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HARSH REALM DVD review

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PHOTOGRAPHY

DVD Review: HARSH REALM

By David Blackwell

DVD Details: 3 disc set. 9 episodes. 2 featurettes. TV spots. Previews.

STUDIO: 20th Century FOX

Release Date: August 24, 2004 (USA)

Show Details:

starring Scott Bairstow, D.B. Sweeny, Rachel Hayward, Samantha Mathis, Sarah Jane Redmond, and Terry O'Quinn as General Omar Santiago.

Created by Chris Carter, inspired by the comic book created by James Hundall and Andrew Paquette

HARSH REALM was a show that just didn't spark with people like THE X-FILES or MILLENNIUM. The show was a victim due to poor promotion and the state of change in people who were in control of programming at the FOX network. HARSH REALM may have also been a victim of bad timing due to THE MATRIX being a big hit months before HARSH REALM came to TV. The show lasted on FOX for three weeks (in 1999) before it was cancelled. However that wasn't the end of the story and FX showed all nine episodes that were shot about six months later.  Now the show comes to DVD on August 24, 2004.

DISC ONE:

episodes- Pilot, Leviathan, Inga Fossa, Kein Ausgang

The first four episodes introduces the viewer to the virtual reality world of HARSH REALM. It is a military simulation (created by the United States military) to test what would happen in various worse case scenarios. Lt. Hobbes is given his last mission. His mission is to go into HARSH REALM and kill General Santiago who has taken control of the game. Hobbes finds help in his mission from Pinocchio (who was sent in on the same mission like so many others, and he used to be part of Santiago's Republican Guard in the game environment) and a mysterious mute woman named Florence who can heal any injuries inflicted to a person in the game. In the real world, Hobbes is declared dead and yet his finance is told by a mysterious woman named Inga Fossa (who seems to be playing both sides) that Hobbes is still alive.

There are two commentaries for the pilot episode (one by Chris Carter and the other by Daniel Sackhiem). The tracks do provide some production info, but there are too many gaps of silence. Further, some of the material is repeated on the INSIDE HARSH REALM featurette. These commentary tracks aren't the best ones I have heard (the ones on Millennium Season One are better).

DISC TWO:

episodes- Reunion, Three Prcenters, Manus Domini, Cincinatti

The four episodes on disc two help to dig deeper into the show's mythology, environment, and characters. The last scene in Manus Domini makes me wonder who is supposed to be the hero of the show. Is Hobbs the one to stop Santiago, or would HARSH REALM turn into the story about the redemption of Pinocchio turning into the one to bring down Santiago? There are also questions brought up about faith and whether the virtual characters exist as something more than characters in a game.

DISC THREE:

episodes- Camera Obscura

The episode does have some Romeo and Juliet elements. This is a good episode, but I wish the series ended with Cincinatti as the last episode aired.

SPECIAL FEATURES: There are two commentaries on disc one (as I have mentioned above). The other extras are on disc three. The INSIDE HARSH REALM documentary is 26 minutes long and features interviews with the cast and crew (the cast interview bits are from the time the show was being shot). Next is a featurette about Designing Harsh Realm's Logo and Title Sequence called CREATING THE LOGO & TITLE SEQUENCE. This featurette shows many of the different logos developed for HARSH REALM as the designers tried to find the right logo. The documentary and featurette are in 1.78:1 widescreen.

Rounding out the extras on disc three are previews for other FOX releases and 5 TV spots for Harsh Realm (three for the pilot and two FX spots). I do wish they had taken the time to find the TV spots for all nine episodes and included them on disc three.

 

VIDEO/AUDIO: The episodes are presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen (the title sequence is presented with black space on each side of the screen preserving the way it was presented in 1.33:1 without having to stretch or crop to fit 1.78:1). Colors are radiant, blacks are very dark, and the show's images are reproduced beautifully on this DVD set. The Dolby 2.0 Surround is good. It captures the way the show sounded when it aired on TV.

MENUS: The menus aren't as complex as the Millennium menus, but the blue-gray and black and white and red scheme suits the menus well.

DVD SLEEVE ART: The red slipcase that hold the three Harsh Realm Discs (each in a slim case) has nice artwork that evokes what the show is about. The DVD sleeve art for each slipcase is nicely designed as the front covers show one of three main cast members in stark black white with a picture from the show. The back covers show a picture from each episode on the disc. The only complaint I have about the sleeves is they list the episodes that didn't air on FOX as "Never Broadcast on Network TV" instead of their FX airdates.

FINAL ANALYSIS: HARSH REALM is a show that had so much potential, but unfortunately it was gone too soon. If you liked the show, you will want to buy this DVD set.

this review is (c)8-4-2004 David Blackwell. This review cannot be reprinted without permission. Send all comments to lord_pragmagtic@hotmail.com and look for additional content (and site updates) at http://www.livejournal.com/users/enterlinemedia

Remember HARSH REALM is just a TV show.