The Shawshank Redemption on DVD (1998 fullscreen release)

Dom Robinson reviews

The Shawshank Redemption
Distributed by


  • VCD 0004
  • Cert: 15
  • Running time: 137 minutes
  • Year: 1994
  • Pressing: 1998
  • Region(s): 2, PAL
  • Chapters: 18 plus extras
  • Sound: Dolby Surround (Dolby Digital 2.0)
  • Languages: English
  • Subtitles: None
  • Presented in Fullscreen
  • Price: £DELETED
  • Extras : Scene index, Sub-plots, Theatrical trailer, Interviews and Biographies.


      Frank Darabont


    Niki Marvin


    Frank Darabont (Based on the short novel “Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption” by Stephen King)


    Thomas Newman


    Andy Dufresne : Tim Robbins (The Player, Bob Roberts, Jacob’s Ladder)
    Red : Morgan Freeman (Deep Impact, Kiss The Girls, Outbreak, Robin Hood:Prince of Thieves, Seven)
    Warden Norton : Bob Gunton (Broken Arrow, Ace Ventura 2)
    Heywood : William Sadler (Die Hard 2, Bill And Ted’s Bogus Journey)
    Captain Hadley : Clancy Brown (Highlander, Blue Steel)
    Tommy : Gil Bellows (Love And a .45, Silver Strand)
    Brooks : James Whitmore (Asphalt Jungle, Battle Cry)

The Shawshank Redemptionis a film which was nominated for seven AcademyAwards including Best Film and Best Actor. City Banker Andy Dufresne (TimRobbins) was sent to the Shawshank maximum security prison in 1947 afterbeing convicted of two brutal murders, receiving a double life sententence,and he finds out that when you’re there for life, that’s exactly what theytake from you.

The film follows the fortunes and tragedies of a few of the main inmates,starting with Andy’s first day along with the other new arrivals, where theprisoners take bets to see which new “fish” will crack first under thepressure on their first night inside.

As time goes by, Andy forms an unlikely friendship with Red (Morgan Freeman,who also narrates the story), a prison “fixer” who can get anything you want,including Andy’s request for Rita Hayworth. Andy also finds himself in favourwith the Warden and the guards when he can use his banking expertise to helpcorrupt officials boost their personal wealth.

There are excellent performances from all concerned in this film. TimRobbins is perfect as the frightened prisoner who insists he never commitedthe crime of which he has been jailed for, but eventually begins to make thebest of a bad situation. Morgan Freeman is equally at home as thelong-term inmate who has long since given up hope of seeing daylight on theother side as he is endlessly turned down at each parole hearing.

Main actors aside, there is class support from the rest of the cast who havea sizeable and memorable part, namely Bob Gunton as the evil prisonwarden who’ll stop at nothing to make life hell for all the prisoners;Clancy Brown as the equally-evil prison guard Byron Hadley;William Sadler, good in both Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey asDeath and in Die Hard 2 making life hell for Bruce Willis, appearinghere as a fellow inmate; Gil Bellows as Tommy, a young kid who findslife is treating him harder than most on the inside; and James Whitmoreas Brooks, the eldest resident of Shawshank prison.

There are two problems with the picture quality of this release. Firstly,there is a fair amount of pixellation which really shows up on any areas ofblack, grey and brown. Secondly, the disc is not presented in widescreen format.Given that the fullscreen version appears to be open-matte, the 4:3 presentationisn’t the disaster I was expecting and so isn’t too much of a problem. However,given the amount of space available on a DVD one wonders why both formatshaven’t been included. A widescreen PAL master clearly exists so are VCI’sDVD division anti-widescreen?

The Dolby Surround soundmix is effectively used mainly to set the ambience,especially when the inmates try to tease the new “fish” at the start of thefilm and later when Andy decides to give a global broadcast to an Italianopera record across the tannoy system. Also, a wonderful score from ThomasNewman sets the mood for each scene it is used in. I can’t comment on theDolby Digital AC-3 sound though as my home cinema setup isn’t suitablyequipped.

There are 18 chapters spread throughout the film, compared to 63 on the PALLD. However, there are plenty more extras to be found on the DVD. While bothhave the theatrical trailer, the DVD contains a scene index making it easy toget to your favourite parts of the film, an almost six-minute piece containinginterviews with the principal cast members plus producer Niki Marvin anddirector Frank Darabont, as well as text biographies of some main cast members.

Also, there’s another intriguing extra to this disc called “Sub-Plots”.Click on this brings up a menu with five headings :

  • 1. Red’s parole hearings
  • 2. Red and Andy’s friendship
  • 3. The “Sisters”
  • 4. Red gives Andy…Rita, Marilyn and Raquel too!
  • 5. Funds, Funds and more funds – The Library Grows

    To those who know the film, you’ll have an idea of what to expect, but to thosewho don’t I won’t spoil what’s in store. However, to summarise, each headingcontains three or four small clips strung together which show how that aspectof the film develops. It’s worth noting that you should only view these afterseeing the whole film so as not to spoil any surprises.

    There’s just the one language on this disc – English – and there are nosubtitles, nor is there a commentary track.

    Another thing to note is that on playing the disc you can’t skip past theVCI logo and copyright info.

    Overall, it’s a close-run thing between the PAL LD and DVD on first inspection.The DVD contains the sub-plots feature plus biographies and the interviewsection, but after viewing these once you won’t come back to them too often.The LD, on the other hand, benefits from a better picture quality and awidescreen presentation.

    However, while the LD costs £29.99, the DVD will get you a penny changefrom 20 quid, so the ultimate decision will be left to the consumer. An NTSCLaserdisc Special Edition is also available which contains a running commentarytrack from the director. This is a coup for region 2 PAL in one respect thoughas a region 1 disc has yet to materialise.

    On any format though, or whether seen in widescreen or fullscreen, the filmitself is unsurpassable and it makes one wonder when Frank Darabont will followit up.

    NB. This title is now deleted, but a DVD containing both the widescreen andfullscreen versions is available. Read the reviewHERE!

    For a review of the PAL Laserdisc, please click HERE !FILM : *****PICTURE QUALITY: ***SOUND QUALITY: ****EXTRAS: ****PACKAGE: ***Review copyright © Dominic Robinson, 1998.

    Check outVCI‘s Web site.

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