Super Mario Bros. (1993) 4K Blu-ray Review

The 1993 cult classic Super Mario Bros hits 4K with beautifully restored image and sound, plus some great new bonuses. Let's take a look.

Published
Updated
Producer / Publisher: Umbrella Entertainment
7 minutes & 53 seconds read time
TweakTown's Rating: 89%
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The Bottom Line

Super Mario Bros. is a cult classic for a reason. If you've previously disregarded it, give it another chance in this superb new 4K edition.

Pros

  • + A nicely remastered 4K transfer and new 5.1 audio mix
  • + Wonderful new bonus features and legacy extras shine a light on production

Cons

  • - No HDR color grading

Should you buy it?

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Super Mario Bros. (1993) 4K Blu-ray Review 99

Super Mario Bros. 4K Blu-ray Review

They say that time heals all wounds, and in the case of 1993's live-action Super Mario Bros movie, it goes a way to making amends. Once described as a "turkey" by film critic Leonard Maltin, "the worst thing I ever did" by star Bob Hoskins, and "a painful experience" by co-director Annabel Jankel, the film has been in an evolutionary process of quite reassessment over the last few years. To be sure, it's not some undiscovered masterpiece of cinema, but Super Mario Bros swung for the fences, boasting a strong vision, some wild and interesting narrative choices and solid performances, such that it stakes a wholly valid claim to cult classic status today.

Squeezed out by their mafioso-like competitors, struggling Brooklyn plumbers Mario Mario (Bob Hoskins) and Luigi Mario (John Leguizamo) are doing their best to keep things together when they meet archaeology student Daisy (Samantha Mathis), who's being antagonized by their nemesis Anthony Scapelli (Gianni Russo). After Daisy becomes mysteriously kidnapped by two goons, Iggy (Fisher Stevens) and Spike (Richard Edson), Mario and Luigi become embroiled in a multi-dimensional battle against a power-hungry dictator, Koopa (Dennis Hopper), who's bent on his plot to merge our world with the hellish dystopia Dinohattan.

Super Mario Bros. (1993) 4K Blu-ray Review 01

With no precedent for a video game to feature film adaptation before it, Super Mario Bros was an uphill battle right from the outset, with high expectations from fans, hostility from critics, and practically zero overarching narrative to pull from, which made conceiving the script and tone a difficult task. Production didn't get any easier when cameras started to roll, with all manner of rewrites, an unhappy cast, budget problems, and studio interference, culminating in husband and wife directing duo Rocky Morton and Annabel Jankel being removed from production before principal photography was complete. The result of these scars is undeniably evident in the finished film, giving it a frenzied sense of tonal whiplash.

Still, only the most jaded filmgoers can deny that the film brings something unique and enjoyable. Take, for example, the production design by David L. Snyder, recalling his earlier subversive work on Blade Runner, which remains one of the last examples of large-scale set design before CGI willed entire landscapes into existence. The animatronic Yoshi and Goomba characters remain quite astounding, and the selective use of computer-generated visual effects still has the power to impress.

Represented on physical media in the United States by a wholly disappointing DVD from Disney (a clone of a 30-year-old Laserdisc!), the film has fared much better internationally. In 2014, European rights holder Pathé struck an impressive HD transfer, which was licensed for the debut Blu-ray from UK distributor Second Sight Entertainment. The inclusion of an illuminating hour-long documentary on the film's production and vintage featurettes and image galleries made for a very respectable release. This was later bested by a 2019 Blu-ray from Umbrella Entertainment in Australia, which included all of the above and added an extended workprint version of the film, which had been located in the intervening years.

For its 30th anniversary, Umbrella has returned with an even more grand edition, marking its world-first 4K debut. As a lifelong fan, I'm also pleased to say that I played a role in bringing it to fruition... but more on that later!

Video transfer

Super Mario Bros is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 in the Rec. 709 SDR color space, encoded with AVC H.265 compression.

For its 4K debut, European rights holder Pathé has returned to the original camera negative and interpositive elements to present this strikingly good transfer, which significantly bests the previous HD transfer, even if it falls short of perfection.

First - the good. The image is crisp and clear, with a superb level of detail evident in almost every shot. The increase in fidelity reveals plenty of previously obscured background details, especially evident in the fabulous production design and practical makeup effects. The colors are bright and nicely rendered, with plenty of varying gradients in the darker elements.

The new grade is a significant improvement from the previously oversaturated and red-skewed transfer, even if it is occasionally inconsistent for a handful of shots. While the interpositive elements (any shot with an on-screen title or an optical fade) have some evidence of minor digital noise reduction having been applied, there's a fine layer of film grain preserved throughout, which is encoded much more efficiently than previous transfers.

While Umbrella hasn't resiled from its absence, the lack of an HDR grade is the elephant in the room for this release. Combined with the relatively low contrast of the image, it often appears flat and lacks some of the visual 'pop' of the previous transfer. Umbrella isn't to blame, Pathé simply couldn't provide them with an HDR-graded master, and declined to provide access to the source scan such that they could prepare their own.

Additionally, there are several additional visible film artifacts throughout, which take the form of visible scratches, dust, or hairs. This suggests that the film has incurred more damage since the last transfer or less attention was paid to digital cleanup.

While it's understandable that some might want to wait for the possibility of another edition with HDR down the track, there's no guarantee this will occur. While there are caveats, this is an extremely solid transfer that presents the film in the best way it's ever been at home.

Super Mario Bros. (1993) 4K Blu-ray Review 02

Audio transfer

Super Mario Bros is presented with a newly remixed 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack, encoded at 24 bits.

In this age of object-based sound formats and 8+ channel mixes, the inclusion of a 5.1-channel track doesn't necessarily sound all that impressive. However, in the case of Super Mario Bros, it most certainly is! For the first time, the film enjoys a truly discreet multi-channel mix that's been remixed from the original audio stems. The increase in audible clarity is considerable, most noticeably in dialogue, which is much clearer and distinct as a result.

The general ambiance is improved, with more accurate panning and some impressive split surround effects (take, for example, the ricocheting drill as Luigi attempts to remove the meteorite piece). Topping it off is Alan Silvestri's score, which bleeds well into the rears. I did find the low-frequency channel to be somewhat uneven, responding appropriately during a number of key scenes but not to others. Some additional aggression and consistency would have gone a long way here.

Again, some high-expectancy fans might be disappointed that the opportunity wasn't taken to extend the remix to a full Dolby Atmos or DTS:X object-based mix, but I'm happy to report that the track does upmix very well for use in height surround systems.

Overall, this is a big upgrade that perhaps even surpasses that offered by the video transfer. It's doubtful the film will ever sound better than is offered here.

Super Mario Bros. (1993) 4K Blu-ray Review 03

Bonus materials

Umbrella Entertainment's new edition not only ports out all pre-existing bonus features from their previous release (including those from Second Sight Entertainment's 2012 Blu-ray) but adds even more bonuses. As I mentioned at the outset, I helped out with the disc's production, where I was commissioned to edit and master the audio commentaries, co-produce the four new featurettes, and provide my personal 4K scan of the original theatrical trailer. However, I'll try not to let that color my judgment! Let's jump in.

For a film that's previously not handed one, this edition features no less than Four Audio Commentaries! Screenwriter Parker Bennett goes solo for the first, co-producer Fred Caruso is joined by production designer David L. Snyder for the second, key makeup artist Jeff Goodwin, special effects crewmember Mark McCoy, and production assistant Craig Edwards appear on the third, and Super Mario Bros The Movie archivists Steven Applebaum & Ryan Hoss contribute the fourth. If you're even mildly interested in the film, each has something interesting and wonderful to contribute towards their specific functions of the production. Each speaks frankly and honestly about their own feelings on the film, backed by a number of often hilarious anecdotes.

Also new to this edition are Four Academic Featurettes, including 'Anarcho-Dino-Sado Chic: The Fashion of Dinohattan', 'The Hero Moment: Super Mario, Superhero', '(D)evolution, Dystopia, and Trusting the Fungus', and 'Katabasis of the Lost Girl'. Combined, these total around one hour in length. Criticized by many critics of the day, it's certainly interesting to get a new perspective on the film's narratives from contemporary academics, although they may be a little dry for more casual fans. My personal favourite 'The Fashion of Dinohattan', features newly filmed interviews with the film's costume designer Joseph Porro, costume manufacturer Salvador Pérez Jr and star Samantha Mathis, provides some great insight into one of the film's most unique and iconic elements.

Returning from the most recent Umbrella edition is the Extended Workprint version of the film, in a newly remastered 'Lasagna Version'. For those unfamiliar, the workprint originates from a one-of-a-kind standard definition VHS tape, which preserved an earlier cut of the film. This includes some 20 minutes of never-before-seen footage and alternate audio, with deleted subplots, characters, Dinohattan beasts, and even a rap song. The 'Lasagna edition' (referred to as such due to being assembled from multiple 'layers' of tape preservation) has been painstakingly remastered in high definition by the U.S.-based post-production facility The Bigger Pictures. Whilst they can't magically restore the elements to feature film quality, they have nonetheless made significant improvements to the picture and sound quality of the original tape.

For those who prefer to cut right to the chase, a number of key excised sequences from the same workprint can be accessed individually in the Deleted Scenes section, which features an even greater degree of visual and audio enhancement from The Bigger Pictures.

Also new to this edition are the original Theatrical Teaser and Trailer, remastered in 1080p from original 35mm prints, as well as multiple TV spots and Merchandise Advertisements, Japanese trailers, animated Storyboard to Screen animatics, and two music videos which expand Mojo Nixon's 'Anti-Koopa' protest song, and Richard Edson's 'Revolutionary Rap' deleted song, featuring a new music recording from the actor.

Headlining the returning features is the 2012-produced This Ain't no Video Game documentary, which reunites key members of the cast and crew, including interviews with co-directors Rocky Morton and Annabel Jankel, stars John Leguizamo and Richard Edson, producer Roland Joffé, writer Parker Bennett, production designer David L. Snyder and editor Mark Goldblatt to name just a few. With disarming honesty from contributors, this is a fascinating and engrossing look at a production gone awry, which sets the record straight on a number of urban myths and will undoubtedly bring a smile to fans.

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Finally, we have the original 1993 Making of' Featurette, which provides an ample amount of publicity-oriented behind-the-scenes footage and is worth a watch just to hear Bob Hoskins explain (with barely concealed hostility) that he "used to do Shakespeare" and a collection of Still Image Galleries featuring behind-the-scenes photos and storyboards.

In a time when true collectors edition discs are becoming increasingly rare, this edition provides a truly phenomenal collection of features that will fuel the film's cult status and provide fans with a much deeper understanding and appreciation of how it came to be. Short of an additional audio commentary by the film's directors, I can't imagine much more that could be added. Bravo!

Photo of product for sale

The Movie

85%

Video Quality

85%

Audio Quality

86%

Extras

99%

Overall

89%

The Bottom Line

Super Mario Bros. is a cult classic for a reason. If you've previously disregarded it, give it another chance in this superb new 4K edition.

TweakTown award
89%

Super Mario Bros (1993) [Blu-ray]

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Ben joined the TweakTown team in 2008 and has since reviewed 100s of movies. Ben is based in Australia and has covered entertainment news and reviews since 2002. A student of film, Ben brings a wide understanding of the medium to the latest happenings in entertainment circles and the latest blockbuster theatrical reviews.

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