The Vanishing: The Limited Edition Series Blu-ray Review
Directed by George Sluizer
Written by Todd Graff
1993, Region A, 109 minutes, Rated R
Blu-ray released on October 14th, 2014
Jeff Bridges as Barney Cousins
Kiefer Sutherland as Jeff Harriman
Nancy Travis as Rita Baker
Sandra Bullock Diane Shaver
Park Overall as Lynn
Maggie Linderman as Denise Cousins
Jeff and Diane are a happy couple vacationing in the Pacific Northwest, checking out natural disaster sites like Mount St. Helens. After a brief spat, they make a pit stop at a busy convenience station where Diane runs in for drinks and such. Jeff waits outside until he grows worried that she is taking way too long and, indeed, she has vanished. He spends the next three years searching for her and posting missing person fliers around the area asking for answers. He replaces the notices with fresh ones on the last day of each month and makes appearances on local television news stations, begging anyone for help finding his missing girlfriend. One night Jeff makes his way to a diner where he meets a waitress named Rita, with whom he surprisingly falls in love. Soon, he is finally willing to give up the search and it is at this point he receives a letter inviting him to meet the person responsible for Diane's disappearance.
Barney Cousins is a family man who keeps to himself, a quirky individual whose latest project is restoring his rustic summer cabin. His young daughter is a hopeless romantic who hopes her father's mysterious ways include a secret mistress. Sadly, there is nothing that exciting, as Barney is more interested in exploring his own moral character than interacting with other people. He spends his time testing himself and practicing what could be a great challenge; to commit the worst crime he can imagine. It's no spoiler to say it, that Barney did, in fact, abduct Diane and send Jeff on a fruitless and frustrating quest for answers. It is only when the search is abandoned that Barney starts round two and offers the missing information.
Jeff Bridges (The Fisher King) disappears into the role of Barney Cousins and delivers an uncomfortable performance as a truly troubled individual. Kiefer Sutherland (Flatliners) matches him for intensity as the dedicated searcher, Jeff Harriman, a man haunted beyond exhaustion. His character flaws are what make him the most endearing, as audiences are pulling for him to get the answers he so desperately seeks. Nancy Travis (So I Married an Axe Murderer) is the patient new girlfriend Rita, who is understanding of Jeff's obsession to a point. Rounding out the core cast is an early appearance by Sandra Bullock (The Thing Called Love), who is both instantly likeable and endearing as the missing Diane. Her screen time is limited here, but she leaves quite an impression.
Director George Sluizer scored big with his film Spoorloos (aka The Vanishing, 1988), and the Dutchman was invited to recreate the magic for American audiences with a Hollywood budget. What appears on the surface to be a terrific opportunity is actually quite a daunting challenge. Many filmmakers have attempted for lightning to strike twice, but frequently even the original director has trouble remaking his work. Austrian Michael Haneke (Funny Games), Danish Ole Bornedal (Nightwatch) and Japanese Takashi Shimizu (Ju-On: The Grudge) all tried with mixed results, but only Sluizer made the unexpected mistake of changing the ending that once held his movie together. Spoorloos is a bleak picture that deals with loss, despair and obsession with a grim finale that knocks the wind out of audiences. By substituting a happy ending on this domestic version, the viewer is cheated and the story neutered.
Tim Krabbé adapted his novel The Golden Egg for the original film, and the domestic duties were handled by Todd Graff (Angie). The central story remains the same and everything works until the third act takes a horrible step in the wrong direction. Fans of the original film were stunned by the new twist, and the reaction could not have been more negative. Sluizer insisted American audiences would have rejected the original ending, but it turns out he was wrong. He went on to find some level of success as a domestic filmmaker, but his follow-up film Dark Blood ran into trouble when lead actor River Phoenix died during production and the film took almost twenty years to complete.
The Vanishing remake is not a bad film, but it is a frustrating one. Even to viewers who have not seen the original, the ending feels false and pandering. Having been familiar with the source material, it is difficult to recommend this picture. Casual audiences looking for a suspenseful movie will likely not have many complaints, but for real thrills, check out the original version now available as part of the Criterion Collection.
Video and Audio:
The Vanishing is presented in the original 1.85:1 aspect ratio and the picture looks pretty terrific. The picture clarity is much stronger than the previous DVD release and details really stand out with improved small-object detail.
The default DTS-HD MA 5.1 track is mostly front-heavy, but opens up for Goldsmith's score and some third-act directional effects. A DTS-HD MA 2.0 mix is also offered, but the 5.1 really is the way to go.
English subtitles are provided for anyone in need.
The film's score by Jerry Goldsmith (Psycho II) is presented in an isolated DTS-HD MA 2.0 track for your listening pleasure.
The original theatrical trailer is the only video-based supplement.
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