Taps appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, dual-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. The picture displayed a mix of small concerns, but for the most part I thought it looked quite good.
Sharpness usually came across as solid. A few wider shots displayed some minor softness, but those problems appeared infrequently. Overall, I thought the image looked reasonably crisp and well defined. Jagged edges and moiré effects caused no concerns, and I also saw no signs of edge enhancement. Print flaws remained pretty minor, especially considering the age of the material. Some light grain popped up through the movie, and I also detected a few marks and speckles, but the film stayed fairly clean as a whole.
Colors generally appeared positive. Skin tones occasionally seemed a bit reddish, but otherwise the hues were clear and well saturated. The movie stayed with a fairly bland palette, but the DVD rendered them nicely, with accurate and distinctive tones. Black levels looked quite deep and rich throughout the movie, while shadow detail usually appeared clean and appropriately opaque; a few low-light sequences came across as slightly thick, but those occasions were rare. Ultimately, I thought Taps presented a very satisfying image.
Also good was the Dolby Digital 4.0 soundtrack of Taps. The soundfield seemed fairly broad for its era. Audio spread widely across the front spectrum. On the negative side, those elements appeared pretty speaker-specific; different aspects of the track didn’t blend together terribly well for the most part, as they remained heavily isolated in their different channels. Actually, a few pieces – like driving trucks – panned across speakers nicely, but most of the track stayed with this speaker-specific attitude.
Nonetheless, the breadth to the mix seemed pretty impressive for a movie from 1981, and Taps seemed rather active in that regard. Surrounds contributed decent reinforcement to the forward spectrum. Not a lot of unique audio came from the rears, but they supported the main channels well and added a nice layer of depth. Considering that most films from 1981 remained monaural, I felt fairly impressed by the soundfield of Taps.
Audio quality seemed somewhat erratic but generally positive for its era. Speech came across as a little tinny, but the lines lacked edginess or problems related to intelligibility. Music seemed nicely bright and vivid, and the score occasionally showed some positive depth. Effects varied in quality. Some elements – like gunfire – appeared surprisingly flat and thin, while others – such as the rumble of vehicles – were rich and distinct. Bass response could be quite positive at times, as trucks and tanks showed nice depth and warmth. I heard a little hiss at times, but that was a minor concern. Overall, the quality of the audio seemed a little lackluster at times, but this remained a nice mix for its age.
If you compare the comments above to the notes I made about the movie’s original DVD release, you’ll notice they’re identical. I detected virtually no differences between the 2006 transfer and the 2002 edition. If any changes occurred, they seemed unnoticeable to me.
At least the 2006 disc adds some extras to the bare-bones 2002 release. We begin with an audio commentary from director Harold Becker. He presents a running, screen-specific piece. Though not without its merits, the commentary fails to engage the listener.
Becker briefly tells us how he got involved in the project before he discusses locations and sets, cast, rehearsals and performances, themes and the movie’s depictions of the military, interpretation of the story and general introspection. For the first act or so, Becker proves reasonably informative. He gives us a decent look at the project as well as some good notes about its soon-to-be-famous stars.
Unfortunately, Becker runs out of steam before too long. As the track progresses, we encounter more and more dead air, and Becker often does little more than narrate the film. He still tosses out the occasional interesting comment, but those moments are few and far between during the movie’s second half. This is a sporadically compelling piece but not a good one overall.
Next comes a featurette called Sounding the Call to Arms: Mobilizing the Taps Generation. In this 29-minute and 44-second piece, we get movie clips, archival materials, and interviews. These feature Becker, producer Stanley Jaffe, director of photography Owen Roizman, film critic Richard Schickel, and actors Timothy Hutton and Ronny Cox, The show looks at the movie’s path to the screen and what attracted various participants, script development and changes from the original novel, casting and performances, locations, training, and weather problems, cinematography, general notes and stories from the shoot, and thoughts about the flick.
Although it’s a disappointment that Sean Penn and Tom Cruise fail to appear here, I can’t call it a surprise, so I won’t criticize "Arms" for their absence. Even without them, it turns into a pretty solid program. Inevitably, some material repeats from Becker’s commentary, but we get plenty of new details along with nice reflections. Though it features too many movie shots, "Arms" covers the movie fairly well and proves both enjoyable and informative.
Another featurette follows. The Bugler’s Cry: The Origins of Playing ‘Taps’ goes for six minutes, 54 seconds and includes remarks from bugler and brass historian Jari Villanueva. He tells us the roots of the tune along with some myths related to it. Tight and concise, “Origins” offers a neat look at the famous bugle call.
A few promos fill out the set. We get four trailers and two TV Spots.
As a film, Taps seemed to be a decent piece of work. I found the movie to appear consistently watchable, but it never escalated beyond that level to become something special. The DVD offered quite good picture and usually solid sound as well as a few decent extras.
Taps is a pretty good movie that at least merits a rental. As far as purchase, should fans who own the original release “upgrade” to this special edition? I’d say no. The picture and quality remain the same, and the extras aren’t substantial enough to warrant another purchase. New fans will want to go with the special edition, though, as the supplements make it the superior of the two releases.
To rate this film visit the original review of TAPS