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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

The China Syndrome [Blu-ray]

 

(James Bridges, 1979)

 

 

Review by Gary Tooze

 

Production:

Theatrical: IPC Films

Video: Image Entertainment / Indicator (UK)

 

Disc:

Region: 'A' / Region FREE (as verified by the Oppo Blu-ray player)

Runtime: 2:02:19.332 / 2:02:19.707

Disc Size: 22,486,459,768 bytes / 47,428,831,769 bytes

Feature Size: 19,549,956,096 bytes / 38,786,885,184 bytes

Video Bitrate: 17.94 Mbps / 34.59 Mbps

Chapters: 16 / 12

Case: Standard Blu-ray case / Transparent BD case

Release date: October 14th, 2014 / June 25th, 2018

 

Video (both):

Aspect ratio: 1.85:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

 

Audio:

DTS-HD Master Audio English 2148 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 2148 kbps / 16-bit (DTS Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 16-bit)

 

LPCM Audio English 1152 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 1152 kbps / 24-bit
DTS-HD Master Audio English 3064 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 3064 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 768 kbps / 24-bit)
Commentary:

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

 

Subtitles (both):

English (SDH), None

 

Extras:

• The China Syndrome: A Fusion of Talent (27:35)

• The China Syndrome: Creating a Controversy (29:34)

 

• The John Player Lecture with Jack Lemmon (1973, 80 mins): archival audio recording of an interview conducted by Philip Oakes at London’s National Film Theatre
• Assessing the Fallout (2018, 17:29 mins): Professor Tony Shaw, author of Rotten to the Core: Exposing America’s Energy-Media Complex in ‘The China Syndrome’, discusses the film and the issues it raises
• A Fusion of Talent (1999, 27:34 mins): documentary about the making of the film, featuring interviews with cast and crew, including Jane Fonda, actor-producer Michael Douglas, executive producer Bruce Gilbert, and actor Jack Larson, partner of director James Bridges
• Creating a Controversy (1999, 29:30 mins): a look at the film’s impact and the real-life events which occurred just after its release publicity stills and promotional material
• Deleted scenes (4 mins)
"Kimberly Wells at the Party" (01:45)
"Jack and Ted at Harmon's Bar" (01:25)
"Jack and Ted at the Plant" (00:37)

• Theatrical trailer (01:59)
• New and improved English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing
• Limited edition exclusive 40-page booklet with a new essay by Neil Sinyard, notes on the rejected score by Gergely Hubai, an interview with Bruce Gilbert, an overview of contemporary critical responses, and film credits
• UK premiere on Blu-ray
• Limited Edition of 3,000 copies

 

Bitrate:

 

1) Image Entertainment - Region 'A' - Blu-ray TOP

2) Indicator - Region FREE - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

Description: Nominated for four Academy Awards® including Best Actor and Actress (Jack Lemmon, Best Actor; Jane Fonda, Best Actress–1979), THE CHINA SYNDROME stars Jane Fonda, Jack Lemmon and Michael Douglas in the "superbly suspenseful, expertly crafted, entirely riveting" (Richard Schickel, Time) white-knuckle thriller that famously predicted Three Mile Island meltdown, a nuclear disaster that occurred just 12 days after the film's theatrical release. It started as just another assignment. Reporter Kimberly Wells (Jand Fonda) and cameraman Richard Adams (Michael Douglas) were covering the daily routine at a Los Angeles power plant when the unthinkable occurred – a nuclear accident that could have wiped out Southern California. And Richard caught it all on tape. When their TV station refuses to air the footage, Wells and Adams recruit plant supervisor Jack Godell (Jack Lemmon) to expose the terrifying truth: the facility is a ticking time bomb. But with millions of dollars at stake, company officials cannot let the story break. When the trio attempts to broadcast live from the plant's control room, the utility company does everything in its power to silence Godell permanently, as the world watches.

 

 

The Film:

This gripping 1979 drama about the dangers of nuclear power carried an extra jolt when a real-life accident at the Three Mile Island nuclear plant in Pennsylvania occurred just weeks after the film opened. Kimberly Wells (Jane Fonda) is a TV reporter trying to advance from fluff pieces to harder news. Wells and cameraman Richard Adams (Michael Douglas, who also produced) are doing a story on energy when they happen to witness a near-meltdown at a local nuclear plant, averted only by quick-thinking engineer Jack Godell (Jack Lemmon). While Wells and Adams fruitlessly attempt to get the story on their station, Godell begins his own investigation and discovers that corporate greed and cost-trimming have led to potentially deadly faults in the plant's construction. He provides evidence of the faulty equipment, which could lead to another meltdown (the "China syndrome" of the title), to the station's soundman to deliver to Wells and Adams at a hearing on nuclear power. However, on the way to the hearing, the soundman is run off the road by evil henchmen, leading Godell to realize that his own life is threatened, possibly by his bosses at the plant. Driven to the edge of a breakdown, Godell takes over the plant's control room at gunpoint and demands to reveal his findings on TV. The plant's management, however, has other plans, and the facility itself is becoming dangerously unstable. Whether or not you agree with the film's clear anti-nuclear bias, its sobering message and riveting, realistic story and performances are still difficult to ignore.

Excerpt from MRQE located HERE

 

Largely successful attempt to merge politics with Hollywood mainstream, as Fonda and Douglas play TV news-reporters latching on to a nuclear power scare about falsification and negligence of safety regulations. All a bit too earnest, despite the seriousness of the subject, with Fonda setting her jaw and stepping into father's footsteps as Tinseltown's very own protector of humanity; but it's tightly scripted and directed, and genuinely tense in places.

Excerpt from TimeOut located HERE

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

The China Syndrome has a modest Blu-ray transfer from Image Entertainment. This is only single-layered with a low bitrate - but visuals still look consistent. There is some impressive detail in close-ups and no untoward noise visible. I don't see a lot of texture and although the video advances over SD - it is not by significant strides. The Blu-ray provides a decent, but not dynamically stellar, 1080P presentation.

 

Indicator brings us 1979's "The China Syndrome" on a dual-layered Blu-ray. The film has a maxed out bitrate, and is presented in 1080p in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio. The image is a slight improvement over the previously available Image Blu-ray. Flesh-tones are warmer and seem more natural. There is slightly more detail and grain in the image as well, thus giving the picture a more filmic look when in motion. Contrast is good, and colors seem to be more realistic (notable in the aforementioned flesh-tones).
 

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

 

1) Image Entertainment - Region 'A' - Blu-ray TOP

2) Indicator - Region FREE - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

1) Image Entertainment - Region 'A' - Blu-ray TOP

2) Indicator - Region FREE - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

1) Image Entertainment - Region 'A' - Blu-ray TOP

2) Indicator - Region FREE - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

1) Image Entertainment - Region 'A' - Blu-ray TOP

2) Indicator - Region FREE - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

1) Image Entertainment - Region 'A' - Blu-ray TOP

2) Indicator - Region FREE - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

1) Image Entertainment - Region 'A' - Blu-ray TOP

2) Indicator - Region FREE - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

1) Image Entertainment - Region 'A' - Blu-ray TOP

2) Indicator - Region FREE - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

1) Image Entertainment - Region 'A' - Blu-ray TOP

2) Indicator - Region FREE - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

1) Image Entertainment - Region 'A' - Blu-ray TOP

2) Indicator - Region FREE - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

1) Image Entertainment - Region 'A' - Blu-ray TOP

2) Indicator - Region FREE - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

1) Image Entertainment - Region 'A' - Blu-ray TOP

2) Indicator - Region FREE - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

1) Image Entertainment - Region 'A' - Blu-ray TOP

2) Indicator - Region FREE - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

1) Image Entertainment - Region 'A' - Blu-ray TOP

2) Indicator - Region FREE - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

1) Image Entertainment - Region 'A' - Blu-ray TOP

2) Indicator - Region FREE - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

 

Audio :

The DTS-HD Master 5.1 surround (bump) at 2148 kbps sounds pleasing. There is some depth and minor, but never crisp, separations and audio seems exported without flaws. There are a few effects including car chase scenes that are carry some momentum. A few moments are surprisingly crisp at times also carrying weight into important areas of suspense.  There are option al English subtitles and my Oppo has identified it as being a region 'A'-locked.

 

We get the option of the original 1.0 mono soundtrack (24-bit linear PCM), or an alternative 5.1 (24-bit DTS-HD) soundtrack. There are optional English (SDH) subtitles on this region-free Blu-ray.

 

Extras :

Two half-hour vintage featurettes are included - The China Syndrome: A Fusion of Talent is by Laurent Bouzereau and was this documentary was originally featured on the Special Edition DVD from 2004. It has archival footage and interview snippets from some of gthe cast. Pretty much ditto for The China Syndrome: Creating a Controversy - a lesser 1/2 hour piece also by Bouzereau examining the more daring areas the film explores regarding nuclear energy.

 

First off, there is an option to watch the film with the audio from a 1973 John Player Lecture with Jack Lemmon. This archival audio recording is of an interview conducted by Philip Oakes at London’s National Film Theatre. This runs about 80-minutes overtop of the film. New to this disc is "Assesing the Fallout", a 17-minute interview with Professor Tony Shaw, author of Rotten to the Core: Exposing America’s Energy-Media Complex in ‘The China Syndrome’. Shaw discusses the film and the issues it raises. There are three deleted scenes, totaling around 4-minutes. Both half-hour documentaries from the Image disc are also here, "The China Syndrome: A Fusion of Talent" (27:35) and "The China Syndrome: Creating a Controversy" (29:30). Also included is the film's trailer. There is also a limited edition exclusive 40-page booklet with a new essay by Neil Sinyard, notes on the rejected score by Gergely Hubai, an interview with Bruce Gilbert, an overview of contemporary critical responses, and film credits.

 

Image Entertainment - Region 'A' - Blu-ray

 

 

Indicator - Region FREE - Blu-ray

 

 

BOTTOM LINE:
Although a shade 'aged' this is still a top notch thriller mostly due to the performances - kudos especially to Lemmon. The China Syndrome has strong elements with a gripping and evolving story and the journalistic viewpoint that adds some vérité sense. The Image Blu-ray won't win any awards but provides a decent HD presentation for an enjoyable night in the Home Theatre. Recommended!

 

Indicator continues to impress with its stellar growing line-up of Blu-rays. Not only is the curation of these films worthy of mention, the transfers are consistently striking. The extras packaged here, old and new, are definitely worth digging into. Aside from those extras, the slight bump over the image of the Image Blu-ray, gives Indicator the strong edge here.
 

Gary Tooze

October 7th, 2014

Colin Zavitz

June 2018




 

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