The Hunt For Red October on DVD

Dom Robinson reviews

The Hunt For Red October
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  • Cert:
  • PHE 8007
  • Running time: 129 minutes
  • Year: 1989
  • Pressing: 2000
  • Region(s): 2, PAL
  • Chapters: 13 plus extras
  • Sound: Dolby Digital 5.1
  • Languages: English, Czech, German
  • Subtitles: 12 languages available
  • Widescreen: 2.35:1 (Panavision)
  • 16:9-Enhanced: Yes
  • Macrovision: Yes
  • Disc Format: DVD 9
  • Price: £19.99
  • Extras: Theatrical Trailer


      John McTiernan

    (Die Hard 1 & 3, The Hunt for Red October, Last Action Hero, Predator)


    Mace Neufield


    Larry Ferguson and Donald Stewart (based on the novel by Tom Clancy)


    Basil Poledouris


    Marko Ramius: Sean Connery
    Jack Ryan: Alec Baldwin
    Bart Mancuso: Scott Glenn
    Captain Borodin: Sam Neill
    Admiral Greer: James Earl Jones
    Andrei Lysenko: Joss Ackland
    Ivan Putin: Peter Firth
    Dr. Petrov: Tim Curry
    Skip Tyler: Jeffrey Jones
    Admiral Painter: Fred Dalton Thompson
    Caroline Ryan: Gates McFadden

Firstly it has to be said that this film has so many things going for it. It’s based on the book by Tom Clancy, was directed by John McTiernan and has an excellent cast fronted by Sean Connery and Alec Baldwin.

A new, technologically-superior Soviet nuclear submarine, the Red October, is heading for the U.S. coast, commanded by Captain Marko Ramius. The American government think Ramius plans to attack, but CIA agent Jack Ryan (played in this, the first of Tom Clancy’s films about Ryan) by Alec Baldwin has a different idea. He’s met Ramius before and thinks that he’s planning to defect, but only has a few hours to find him and prove it because the entire Russian naval and air commands are hunting him down too.

The film begins in Russian dialogue from Sam Neill and Sean Connery and there’s a nice subtle change when the subtitles disappear and English dialogue begins.

One thing that has to be said is that only Sean Connery could get away with playing different-speaking roles throughout his career and still do all accents in a Scottish one, this film’s role, as a Russian submarine commander, included.

Also note that the director of photography for this film is the one and only Jan De Bont, who subsequently went on to direct the non-stop success Speed, its flop sequel – even though I enjoyed it – Speed 2: Cruise Control, plus Twister and the remake of The Haunting.

It’s interesting to note that Alec Baldwin didn’t make it to Patriot Games because he asked for too much money than the studio were prepared to give him. As a result, Harrison Ford stepped in and ended up getting paid even more than Baldwin asked for, getting a multi-picture deal as CIA agent Jack Ryan in the process, two films of which have already been brought to the big screen and are also out now on DVD, Patriot Games and Clear and Present Danger.

The good news comes in the anamorphic 2.35:1 widescreen ratio, the widescreen ratio being essential for any John McTiernan film – and none more so than this – especially to maintain the level of tension inside the sub, but alas it’s very grainy indeed with print flecks and blemishes all over the place which brings its score down markedly, which weakens the strength of the colours. The average bitrate is 6.71Mb/s, occasionally peaking over 8Mb/s.

English dialogue is presented in a remastered Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack, which comes into its own when the submarines are firing at each other and a gunfight towards the end, while the Czechs and the Germans only hear Dolby Surround.

Extras :

Just a 90-second Theatrical Trailer in non-anamorphic 2.35:1 widescreen and, like the PAL laserdisc, a mere 13 chapters which just isn’t enough. Couldn’t someone have stepped in to remedy this?

Subtitles are available in English (and hard of hearing), Bularian, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, German, Hungarian, Icelandic, Norwegian, Polish, Swedish and Turkish. The menus are all static and silent.

Overall, this is still a hugely-entertaining film, but for a back-catalogue title I’d have expected more from the presentation.


Review copyright © Dominic Robinson, 2000.


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