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TESTAMENT

Review by Chastity Campbell

Starring: William Devane, Jane Alexander, Ross Harris, Roxana Zal, Lukas Haas, Philip Anglim
Director: Lynne Littman
Video: 1.85:1 Widescreen
Audio: Dolby Digital Mono
Studio: Paramount
Features: See Review
Length: 89 Minutes
Release Date: December 7, 2004

Film **

When I saw this DVD for the first time, I couldn’t imagine it being anything other than biblical.  Boy, was I wrong! 

Testament is a very unsettling and unnerving film.  Close your eyes and imagine it’s an ordinary day, like any other.  There’s laundry to be done, the kids are screaming and dinner has yet to be cooked.  You stop for a moment to check the message on your answering machine.  All of the sudden there is breaking news on TV.  America’s east coast has been hit with nuclear bombs.  A bright flash outside your windows momentarily blinds you. You hit the ground and cover your head, hoping against hope it wasn’t a nuclear bomb…unfortunately it was. 

What follows is the day to day life of a post nuclear war family.  A wife and mother of three must find a way to save herself and her children, while waiting to see if her husband made it out of San Francisco before the bomb fell.

Okay, I don’t like death and destruction, but I do like films that have that real to life feeling when you watch them.  This movie was filmed with a very free flowing camera style.  Some of the shooting was done off the shoulder, and really got you right up into each characters personal space.    

The film was very well written for its time period and style.   I liked the way each character stood out on their own.  It gave each person a three dimensional feel that some other films from the same time period always seem to lack.  

Having said all that, this film really disturbed me.  Even in modern day films there is always some glimmer of hope to cling to, whether it be figuratively or literally!  This movie was depressing and scary. However, in the same breath I can say that this film opened my eyes and mind to the way people worried about this type of scenario through the 60’s, 70’s, and early 80’s. 

William Devane, better known for his sneaky and conniving Greg Sumner on Knots Landing, didn’t really have a big role in this film.  He was the always-on-the-run dad for the first fifteen to twenty minutes, then he was MIA when the bomb fell. 

The stand out performance in this film was Jane Alexander’s portrayal of Carol Wetherly.   As the wife to a missing husband, and mother to three teen/pre-teen children, she really went through just about every high and low a character can experience…the rage and frustration of not knowing what happened to her husband, and the pain and suffering of watching all the people around her die one by one from disease, starvation, and radiation poisoning.

Jane did a wonderful job bringing all of these emotions forward in a way that didn’t require words for you to empathize with her character.  You could see the pain etched on her face as the days stretched into weeks, then months.  

While this isn’t a movie I would pop in and watch over and over again, it was interesting from a historical point of view.  

Video **

This film’s transfer to the digital realm was okay.  The 1.85:1 widescreen format was nice, but the colors seemed a bit dull and flat throughout.  Shading and lighting was part of the problem, but you can’t discount the age of the print before its transfer. 

I realize the types of special effects available at the time this movie was made were limited.  However, this film has a very low budget look to it from start to finish, and nothing but a remake can change that.   

Audio **

When I review a DVD’s audio, there are a few things that always stand out for me: the soundtrack,and whether or not the levels remain consistent throughout.   The Dolby Digital Mono mix on this DVD was neither spectacular, nor was it horrifying.  The average dialogue was accompanied by average audio levels, and an average soundtrack. 

There was a little bit of low end hiss in the background, but nothing that is unbearable. 

Features **

The extra features on this DVD were mind blowing…well okay, not mind blowing, but they really packed a punch!

There is a “Testament: 20 years later,” featurette that brings together some of the actors and the director to discuss the film itself, and the message it contained. 

Testament: Nuclear Thoughts,” is a very interesting featurette.  You get to take a look at an instructional film called Duck & Cover.  This film was put together back in the 50’s in order to demonstrate what to do in the event of a nuclear attack.  Various people share their opinions on how things were, and still are.

“Timeline Of The Nuclear Age,” is a Star Wars-esque screen scroll taking you through the history of nuclear evolution.

This DVD wasn’t exploding with extras, but I doubt there will be any fallout over the ones it does contain!

Summary:

This DVD was middle of the road all the way around.  The video and audio quality were okay, and the film itself again was just okay.  The extra features were very interesting from a historical stance.  So if you’re into history, or grew up in the late 70’s or early 80’s, you’ll be able to relate to the drama on this DVD more so than I did.

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