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S E A R C H    D V D B e a v e r

 

directed by Danny Boyle
UK 1994

What's a little murder between friends ?

 

In my opinion this is director Danny Boyle (and writer John Hodges) at their very best. The themes run right in line with The Treasure of the Sierra Madre - but in a modern setting. Dynamic cinematography and an avante garde score mismatching the tension - proves to be a brilliant juxtaposition to the thrilling plot and chilling finale.


Three unattached roommates share a flat and are in search of a 4th. They find a seemingly good fit, but without giving away too many spoilers - his positional (and past) function create huge conflicts. The once great friends now nervously border on interactions of paranoia, suspicion and greed. It certainly could be considered a modern film noir - with basically good people transformed to behave illegally... all for money. (Fox is a great Femme Fatale in the offing).


The appeal is the divergence of the characters - brilliantly played by - Kerry Fox (the simple yet still sexy girl-next-door type), Christopher Eccleston (the straight-laced proper geeky collar and tie), and Ewan McGregor (the carefree joker). When their expected archetypal family ideal (recall McGregor calling for 'Mommy' after Fox departs) turns ugly, we sit dumbfounded and reflect later on its intense significance. One of my favorite endings, forgotten in my article HERE, this is a fabulous film that I enjoyed much more than Boyle's overrated Trainspotting or Slumdog Millionaire.

Gary W. Tooze

***

The diabolical thriller Shallow Grave was the first film from director Danny Boyle, producer Andrew Macdonald, and screenwriter John Hodge (the smashing team behind Trainspotting). In it, three self-involved Edinburgh roommates—played by Kerry Fox, Christopher Eccleston, and Ewan McGregor, in his first starring role—take in a brooding boarder, and when he dies of an overdose, leaving a suitcase full of money, the trio embark on a series of very bad decisions, with extraordinarily grim consequences for all. Macabre but with a streak of offbeat humor, this stylistically influential tale of guilt and derangement is a full-throttle bit of Hitchcockian nastiness.

Posters

Theatrical Release: February 1994 (Fantasporto Film Festival)

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Comparison: 

MGM - Region 1 - NTSC vs. MGM Home Ent (UK) - Region 2, 4 - PAL vs. 4DVD - Region 'B' - Blu-ray vs. Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray

 

1) MGM - Region 1 - NTSC LEFT

2) MGM Home Ent (UK) - Region 2,4 - PAL - SECOND

3) 4DVD - Region 'B'-locked - Blu-ray - THIRD

4) Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - RIGHT

 

Box Cover

 

Distribution

MGM

Region 1 - NTSC

MGM Home Ent (UK)

Region 2,4 - PAL

4DVD - Region 'B' - Blu-ray

Criterion Collection - Spine # 616 - Region 'A' - Blu-ray
Runtime 1:32:21 1:28:33 (4 % PAL spedup) 1:32:19.659 1:32:51.607

Video

1.85:1 Original Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 6.12 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

1.78:1 Original Aspect Ratio

16X9 enhanced
Average Bitrate: 8.0 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

1.78 - 1080P Single-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 18,630,113,648 bytes

Feature: 16,433,940,480 bytes

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

Video Bitrate: 20.06 Mbps

1.85:1 - 1080P Dual-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 46,736,792,177 bytes

Feature: 28,000,886,784 bytes

Video Bitrate: 35.62 Mbps

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate : MGM

Bitrate: MGM Home Ent (UK)

Bitrate: 4DVD - Region 'B' - Blu-ray

Bitrate: Criterion Collection - Spine # 616 - Region 'A' - Blu-ray

Audio English (Dolby Digital 2.0), French (Dolby Digital 2.0) English (Dolby Digital 2.0), French (Dolby Digital 2.0) LPCM Audio English 2304 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 2304 kbps / 24-bit
Commentary: Dolby Digital Audio English 192 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps

DTS-HD Master Audio English 2080 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 2080 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)
Commentaries:

Dolby Digital Audio English 192 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps
Dolby Digital Audio English 192 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps

Subtitles French, Spanish, None English, French, Dutch, None English, None English, None
Features Release Information:
Studio: MGM

Aspect Ratio:
Widescreen - 1.85:1

Edition Details:
• Theatrical Trailer (2:24)

• Open Matte edition on opposite side

DVD Release Date: March 28th, 2000
Keep case

Chapters 32

Release Information:
Studio: MGM Home Ent (UK)
 

Aspect Ratio:
Widescreen anamorphic - 1.78:1

Edition Details:
• Theatrical Trailer (2:12)
 

DVD Release Date: Sep 17th, 2001
Transparent Keep Case

Chapters 16

Release Information:
Studio: 4DVD (UK)
 

f

1.78:1 - 1080P Single-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 18,630,113,648 bytes

Feature: 16,433,940,480 bytes

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

Video Bitrate: 20.06 Mbps

 

Edition Details:
• Danny Boyle commentary

• Digging Your Own Grave BBC documentary directed by Kevin MacDonald (30:01)

• Danny Boyle on Shallow Grave (2:01)

• Ewan McGregor on Shallow Grave (7:29)
 

Blu-ray Release Date: June 1st, 2009
Standard
Blu-ray Case

Chapters 16

Release Information:
Studio: Criterion
 

f

1.85:1 - 1080P Dual-layered Blu-ray
Disc Size: 46,736,792,177 bytes
Feature: 28,000,886,784 bytes
Video Bitrate: 35.62 Mbps
Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video
 

Edition Details:
• Two audio commentaries: one by director Danny Boyle and the other by screenwriter John Hodge and producer Andrew Macdonald
• New interview piece featuring actors Christopher Eccleston, Kerry Fox, and Ewan McGregor (28:55)
• Digging Your Own Grave, a 1993 documentary by Kevin Macdonald on the making of the film (29:48)
• Andrew Macdonald and Kevin Macdonald’s video diary from the 1992 Edinburgh Film Festival, where they shopped around the script for Shallow Grave (8:58)
• Shallow Grave trailer (2:05) and Trainspotting teaser (1:15)
• PLUS: An essay by critic Philip Kemp

 

Blu-ray Release Date: June 12th, 2012
Transparent
Blu-ray Case

Chapters 11

 

Comments:

NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were ripped directly from the Blu-ray disc.

ADDITION: Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray (May 2012): Criterion offer a significantly more robust 1080P transfer than on the UK Blu-ray. It has more than 60% stronger bitrate on the dual-layered disc. This shows up in the riche colors - cooler, and more accurate, skin tones and thicker appearance. The 1.78:1 4DVD framing has opened-up the original 1.85:1 that Criterion have authentically stuck with. So, generally, there is a shade more information in the top and bottom on the bastardized UK disc (you can see even more, obviously, in the Open Matte print - see sample below). Reds and blues seem more affected by the stronger technicals. The Criterion is artifact-free with no prominent noise and looks quite fabulous in-motion. We trust this to be the most accurate image presentation in regards to a theatrical representation. 

Criterion go with a DTS-HD Master 2.0 channel at 2080 kbps. I couldn't differentiate much from the 4DVD and its linear PCM track excepting the Criterion may have better depth. The music from Leftfield's "Release the Dub" to Andy Williams' "Happy Heart" is crisp and clean on the US Blu-ray. There are optional English subtitles available on the region 'A'-locked Blu-ray.

Criterion stacks their Blu-ray release of Shallow Grave with two audio commentaries - the 2009 one as found on the UK Blu-ray by director Danny Boyle and the other, recorded for Criterion in Feb 2012, by screenwriter John Hodge and producer Andrew Macdonald. It highlights some interesting facets of the film production - I was especially keen on the story details. There is a new 1/2 hour interview piece featuring actors Christopher Eccleston, Kerry Fox, and Ewan McGregor. They share their experiences working with Danny Boyle and interacting together in the film. Digging Your Own Grave, is the same 1/2 hour 1993 documentary by Kevin Macdonald on the making of the film as found on the 4DVD edition. There is also Andrew Macdonald and Kevin Macdonald’s video diary from the 1992 Edinburgh Film Festival, where they shopped around the script for Shallow Grave. It runs 9-minutes. There is a trailer from Shallow Grave and a teaser for Trainspotting and inside the package are liner notes with an essay by critic Philip Kemp.

I am still enamored with this film - Shallow Grave runs like a well-oiled engine to its magnificent conclusion. I've seen this film almost a dozen times now and the Criterion is easily the best a/v presentation. The supplements surpass the UK counterpart as well and we give this Blu-ray a hearty thumbs-up. Enjoy!

***

ADDITION: 4DVD - Region 'B'-locked Blu-ray - June 09': Finally, a worthy edition of this film. Fleshtones are dramatically improved from pasty-orange/yellow tinge moving to the warmer end of the spectrum. Detail greatly benefits from the move to 1080P  - the image is brighter and exhibits more depth. Even only being single-layered, this is a significant upgrade from the SD-DVDs and I'm thankful this is progressive - NOT an interlaced European BD/50.

Audio also jumps up a full notch and a half with a 2.0 channel linear PCM track at 2300 kpbs. As mentioned in the extras - music is a big part of this film experience and it sounds definitely tighter and crisper in HD. There are optional English subtitle but my Momitsu identifies this as being region 'B'-locked. For some, another of the building reasons to get a region free Blu-ray player.

Exclusive extras (as advertised on the box) are something to rave about with a relaxed Danny Boyle commentary explaining specifics about the production, a half hour BBC documentary directed by Kevin MacDonald entitled Digging Your Own Grave shot during the production of the film. We also get some snippets by Danny Boyle on Shallow Grave (2:01) and Ewan McGregor on Shallow Grave (7:29).

This is a great release of a wonderful film - although it took me 4 attempts to get a satisfying digital edition. The themes run 'deep' in Shallow Grave and 4DVD have done a solid job with the Blu-ray transfer, new extras including a commentary - I certainly recommend - don't miss this film!    

***



 

ON THE DVDs (written in 2003): My stars and garters! - I haven't had a lot of luck with this title - a film I really treasure (great to show when you have friends over!). The first copy I bought was a Canadian DVD that was only Open Matte (see one sample capture below - the roommate interview). Next I bought the US version - non-anamorphic widescreen on one side and open matte on the other. Finally I bought the anamorphic UK release - it's the best, has optional English subtitles (occasionally required for the heavy accents) but I am on-the-fence about the colors. In the NTSC edition skin tones looks altered, but in the PAL everything has a kind of yellow tinge. The 16X9 enhanced PAL edition is far superior on a decent system - much sharper. As far as framing goes the UK shows a lot more on the bottom of the frame but a little less on the top.

Unfortunately, there are no extras on either - save the same theatrical trailer. Both offer a French DUB.

I see there is a German DVD, but even I don't know if I can justify a quad-dip as it probably is the same transfer as the region coded 2,4 UK which will also sell in Australia. If you know different I'd be keen to know, but to see this film (which I STRONGLY recommend) the UK seems to be top choice.   

 - Gary Tooze

 

 


DVD Menus

(MGM - Region 1 - NTSC LEFT vs. MGM Home Ent (UK) - Region 2,4 - PAL RIGHT)

 

 
 

 

Extras - 4DVD - Region 'B'-locked - Blu-ray

 

Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - RIGHT


CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION

 

Screen Captures

 

 

1) MGM - Region 1 - NTSC TOP

2) MGM Home Ent (UK) - Region 2,4 - PAL - SECOND

3) 4DVD - Region 'B'-locked - Blu-ray - THIRD

4) Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

 


 

1) MGM - Region 1 - NTSC TOP

2) MGM Home Ent (UK) - Region 2,4 - PAL - SECOND

3) 4DVD - Region 'B'-locked - Blu-ray - THIRD

4) Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 


 

1) MGM - Region 1 - NTSC TOP

2) MGM Home Ent (UK) - Region 2,4 - PAL - SECOND

3) MGM - Region 1 (pan and Scan) - NTSC THIRD

4) 4DVD - Region 'B'-locked - Blu-ray - FOURTH

5) Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 


 

1) MGM - Region 1 - NTSC TOP

2) MGM Home Ent (UK) - Region 2,4 - PAL - SECOND

3) 4DVD - Region 'B'-locked - Blu-ray - THIRD

4) Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 


 

 

 

1) MGM - Region 1 - NTSC TOP

2) MGM Home Ent (UK) - Region 2,4 - PAL - SECOND

3) 4DVD - Region 'B'-locked - Blu-ray - THIRD

4) Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 


 

1) MGM - Region 1 - NTSC TOP

2) MGM Home Ent (UK) - Region 2,4 - PAL - SECOND

3) 4DVD - Region 'B'-locked - Blu-ray - THIRD

4) Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 


 

1) MGM - Region 1 - NTSC TOP

2) MGM Home Ent (UK) - Region 2,4 - PAL - SECOND

3) 4DVD - Region 'B'-locked - Blu-ray - THIRD

4) Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 


 

1) MGM - Region 1 - NTSC TOP

2) MGM Home Ent (UK) - Region 2,4 - PAL - SECOND

3) 4DVD - Region 'B'-locked - Blu-ray - THIRD

4) Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

 

Report Card:

 

Image:

Criterion Blu-ray

Sound:

Blu-rays

Extras: Criterion Blu-ray

 
Box Cover

 

Distribution

MGM

Region 1 - NTSC

MGM Home Ent (UK)

Region 2,4 - PAL

4DVD - Region 'B' - Blu-ray

Criterion Collection - Spine # 616 - Region 'A' - Blu-ray




 

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Gary Tooze

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