Features Live Action Movies


UK PAL laserdisc review.

Originally published on London Calling Internet.

Distributor Pioneer LDCE

Cat No: PLFEB 35411


BBFC Certificate PG

Director Jan De Bont (1996)

Starring Assorted CG tornadoes

(oh yes, and Helen Hunt, Bill Paxton, Jami Gertz, Cary Elwes)

Running Time 108 min

Dolby Surround

Widescreen: 2.35:1

Chaptered? Yes


2 Sides

(4 sided CAV version also available for £34.99)

Trailers (Twister – two different ones, Jurassic Park)

A twister, as lovers of The Wizard of Oz (Victor Fleming, 1939) will know, is a tornado that snatches up objects in its path into the air and then dumps them down again. The one that snatched Dorothy into the air was a cheap special effect in a wonderful film. The current movie, on the other hand, is the other way round: basically, it’s a rotten movie with awe-inspiring special effects. The cast here is not so much the workmanlike group of American actors playing uninspired characters as the incredible series of tornadoes which appear one after another, each seemingly darker and by inference more evil than its predecessor.

This may also be one of those rare movies (I can’t think of another) that requires a big (cinema) screen, with all the resolution that a projected celluloid image can give these tornadoes, to really work its magic. On a telly, even with Dolby Surround kit connected, it seems to lose something. Don’t get me wrong – Pioneer’s transfer on this disc is up to their usual impeccable standard. Maybe it’s the sheer level of detail of tiny objects caught in a whirlwind that just doesn’t translate. Maybe it’s DS’ lack of rear dual audio channel separation. Or maybe it’s simply that the movie doesn’t thrill a viewer anything like as much second time around.

Approaching Twister with the usual criteria, it fails abysmally. The feeble plot, such as it is, concerns Paxton and ex-wife Hunt coming together leaving the former’s wife-to-be Gertz out in the cold. The excuse for this dreary excursion is that the first two characters are professional Twister chasers. Forget all this (and believe me, when you’re in the middle of some of the scenes with actors and no special effects, you’ll wish the producers had done exactly that) and instead look at the tornadoes themselves. Taken that way, the film works far better.

From the opening which pulls a father out of an underground shelter before the eyes of his horrified wife and child (the subject of side 1’s 1.85:1 trailer before the main feature) through the extraordinary mangling of a Drive-In screen showing The Shining (Stanley Kubrick, 1980, and the subject of side two’s 1.85:1 trailer after the main feature) to the dark devourer of a farmhouse in the final reel, the twisters themselves are awesome. In CLV, you constantly want to rewatch these bits over and over (and wish you have the more expensive, but one imagines infinitely better value for money, CAV version in order to check out the detail frame by frame).

There is some marginally interesting Wizard of Oz subtextual stuff about a machine called Dorothy designed to be sucked up inside tornadoes, but it pales beside the sheer spectacle of cows, cars, oil tankers, trees and houses whisked up into the air and dropped back down again, or monstrous columns of malevolent energy migrating wilfully towards camera.

Chaptering is fine, fulfilling the major requirement of enabling instant access to the good parts and avoidance of the rest, while the passable side break (in the middle of one of the many car chases after a twister) could have been better placed some 1½ minutes later, specifically after the dialogue line, “this is the fun part, sweetheart”. On the strength of the CLV disc, our advice would be to fork out the extra money to buy the CAV version as even in CLV the remote finger constantly itches to press the still frame button.

Film 2/5

Special Effects (i.e. the twisters themselves) 5/5

Picture 5/5

Sound 5/5

Teaser trailer:

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