Apollo 13 on DVD – The DVDfever Review

Apollo 13

Apollo 13 tells a true story, less than a year after the first time man walked on the moon. It was considered as simply another routine mission until Lovell (Tom Hanks) spoke the famous words, “Houston, we have a problem”.

Lovell, Haise (Bill Paxton) and Mattingly (Gary Sinise) are the three astronauts chosen to go up in the ship until April 9th 1970, 2 days before the launch, when Mattingly gets the measles and has to pull out, much to the annoyance of the other two. As a member of the backup team, Swigert (Kevin Bacon) takes his place.

On the 13th day, disaster strikes and oxygen begins pouring out of the tanks. Desperate measures are taken in an attempt to solve things. Top-notch acting comes from all the big names, although Kathleen Quinlan doesn’t seem to do much apart from look forlorn as she waits for the return of her husband.

The picture quality looks mostly crisp and clear, allowing Ron Howard’s vision to fill the screen, particularly the special FX which are nothing short of superb, but it is marred slightly by a small level of grain throughout the film which is prevalent in lighter-coloured scenes. The film is presented in its original widescreen ratio of 2.35:1 and the print is anamorphically-enhanced for 16:9 widescreen televisions which provides 33% higher resolution. The average bitrate is a very good 7.38Mb/s, occasionally going above 9Mb/s.

The surround sound – Dolby Digital 5.1 for the English soundtrack with surround-only for the rest – excels in every department from James Horner’s score, through to general ambience, right down to the rocket launch powerful enough to knock you off your seat. Songs from the 60’s and 70’s form the background music back home, such as The Rascals (Groovin), Jimi Hendrix (Purple Haze) and Norman Greenbaum (Spirit In The Sky).

Chapters and Trailer: There are 57 chapters for the 134 minutes of film, which is exactly what’s required and mirrors the amount on the previously-released PAL Laserdisc. The original theatrical trailer is included.

Languages and Subtitles: Dolby Digital 5.1 adorns the English soundtrack, but the French, Germans, Italian and Spanish have to put up with surround sound only. Subtitles are available in ELEVEN languages: English, French, Dutch, German, Portuguese, Danish, Finnish, Swedish, Norwegian, Polish and Czech.

Extras: Biographies with accompanying filmographies are available for Hanks, Bacon, Paxton, Sinise, Harris, Kathleen Quinlan and director Ron Howard, although in all cases they only go as far as 1997(!)

A few pages of production notes are included to give some background info to the film, while the booklet expands on that.

There’s also two audio commentaries:

    Track 1: Director Ron Howard shares his thoughts in a feature-length commentary about the making of the film.
    Track 2: Jim and Marilyn Lovell give their views.

Similar to the first batch of Universal releases, the menu is static and silent, but it has a picture of Hanks in the same pose that featured on the NTSC Laserdisc. On playing the disc you see the Universal logo and a copyright message before the main menu appears.

Overall, this is an excellent film which has some worthy extras on this DVD, but it still falls short of the Region 1’s content in a number of respects :

  • Original documentary: The Lost Moon: The Triumph of Apollo 13
  • Special effects: Extensive exploration of the special effects explained by Robert Legato and Mark Forker.
  • Featurettes: Comparison of the movie’s key sequences with NASA footage; Bill Paxton’s home movies of going to space school.
  • Behind-the-scenes footage.

A review of the PAL Laserdisc can be found here.


Detailed specs:

Running time: 134 minutes
Studio: Columbia TriStar
Cat.no: UDR 90018
Year: 1995
Released: October 1st 1999
Region(s): 2, PAL
Chapters: 57
Languages: English, German, French, Italian, Spanish
Subtitles: 11 languages available
Widescreen: 2.35:1 (Super 35)
16:9-Enhanced: Yes
Macrovision: Yes
Disc Format: DVD 9

Director: Ron Howard
Producer: Brian Grazer
Screenplay: William Broyles Jr & Al Reinert (based on the novel “Lost Moon” by Jim Lovell)
Music: James Horner

Jim Lovell: Tom Hanks
Jack Swigert: Kevin Bacon
Fred Haise: Bill Paxton
Ken Mattingly: Gary Sinise
Gene Kranz: Ed Harris
Marilyn Lovell: Kathleen Quinlan
Mary Haise: Tracy Reiner
Whiz Kid: Austin O’Brien
Congressman: Roger Corman