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BLUE THUNDER – SPECIAL EDITION (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

July 24, 2009 by  



“The film that inspired helicopter suspense-action TV shows but also a film that shows action scenes that is probably never going to be duplicated in this modern era.  Watching it 26 years later, you can’t but help be impressed of what the filmmakers were able to accomplish.  But even more, be impressed by this High Definition Blu-ray release.  This is the definitive version of ‘BLUE THUNDER’ to own!  For fans of this film, ‘BLUE THUNDER’ on Blu-ray is definitely recommended! “

Images courtesy of © 1983 Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: BLUE THUNDER- SPECIAL EDITION

DURATION: 109 minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (2:40:1), English and French Dolby TrueHD 5.1, Subtitles: English, English SDH, French

COMPANY:  Columbia Pictures/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

RATED: R

Release Date: August 11, 2009

Directed by John Badham

Written by Dan O’Bannon, Don Jakoby

Executive Produced by Phil Feldman, Andrew Fogelson

Produced by Gordon Carroll

Associate Produced by Gregg Champion

Music by Arthur B. Rubinstein

Director of Photography: John A. Alonzo

Edited by Edward M. Abroms, Frank Morriss

Casting by Dianne Crittenden

Production Design by Sydney Z. Litwack

Costume Design by Marianna Elliott

Starring:

Roy Scheider as Officer Frank Murphy

Warren Oates as Capt. Jack Braddock

Candy Clark as Kate

Daniel Stern as Officer Richard Lymangood

Paul Roebling as Icelan

David Sheiner as Fletcher

Joe Santos as Montoya

Malcolm McDowell as Col. F.E. Cochrane

Ed Bernard as Sgt. Short

Jason Bernard as Mayor

Roy Scheider stars in this intense action thriller as a courageous police officer pilot battling government fanatics planning to misuse an experimental attack helicopter. Chosen to test BLUE THUNDER,Frank Murphy (Scheider) is amazed by the high-speed, high-tech chopper. It can see through walls, record a whisper or level a city block. Distrusting the military mentality behind BLUE THUNDER, Murphy and his partner Lymangood (Daniel Stern) soon discover that the remarkable craft is slated for use as the ultimate weapon in surveillance and crowd control. Jeopardized after being discovered by sinister Colonel Cochrane (Malcolm McDowell), Murphy flies BLUE THUNDER against military aircraft in a spellbinding contest over Los Angeles.

During the early 1980’s, Americans were treated with vehicles that sported the latest futuristic technology.  For cars, there was “Knight Rider”.  For motorcycles, there was “Street Hawk”.  And in 1983, people were captivated by a helicopter known as “Blue Thunder”.

The film was directed by world renown director John Badham (“Saturday Night Fever” and “WarGames”) and feature a screenplay by Dan O’Banon (“Alien” films and “Total Recall”) and Don Jakoby (“Vampires” and “Death Wish 3”), music by Arthur B. Rubinstein (“Double Jeopardy” and “Face Value”) and cinematography by John A. Alonzo (“Star Trek: Generations”, “The Meteor Man” and “Internal Affairs”).

“BLUE THUNDER” would star Roy Scheider (“SeaQuest DSV”, “Jaws” and “The French Connection) as LAPD helicopter pilot Officer Frank Murphy.  Together with his new rookie partner Officer Richard Lymangood (Daniel Stern), while the two were patroling Los Angeles through the air, they happen to come across on what appeared to be a robbery attempt on city councilwoman Diane McNeely.

Unfortunately, before they arrived near the city councilwoman’s area, the two were using their helicopter to observe a woman working out nude in her home.  But also, due to previous situations, Officer Frank Murphy is due for a psychological evaluation.  In fact, Murphy tends to use his stop watch to make sure that his mind is thinking straight (despite having nightmares of a Vietnamese soldier being thrown off a helicopter that he was piloting).

While meeting with his superior, Captain Jack Braddock (Warren Oates), the LAPD is calling the situation of the councilwoman as a theft and rape incident but Officer Murphy knows that there was no rape but his superior doesn’t want to hear anything further from Murphy and relieves both him and Lymangood as pilots for the LAPD temporarily.

But the good news for Murphy and Lymangood is that they will be able to test out an advanced helicopter known as “Blue Thunder”.  Using the latest in weapons armament and stealth technology, the “Blue Thunder” can listen to any conversation as far as 200 ft., armed with machine guns, able to video/audio record outside incidents and also to be tied into various government and law enforcement computers and much more.  The bad news is that the person that is heading the operation for “Blue Thunder” is US Army Colonel F.E. Cochrane (Malcolm McDowell) who is the primary test pilot of the new helicopter.  Both Murphy and Cochrane end up crossing paths and because of their past history, Murphy despises him for a reason unknown.

While on the first night testing the “Blue Thunder” in Los Angeles, both Murphy and Lymangood are just in awe of the capabilities of the helicopter.  But the two end up using the equipment to spy on Cochrane for the fun of it but what they hear is a shocker.  The people in the government and LAPD may be involved in the deaths of the city councilwoman and are working on a top secret project called “THOR” which will utilize “Blue Thunder” to be used for illegal spying and eliminate people in high positions.  And the next order for elimination is Officer Murphy.  Before both Murphy and Lyman can escape through the skies, they are caught by Cochrane and now a few members of the US Government and the LAPD who are involved with THOR will do what it takes to confiscate the video and audio recording of the Blue Thunder and stopping Murphy and Lymangood from revealing their evil plans by eliminating them.

Can Murphy and Lymangood survive long enough to stop the people behind Project THOR?

VIDEO & AUDIO:

For those who are big fans of “BLUE THUNDER”, you will be happy to know that the film is given a magnificent transfer on Blu-ray.   The film is presented in 1080p High Definition (with an aspect ratio of 2:40:1) and having seen this film and having it on VHS and DVD, I can tell you that this is the definitive version to own.

For one thing, for a 1983 film, the film just looks great.  The film offers a stark contrast between the day and nighttime sequences and there is a broad spectrum of colors utilized throughout the film.  I didn’t notice any significant artifacting, banding or source noise.  I was so happy to see this film not DNR’d (digital noise reduction) and the grain of the film included but not to the point where its too distracting.  There are far many 1980’s films that are too soft or too grainy and this film is just right.

As for the audio, “BLUE THUNDER” is presented with an English and French Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundtrack.  It’s important to emphasize that this film is a 1983 film and can’t be compared to today’s modern action films.  But  yet, the soundtrack is utilized quite well.  The helicopters rotors spinning, to the echoes of the megaphone, the many explosions and the musical score just coming out quite clear (and loud).  Dialogue remains crisp and clear and overall, there is a good amount of action scenes that utilize the explosions and thus filling the soundstage with automobile and aircraft sounds and machine guns galore.  I was very impressed by the soundtrack for this 26-year-old film.

As for subtitles, the film is presented in English, English SDH and French.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“BLUE THUNDER” comes with the following special features (featured in standard definition):

  • Director, Editor and Motion Control Supervisor Commentary – The Blu-ray includes the 2006 DVD Special Edition commentary featuring Director John Badham, Editor Frank Moriss and motion-control supervisor Hoyt Yeatman.  For those who have never heard of a Badham commentary, Badham is very concise and definitely gives you a peak through his mind of directing and is quite thorough on explaining how this film was created.  It’s important to note that these days, a lot of these scenes would be CGI’d but back then, the chase scenes between helicopters were done without CG.  So, it was a challenging and risky film to direct.
  • “The Special”: Building Blue Thunder: Making-of the Helicopter – (8:23) Director John Badham, Sydney Z. Litwack (Art Director) and staff from the film discuss the making of the Blue Thunder helicopter and how the concept was created.
  • Ride With The Angels: Making Blue Thunder – Multi-part Featurette – (44:41) This making of featurette discuss the Director John Badham and his involvement with the film.  Badham and producers talk about the talent they worked with in the film and what they added to the film.  Also, how talented Warren Oates was in the film but passed away a month after the film stopped shooting.  Discussion about the storyboards, Roy Scheider talks about his excitement of riding in the aircraft and Malcolm McDowell’s fear of flying.  Also, how a lot of the explosions and destructive scenes were created.
  • 1983 Promotional Featurette – (8:34) The original 1983 featurette featuring clips from the film, behind-the-scenes footage and interviews with the talent of the film.
  • BD-Live Enabled – For those with Blu-ray players that are Profile 2.0, this Blu-ray disc is BD-Live enabled.

When I was younger, I was totally enamored with this film and also the helicopter television shows (“Airwolf” and “Blue Thunder”) at the time.  Typically, we never really saw a helicopters as a mean, fighting machine.  But “BLUE THUNDER” really gave us a glimpse of modern technology at that time.

It has been 26 years since this film came out in the theaters and watching it again, its easy to be shocked of how much of this film featured actual helicopters flying through Los Angeles and of course, how the destruction of parts in Los Angeles was shown through this film.   Surprising because now in Post 9/11, these type of films will never be created in this manner and nor would we see aircraft going at it like this and if it did, it would be CGI.

But it’s just remarkable to know how much went into the filming of “Blue Thunder” without the use of today’s modern technology.  How the talents (Scheider and McDowell) actually were in the helicopters being filmed during the air battles and also, the overall destruction of parts of Los Angeles.  There is no way we are ever going to see this type of destruction in this manner in a film, especially how it was created.

For the most part, the film shows its age through the various vehicles and clothing styles of the early 80’s but the Blu-ray transfer really brings out the detail of the film.  One of the problems of the Special Edition DVD is that the film looked soft and muddy but for the Blu-ray release, I was impressed by its High Definition transfer.  Also, combined with the lossless audio and the fact that audio is a big part of this action film, it made the film much more enjoyable.  And where many 1980’s film are devoid of special features for their DVD or Blu-ray release, the good news is that this special edition of “BLUE THUNDER” does come with a few hours of special features.

Overall, “BLUE THUNDER” is an awesome release on Blu-ray.  The release is quite solid with its impressive on HD and its easy to recommend this film but also, I’m quite confident to say that this is the definitive version of “BLUE THUNDER” to own at this current time.

For fans of this film, this Blu-ray release is definitely recommended!

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