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Ranking:
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Release Date: May 30th, 2023 Movie Release Year: 1993

Cliffhanger 30th Anniversary - 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray SteelBook

Overview -

Adventure and Excitement scale new heights with Sylvester Stallone in Cliffhanger! Now celebrating its 30th Anniversary with a brand new 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray SteelBook, the film picks up a slight improvement with Dolby Vision HDR while maintaining the same thunderingly excellent Atmos audio, and picking up some new deleted scenes to enhance the bonus features. If you love SteelBooks or still need to add this for the collection -  Highly Recommended

Sylvester Stallone, John Lithgow, Michael Rooker, Janine Turner and Ralph Waite star in this high-altitude avalanche of action: a non-stop adventure peak with suspense and capped with heart-quaking terror. For Rocky Mountain Rescue, the mission is almost routine: locate five climbers. With the woman he loves (Turner) and his best friend (Rooker), Gabe Walker (Stallone) braves the icy peaks only to discover that the distress call is really a trap set by merciless international terrorist Eric Qualen (Lithgow). Now millions of dollars and their own lives hang in the balance. Against explosive firepower, bitter cold, and dizzying heights, Walker must outwit Qualen in a deadly game of hide-and-seek.

DISC DETAILS & BONUS MATERIALS

4K ULTRA HD DISC

  • Feature presented in 4K resolution with Dolby Vision, approved by director Renny Harlin
  • Dolby Atmos + 5.1 audio
  • Special Feature:
    • 17 Never-Before-Seen and Previously Available Deleted Scenes
      • Presented in 2.40 and in HD

BLU-RAY DISC

  • Feature presented in high definition
  • 5.1 audio
  • Special Features:
    • Commentary with Director Renny Harlin and Sylvester Stallone
    • Technical Crew Commentary
    • A Personal Introduction from Renny Harlin
    • Deleted Scenes with Director Intro
    • Stallone on the Edge: The Making of Cliffhanger
    • Special Effects Featurette
    • Storyboard Comparisons
    • Theatrical Trailer

OVERALL:
Highly Recommended
Rating Breakdown
STORY
VIDEO
AUDIO
SPECIAL FEATURES
Tech Specs & Release Details
Technical Specs:
30th Anniversary SteelBook
Video Resolution/Codec:
Dolby Vision / HDR10
Aspect Ratio(s):
2.35:1
Audio Formats:
English Dolby Atmos (Dolby TrueHD 7.1 Compatible) | English 5.1 DTS-HD MA
Release Date:
May 30th, 2023

Storyline: Our Reviewer's Take

Ranking:

Since our own Classics Guru David Krauss wrote such a great review for the Blu-ray years back, I’ll defer to his thoughts momentarily. For my own take, I love Cliffhanger. This was one of my favorite movies of 1993. Of course, Jurassic Park was the biggest thing at the time, but of my school piers of 10 and 11-year-olds, I was one of few that got to see Cliffhanger in the theater. I was that kid at recess that bragged about all the action setpieces and the blood and guts when Stallone impales a guy on a stalactite. I was also the only kid at the time to have the Sega CD add-on for my Genesis and Cliffhanger became my go-to game. I loved it - even if that damned 3D snowboarding level was on par with anything the makers of Battletoads could throw at a child gamer. 

From VHS to Laserdisc and beyond, Cliffhanger has always had a place on the shelf. Sure, one could write it off as “Die Hard on a Mountain” but this film smartly does its own thing with the tropes. Stallone doesn’t get to arm up with an M-60 on infinite ammo to take out the terrorists, he has to use his brain as much as his brawn. While it would have been wild to see Christopher Walken as the diabolical Qualen, John Lithgow really leaned into the role chewing up the scenery and every other actor in his path. He might be playing backup, but Rooker also holds his own in this action spectacle with a few great setpieces. It’s also one of the rare early roles for him where he wasn’t playing a complete psychopath. From the suspenseful and tragic opening to the incredible mid-air zipline stunt to the film’s big climax, Cliffhanger is edge-of-your-seat action at its best.

Now here are David’s thoughts from our 2010 Blu-ray coverage:

I must confess, I've never been much of a Sly Stallone fan. Of course I love 'Rocky' (who doesn't?), and as sequels go, 'Rocky II' is pretty good as well, but Stallone's dumb lug, bulging bicep, superhuman screen persona always seemed cartoonish to me, and his incessant milking of the 'Rocky' and 'Rambo' franchises long after the wells had run dry seemed more about fueling his ego and padding his coffers than producing cinematic art. Yet despite my aversion to Stallone, I must also confess a special guilty fondness for 'Cliffhanger,' a testosterone-infused, over-the-top action movie that showcases the star to his best advantage while providing nonstop thrills set against a breathtaking alpine backdrop. Director Renny Harlin keeps our adrenaline pumping while reining in Stallone, who files one of his most natural and sensitive portrayals, displaying an attractive vulnerability and a bit of uncharacteristic weakness that make him seem like less of a Neanderthal than usual.

Eight months after a tragic accident for which he holds himself responsible, a guilt-ridden Gabe Walker (Stallone) returns to the Colorado ranger station where he once worked as a rescuer in the hope of rekindling his romance with colleague Jessie Deighan (Janine Turner), who resents his self-pitying, hide-from-the-world attitude. As the couple tries to hash things out, a distress call comes in from a stranded party lost high in the mountains, and Jessie urges a reluctant Gabe to confront his demons and jump back into the fold. Yet little does Gabe know he's walking into a trap set by the villainous Eric Qualen (John Lithgow), whose plot to steal millions from the U.S. Treasury has hit a horrific snag, and he needs the expertise of experienced mountain men to find a trio of cash-filled attachés scattered over miles of icy terrain. What follows is a desperate hunt, as Gabe and cohort Hal Tucker (Michael Rooker) try to outwit Qualen and his ruthless henchmen, protect Jessie, and save their own skins.

'Cliffhanger' is one of those check-your-brain-at-the-door, buckle-up-and-enjoy-the-ride blockbusters packed with enough well choreographed action to leave even the genre's most discriminating connoisseurs breathless. The breakneck pace never flags, so there's no time to ruminate over the silly story or question the viability of some of the death-defying stunts. And the humdinger of an opening – a harrowing rescue attempt that transpires atop an 8,000-foot-high rocky dome – packs such a wallop, Harlin spends the rest of the film frantically trying to top it. He never quite succeeds, but strings together a slew of riveting, white-knuckle sequences, most of which strain credulity, but provide plenty of bang for our entertainment buck. From the dramatic mountain scenery and violent confrontations to fiery explosions, an avalanche, and the animated (and, at times, deliciously campy) performances of the first-rate cast, 'Cliffhanger' stokes the senses for almost all of its 112-minute running time.

One of the most impressive things about 'Cliffhanger' is the high quotient of real stunts and shots. Harlin used blue screen technology sparingly to enhance the action sequences, so the bulk of the rock climbing, cable crawling, and aerial dives are performed by either the actors themselves or by nerves-of-steel doubles in high-altitude locations, and the authenticity adds considerably to the spectacle and tension. Such commitment to truth raises the film above others in its class, as do the stunning alpine vistas, which continually vie for our attention and ratchet up the impact of both frenetic and sedate scenes.

Stallone commands the screen well, but a strong supporting cast makes 'Cliffhanger' feel more like an ensemble effort than a streamlined star vehicle. Lithgow is an absolute hoot as the suave, heartless Qualen, a bad guy in the Alan Rickman 'Die Hard' mold who'll stop at nothing to achieve his goals. Lithgow knows just how far to push the envelope, and seems to relish both his dastardly role and going toe-to-toe with Stallone in a surprisingly physical climactic fistfight, in which he kicks some serious butt. The expressive Turner also asserts herself well, combining sensitivity with spunk, and creating a more comfortable romantic chemistry with Stallone than many of his other leading ladies. Caroline Goodall as Qualen's devilish partner in crime is another strong female presence, and 'The Waltons' papa, Ralph Waite, lends some quiet class and heart to the proceedings.

After such change-of-pace debacles as 'Oscar' and 'Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot,' 'Cliffhanger' marked a return to form for Stallone, but the renaissance didn't last long, and this terrifically entertaining thriller arguably stands as the actor's last great movie. Of course, he'll always be remembered as Rocky and Rambo, but 'Cliffhanger' remains a notable bright spot on the actor's otherwise lackluster résumé, and will continue to captivate action fans over repeated viewings for years to come.




Vital Disc Stats: The 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray

Sony dangles out another release of Cliffhanger on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray to celebrate its 30th Anniversary with a new two-disc + digital StreelBook. The 4K is again pressed on a BD-66 disc with the same 2010 Blu-ray carried over fo the bulk of the bonus features. The discs get an attractive SteelBook to sit in, and for a little extra measure of slick, the J-card wraps under the set instead of over, preserving the title lettering. The 4K loads to a static image main menu with basic navigation options and the newly discovered deleted/extended scenes occupying the bonus features menu along the right side of the screen. The 1080p disc still loads to that same ridiculously over-dramatic animated main menu.

Video Review

Ranking:

It’s another Sony anniversary re-release of a previously issued 4K disc and once again we see the same nominal improvements over the past disc. Compared to the old Blu-ray, the 2019 4K HDR10 disc was a genuine breath of fresh air. Now with Dolby Vision HDR, the image picks up some slight enhancements in overall color timing, black levels, and the bright crisp white snowy scenery, but little else. This isn’t a bad disc at all, but when looking at the image strictly in terms of grain structure and fine details, they’re practically indistinguishable. Since this didn't get a big beefy BD-100 disc to fully occupy, bitrates are still a little restrained, not badly, but I'd loved to have seen this film see some higher peaks. Fine lines, patterns, and facial features still look terrific and the image retains a nice cinematic grain structure. Those optical effects can still look a little dodgy but this is pre-CGI Revolution so most of the effects are done in camera with very little digital tinkering. 

The Dolby Vision grade is a nice improvement letting primaries have a little more care and attention. Blood shades or that bright orange/red helicopter look more natural. Skin tones look a little more naturally human, and black level shades and the bright crisp whites are improved. But again these are modest upticks in quality over the already still very excellent 2019 disc. So if you’re happy with that one, keep it on the shelf. Unless you haven’t picked this disc up or just love SteelBooks, the video upgrade alone isn’t enough to warrant a double dip in my opinion.

Audio Review

Ranking:

On the audio front we get the same excellent Dolby Atmos mix which kicks in strong with the incredible soundscape right from the get-go. The swells of Trevor Jones' score coupled with the whirling rotors and the rumbling chop off the rescue helicopter make sure every channel is working with plenty of LFE in the subs. Here’s what E. had to say about this mix from our 2019 4K Blu-ray Review:

Taking fans to even greater heights is a fantastically thrilling, reference-quality Dolby Atmos soundtrack that totally blows away its DTS-HD predecessor and avalanches the listener within the first opening moments. 

Every time helicopters make an appearance, the propeller blades can be heard directly above, or choppers flawlessly and convincingly pan through the ceiling channels from one side of the room to the other. When climbing the mountains peaks, the snowstorm and loud winds blow all around, encircling the viewer with the howls of the bitter cold weather while distinctly hearing the individual ice crystals moving across the sky. During quieter moments, the room is filled with a variety of ambient effects, like the rustling of leaves, birds chirping or crickets singing in the distance, are endlessly occupying the surrounds and the overheads, generating a splendidly immersive hemispheric soundfield. The echo of gunfire circles the listening area, and the sound of rain pours down everywhere.

The action continues to make the climb of mount Ultra HD many of those same atmospherics littering the visuals with lots of bustling activity that fluidly moves into the off-screen space and to the top heights, generating a splendidly broad and spacious half-dome soundstage. An extensive and dynamic mid-range exhibits superb clarity and definition during the loudest, ear-piercing moments, revealing exceptional distinction in the deafening explosions while also delivering outstanding warmth and fidelity in Trevor Jones' memorable score. Dialogue maintains top priority with excellent intonation, allowing viewers to better appreciate John Lithgow's impressive accent. Although not quite as aggressive as the visuals would imply, the low-end is nonetheless robust and palpable, providing some of the action with a strong room-energizing presence. (Dolby Atmos Audio Rating: 96/100)

Special Features

Ranking:

On the bonus features front, everything that was on the previous set has been brought over with that recycled 2010 disc. And again, the commentary tracks which are great listens are relegated to that disc and are not on the actual 4K - which is damned frustrating. On the new bonus features front we get almost ten minutes of new deleted/extended scenes. Some of these sequences were sort of shown in the 2010 disc, but now we don’t have Harlin introducing them or talking over them. Nothing dramatically different is here, a lot of it is the kind of extraneous cut stuff that would have explained a continuity issue - like how is Gabe suddenly dry and have a shirt and vest for the climax? Well, in the deleted scene, that’s explained, but it’s also a dog ear scene that just slows down the pace when the movie is trying to pick up the action into the climax.

4K UHD Disc

  • Deleted Scenes (HD 9:44 Total)
    • “Tell me what to do”
    • Where to Start
    • The South Wall
    • “We’ve got guests”
    • “Where’s the Helicopter?” Alternate Take
    • Fetch
    • The Ice Climb
    • Up For It
    • “Let’s Go”
    • False Step
    • Chimneying Pt. 1
    • Chimneying Pt. 2
    • King’s Leap Pt. 1
    • King’s Leap Pt. 2 
    • Hal Rescues Gabe
    • Divide and Conquer
    • “We’re Going Down”

Blu-ray Disc

  • Audio Commentary featuring Renny Harlin and Sylvester Stallone
  • Audio Commentary featuring Technical Crew Frank Urioste, Neil Krepela, John Bruno, and John Vallone
  • Renny Harlin Introduction
  • Deleted Scenes
  • Stallone on the Edge: The Making of Cliffhanger
  • Special Effects
  • Storyboard Comparisons
  • Original Theatrical Trailer
  • Previews

Cliffhanger is an exciting high-wire act that delivers on every front. From a compelling story to great performances to exciting setpieces, the film is pulse-pounding action and adventure at its finest. Stallone was in peak form, literally and figuratively, delivering one of his best performances of that decade. 30 years later, the film is still an action classic that holds up. To celebrate that anniversary milestone, Sony issues a new 4K UHD SteelBook for fans to gobble down. To sweeten the deal, they upgrade the disc with a modestly improved Dolby Vision HDR grade and some new deleted scenes. If you have the 2019 disc this probably isn’t enough to scream for an upgrade, but if you love SteelBooks or haven’t picked this one up yet, this is the best way to add Cliffhanger to the collection. Highly Recommended.