Written by: Pieter Boven on September 21st, 2005
Original Title: Sky Pirates
Theatrical Release Date: Australia, 1986
Director: Colin Eggleston
Writer: John D. Lamond
Cast: John Hargreaves, Meredith Phillips, Max Phipps, Bill Hunter, Simon Chilvers, Alex Scott, David Parker
DVD released: August 23, 2005
Running time: 88m02s
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 non-anamorphic widescreen
Sound: German Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono / English Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo
DVD Release: Kinowelt Home Entertainment
Region Coding: Region 2 PAL (Germany)
Retail Price: 10 EUR
The Film :
Australia, August 1945. Lieutenant Dakota Harris is called upon to fly an American plane from a secret airbase to Washington. On board is archeologist Reverend Mitchell along with one third of an ancient stone tablet. The plane gets caught in a mysterious electrical storm and crash-lands in a sea, filled with long lost ships. Rescued and brought back to Australia, Dakota finds himself court-martialed due to a false testimony by his co-pilot Savage. Dakota escapes and gets help from Mitchell’s daughter Melanie. Together they set out to stop Savage, who is after the 3 pieces of the stone tablet and their enormous power when combined together.
The movie is presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1 but is unfortunately not anamorphically enhanced. The transfer is interlaced and definitely wasn’t sourced from a pristine original negative. Blemishes are never far off and there are some annoying shimmering effects. Colours don’t look too bad but sharpness is seriously lacking. The picture is also very dark although I never felt I didn’t know what I was looking at. Watchable, at least on a normal television, but disappointing.
We have the choice between a German dolby digital 2.0 dub and the original English audio in dolby digital 2.0 stereo. Both tracks sound fine. Optional German subtitles are available for 4/3 and 16/9 televisions. The first option places the subtitles in the bottom black bar and the second one puts them inside the 2.35:1 frame, in order to allow zooming on widescreen televisions. This is only the second time I have encountered this option, when in fact it should be standard on every non-anamorphic widescreen DVD.
There is a nice looking static menu, similar to the cover art, with some background music. The scene selection consists of 12 chapters. The main extras are 2 theatrical trailers, a fullscreen English trailer (1m36s) and a German one (1m39s) in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. Next we have 3 screens of production notes in German. Finally there are 10, mostly German, trailers for other movies.
This Australian adventure movie is undeniable inspired by several films such as The Philadelphia Experiment and especially Indiana Jones. The German title Dakota Harris emphasizes this even more. On the other hand, the meaning of the original title Sky Pirates remains a mystery to me. The English trailer hilariously exclaims: “the ark has been raided, the stone has been romanced”. Although not on the same level as Indiana Jones, I had a lot of fun with this movie, more than I first expected. It doesn’t take itself too seriously, is visually impressive, has good special effects (unlike today’s horrible CGI crap) and several exciting action scenes. John Hargreaves, constantly delivering dry witty lines, is great in the title role. The rest of the cast does a decent job too and you’ll see many familiar faces even though their names may not immediately ring a bell. The movie does have it faults as the music is a bit of a cheap rip-off and the plot is not given nearly enough attention. But will you be bored? I highly doubt it.
Although probably an improvement over the previously available French budget DVD, I feel this movie deserves better than this German release by Kinowelt. The transfer is flawed and the extras limited. At least you can pick it up for an acceptable price. Recommended.