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4K UHD Disc Review: Arrow Video’s Pitch Black (Collector’s Edition)

Pitch Black

Arrow Video releases one of the best home video editions of the year with the UHD 4K Disc release of Pitch Black. Armed with a beautiful new 4K restoration and a wealth of extras.

The Film

Note: All features are on the Blu-Ray Release as well.

What many people forget is just how great a film that Pitch Black is.  What the film lacks in budget more than makes up in storytelling and characters.  David Twohy’s film isn’t just Vin Diesel’s star-making performance.  It’s his best film.

Deep in the backwaters shipping lanes of intergalactic space travel, the Hunter-Gratzner is put in front of a rogue comet causing the ship to crash on an unknown planet.  The survivors; Caroline Fry (Radha Mitchell) the pilot, a Holy man on his way to New Mecca (Keith David) with a few of his charges, Two Settlers (Claudia Black), an Antiquities Dealer, An orphan boy named Jack (Rhianna Griffiths), Johns – a Cop (Cole Hauser), and the convict he is taking in Richard B. Riddick (Diesel).  As they attempt to scavenge what is left from the flight, they find themselves in the most inhospitable of planets.  With Riddick, a known killer, with a propensity for escaping, they find a killer amongst them.  Riddick is not the most dangerous entity on the planet.  With an eclipse that will last a millennium, they are on a race against time having to make an unsteady pact with Riddick if they’re to survive this planet and its inhabitants. 

Pitch Black is both sci-fi, western, horror survival, and oddly social commentary all rolled into one.  The adroit script written by Jim and Ken Wheat along with Twohy makes all the right decisions when world and character building.  Riddick is the wild card in this group of archetypes and the way that he plays off of each of the characters is what elevates the film from your standard “aliens vs humans” genre piece.  

Twohy as a director and co-writer plays the long game and knowing we will be invested in Riddick as we’re unsure if he’s friend or foe.  Through the entire piece, Riddick is the film’s greatest source of tension; will Riddick or has Riddick killed someone in the group.  The way that how that dynamic plays out between the various characters but specifically Johns, Fry, and Riddick is a small morality play is Pitch Black’s most noteworthy feature.  

Much has been said and criticized about Vin Diesel in the two decades since Pitch Black but one thing remains true; his performance as Richard B. Riddick stands as one of the great star-making performances.  Like Stallone’s Rocky or Schwarzenegger’s Conan… Diesel’s Riddick stands as a singular character that defined the actor.  The look, the voice, the dialog… it is uniquely Diesel.  Twohy completely understood that he had written the character, but Diesel was/is the character.  So much so, that other characters who normally are the leads, like Mitchell’s Caroline take a backseat.  

One cannot help but note that Pitch Black at its end and the surviving members of the ordeal is are anything but standard issue.  No spoilers here, even for a twenty-year-old film.  In fact, the film may have greater appeal two-decades later because of this kind of progressive thoughts from the writers, director, and more than likely Diesel. Who was notorious for pushing productions to do more much to the chagrin of Executives.  The result is that Pitch Black still remains vibrant and fresh as the day it was released.  

The Transfer

The brand new 4K restoration by Arrow Films of the Theatrical and Director’s Cuts of the film, approved by director David Twohy along with the Dolby Vision (HDR10 compatible) picture is nothing short of miraculous.  The Dolby Vision should be noted is good but comparisons with the HDR10, the preference will definitely side with the HDR10 picture.  The colors pop a little bit more with the HDR10.  Though the contrast on the Dolby Vision is far greater.  So much so, one will want to watch this in a very low light situation to truly appreciate the picture.  Comparisons to the older Blu-Ray release are night and day difference with the Sharpness, Contrast, Color, and Grain Structure all getting a huge boost in the UHD Disc.  Bravo to Arrow Video for doing an amazing job.  

The Extras

They include the following:

  • Archive commentary with director David Twohy and stars Vin Diesel and Cole Hauser
  • Archive commentary with director David Twohy, producer Tom Engelman and visual effects supervisor Peter Chiang
  • Nightfall: The Making of Pitch Black, with director/co-writer David Twohy
  • Black Box: Jackie’s Journey, an interview with actor Rhiana Griffith
  • Black Box: Shazza’s Last Stand, an interview with actor Claudia Black
  • Black Box: Bleach Bypassed, an interview with cinematographer David Eggby
  • Black Box: Cryo-Locked, an interview with visual effects supervisor Peter Chiang
  • Black Box: Primal Sounds, an interview with composer Graeme Revell
  • The Making of Pitch Black
  • Pitch Black Raw, a comparison between early CG tests and the final footage
  • Additional behind-the-scenes footage from the making of the film
  • 2004 archive bonus features, including an introduction by Twohy, A View Into The Dark, and Chronicles of Riddick Visual Encyclopedia
  • Johns’ Chase Log, a short prequel narrated by Cole Hauser detailing the character’s hunt for Riddick
  • The Chronicles of Riddick: Dark Fury (in 16:9 widescreen with DTS-HD MA 5.1 audio), an animated short film directed by Peter Chung that acts as a bridgepoint between Pitch Black and The Chronicles of Riddick, featuring vocal performances by Vin Diesel, Keith David and Rhiana Griffith reprising their roles
  • Dark Fury bonus features including Bridging The Gap, Peter Chung: The Mind of an Animator, A View Into The Light, and a “pre-animation” version of the film
  • Slam City, a motion comic from the film’s official website
  • Into Pitch Black, a TV special offering an alternative non-canon glimpse into what happened before and after the events of the film
  • Raveworld: Pitch Black Event, footage of a dance music event held to promote the film
  • Theatrical trailers, plus trailers for the two sequels and video game
  • Image galleries

The archival commentary between director Twohy and stars Diesel and Hauser is okay.  Much of the run time is spent with the guys, specifically Diesel and Hauser, joking around and making references to inside joke and reference.  Ported over from the original DVD release.

The second archival commentary featuring director Twohy and producer Tom Engelman and visual effects supervisor Peter Chiang is the one you’ll want to listen to.  The three gentlemen discuss the nuts and bolts of making the film and bringing this lower budget sci-fi film to the screen.  All three men are quite proud of their work and should be.  Also ported over from the DVD release.  

Nightfall: The Making of Pitch Black a newly filmed 24-minute interview with the director. Beginning with how he started his directorial career that leads him to Pitch Black (originally called Night Fall). Director Twohy discusses how he created the character, Riddick. Great tidbits include a certain A-Lister that was almost cast (and the story behind it), how Vin Diesel came to be cast, where they filmed and the great story about the movie theater with a specific sign that warned them about not bringing “something in”, the fight for bleach bypass on their original 35mm negative, getting behind schedule, what was filmed on location and what was stage-bound, and much more. They cut in scenes, script segments, photos, and b-roll behind-the-scenes footage making it a hybrid/making-of. 

Black Box: Jackie’s Journey is a newly recorded 12-minute audio interview with Rhiana Griffith who played jack. Beginning with modeling that lead to acting and casting in Pitch Black. She discusses how the character evolves from being named Audrey to hiding her genre as a character named Jack, working on her American accent, working with the other actors, working with Vin Diesel, and much more. The interview is an audio recording they’ve added scenes, script segments, photos, and b-roll behind-the-scenes footage for visuals making it almost a micro commentary. 

Black Box: Shazza’s Last Stand is a newly recorded 7-minute audio interview with Claudia Black who played Shazza. Beginning with her auditioning for the lead role and how that got her the role of Shazza. Interesting tidbits include a negotiation over her hair because of her role in Farscape, working in the sci-fi genre, the cold weather in the desert, and how that effected shooting, the difference between Australian productions and this production, and more. The interview is an audio recording they’ve added scenes, script segments, photos, and b-roll behind-the-scenes footage for visuals making it almost a micro commentary. 

Black Box: Bleach Bypassed is a newly recorded 10-minute audio interview with David Eggby the cinematographer. Beginning with how Eggby met Twohy on the 80s cult classic Warlock Eggby discusses the visual look of the film. Tidbits include the technical details of bleach bypass, how unique it is to do this to the negative, the work on stage, and more. The interview is an audio recording they’ve added scenes, script segments, photos, and b-roll behind-the-scenes footage for visuals making it almost a micro commentary. 

Black Box: Cryo-Locked is a newly recorded 13-minute audio interview with the special effects supervisor Peter Chiang. Chiang begins with how Star Wars inspired him to go into FX work. Discussion points include the design work and how it translates to the VFX work, how the production effected the VFX work, shooting color tests to help the production determine what was best for the bleach bypass, and more. The interview is an audio recording they’ve added scenes, some great preproduction designs/sketches, photos, and b-roll behind-the-scenes footage for visuals making it almost a micro commentary. 

Black Box: Primal Sounds is a newly recorded 11-minute audio interview with composer Graeme Revell. Talking about the wild route he took to get to composing (that included work in a mental Asylum). Revell’s discussion includes how he started composing through music, how he came late into the production of Pitch Black, his low-fi, and sampling approach helped to the sound of the score and notes from Twohy, and much more. The interview is an audio recording they’ve added scenes, some great preproduction designs/sketches, photos, and b-roll behind-the-scenes footage for visuals making it almost a micro commentary. 

Making of Pitch Black is a 5-minute archival making-of from the original release. It’s more of an EPK with some great b-roll footage. It’s so old it introduces Vin Diesel last. 

Behind the Scenes – ported over from the original Blu-Ray release it was originally a PiP feature that shows you cast and crew interviews and b-roll behind-the-scenes footage. The great thing is that they’ve not made it on the film but rather it’s the whole 18-minutes of footage combined. 

Pitch Black Raw – ported over from the original Blu-Ray release it was originally a PiP feature that shows you preproduction footage, raw footage, VFX progression, and a lot more. This 12-minutes of footage is scored to Graeme Revell’s score. 

2004 Special Edition extras 

  • Intro by David Twohy is a 2.5-minute intro from the editing bay of Chronicles of Riddick. He talks about how the two films connect. 
  • A View into the Dark is a 4-minute hype piece for the Pitch Black sequel Chronicles of Riddick. Like the intro, it discusses how the film relates to the sequel. Includes both scenes and b-roll footage from both films. More about the sequel as the special edition in 2004 was in lieu of the sequel’s release. 
  • John’s Chase Log is a cool 6-minute animated prequel voiced by Cole Hauser. It’s a great piece of sci-fi hard-boiled noir as Johns chases Riddick down. 
  • The Chronicles Visual Encyclopedia – narrated by Cole Hauser’s Johns it was a DVD-Rom enabled feature that’s played all at once for a 2-minute discussion of places and people of the sequel. 

The Chronicles of Riddick: Dark Fury (34:00) 

Note: Amazingly, this is why one LOVES Arrow Video they have included Dark Fury in 4K!!! Yes, it has been uprezed and maybe even native 4K. A very nice touch by the label. 

  • The 34-minute animated feature directed by Peter “Aeon Flux” Chung is a great piece of what could have been cheaply made promo material. In fact, it is a worthy addition to the Riddick saga. It helps that Diesel voices the character. 
  • Animation to Animatic is a great rough-cut presentation of the film. It runs 32-minutes but is the entire film but just a very rough version. It’s a fascinating look at the animation process in its rough-cut form. 
  • Advancing the Arc is a 1.5-minute making of the animated sequel. 
  • Bridging the Gap is an 8-minute explanation of why they made the animated sequel. 
  • Peter Chung: Mind of an Animator is a 5-minute look at Chung as an artist. 
  • Into the Light is a 5-minute featurette covering Chronicles of Riddick a bit of a hype piece. 

Behind the Movie

  • Slam City is a motion comic prequel to Pitch Black created by Twohy and artist Brian Murray. Running 8-minutes It’s a fun archival feature that one can see its origins from the original Pitch Black website. 
  • Intro to Pitch Black is a 43-minute made for TV special that was produced for ScyFy TV that like their Blair Witch special the year prior (google it) is this semi-sort of kinda sequel thing(I’m so technical) that is both cheesy and fun. Yes, though Vin Diesel gets top billing he makes the briefest of cameos through a series of video footage. The production definitely feels early 2000’s ScyFy TV production. The note on the disc of this being non-cannon is hilarious. 
  • Raveworld: Pitch Black Event is a 21-minute featurette that showcases raves that were meant to promote Pitch Black. It’s all very early 2000s. If one wants a nostalgia bomb and we’re heavily into raves in that era… this is your jam. 

The Trailer Gallery includes no less that 6 trailers. The trailer’s quality Baruch but none are terrible. 

  • Pitch Black (UK) – 2:36 
  • Pitch Black (Green Band – US) – 2:30
  • Pitch Black (Red Band – US) – 2:33 
  • The Chronicles of Riddick – 1:34 
  • Riddick – 2:24 
  • Escape from Butcher Bay – 1:48 

The image gallery 

  • Production Stills – 99 stills taken by photographer Sean Barnes on location in Australia. They can be navigated by using the chapter stop button. 
  • Concept art & Special effects – 57 pieces of art by Patrick Totopolis, Brian Murray, Ian Hunter, Matthew Gratzner, and John Cox for creature concepts, design concepts, miniatures, creature maquettes, creature work, and more. They can be navigated by using the chapter stop button. 
  • Storyboards – 174 storyboards by artist Brian Murray. Which amounts to most of the film in storyboard form. They can be navigated by using the chapter stop button. 
  • Publicity Gallery – 16 various posters, DVD covers, and press material from around the world. They can be navigated by using the chapter stop button. 

The Final Thought 

Arrow Video’s Pitch Black is a contender for one of the best Catalog titles of the year.  Arrow has gone the extra mile by placing all the bonus content on the UHD Disc.  Let this just be a preview of the standard that other Boutique labels will follow. HIGHEST POSSIBLE RECOMMENDATIONS!!!!

Arrow Video’s UHD Disc of Pitch Black (and their Blu-Ray Edition containing the same material) is available now

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