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I am glad to see Sony pull so many popular fan favorites from their back catalog for release on Blu-ray, the latest of which being 1983’s BLUE THUNDER ($29). Directed by John Badham and starring Roy Scheider, BLUE THUNDER remains a thoroughly entertaining high tech thriller, even if the 80’s "tech" is a bit dated. In BLUE THUNDER, Scheider portrays Frank Murphy, a mildly burnt out Los Angeles Police Department officer and helicopter-pilot, who suffers post traumatic stress related flashbacks to his time flying a chopper in Viet Nam. As a result of taking his new rookie partner, Richard Lymangood (Daniel Stern), on a joyride to enjoy "the sights" outside their jurisdiction, Murphy finds himself temporarily grounded by his immediate superior Captain Jack Braddock (Warren Oates).

However, Murphy’s suspension proves to be short lived, when the L.A.P.D. requires the services of their best pilot, when it is selected to test an advanced military-styled helicopter now intended for police surveillance and crowd control during riot situations. Of course, Murphy becomes suspicious of the program when his old nemesis from Viet Nam, Colonel F.E. Cochrane (Malcolm McDowell), shows up piloting Blue Thunder. Things only get worse when Murphy takes Blue Thunder for an unauthorized test flight, during which he is able to record Cochrane and his government cronies discussing their true intentions for the combat helicopter technology. BLUE THUNDER climaxes with an extended chase/combat sequence over the skies of Los Angeles. The cast of BLUE THUNDER also features Candy Clark, Paul Roebling, David Sheiner, Joe Santos, Ed Bernard, Jason Bernard, Mario Machado, James Murtaugh, Pat McNamara and Jack Murdock.

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment has made BLUE THUNDER available on Blu-ray Disc in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio presentation that has been encoded onto the disc with the AVC codec. This is a pretty sweet 1080p presentation that shows off how vintage 1980’s films should look in high definition without digital manipulation. Image sharpness and fine detail are very good, even if the picture doesn’t produce the absolute razor sharpness of newer movies. Some shots are a bit fuzzy, but that has more to do with the cinematography than any flaw in the transfer. Additionally, the picture is nicely dimensional, especially during daylight sequences. Colors are rendered with good saturation and fairly attractive flesh tones. Blacks are generally quite accurate, while the whites appear stable. Contrast is quite good and shadow detail is fairly impressive for eighties film stocks. The elements from which BLUE THUNDER has been mastered are quite clean. Mild grain is ever present, and can get a bit heavier in places, but helps maintain a truly film-like quality for the presentation.

BLUE THUNDER is presented on Blu-ray Disc with a 5.1 channel Dolby TrueHD soundtrack. This is another track that can trace it origins to the Dolby Surround era, so there are some limitations to the sound, despite a lossless encoded. On Blu-ray, the sound is decidedly crisper and more distinct with good sound effects placement. Surround usage doesn’t rival newer soundtracks, but remains effective. Whatever boost the fidelity may have received from the lossless encode is negated by the way movies were recorded and mixed more than a quarter of a century ago. Some sounds are a bit canned and lack weight, but for the most part, the big action sequences are effective. The bass channel is decent enough, but doesn’t have a ground-shaking rumble. Dialogue is cleanly rendered and is totally understandable. A French 5.1 Dolby TrueHD is also encoded onto the disc. Subtitles are available in English and French.

Full motion video, animation and sound serve to enhance the disc's interactive menus. Through the menus, one has access to standard scene selection and set up features, as well as some supplements. Starting things off is a running Audio Commentary with director John Badham, editor Frank Moriss and motion-control supervisor Hoyt Yeatman. Next up is Ride With The Angels: Making Blue Thunder is a three part retrospective on the production that runs forty-four minutes. The Special: Building Blue Thunder: Making-Of The Helicopter is a fairly self-explanetory eight minutes. A 1983 Promotional Featurette and a Theatrical Trailer close out the standard supplements. BLUE THUNDER is also BD-Live enabled (requires a Profile 2.0 player).

BLUE THUNDER is a fan favorite eighties title that has been given a great presentation on Blu-ray. Recommended.



Blue Thunder [Blu-ray] (1983)


DVD & Blu-rayDisc reviews are Copyright © 2009 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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