Cloak & Dagger (VSU Limited Edition 4K UHD Blu-ray Review)

Cloak & Dagger is often overlooked when it comes to 80’s child-centric cinema.  An espionage thriller for kids that isn’t silly or over the top? How you say? Very well in fact.  I was able to sit down with Vinegar Syndrome’s exceptional new 4K Collector’s Edition and take the kid friendly Hitchcockian thriller in.  What a pleasant surprise! Read more on director Richard Franklin’s Cloak & Dagger below and be sure to visit vinegarsyndrome.com starting July 1st, 2022 to grab a copy of this unexpected, excellent release.


Cloak & Dagger begins as agent Jack Flack (Dabney Coleman) is on his latest mission.  He confronts enemies in Russia (can’t get any more 80’s than that…) and just as he is about to get into the thick of the action, Davey Osborne (Henry Thomas) reveals to us that it’s all in his imagination.  Going on these “adventures” with Jack Flack are a huge help and escape for Davey.  Davey’s father is a military man (and, somehow, the spitting image of Dabney Coleman too!) and hardly has the time a father needs to give to his son.  Making matters harder, Davey’s mother has recently passed away.

Davey spends a great deal of time at a game shop with his friends, 7-year-old Kim (Kristina Nigra) and grown-up Morris (William Forsythe), who owns the shop.  They talk video games, board games and RPGs and Kim and Davey often go on “missions” for Morris, fetching him catalogs and Twinkies. When Davey witnesses a murder on one of those missions and is given an Atari game that the killers are after, he is thrust into a game of cat and mouse as the assassins chase Davey throughout San Antonio.

Yes, you did read it right… Murder, kids, and Atari.  All in one movie, but what a surprise the movie turns out to be. Writer Tom Holland’s story is told in a straightforward manner.  Davey and his father Hal have a strained relationship.  Hal believes that Davey is far too interested in games to live his real life.  There is a loathing for Jack Flack, despite being in Hal’s image.  Hal even refuses to believe Davey when he confesses to seeing the murder.  It’s unfortunate but feels true to life and indicative of some true-life strained parent/child relationships.

More interesting is the dynamic of friendship.  Davey and Kim are both kids, but Davey is older than Kim. They take care of each other for the whole length of the film, saving one another and being fearless and resourceful, even while being under 10.  They both live in single parent families and are self-sufficient, smart, and the things that scare children now don’t apply to them.  In their own little world, San Antonio, they’re able to foil the criminals repeatedly just by not trusting the adults they don’t know, and they keep the pace rolling right along.  I love the friendship between Davey and Kim.

Less interesting are the first wave of villains.  Rice (Michael Murphy) is more smarm than venom, and the plot of the secrets in the video game are slow to come to life on-screen.  I won’t give away the second wave of villains but if I had seen this film as a child, they would’ve creeped me out.  Admittedly, I purchased this set for my husband, and he said the second set of bad guys terrified him as a child.  He also admitted the ending of the film makes him cry, and reminds him of his own father, who showed him the movie when it was first released on home video or cable.  I have no doubt that seeing his pure joy throughout the runtime had a bearing on how I saw the film.  I did feel like I was a kid about Davey’s age, hoping that he and Kim would be able to make their escape each time a murderer, heavy or creep came to capture them.

I absolutely loved spending time in Davey and Jack Flack’s world.  Seeing Davey use his imaginary hero’s instinct to make him savvy in a world full of adults was refreshing to me now and reminded me of a similar approach used in the recent and excellent The Kid Who Would Be King that had a similar approach to kids thriving and surviving in adult-oriented surroundings. Where that film used stories and lore to go through the adventure, this film utilized video game technology, and imagination.  I was impressed in short.


  • Encoding:MPEG -4 AVC
  • Resolution:4K (2160p)
  • Aspect Ratio:85:1
  • HDR: HDR10
  • Layers:BD-66
  • Details: The usual grainy late 60’s-late 80’s Universal logo is the first thing we see. Soft, almost out of focus, I was worried for a moment. Flash forward to the first scene with Jack Flack, we see a pristine image. Thick, era-appropriate grain fills the image of a nighttime Russia. We see everything in full focus, and it doesn’t stop at the opening. Morris’s shop, Davey’s room, and The Alamo are all beautifully rendered with very little softness to any of the image.
  • Depth/Clarity: As stated above, there is an unbelievably clear image to behold. This, obviously, isn’t a new film, and the image looks of its vintage, but this is a major positive.  Detail rich set pieces and locations abound, and there are little things popping up everywhere for you to make out in the foreground or even at times deep in the background.  I hate to use the word luscious, but this is a transfer to really languish in.
  • Black Levels: Blacks, especially in sequences at night thrive throughout. Shadows bring out an innate darkness too.There are no instances of crush anywhere and no black level seems to be too light or too dark. Perfect.
  • Color Reproduction: The magic of HDR is putting things out with a vibrancy and accuracy we’ve never seen before. Cloak & Dagger never made its way to Blu-ray, or even a proper DVD release. Streaming versions have also been rather spotty.  This edition corrects all of those previous releases by leaps and bounds and color grading here is really excellent. Make no mistake – this is not a color showcase. The palette is warm, but not vibrant. There’s a subdued nature about the film’s look, and this edition lovingly recreates the subtlety of the director’s likely intention.
  • Flesh Tones: Flesh tones are also a bright spot, with a natural and detailed look about every actor on screen. There aren’t any cleanup moments from the remastering, and things truly look perfectly rendered to my eyes.
  • Noise/Artifacts: The grain structure brings a life to the scenes, and for me, they are a big part of the clarity and the details, so I’d say this is as perfect a catalog title could be. Very clean.


  • Audio Format(s):English DTS-HD MA 1.0 Monaural, English DTS-HD MA 2.0 Stereo
  • Subtitles:English SDH
  • Dynamics: Stereo only mix or not, the audio for Cloak & Dagger is no slouch. Brian May’s score Is big and bright, and with a Neural:X filter spreading things out, the stereo mix is wide and open in the speakers.
  • Dialogue Reproduction: With my filter on, the dialogue played excellently through the center channel. With the filter off, the dialogue was spread evenly between my left and right channels. Practically perfect in every way, though of course, a 5.1 remix would have been interesting.  This isn’t an audio showcase, but some added heft from the channels and more for the subwoofer to do would be an excellent addition to this release.


Cloak & Dagger has been given the red carpet, deluxe treatment from Vinegar Syndrome.  Arriving in a deluxe magnet lock case, the film comes with the UHD Blu-ray, 1080P Blu-ray (where the special features are housed…) a deluxe slipcover and a 40-page booklet. From the Vinegar Syndrome website, the features are:

  • Commentary track with screenwriter Tom Holland, moderated by filmmaker Joe Lynch exclusive to this VSU release
  • “Konami Codes and Cult Classics: Programming CLOAK & DAGGER” – a brand new extended making-of documentary featuring interviews with the cast and crew exclusive to this VSU release
  • Extensive behind-the-scenes still gallery
  • Multiple TV spots
  • Reversable cover art
  • “Loud and Clear” – A brand new interview with Henry Thomas
  • Archival Interview with Richard Franklin
  • Archival 2001 Q&A with Richard Franklin
  • Location Featurette by Then & Now Reshoots
  • “Cloak & Dagger – The Atari Arcade Game” – A Mini-doc by Vintage Arcade Gal
  • Essay by Justin LaLiberty

Needless to say the features are extensive, taking deep dives into the making of the film and the memories of the cast and crew. Most people remember Henry Thomas as Elliot in E.T., and he was only a little bit older making Cloak & Dagger in his hometown. His memories are fascinating to take in. The Mini-doc shows a lot of love for the original Cloak & Dagger arcade game. It was interesting to me to know that there was an actual game. The new Making-of documentary is of course the icing on the cake, going way in depth, and giving fans of the film even more info then they already knew. To say this set of extras is impressive is saying the very least. Absolutely outstanding – and the packaging is something that studios could take note on too. The patented Vinegar Syndrome magnet case is sturdy, and has a great matte finish with newly commissioned artwork. The slipcase and Amaray artwork look like a classic Atari box and cartridge too! Simply sublime.

*Note — I am deducting a very small portion of my score due to some typos on the slipcover and on the Amaray reversible artwork cover.  Small complaint, but for some that could be troubling.


As I often do, I took some time to read trivia, check stats and other critical response to Cloak & Dagger. The film managed to take a little over $9.5.million, with worldwide totals not calculated.  The movie also opened as part of a double feature with The Last Starfighter, another Universal release.  It’s interesting to know this film didn’t have a lasting impression theatrically. For me, had I known about this film like I do now, I would be hard pressed not to add it into my childhood favorites list along with The Goonies and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom as a go-to watch.  Even as a grown man closing in on 36, I was quite taken with the film. Pair that with an incredible looking and faithful 4K transfer and a beautiful package (typos notwithstanding…) and you have a highly recommended unsung 80’s classic to savor.

Don’t Forget — Vinegar Syndrome is currently holding a “Partners Only” sale, giving some love to the other boutique labels they work with. This gives them a chance to ship off their “Halfway To Black Friday” sale orders. This and many other VS titles will be back on the site to order starting 7/1/22!


  1. No Comments