The time is 80,000 years ago. Our focus is tribespeople who value fire deeply, but do notknow how to make it. When they are attacked by a rival, far more simian, group, they lose theirfire. A trio of friends (Everett McGill, Nameer El-Kadi, and Ron Perlman, a man who doesn’tneed much make-up to look prehistoric) head off on a search for new fire. During theirquest, they encounter a cannibal tribe, and hook up with Rae Dawn Chong, a prisoner of thecannibals and member of a m…re technologically advanced tribe. When Quest for Fire was firstreleased, it compared itself to 2001: A Space Odyssey. In fact, the comparison would moreproperly be with some other movies from the 60s. This is, when you get down to it, a high-endversion of those caveman epics from Hammer (One Million Years BC, When Dinosaurs Ruledthe Earth, and so on). The science may be better, and there are mammoths instead of dinosaurs,but most of the other elements (made-up language, warring tribes, vicious animals, outsiders ona journey) are present and correct. Hell, there’s even a connection in getting major writersinvolved: Anthony Burgess created Quest for Fire’s language, while J.G. Ballard worked on theoriginal script for When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth. Great fun.
The music has impressive surround presence, and the environmental effects are pretty goodtoo. The twenty-plus-year age of the soundtrack means that things are not quite perfect, however.There is a fair bit of distortion coming out of the rear speakers. The rear sound effects at timesare too loud, almost drowning out the front, and we get moments of surround voices or otherinappropriate surround effects.
The picture nice preserves the original 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen ratio. The flesh tonesare good, as are the (muted) colours. The blacks are decent, but stop short of perfect, and thereare a few grainy moments, especially during the night scenes. The layer transition is a bitawkward too. The print is in good shape, though, and grain aside, free of transfer problems.
You have your choice of two commentaries: one serious and one frivolous. Director Jean-Jacques Annaud’s track is not without humour, but is more intent on filling us in on the howsand whys of the film than is the other track, a cheerful, often quite funny reminiscence byPerlman, Chong and producer Michael Gruskoff. More commentary awaits with the videogalleries. There are fifteen (count ‘em!) galleries, here, presented as montages with veryinformative commentary by Annaud. This is probably the most impressive presentation of photosI’ve ever seen on DVD. Finally, there’s the theatrical trailer and a featurette. This last is a realcuriosity, and worth checking out more for that rather than the actual information it conveys: it’snarrated by Orson Welles. The menu’s main page is scored and animated, but the rest is still andsilent. One final note: there are subtitles, which must surely be the most pointless extra ever,since the dialogue is simply translated as “Prehistoric.”
A very solid package, with a good film backed by a wealth of information in the extras.
Special Features List
- Video Galleries with Commentary
- Theatrical Trailer
- “Quest for Fire Adventure” Featurette