Despite its ambitious intentions, Roland Joffe's treatise on sin and redemption in the South American rain forest falls well short of epic proportions, the main problem being a script (penned by David Lean collaborator Robert Bolt) that fails to rouse any strong emotions. The film is beautifully photographed, though. While its picture clarity is on the soft side, Argentina's lush greenery and awe-inspiring waterfalls are pleasing to the eye in this 1.85:1 anamorphic transfer. The audio is sufficiently powerful, whether the newly mastered Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack delivers the rush of cascading water, the whiz of arrows, or Ennio Morricone's simultaneously mournful and hopeful score.
An hour-long documentary on disc two delves into the true story of the Guarani tribe, the lifestyle of the real tribe that portrays them, and the logistical challenges of shooting in an unforgiving environment. The documentary is executed in a National Geographic-like style that may not appeal to viewers who were weaned on HBO First Look programs. Much more engaging is Joffe's commentary track, which covers virtually every aspect of production, story elements, and the impact of religion on an isolated culture. For a two-disc set, the pickings are kind of slim.
The Mission on DVD will most likely appeal to people who liked the film when it was released in 1986, historical-drama buffs, and Robert De Niro fans who want to revisit the actor's stretch as a slave-trader-turned-Jesuit-missionary.—Gary Frisch
DVD: Treasure Island—Buena Vista (Web Exclusive)
It was fascinating to bring home this 1950 Disney release (Walt's first live-action feature) just weeks after Treasure Planet arrived. Would the old-school classic be as popular with the kids as its 21st-century descendant? Based on the "let's see it again, daddy" scale, it held up pretty well. My kids could relate to Bobby Driscoll as a real Jim Hawkins. And let's face it, this movie has the greatest pirate of all time: Robert Newton's Long John Silver, complete with gravely "aaarrrrh, matey" voice and requisite shoulder-riding parrot.
It's too bad that Buena Vista gave this fun film such a skimpy DVD treatment. There are no extras except for a handful of previews. Disney did such a good job of explaining pirate lore on the Treasure Planet disc that I hoped at least a little of that would spill over here. Nope. Not even an original trailer.
For those late-boomers like me who originally saw this film on a little black-and-white TV, the colorful 1.33:1 transfer is beautiful, with only a few grainy spots and just a little color-shifting. The studio claims to have remastered the sound in Dolby Digital 5.1, but I heard not a peep out of the surround speakers, even when the good ship Hispaniola's cannons boomed. The sound's not bad; it's just flat. Sort of like the disc.—Drew Hardin