The Final Countdown belongs to that subculture of science fiction that asks the time related what if’s. There have been a great number of books and stories about alternative histories. The Civil War has long been one of the most fertile grounds for this speculative fiction. Most scenarios about World War II generally involved the killing of Hitler as a child or sometime before his leadership. This film not only explores a different aspect of the War but is brave enough to not resolve the question. What would happen i… a modern aircraft carrier were to arrive at the point of the Pearl Harbor invasion? The cast is a solid A-list. Martin Sheen, Kirk Douglas, Katherine Ross, and James Farentino are the vanguard of the spectacular cast. The film received a tremendous amount of cooperation from the U.S. Navy, and a considerable amount of shooting occurred on the USS Nimitz.
The modern Navy Carrier USS Nimitz travels through a strange electrical storm. When the storm dissipates the crew finds they are in the Pacific waters near Pearl Harbor the day before the Japanese invasion. Captain Yelland (Douglas) must decide if his duty is to protect the United States from this attack even though history has already written the results.
You have plenty of audio options here. You can opt for the original 2.0 track or choose from either a Dolby Digital 5.1 or DTS 6.1 presentations. The 2.0 track sounds pretty much like the laserdisc release. The 5.1 and DTS tracks are nearly identical. The DTS offers more of a boost to the sub range. Both tracks offer impressive sound. Dialogue is wonderful. My subs loved the rumble of the fighter craft as they launch from the Nimitz. The wonderful score is brilliant and subdued when appropriate.
There is a commentary option by Victor Kemper who was the director of photography. He seems to have retained a great many detailed memories from the shoot.
This is the first time Final Countdown has been released in its original theatrical release aspect ratio of 2.35:1. The laserdisc was an uncommon Pan & Scan. This is a wonderful presentation. I am mostly impressed with the great amount of detail evident. The film is 25 years old and does not show its age in any way. Considering that the film was reportedly kept in poor conditions because of its frequent change in rights holders, there is nothing here to demonstrate those unfortunate circumstances. Colors are dead on. Blacks are not often encountered on this film, but the few examples deliver a good deal of depth. This transfer certainly ranks among the best improvements over earlier laser releases I’ve seen.
Disc one contains the film, audio commentary and a couple of poor transfer trailers and TV spots.
Disc Two contains the bulk of the extras for the release. “Loyd Kaufman Goes Hollywood” is an interview with Kaufman. I found this 15 minute feature extraordinary for its frankness. Kaufman is not afraid to call them as he saw them. He is highly critical of director Don Taylor and several of the actors. This is a refreshing change from the obvious BS lovefests that abound on too many features.
“Starring The Jolly Rogers” Once again a frank discussion with some of the actual Navy pilots who worked on the film. Mostly they seem stuck in their own glory years and criticize many of the cast and crew of the film.
The disc is rounded by a collection of production stills and bios. The menus are a bit clever and easy to navigate.
I must admit I have mixed feelings about this release. The transfer and audio are great. I would have liked to have seen more extras. For a two disc treatment, there is very little to warrant the second disc. I understand that the film has a stormy ownership history and probably very little material was available to Blue Underground. The obvious infighting among those involved also meant little chance of getting many principals involved for new material. Still, this is a wonderful release in terms of the film itself. The package has a neat hologram front. I had the pleasure of watching the film with a couple of fighter pilot vets, which gave me a greater appreciation for the accuracy of the film’s flight material. Can a good copy of this film finally surface on DVD? “This is no longer a hypothetical question.”
Special Features List
- Audio Commentary with Director of Photography Victor J. Kemper
- Theatrical Trailers
- TV Spots
- Interview with Associate Producer Lloyd Kaufman
- Interviews with The Jolly Rogers F-14 Fighter Squadron
- Poster & Still Galleries
- Kirk Douglas Bio