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Cliffhanger, the Superbit Edition,

Cliffhanger, the Superbit Edition, on DVD

Perhaps it’s kind of fitting that the Superbit edition of this Sylvester Stallone flick isn’t really up to the standards of the Superbit Collection. After all, while it certainly has a lot going for it, when push comes to shove, as a movie Cliffhanger also leaves something to be desired.

Pretty good guilty pleasure, though!

Stallone stars as an angst-filled ex-climber/rescue guy who lost his nerve after the film’s spectacular-but-tragic opening sequence. Fortunately, there’s a criminal megalomaniac with delusions of grandeur out for no good, because otherwise Stallone might never climb again.

But that bad guy (John Lithgow with an affected British-compatible accent), is there along with his people of hench and they’re not only trapped on the mountaintops after a spectacular attempted heist, but they’re still bound and/or determined to find the caches of cash they’ve lost up there.

So Stallone is pressed back into service to rescue what at first seems to be a group of climbers lost in the snow.

Forget the plot. This movie is about thrills, and it delivers on that count. In fact, except for its unnecessarily graphic violence, this could almost be a primer for how to make an action/adventure flick, and sequences in it seem to have inspired films that came after such as Air Force One and Vertical Limit.

Stallone is actually pretty good here. If you can get past his macho guy image, you’ll find quite a sensitive performance. Lithgow chews the scenery and probably had a good time doing it. Everyone else is pretty well window dressing for the action. Well, Stallone and Lithgow probably are, too...

Director Renny Harlin (Die Hard 2, among others) and his crew have staged some spectacular and vertiginous high mountain stunts and situations; it’s just too bad they overdid it with the violence and under did it with the screen play, which is about as predictable as they come.

Still, this is a popcorn movie with lots of action, stunts, gorgeous locations and good special effects. So in the end, it works for the most part.

Perhaps the Superbit process here was envisioned more as an audio extravaganza than a video one, because while the picture quality isn’t up to Superbit snuff, the audio track (which features whirring helicopter rotors, gunfire, and an avalanche, all of which apparently combined to earn Cliffhanger Oscar nominations for sound and sound editing) is a marvelous example of what you can do with Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound.

The video, on the other hand, looks a tad washed out. The detail is good, but the colors just don’t have the richness we’ve come to expect from Columbia Tristar’s Superbit process. Not that it’s bad; it just doesn’t seem that much better than a regular DVD (though we must confess to not having seen the earlier digital disc version).

Ah, but the audio, which is offered in Dolby Digital and dts 5.1 surround, is worth the price of admission. It may be a tad bass heavy, but overall it’s clean and loud and uses the surround channels very effectively.

Cliffhanger, the Superbit Edition, from Columbia Tristar Home Entertainment
113 min. anamorphic widescreen, (2.35:1, 16x9 TV compatible), Dolby Digital and dts 5.1 surround
Starring Sylvester Stallone, John Lithgow, Janine Turner, Ralph Waite, Michael Rooker
Produced by Alan Marshall and Renny Harlin
Written by Michael France and Sylvester Stallone, directed by Renny Harlin


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