Joel's Reviews on Laserdisc


Welcome to the Laserdisc review thread. Here I will be reviewing my slowly building collection of laserdiscs and attempting to only collect choice cuts or curiosities on LD rather than typical commercial hype pictures.

Laserdisc was/is a home video format of the 1980's and 1990's. The technology can be seen as inferior by dvd standards and certainly HD DVD and blu ray, However, there are things about LD's that I feel are better than all of the other technologies/formats.

The jackets/sleeves

Loaded with extra info, LD's still pack on commentaries, features, etc, as well as being the size of an LP vinyl, so, you can frame it, display it, and heaven forbid you get a gatefold! The artwork is always a treat, lots of it, too! Take a whiff, this is why physical media will always be better than digital streaming.

The sound. Usually laserdiscs have original dolby tracks that are later re-tooled/mixed or bypassed on dvd/bd's. On laser, this audio track is analog or digital, with analog sometimes hosting director commentary as well as an alternate mix. Lots of options still, and run out of your player, the music, booms and clicketty clacking sounds incredible. Still the most powerful sound south of some tricked out ATMOS design that isn't even natural to the film itself.

The image. True, this is standard def. It's not HD. But, it's also not sharpened to all hell - meaning..with dvd's and even some blu rays, digital effects are used to "clean up" the image, often resulting in unsightly artifice and doubled lines around objects and lettering.

Next time you watch a dvd, notice the white on black credits/titles. Are there outlines with a ghosting? That's sharpening.

Laserdiscs rarely have much of that garbage applied, so, even though it's a standard definition medium, you get a softer, more filmic, more natural presentation of the film, especially if it's presented in widescreeen, a format I aim to keep my collection exclusive to, primarily.

This thread will also be focusing on some technology in line with laserdisc, as well as feature actual images of the laserdisc and screen grabs instead of stock google images pertaining to the film.

I'll use my own photos to show you the disc, the jacket/sleeve, and what it looks like on my HDTV.

How does LD compare to dvd/bd on an HDTV?

Fine. I use a composite (yellow) cable into the green (bottom) jack of the YPBPR inputs on my HDTV (or regular yellow compositie in, if available) and then select my input on the remote as "AV".

Done deal.

Not a bad comb filter to display the material onto my set, and with better cables (maybe a gold tipped?), the signal can look even better. This is not HD, but it's a STABLE image. No tracking issues, and, if a good transfer (very important), then you get a very nice experience. These things can and do work for HDTV's!

Laserdisc is just a badass format. You can own a record album sized silver platter (films served on a silver platter!), an analog rendering inside this optical disc that fuses digital/analog sound with an analog image all on pits and stops, you can own beautiful artwork with inserts and goodies, special features, little to no, and often, much often, rare cases of sharpening (thank technology not being there yet), a soft, filmic 16mm equivalent charm to your motion pictures, and just a really fun, awesome sounding movie experience and collector hobby you can horse around with, involving friends, some carelessly spent money, and a fair amount of time on the weekends.


"Money won is twice as sweet as money earned."

Laserdisc Review #1

Where can you see sir Anthony Hopkins, Mick Jagger and Emilio Estevez in the same movie? How about the same scene?

On my tv, that's where. But if you're not at my house and don't have an LD player..well, good luck. Just kidding. You'll be fine.

I bought this LD in hopes that Freejack would be something interesting. It has gotten scathing reviews across the board by critics and that was one of the deciding factors for me to buy it. How much do you want to bet this movie kind of rocks? Well, it does. Critics usually miss the point of a good bad movie.

Freejack is silly and thin, but it's also action packed with some really great sequences, sound effects and light humor to keep things pretty OK. It can drag a bit but all in all, I really enjoyed this picture.

Emilio Estevez was a race car driver, he drove so gotdamn fast, he never did win no checkered flag, though he never did come in

Emilio crashes his dragster, then, cut to 18 years into the future, evil scientists teleport him to the future a second before his death and plan to use his youthful body to host a rich man's dying and preserved brain. In the meantime, Emilio is a "freejack", running for his life, looking for his wife (Rene Russo), and being sought by none other than Mick Jagger, who turns in a nice and corny performance as an evil bounty hunter looking to collect his money on the freejack's head, delivered unharmed, so that old man future boy can live his soulless life as a hunky gardner in need of a tan, and bang his secretary, that's right..Rene Russo. Looking all HOT and rocking that manly lantern jaw of hers.

I had fun. The transfer was good and before the film even started I was treated to a live Scorpions music video of the title song to the film. Sounded tight! Such a cool band and great sound on this disc. I think this is what made me decide to really take this format seriously. Like I said, the transfer was cared for and presented in it's proper aspect ratio, everything looked solid, the colors were saturated but not over juiced, and stability was good throughout. No snow lines (laser rot) or needling burgundy dots speckling the screen up. Just gate hairs and film speckles (which is totally cool with me).

Back to the film. Hey, it's a silly affair. If you don't like bad movies then please ignore my reviews, I will always lead you down the wrong path. But I have to say that Freejack was a pleasant surprise. The ending was good, too. Watch the movie and find out why decent endings don't always have to be a cliffhanger or ultra serious or profound. Sometimes you just need a bit of fun to break up the mental illness of cinema. You may still get the sniffles but at least this movie won't give you TB.

++ for the film

Solid quality Laserdisc presentation.

Laserdisc Review #2


Since I've already reviewed this as a film, I'll review it as a laserdisc. The last time I saw this movie, it was on LD.

OK, there are 3 sides. I had to stand up and switch the LD twice. Math makes sense, right?

I have an older Pioneer Laserdisc player (Pioneer make the very best, most reliable, time proven players, FYI), so it doesn't feature still frame memory. When I hit pause, it just goes blue screen. But, and this is a big but...there is an exception.

Sometimes laserdiscs come with a mixed coding. Let's take a look at CAV discs compared to CLV discs.

CLV discs - these hold more content and running time on each side. I believe about 60 mins per side. As Good as it Gets is over 2 hours, hence the 3 discs. Of course, side 4 is just blank (as noted on label). What is interesting though is that for first 2 sides of AGAIG, these sides are coded with CLV - more run time, but no capability on my older player to pause still frame.

Enter CAV.

Cav - less run time (30 mins per side), supposed better quality (slightly) but even with older players, you ae able to at least still frame and jog each frame, as well as put into play slow motion consisting of 1/4 speed, 1/2 speed, and an assortment of super high speeds, all with the picture remaining relatively jitter free.

Here's the deal on CLV/CAV discs.

Older players cannot pause CLV's, but they can still frame and speed jog CAV's. More expensive and newer players can pause and jog on any and all discs by using either memory or utilizing the universal capabilities of frame searching/jogging on CLV's.

CLV - more info on each side
CAV - less info on each side

Older player - can pause only on CAV and not exactly pause, either. More like still frame jog, which, I guess can be used in the same way, and vari speed search.

Newer, more feature heavy player - can pause and jog till the cows come home any disc regardless of CLV or CAV.

OK, so QQQWHAAAAT's this got to do with As Good as it Gets?

Side 3 on this LD is indeed CAV, so, even on my older player I can use the still/jog.vari-speed feature. But only on side 3 of the 2nd laserdisc. Interesting.

Damn, you know, what the hell?

Anyway, back to the review of quality.

Widescreen, no laser rot, good colors, stable image, nice transfer, directors and cast commentary on analog channel. Must own remote to access analog on older players. Some good notes on the sleeve/jacket. Definitely a must have for LD enthusiasts as the blu ray of this film with commentary is inflated and out of print.


Editor's note: Bear with me until I get set up for a workable screen grab operation. For now, an HD cell phone rendering of my actual screen is the only doable route. It's noon here so the light isn't exactly helping set the tone, my apologies. Once I get a decent way to screen grab, there will be more variety and much better rendering, and I will edit these reviews when this method is employed.

@Holden Pike has an enormous Laser Disc collection.
Awesome! Maybe he can join me in here and drop some of his own reviews. I'm willing to share his experience and reviews in this thread. Tech info, too..if he's up for it?

At its height I think I had somewhere near 900 LDs. I still have 500 or 600 (did a count not terribly log ago, I can look it up when I get home). I don't spin them very often anymore, as most everything I have replaced over the years on DVD/BluRay. But I still have the buggers! Some I have framed and hanging as art.

I started collecting in 1991, I believe. Amassed that huge collection before switching over to DVDs in 1997 or 1998. Now I have them mostly for sentimental value. But I do still have two functioning LD players, the better of which is a combo LD/DVD.

I do miss the art of the jackets, which like record albums before them could be quite wonderful, often incorporating some of the original poster art, sometimes art that was unique to the LD. The covers of DVDs, apart from The Criterion Collection, are generally horrid and an afterthought when they were thrown onto the marketplace. I belong to a couple of Facebook pages full of LaserDisc devotees. I do not delude myself that their audio or video quality can compare with the progress that has been made since the format died, but they will always have a fond place in my heart as it was that collection that helped fuel my cinemania.
"Film is a disease. When it infects your bloodstream it takes over as the number one hormone. It bosses the enzymes, directs the pineal gland, plays Iago to your psyche. As with heroin, the antidote to Film is more Film." - Frank Capra

@Holden Pike

If you ever want to post pictures, feel free in here or your own thread. I'd be interested to see some of yours, or your wall art. I'll throw some of my own images up maybe a little later.

Star Wars (1977)

This will not be a very proper review of the laserdisc(s), but I wanted to jot a few notes down on the original trilogy.

The films

Star Wars is great to look at. The score is super duper, the acting is competent tv acting and the effects are pretty damned good for 1977. This is a good film to set up the story, introducing the main characters.

The Empire Strikes Back (1980)

This sequel is often referred to as "dark" due to the cliff hangers of the story. I found it a decent film, probably my favorite bit of the trilogy, but not because it's dark. It is dark.

I enjoyed the romance building between Leia and Han Solo. Good bits there. I liked the fight sequences. Lando's casiono in the sky is a real highlight, and all of the Yoda training sequence in the swamp is heaven on earth for movie geekery.

Return of the Jedi(1983)

The ewoks are a bit dumb but this may be my favorite of the series, right next to ESB.

The effects are off the chain. Great plates and mattes. Love the Emeror's black slugs on his hoodie. Someone sure went nuts with that black sharpie. Maybe my tv needs more contrast.

This was a great movie, though. So many revelations. A nice, ahppy ending. This is what it's all about. Still manages to be a bit rough and dark but also appeals to kids more at the same time. Interesting blend. The Princess choking out Jabba with his own chain half nude is balls. Also, Luke is a total pimp in the beginning. He's warning you! Your choice!

The quality of these unaltered, original cuts of the films are decent. The laserdisc version I have are all widescreen. The Empire Strikes Back is from the "faces" edition, but still pre 1997. The original film and the Jedi are both "Widescreen" series from CBS-FOX video.

They looked great in SD!

Now, I'm excited to see The Last Jedi, and even The Force Awakens again. I hated the prequels. I'm digging Star Wars again after decades.