Hell Ride 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. Though generally good, the transfer was a little more erratic than I’d like.
As was the case with the “Grindhouse” movies, it occasionally became somewhat tough to tell what flaws came from the transfer and which stemmed from the film’s visual style. This wasn’t intended to be a clean, totally modern-looking affair, so the flick showed more grain than usual.
Still, the movie was a little iffier than normal. Sharpness was usually fine, as the majority of the film seemed accurate and concise. I noticed a bit of softness in wider shots, and some mild edge enhancement also created a tentative feel at times. Nonetheless, most of the flick appeared accurate enough. No issues with jagged edges or moiré effects popped up, and source flaws remained absent; other than the moderate grain, this was a clean presentation.
Hell Ride went with a stylized palette that favored the hot side. Actually, some parts of the flick reflected its desert setting and seemed somewhat desaturated, but this was a heavy desaturation, if that makes any sense. The sandy tones were more intense than usual, and reds followed suit. I thought the hues were a bit too strong, but they fit within the film’s design. Blacks were dark and dense, while shadows seemed decent; some appeared a little thick, but they remained acceptable. As did the image overall; it never excelled, but it satisfied.
I thought the Dolby Digital 5.1 had filled out the movie in an acceptable manner. In truth, it probably should’ve been a bit more active given the subject matter. With so many bikes and fights, I thought things would be more dynamic, but matters remained a bit restrained. Oh, we got a good sense of ambience, and occasional segments opened things up reasonably well. Nonetheless, the soundstage never became terribly involving.
Audio quality was fine. Some speech wasn’t very well-recorded, and a bit of edginess interfered with louder lines. Still, most of the dialogue was acceptably natural and concise, and I found no problems with intelligibility. Music showed good dimensionality; a few songs appeared scratchy, but that came from the Tarantino feel the movie wanted. Effects were accurate and full, as the track showed good low-end. Nothing here really impressed me, but the audio was positive enough for a “B-“.
With that we head to the disc’s extras. We open with an audio commentary from writer/director/producer/actor Larry Bishop and director of photography Scott Kevan. Both sit together for this running, screen-specific piece. We learn about the project’s origins and development, script and story, cast, characters and performances, sets and locations, working with Quentin Tarantino, influences, visual design and camerawork, costumes, bikes, and pretty much everything else you’d want to know.
I might not care for Hell Ride, but the movie boasts a darned good commentary. Bishop dominates this chatty piece; Kevan gets in a remark here or there, but this is Bishop’s baby and he doesn’t leave much room for his cinematographer. That’s not a problem since Bishop covers the movie so well. Though he occasionally wears his pretensions on his sleeve, he also mocks himself at times, so he balances the two sides. This becomes a consistently engaging and informative piece.
Five featurettes follow. The Making of Hell Ride goes for eight minutes, 50 seconds, as it presents shots from the set, movie snippets, and comments from Bishop, associate producer/actor Laura Cayouette, and actors Michael Madsen, and Leonor Varela.
The program follows the film’s roots and development, Bishop’s multiple roles on the shoot, the flick’s depiction of sex, editing, and Tarantino’s input.
“Making” benefits a little from the participation of other folks, but Bishop continues to dominate. That means most of the notes already appear in the commentary, though Varela contributes some intriguing character concepts. Nonetheless, there’s not a lot of substance here, and the program ends so abruptly that it feels oddly truncated.
The next two programs look at the cast. We get The Babes of Hell Ride (5:19) and The Guys of Hell Ride (14:18). Across these, we hear from Bishop, Cayouette, Varela, Madsen, and actors Julia Jones, Eric Balfour, David Carradine, and Dennis Hopper. As expected, these two shows look at cast, characters and performances. Once again, Bishop takes the reins. Some of the other performers throw out decent info, but we continue to find a fair amount of material already covered in the commentary. That makes the featurettes decent but not great, though I do like Bishop’s remarks about how Dean Martin inspired the Gent.
The Choppers of Hell Ride goes for nine minutes, 34 seconds and features Madsen, Bishop, Hopper, Balfour and motorcycle consultant Justin Kell. It should come as no surprise that this piece looks at the movie’s bikes. We get some good specifics in this short but tight show.
Next we find the nine-minute and three-second Michael Madsen’s Video Diary. This gives us a look at events on the set. Madsen doesn’t shoot the footage, but he shows up in mosy of it and offers his perspective. Some reasonably interesting moments emerge here.
The DVD opens with a few ads. We get promos for Death Proof, Planet Terror and Diary of the Dead. The disc also includes the red band trailer for Hell Ride.
Has anyone ever made a Tarantino-wannabe flick that didn’t bite? Maybe, but Hell Ride isn’t that flick. Even with Quentin himself in the producer’s chair, this one stinks on a consistent, relentless basis. The DVD provides decent picture and audio along with some good extras highlighted by a terrific audio commentary. I think this is a perfectly acceptable package, but I don’t care for the movie at all.