Backdraft appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Only a smattering of problems emerge in this generally strong transfer.
Sharpness was always good. Only the slightest hint of softness crept into the image at times. Otherwise, the movie looked concise and well-defined. I did notice mild jaggies and shimmering, though, and a little edge enhancement was apparent. As for source flaws, a few specks and marks emerged, but the vast majority of the flick looked clean.
Colors remained natural through the movie. The flick exhibited nicely dynamic and bold tones at all times. I thought the hues were quite strong, as were blacks. Dark sequences seemed firm and rich, while low-light shots appeared smooth and clear. Ultimately, there was a lot to like about this fine transfer.
Even more pleasing material emerged with the engrossing Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Backdraft. My only minor complaint stemmed from the use of the LFE channel. Despite a broad range of information on display, the subwoofer received surprisingly infrequent use. This meant bass response came from the main speakers most of the time. Those elements still sounded good, but I thought greater utilization of the sub would have added needed depth to the program.
Otherwise, audio quality was aces. Speech sounded natural and concise, as I noticed no edginess or other issues. Music seemed full and rich, while effects were good despite the less than stellar bass. Those elements came across as dynamic and accurate throughout the movie.
The breadth of the soundfield took Backdraft to “A” territory. This was an extremely accurate and very well-developed mix. The many fire sequences used all five speakers quite well and opened up the scenes to a strong degree. Each channel displayed unique material that helped make the scenes involving. Even quieter segments showed a good sense of place and developed matters well. This was a consistently terrific soundtrack.
This two-disc set includes a bunch of extras, most of which reside on the second platter. As for DVD One, we get a two-minute and 53-second Ron Howard Introduction. He tells us what made the shoot memorable and relates challenges creating fire for the movie. I’m sure we’ll learn more about these issues elsewhere, but Howard’s opening creates a nice lead-in for the flick.
39 Deleted Scenes fill a total of 43 minutes and eight seconds. No, those aren’t typos; we really get a ton of extra material here. Much of it adds up to little. The majority of the bits don’t last long, and they simply add general exposition. We get a fair amount of minor character bits. These add a little depth to the roles but not a lot. The most significant telegraph the identity of the arsonist, and there’s more connected to Swayzak as well. The Brian/Jen relationship receives the most expansion here.
One of the more interesting scenes shows how Brian got back into the academy, and we also find one in which the company helps out a fire widow. There’s more to Brian’s first fire and other expanded sequences. These are generally interesting but I’m glad they didn’t make the final flick. Backdraft is too long anyway, so we don’t need more footage integrated into it.
DVD One opens with some previews. We get ads for Waist Deep, Inside Man, Conviction, and The Blues Brothers.
Now we shift to DVD Two and its five featurettes. Igniting the Story comes first and runs for 15 minutes. It mixes movie clips, behind the scenes materials, and interviews. We hear from Howard, producers Richard B. Lewis, John Watson and Brian Grazer, screenwriter Gregory Widen, director of photography Mikael Salomon, production designer Albert Brenner, costume designer Jodie Tillen, and composer Hans Zimmer. We get notes about the origins of the story and the evolution of the script, the depiction of fire as a character, shooting in Chicago and use of various sets and locations, costumes and score, and responses to the flick.
“Igniting” casts a broad net. While the title might lead one to expect a concise dissection of the script, instead the featurette acts as a general look at a mix of filmmaking issues. This means it tends to be a bit general, but some good notes emerge. I like the story about De Niro’s approach to his clothes, and a few other strong stories pop up as well. This is a pretty interesting show.
After that we move to the 19-minute and nine-second Bringing the Team Together. It presents comments from Howard, casting director Jane Jenkins, and actors Kurt Russell, William Baldwin, Scott Glenn, Jason Gedrick, Clint Howard, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Cedric Young, Kevin M. Casey, and Jack McGee. The show looks at cast, characters, and performances. We also find some notes about real firemen used in the film, the actors’ training, and reflections about firefighters.
“Team” feels generic. It throws out a decent look at the actor-related subjects but never manages to become terribly interesting. Other than some nice info about “boot camp” and De Niro’s performance, this is a bland piece.
Action sequences come to the forefront during the 14-minute and 42-second The Explosive Stunts. It features Salomon, Russell, Baldwin, Glenn, stunt coordinator Walter Scott, special effects and pyrotechnics Allen Hall, and special effects foreman Clay Pinney. As indicated by the title, “Explosive” looks at the creation of the movie’s fire and action sequences. We find out technical issues related to exposing actors to fire and how they pulled off the shots. A lot of good behind the scenes material bolsters this show and helps make it interesting. Glenn also throws out a fascinating account of being set on fire for a big scene.
Creating the Villain: The Fire goes for 12 minutes, 51 seconds and presents Ron Howard, Hall, Pinney, Salomon, Gedrick, Russell, Glenn, and Brenner. “Villain” looks at the techniques used to create fire on the set and not kill anyone. We see various methods and styles featured in the flick as well as smoke and debris and photographic challenges. This offers a good way to view the complicated work done to film fiery scenes without too much danger involved.
Finally, we conclude with the eight-minute and 58-second Real-Life Firemen, Real-Life Stories. It gives us comments from members of Station 73 in Santa Clarita CA. We hear from Fire Captain Gary Dellamalva, firefighters/paramedics Edward Glenn Johnson, Tom Federico and Randy Perry, firefighter Jason Swan and engineer Steve Toledo. They give us their reactions to Backdraft and also discuss issues related to firefighting. They provide pretty good insights connected to the job and offer a nice little recap of the various challenges they face.
With 1991’s Backdraft, we get yet another Ron Howard movie neutered by the director’s relentless mediocrity. Like most of his flicks, Backdraft maintains a stalwart sense of professionalism but it fails to ever become anything more involving. The DVD offers very good picture and audio along with some decent extras highlighted by an extensive set of deleted scenes. Fans should enjoy this nice DVD release, but I can’t recommend this disappointing film to others.