That's not a knife. This is a knife.
The movie that put Australia on the map (not counting Mad Max, that is), Crocodile Dundee gave a much-needed boost to that nation's tourist industry while giving comedian Paul Hogan a character to play for life. That may sound a bit cynical, especially since I have a genuine affection for the original Crocodile Dundee, a warm and cheerful film that took the familiar "fish out of water" story and made it work. This is one of those films that has been on my wish list for some time, and I'm glad to finally add it to my collection, though the disc isn't all I wished it could be.
Facts of the Case
New York reporter Sue Charlton (Linda Kozlowski) is about to pack up and head back home from Australia when she hears of a human interest story that seems too good to be true. It seems a man was attacked by a crocodile and managed to crawl to safety over a hundred miles of some of the most inhospitable country known to man. This leads her to Walkabout Creek, a backwater bush village, and to Michael J. "Crocodile" Dundee. The tale had certainly been embellished, but the colorful character of the man and the real story were still interesting enough to keep her interested. Dundee leads her through the bush retracing the steps of his ordeal, and she learns enough about that wild land and the wild man along the way to want to continue the story by bringing him back to New York. Now the roles are reversed, and he is the one who is out of his element, but his natural charm and impressive skills serve him in good stead. Naturally a romance just might be developing between these two very different people.
I've probably watched this film a half dozen times over the years, and it never fails to put a smile on my face. Paul Hogan fits into the role of Dundee like it was the character he was born to play. Kozlowski (who became Hogan's real life wife) is outstanding, and that real chemistry appeared on screen as well. The wilds of the Australian bush became a character in its own right, and it's hard to mess up such beautiful scenery. A host of supporting characters each adds their own contribution and have their moments to shine or just add to the merriment.
There is a lot of merriment to go around, as this simple story is chock full of little scenes that are each funny, yet come together rather than becoming a series of one-off jokes. The mugging scene where Dundee shows the difference between a real knife and a smaller one, the purse snatcher dispatched by a can of food, the ladies who might not be ladies after all, and numerous other scenes each give a laugh and add to the fun.
The DVD from Paramount boasts a new anamorphic transfer, and the results are pleasing overall. Detail and clarity is much improved over the previous laserdisc release, colors look terrific, and it has a smooth overall look. Paramount usually delivers in the visual arena, and this is no exception. The only quibble I had with the transfer comes from the somewhat dark and murky quality that comes in the nighttime scenes. Shadow detail isn't all I could hope for, but this is a small complaint.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Unfortunately, we can't say the same for the audio or extra content. Paramount is known for great 5.1 remixes for older material, but rumors say that the source elements were in too poor shape to do it this time. What we get is a Dolby 2.0 surround mix that is adequate at best. Rear surrounds get some small use, mostly for some ambiance, but overall the sound is fairly thin. Dialogue is clearly understood at least, and while the sound doesn't impress it isn't a major problem either.
Extra content is typically the area Paramount is lacking, and here is no exception. An anamorphic theatrical trailer is all that is offered. There are signs that the studio is improving in this area, and we can have higher hopes for the future, but it's too late for Crocodile Dundee.
Despite the DVD not being all we could hope for, the film is still a welcome addition to my collection. If you haven't seen it, you should. The original is the one to watch; each sequel was worse than the last. For fans of the film, you either already own it or can feel free to purchase it now.
Paramount remains guilty of not providing adequate extra content, but at least they get points for reaching into their catalog. The picture quality and the quality of the film itself even things out to a suspended sentence.
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Scales of Justice
• Theatrical Trailer
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