Question of the week: how faithful should DVDs be to the original content?

The Terminator

So I’m watching the DVD version of The Terminator the other day for pretty much the first time (long story). Now The Terminator is a film I know very well, having watched it about 50 times or something ridiculous when I was at university when I had it on VHS. So as I’m watching it, I’m noticing that certain things aren’t the same. Little things. Least obviously, they’ve changed the gun sound effects and they’ve added in little clangs whenever bullets hit the Terminator.

DVDs being the clever technology they are, they’re also multi-lingual – they can have different subtitles and different audio tracks. That means a film studio can sell its DVD all over Europe, say, and not have to produce physically different DVDs for each market. But obviously if you’re watching your DVD France, you don’t want English text all over the screen, even if the original movie had that text for subtitles or even simple plot-explaining cards. So you take out the on-screen subtitles or card and stick them into a subtitle track on the DVD to be rendered by the DVD player in whatever language the viewer wants.

As a result, egregiously the DVD of The Terminator doesn’t have that famous title card with

“LOS ANGELES 2029 A.D.

THE MACHINES ROSE FROM THE ASHES OF THE NUCLEAR FIRE.

THEIR WAR TO EXTERMINATE MANKIND HAS RAGED FOR DECADES,

BUT THE FINAL BATTLE WOULD NOT BE FOUGHT IN THE FUTURE.

IT WOULD BE FOUGHT HERE, IN OUR PRESENT.

[BRIEF PAUSE] TONIGHT…”

Instead, it has a series of subtitles containing that text over the previous scene. Not even over a black screen – over the previous scene.

Ugh. That ruins it.

The Terminator isn’t alone of course. Many DVDs are different from the movie or TV series in subtly different ways. WKRP in Cincinnati had to have a completely different soundtrack when it was eventually cleared for DVD release, since licensing the songs used on the TV version proved prohibitively expensive. Iron Man doesn’t even have all the subtitles that were shown in the English theatrical version.

So today’s slightly nerdy, pedantic question is:

Should DVDs be entirely faithful to the original medium or is “nearly the same” good enough?

As always, leave a comment with your answer or a link to your answer on your own blog




  • THE TERMINATOR is hardly a niche title. I’d prefer that they re-released it less regularly, as a version that represents the original cut, rather than saving money on a re-jigged international-friendly all-purpose version.
    In this way, anyone who isn’t in the US misses out on regional versions, like if the UK had a less censored version of the film, we get the American cut instead.

  • Urgh: that would REALLY have annoyed me. Faithful to the original medium please, with anything else an option in a separate DVD or feature to add in.
    The Blade Runner 5 dvd box may be stretching this to a point, but its a better way of doing things!

  • I agree be faithful to the original unless you can enhance it in some extremely clever way and bring a new twist (unlikely I think.) Terminator is one of my fave scifi films, and though I can’t claim to have watched it as many times as you, that sort of thing would annoy me too.

  • Mark Carroll

    I don’t mind improvements in, say, special effects or something, but I tend to prefer them to leave the dialogue and plot alone. Still, I’m happy to favour extended cuts if the cuts were mostly about getting the movie down to a size acceptable for mainstream audiences rather than because they were just uselessly distracting weight.
    Of course, with English-language dubs, there’s always going to be a bit of oddness but, for instance, we bought the “Kiki’s Delivery Service” DVD in which the not-original recovery of ability to hear the cat speak doesn’t occur.