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CLIFFHANGER [20th Anniversary Edition – Uncut]  [Limited Edition SteelBook] [Blu-ray] [German Import]
on August 3, 2014
CLIFFHANGER [20th Anniversary Edition – Uncut]  [Limited Edition SteelBook] [Blu-ray] [German Import] ‘Cliffhanger’ is a 1993 American action adventure film directed by Renny Harlin and starring Sylvester Stallone and John Lithgow. Sylvester Stallone, who co-wrote the screenplay, plays a mountain climber who becomes embroiled in a failed heist set in a U.S. Treasury plane flying through the Rocky Mountains. With the woman he loves and his best friend, Gabe Walker [Sylvester Stallone] braves the icy peaks only to discover that the distress call is really a trap set by merciless international terrorist Eric Qualen [John Lithgow]. Now millions of dollars and their own lives hang in the balance. Against explosive firepower, bitter cold, and dizzying heights, Gabe Walker must outwit Eric Qualen in a deadly game of hide-and-seek.
Actors: Sylvester Stallone, John Lithgow, Michael Rooker, Janine Turner, Rex Linn, Caroline Goodall, Leon Robinson, Craig Fairbrass, Gregory Scott Cummins, Denis Forest, Michelle Joyner, Max Perlich, Paul Winfield, Ralph Waite, Max Perlich, Trey Brownell, Vyto Ruginis, John Finn, Bruce McGill, Jeff McCarthy and Wolfgang Güllich (stunt double)
Director: Renny Harlin
Producer: Alan Marshall and Renny Harlin
Screenplay: Michael France and Sylvester Stallone
Composer: Trevor Jones
Cinematography: Alex Thomson
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Audio: English: 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio and German: 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
Subtitles: German and German SDH
Running Time: 113 Minutes
Region: Region B/2
Number of discs: 1
Andrew’s Blu-ray Review – ‘Cliffhanger’ is Sylvester Stallone and anybody alive in the 1980’s remembers that bold billing of the star who basically singlehandedly started the great action craze of the decade. Sly Stallone is that star; with pictures like the Rocky sequels, the Rambo’s and offbeat films like ‘Nighthawks’ and ‘Lock Up’, Sylvester Stallone confirmed that action hero image and was on the top of the game. With hit after hit, he became a larger than life figure, who could not only act when the situation called for it, but could also put out countless dumbed-downed action flicks that so many of us still crave. So here we are, in the early 1990’s. Stallone has convincible wrapped up his career launching franchises, and is looking for something different. The question is; how is ‘Cliffhanger’ different? It’s probably not. ‘Copland’ was more of a return to form, but one thing is clear about ‘Cliffhanger’; it has a hell of a lot more snow than anything we’ve seen from him before.
A gang of terrorists plan to hijack a plane carrying $100 million dollars in uncirculated US Department of Treasury notes. With no real easy way to pull off such an intricate plot against the government, a daring mid-air exchange between a freight carrier and a small plane is ultimately necessary to transfer the loot. The heist is to be executed in collaboration between a traitorous CIA agent Travers [Rex Linn] and the fearless gang, run by a crazed lunatic named Eric Qualen [John Lithgow]. Travers has turned sides and there is no going back, so it’s basically carry out the plot flawlessly or die in shame. In doing so, he must kill everyone on board, even his fellow agents. One thing neither accounted for is a sloppy exchange that left one agent alive enough to shoot. So during the transfer, the cases were lost and spread out over hundreds of miles of the snow laden, mountainous terrain of the Rocky Mountains.
Enter our unknowing hero, Gabe Walker [Sylvester Stallone], who is a mountain guide by day, stud muffin by night. He is currently struggling with the death of his best friend’s fiancée, a death that he inadvertently caused. The question of what happens when an inexperienced climber, Sarah [Michelle Joyner], reaches the top of precarious peak is answered, as she dies a gruesome death. I mean come on, what else did you expect to happen? Her high-altitude plunge leaves her future husband Hal Tucker [Michael Rooker] and Gabe torn with regret. Their friendship suffers, as Hal is convinced that Gabe caused her to fall. It really doesn’t make that much sense though, as Gabe tried to save her and Hal should have never put the novice climber in such a position.
After the terrorists crash land, because of damaged suffered in the brief firefight, they begin to search for the lost bounty. In the process they call the mountain rangers for a rescue team, in a brilliant play of assistance that turns out to be double sided ploy. Just so happens, that Gabe is back in town to reclaim a lost love of his own, Jessie Deighan [Janine Turner], and also to pack up the rest of his belongings into the back of his beat-up, Jeep Waggoner. Seriously, I mean what women in her right mind wouldn’t want to run away from a snowy paradise to live out of the back of Gabe’s crappy Jeep. It’s a no brainer really. When
Jessie Deighan calls out Gabe, asking him to face his fears rather than to run away, he agrees on one more rescue, which could very well be his last. Eric Qualen and his crew of misfits; including obsessed soccer fan Delmar [Craig Fairbrass] who couldn’t act himself out of a wet paper bag, as he is without doubt the worst actor to ever grace the cinema screen, explosives expert Kynette [Leon Robinson], Travers of course, and one psycho broad named Kristal [Caroline Goodall], who has a tendency for delivering pain through sharpened steel. They may not be the coolest bunch, but they are all hell bench on finding the cash and nothing; not even torturous cliffs, extreme weather, at least 25 inches of snow, Gabe, Hal and did I mention snow, yes lots of snow…can stand in their way. It’s really all pretty strange, how inexperienced climbers almost always come close to finding the cash just before a professional, who has basically lived most of his life in the Rocky Mountains. In fact, Gabe is so accustomed to the area that he can go for hours with basically no equipment and wearing nothing but a burlap sweater, aged from the early part of the century.
Fresh off the success of the dramatic film ‘Lock Up’ and the not so classy comedy, Stop! or the ghastly embarrassing Estelle Getty Will Blow Your Freaking Brains Out, Sylvester Stallone was looking to switch things up and steer clear from the typical Box Office behemoths of pictures he was associated with the majority of his career. So he went on to film the snowy action thriller in ‘Cliffhanger‘. Don’t worry about Sly though; he is never really in any danger or falling to his death or catching a cold from not wearing a jacket the entire film. Stallone is ripped for the film as always. It’s amazing how good the man looks, as he is actually 47 years old during filming. Unbelievable really, how the man maintains a near perfect physic. Hell, I’m almost 30 and his body looks better than mine, not that mine is terrible, hey - I work out! Janine Turner ages faster than fine wine, but turns out to be vinegar. It’s cruel and unnecessary, but I really can’t believe how fast the actress went from being the young and sexy Jessie in ‘Cliffhanger’ to aged broad we found in the nightmarish television series, ‘Northern Exposure’. John Lithgow delivers a quality performance as the crazed Eric Qualen, and the same can be said about the rest of the cast, who plays out their parts with decent efforts.
‘Cliffhanger’ is not a particularly bad film; but has it edge of your seat moments. Don’t get me wrong, I personally love the film and have so for almost two decades now and I’ve always been a huge Stallone fan in general. Almost obsessive actually. The film does have great locations and cinematography, even though the majority of the stunt shooting was filmed on big budget sets. A little known fact is that ‘Cliffhanger’ is actually in the Guinness Book of World Records. For the most expensive aerial stunt ever preformed. Simon Crane, a stunt man, was paid a million dollars to perform the intense aerial transfer scene in which he crossed between two planes at an altitude of 15,000ft. It garnished some respect and maybe more than I’ve given, as it was nominated for 3 Oscars; Best Visual, Sound Effects Editing and Best Sound. I still remember seeing the film in the theatre as a teenager and the nostalgia effect looms large in my screening of the film. This probably accounts for my generous score, as I rated the film 6, which seems harsh, but in reality, it probably reaches its peak at a 5. In any event, fans who loved the film then, will undoubtedly love it now as it really has aged pretty well. It’s still packed with action and the storyline is well executed with little flaws or overall holes. It’s a grand scale, fun film and that’s all it really reaches for, and never claims to be anything else.
Blu-ray Video Quality – StudioCanal debuts ‘Cliffhanger’ as an avalanche of thrills on Blu-ray with a stunning awesome 1080p encoded image and the results are anything but ordinary. Mostly shot through exterior locations and sets, the scenery is intense and realistic. Anyone who has seen the film countless times, as I have, will remember how dull and sometimes grey the exterior shots were in the original source. On Blu-ray we find the lifeless exteriors transformed into vibrant and naturalistic outlooks. The disc is clean and bright, with a freshness to it that is unmistakable. Some dulling effects are noticeable to background shots, especially long- range camera pans. Clarity is fine and the overall sharpness has been dramatically improved. A minor problem I noticed was that the actual snow wasn’t really crisp enough and never really popped with detail or contrast. One never really gets the sense that you are in the mountain range, as altitude is minor at times and blunted. Colors appear bold and natural, sometimes glowing with intensity. Skin tones are a little bronzed at times, but never outright glazed. The transitions from the live action sequences to sets are noticeably and sometimes hinder the transfer in certain areas. The interior sets appear darker and the overcast changes in tone, with some loss of intensity. The ‘big-air’ stunts appear a little grated and the overcast appears a bit darker and dulled, as do mountain cavern scenes.
Blu-ray Audio Quality – “If you want me, I’m in here.” Those words have never sounded better than through the intricate 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track either in English or German. Overall, the Blu-ray sounds totally awesome and fantastic at the same time, with bold sensitivity to the background and concentrated bass throughout. Helicopters sound particularly intense, with wild flapping of the blades slightly inhibited for effect. Explosions slam through surrounds and ambiance is present with the correct amount of tone. Undoubtedly, one of the better sounding BD releases of 2010 so far. Honestly, despite the relatively low score that I felt was necessary for minor element flaws, I’m a fan of this transfer. It’s clean, clear and sharp. A major upgrade from anything we’ve ever seen from the film. The overall effect is of the transfer is dramatic and powerful. I feel StudioCanal did right by the film and kept it natural. Never adding too much and taking away just the right amount of grain for impressive results. I can easily recommend this film and viewers can expect a beautiful experience on Blu-ray waiting for them.
Blu-ray Special Features and Extras:
Sneak Peaks: Flight and Cold Blood [German Voice Dub]
Documentary: "Stallone on the Edge: The Making of 'Cliffhanger'" [20:00] Sylvester Stallone, in costume for 'Demolition Man,' and Renny Harlin dominate this rambling, self-satisfied documentary that doesn't go into nearly enough depth about this daunting production. Sylvester Stallone talks about the importance of taking risks, expresses a fear of heights, and interjects some cheesy comments while on-set footage provides glimpses of life behind the scenes.
Interviews: Here you get up close and personal with short interviews with Sylvester Stallone, Michael Rooker, Janine Turner, Renny harlin, John Lithgow and Alle Abspielen [German Subtitles]
Theatrical Trailer [HD] [5:00] The classy original theatrical trailer is presented in high definition, that has only background music.
Trailers: Mann Beist Hund, Possession – Das Dunkle In Dir, Taratino XX, Total Recall, Universal Soldier – Regeneration and Vehicle 19 [German Voice Dub]
Finally, for diehard action fans, it really doesn’t get much better than near vintage Sylvester Stallone, especially with all those bulging muscles. Now over 15 years since its release, ‘Cliffhanger’ makes a darling comeback, with a dominating presentation that will sure knock your socks off, especially with the stunning visuals and detailed special effects. Sylvester Stallone remains true and pumps out another quality effort, as does the rest of the cast and the storyline read one of a modern classic. So much so, that a remake from ‘StudioCanal’ was rumoured to begin filming in late 2010, but obviously they had second’s thoughts or they could not raise the money? ‘Cliffhanger’ on Blu-ray is sure to shock fans with its bold presentation and gorgeous transfer. It’s really an easy buy and the only thing left to do is recommend it. Enjoy it, I sure did and to have this German Limited Edition SteelBook Blu-ray because it is a really beautiful stunning looking SteelBook and a great honour to add to my Blu-ray Collection. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!
Andrew C. Miller – Your Ultimate No.1 Film Fan
Le Cinema Paradiso
WARE, United Kingdom