making-of and a behind-the-scenes - are short but are far more enjoyable than the commentary track. Both were made back in 1989 during the production of the movie; nothing new filmed here. The making-of features interviews with the cast and crew and some production footage. The behind-the-scenes featurette is essentially the same thing - just different footage and different interviews, and it runs several minutes longer. Rounding out the supplements is a theatrical trailer that is 16x9 enhanced and a photo gallery.

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It's unfortunate we were given such a weak commentary track because that really would have pushed this disc over the top rating-wise - possibly bumping the overall grade from a C to a B. As it stands, 60+ minutes of my life are gone and I will never get them back, so while the featurettes are enjoyable, I'm left with no choice but to rate the supplements with a C+ and the overall disc with a straight C.

Final Thoughts

I've always said that horror fans need to be region free and PAL capable. This DVD is just another example of why. This import trounces the domestic DVD for the simple fact it is widescreen and 16x9 enhanced. The extras, albeit with a god-awful commentary track, are icing on the cake. Extras aside, Deep Star Six as a movie just isn't very enjoyable. There are better underwater monster movies out there, with the aforementioned Leviathan easily topping it. But for those that enjoy Deep Star Six, this DVD is the one to own.

Rating

.
Movie - C

Image Quality - B

Sound - B-

Supplements - C+



Technical Info.
  • Color
  • Running time - 1 hour 35 minutes
  • Rated R
  • 1 Disc
  • Chapter Stops
  • English Dolby Digital 2.0
  • German Dolby Digital 2.0
  • English, German, Turkish subtitles

Supplements
  • Commentary By Director Sean Cunningham & Special Effects Co-ordinator James Isaacs
  • Making Of
  • Featurette
  • Trailer
  • Photo Gallery

 


Last edited by Admin; 06-16-2009 at 01:45 AM..
 

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Old 06-16-2009, 07:06 AM
Moderator
Dave Lives!

I remember this fondly from my youth, too, it being one of the first horror films I ever saw. Good ol' Miguel knows how to play'em. I'm interested to see how it holds up, but given your fine review, I'm guessing not much!
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Old 06-17-2009, 09:55 PM
HackMaster
Greg Evigan catches a really bad case of crabs that just won't go away. 'Nuff said.
 
 
Old 06-28-2009, 10:25 AM
For Your Health
Hellbilly was kind enough to send me this DVD and I dug it. Still sitting on my shelf too.
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"Send more paramedics."
 
 
Old 07-03-2009, 07:34 PM
Screamy Bopper
Hey Dave! Where do you recommend picking this up? Amazon UK has a few copies from Marketplace sellers, but it looks like the copy available at the Amazon German site (which has a different cover) is a little cheaper. Wasn't sure if there was another place I might be missing; not very easy to find...thanks!
 
 
Old 08-12-2009, 09:16 PM
Pimp
Sorry for the late response. I would say amazon.co.uk would be a good place. But the German one is identical so either is good.
 
 

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