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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



Theatrical: IPC Films

Video: Image Entertainment



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

Runtime: 2:02:19.332

Disc Size: 22,486,459,768 bytes

Feature Size: 19,549,956,096 bytes

Video Bitrate: 17.94 Mbps

Chapters: 16

Case: Standard Blu-ray case

Release date: October 14th, 2014



Aspect ratio: 1.85:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video



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)



English (SDH), None



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

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





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.


















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.



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.



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! 

Gary Tooze

October 7th, 2014

About the Reviewer: Hello, fellow Beavers! I have been interested in film since I viewed a Chaplin festival on PBS when I was around 9 years old. I credit DVD with expanding my horizons to fill an almost ravenous desire to seek out new film experiences. I currently own approximately 9500 DVDs and have reviewed over 5000 myself. I appreciate my discussion Listserv for furthering my film education and inspiring me to continue running DVDBeaver. Plus a healthy thanks to those who donate and use our Amazon links.

Although I never wanted to become one of those guys who focused 'too much' on image and sound quality - I find HD is swiftly pushing me in that direction.

Gary's Home Theatre:

60-Inch Class (59.58” Diagonal) 1080p Pioneer KURO Plasma Flat Panel HDTV PDP6020-FD

Oppo Digital BDP-83 Universal Region FREE Blu-ray/SACD Player
Momitsu - BDP-899 Region FREE Blu-ray player
Marantz SA8001 Super Audio CD Player
Marantz SR7002 THX Select2 Surround Receiver
Tannoy DC6-T (fronts) + Energy (centre, rear, subwoofer) speakers (5.1)

APC AV 1.5 kVA H Type Power Conditioner 120V

Gary W. Tooze






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