Dark City Director’s Cut Blu-ray review

Rob checks out a 90s classic sci-fi noir that really deserves its hi-def release...

After recently succumbing to a nice shiny Blu-ray player, my intention for my growing film collection is to try and only purchase films that really benefit from a 1080p transfer (so no ‘Along Came Sallies’, ‘Rom-Coms’ or ‘British Comedies’). So far, my growing collection has disappointed a little (Poltergeist), but some discs have also truly impressed, especially the hidden gem that is Alex Proya’s dark masterpiece, which really benefits from this new digital dust-off and transfer to HD .

Dark City is a masterpiece of sci-fi noir, a dark and brooding homage to every 30s crime thriller, blending a tight script, with sumptuous special effects and featuring a very sinister turn by Richard O’Brien.

Following the slow recovery of an amnesic man called John Murdock (Rufus Sewell), the film follows our hero as, with the help of ex-wife Emma (Jennifer Connelly), Detective Bumstead (William Hurt) and the shady Dr Schreber (Keifer Sutherland), he finds not only his memory but also a conspiracy and twist that would put any Raymond Chandler story to shame.

The film’s unique vision and sense of style is perfectly rendered in high-def, from the continually shifting cities, to the sinister floating Strangers. The effort put into the sets, detail and visually stunning special effects really come across in this release – from the first scene in a dilapidated bathroom decked out with grotty emerald tiles to the FX-driven finale, all the pin-sharp detail that went into the creation of this unique atmosphere of the movie is there in all its glory.

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The disc itself contains both the shorter theatrical version of the film as well as the longer and more detailed director’s cut, both of which work fine, with the director’s version not really providing that much more detail plot-wise, but expanding the role of Connelly’s lounge singing femme fatale (and let’s be honest: any version of a film that has more Jennifer Connelly looking sweet and innocent while also wearing a skin tight sequin dress has to be worth a look) as well as a few more scenes with the Strangers and the structure of their hive-mind society. But the real reason to re-purchase this film on Blu-ray is the special features and digital transfer.

Mastered in 7.1 sound, the film not only looks superb but also sounds fantastic with the orchestral score by Trevor Jones remixed and mastered to perfection; while my home system may not be up to the standard that the disc is designed for, the purity, clarity and time that have gone into this is nothing less than spectacular.

Extras It’s not just the sound and clarity of image that has benefited from this new format; the disc also offers a wide selection of instantaneously accessible extras which include numerous commentary tracks from key players in the production of the movie. Director Alex Proyas and writer David Goyer give their opinions and comment on how the film evolved, while reviewer Roger Ebert also provides a well-thought-out opinion and critique of the film.

In addition – an unexpected pleasure – king of ‘goth’ fiction Neil Gaiman also offers his opinion on the film, which ties nicely into the whole goth/noir feel of the movie and Proyas’ other 90s film classic/goth icon, The Crow. The disc includes two well developed documentaries, ‘Memories of Shell Beach’ and ‘Architecture of Dreams’. One looks at the development of the style of the film, while the other looks at the evolution of the script and deeper meanings of the clock, the human face in the Strangers’ lair and key elements of the film’s ideas, such as what it is to be human. It’s all fascinating stuff which was lost on me completely when I first saw the film over ten years ago.

Added to this you also get a vast array of production galleries, essays based on the film, trailers and film facts.

This is a superb release, both in the production values of the film itself and the effort that has gone into this transfer. A deep and well executed offering, the Blu-ray version of this movie really is a masterpiece of how effective this new format can be, showing the skills of the production itself as well as the technical expertise that was required to show off every little nook and cranny of this dark dystopian noir nightmare of a film.

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4 stars
Extras and transfer:


3 out of 5