At one point in the mid ‘00s, the still-sorta-new television series CSI was on top of the world. Likewise, filmmaker Quentin Tarantino was a hot commodity with movie going audiences In 2005, Tarantino — who had just concluded the second installment of his Kill Bill story the year before — took a detour from his usual routine to direct a special feature-length episode of CSI: the Season Five finale, “Grave Danger.” It was a dream come true for many sofa spectators — an amalgamation of cult film and fresh television that drew in a whopping 35.15 million viewers around the US alone.
Tarantino’s tale (which he co-wrote, along with regular CSI writers Anthony E. Zuiker, Carol Mendelsohn, and Naren Shankar) follows the nightmarish plight of CSI Nick Stokes (George Eads), who is abducted from a phony crime scene one night and subsequently buried alive in a Plexiglas coffin. As Nick begins to face the grim reality that his time on Earth may be up, his colleagues — Grissom (William Petersen), Catherine (Marg Helgenberger), et al — try to deduce his whereabouts, and the reason why he was abducted.
True to Tarantino form, the episode(s) feature several cameos by famous cult personalities. The great John Saxon (Enter the Dragon, A Nightmare on Elm Street) has a small-yet-major part as the mysterious abductor in the case, Andrew Prine (Simon, King of the Witches) and Lois Chiles (Moonraker) appear as Nick’s parents, and the dearly departed Tony Curtis (Some Like It Hot) and Frank Gorshin (The Riddler in TV’s Batman, who passed away two days before “Grave Danger” aired) show up as themselves in a memorable scene as friends of Catherine’s father, Sam (Scott Wilson).
A longtime fan favorite for CSI and Tarantino admirers alike, “Grave Danger” was split into two episodes after its debut on network television, and the original feature-length version has never been seen until this Blu-ray/DVD release. CBS/Paramount’s CSI: Grave Danger may seem like an odd title to put on disc — especially since it houses just one episode (thus far, only two whole seasons have made it to Blu-ray: Season One and Season Nine). If the rest of the series is ever released on home video in High-Def, this title will obviously become the equivalent of a sampler disc, but it’ll do for now.
The transfer of the feature is an exceptional one, with audio and video presentations that are first rate (hopefully, it’s a sign of things to come). The episode — which was filmed in Super 35 — is shown in a beautiful and crisp widescreen ratio, with a 5.1 English audio track and optional (SDH) subtitles in accompaniment. The added DVD has the exact same content (except it’s in Standard-Definition, of course), and the only special feature included with this release, “CSI — Tarantino Style,” is a twenty-minute featurette about the making of the milestone.
In short: CSI: Grave Danger is a fun item, though a lot of us would prefer to see an entire season over a single episode. Rent it first.