DVD Review HTF DVD REVIEW: The Pirates of Penzance

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Kevin EK, Sep 15, 2010.

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  1. Kevin EK

    Kevin EK Producer
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    The Pirates of Penzance

     

    Studio: Universal

    Release Year:  1983

    Length: 1 hour 52 mins

    Genre: Comic Opera

     

    Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen

    Color/B&W: Color

     

    Audio:

    English 2.0

     

     

    Subtitles: English SDH

    Rating: G

     

    Release Date: September 14, 2010

     

    Rating: 3    

     

    Starring: Kevin Kline, Angela Lansbury, Linda Ronstadt, George Rose and Rex Smith

     

    Produced by: Joseph Papp

    Adapted from the Opera by Arthur Sullivan and W.S. Gilbert

    Written and Directed by Wilford Leach

     

     

    The Pirates of Penzance is a well-regarded but seldom-seen cinema adaptation of the early 80s Joe Papp production of Gilbert & Sullivan’s classic comic opera.  Fans of Gilbert & Sullivan will be happy to finally have a copy of this film on DVD, and in anamorphic widescreen to boot.   The movie is an appropriately stage-bound presentation of the classic songs and routines, with spirited performances all around, particularly Kevin Kline in the lead role, as well as George Rose as the very model of a modern Major General and Linda Ronstadt at a time when she can be seen to transition from rock and roll to something more traditional. 

     

    The film has finally been released on DVD as of yesterday, just in time for the annual “International Talk Like a Pirate Day”, which will be inflicted on this coming Sunday, the 19th of September.  The DVD holds the anamorphic transfer of the the movie, along with a simple 2.0 sound mix, and a black and white trailer for the film.

     

     

    VIDEO QUALITY 3/5

    The Pirates of Penzance is presented in a 2.35:1 Anamorphic transfer that shows a wide range of colors as the movie unfolds over the various sets.  There are places where the print shows some signs of distress, but I think it’s safe to say that this is the best this film has ever looked on home video.  Fans who have had to watch pan & scan transfers of this film can now see the full breadth of the stage and the true shape of the various musical numbers.

     

     

    AUDIO QUALITY 3/5

    The Pirates of Penzance is presented in an English 2.0 mix that essentially gives you the voices and music as clearly as possible.  Given the material here, that’s completely appropriate.  One does not listen to a Gilbert & Sullivan piece to focus on the background atmosphere or the subwoofer...

     

    SPECIAL FEATURES 1/5

    The Pirates of Penzance comes with only a single special feature, the theatrical trailer.


    Theatrical Trailer (1:18, Non-Anamorphic, Black and White) – A theatrical trailer for the film is included here, albeit in non-anamorphic format, and in black and white.  I’ve been trying to read up on this to see if the actual trailer seen in theaters was in fact black and white, or if this is just the only copy anyone could find.  But it’s pretty curious to see…

     

     

    Subtitles are available in English, which is a big help if you want to sing along (as I did to the Major General’s song…).   A standard chapter menu is included for quick reference. 

     

     

    IN THE END...

     

    The Pirates of Penzance will be a welcome release for fans of Gilbert & Sullivan, not to mention fans of Kevin Kline, Linda Ronstadt and Angela Lansbury.  For viewers who have never seen anything by Gilbert & Sullivan, I’d say it’s a pretty good place to start.

     

     

    Kevin Koster

    September 15, 2010.

     
  2. Stephen_J_H

    Stephen_J_H All Things Film Junkie
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    *sigh* If only this were available on Blu-Ray. Guess I'll have to upscale it on my HD-A30.
     
  3. Todd Erwin

    Todd Erwin Cinematographer
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    Little nugget of trivia:

     

    Universal doomed the box office of this film by trying to release it simultaneously in theaters and on pay-per-view through the SelecTV service. This upset theater owners who refused to book the film, even though very few markets actually carried SelecTV.
     
  4. ahollis

    ahollis Lead Actor

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    I had forgotten about that. The company I worked with refused to book it in any of the theatres except one, which had a commitment with Universal to play all their releases at that location. Most of our towns were non-competitive so that meant the film never played.

     

    Of course Fox's The Pirate Movie was released in August of 1982, while this Universal release was in theatres February 1983. Not much time between similar films. Then there was the Christopher Atkins Vs Rex Smith and Kristy McNichol Vs Linda Ronstadt thing. I think Universal did the SelecTV release because they came to the wedding late this time and tried to increase their earnings, which failed miserably and killed any talk of day and date releases with pay-per-view for years to come.
     
     
  5. Todd Erwin

    Todd Erwin Cinematographer
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    Fox tried to do the same thing with 9 to 5, but wisely backed out.
     
  6. SilverWook

    SilverWook Cinematographer

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    Thank goodness it's widescreen! After what Universal pulled with "Metalstorm:The Destruction of Jared Syn" recently, I was fearing the worst.
     
  7. jerauf

    jerauf Agent

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    I'm surprised and troubled by the lack of reviews of this release online. This is an obscure movie that doesn't deserve to be. And it's too bad that the release isn't getting more attention...particularly with the cast involved.
     
  8. Richard--W

    Richard--W Banned

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    This version of Gilbert and Sullivans musical-comedy-opera is brilliantly realized and thoroughly entertaining. We have a great time with it over here. It has been withheld from DVD release much too long. It is interesting to compare this cinematic version to the stageplay, which was preserved on tape and released as part of the Broadway Theater Archive:

     

    http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B00006RCMW/dvdaficionado

     

    Same cast except for Angela Lansbury and largely the same crew.

    If you enjoy this production as much as I do, you gotta own both.

    Buy one or the other or both without hesitation.

     

    The current Australian version, which is on Blu-ray, is superfluous.

     
     
  9. JimBarrese

    JimBarrese Stunt Coordinator

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    I've been wanting this on DVD for years. Now with Blu Ray though I just can't bring myself to buy a movie on DVD. Guess I'll have to though because I doubt this will ever see the light of day on Blu Ray.
     
  10. Chuck Pennington

    Chuck Pennington Supporting Actor

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    I have Blu-ray and would of course prefer titles in that format, but it certainly hasn't stopped me from being DVDs, especially of films that will probably never end up on Blu-ray. Perhaps someday when we are all accessing a server for our movies (yikes!) will we get it in HD (iTunes already has it in HD For rent, though I think at 720p).

     

    I was very pleased with the DVD, especially with the sound, even though it is just 2.0 surround. The sound is crisp and bright and doesn't sound like it has been tampered with like pretty much every other musical that has been released on DVD.
     
  11. RobertSiegel

    RobertSiegel Screenwriter
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    Ok, so I will offer a second review, one from a fan who saw this 14 (total) times in 3 different theaters, watched the laserdisc dozens of times and have seen this on cable from the pay channels to commercial tv.

     

    First off I am going to say that I am very upset this movie was skipped over for a Blu-ray release. We get The Wiz in December but not this, a famous operetta performed around the world somewhere every day?

     

    The laserdisc came out about 6 months after the movie did, and was Dolby Surround. It was pan and scan. There was also a VHS version. The movie has never before been available in its 2:35:1 format, not even on television. All showing and video versions have been pan and scan which really hurt this movie because it is framed so beautifully for the Cinemascope design.

     

    Now on to the DVD. I am reviewing this on my Epson Powerlite 1080 HD projector on a 150" screen. I have to disagree with you Kevin on many aspects of your review. Being as familiar as I am with this film, I would give much higher scores for the picture and sound. The picture has been beautifully remastered and has NEVER looked this good, but I give it a 4.5 out ogf 5 as far as DVD quality goes. Now I am upscaling it on the Denon 3930 DVD player which has the Realta HQV chip. But the costuming and detail is crystal clear, as best as DVD can do. I was so impressed with the picture quality that it made me keep thinking what a gorgeous Blu-ray this would be since this is already so stunning. The costume on the Major General is full of detail I had not even seen on the theater screen.

     

    As for the sound, I also give this a 4.5 (in terms on DVD, not comparing it to any Blu-ray soundtracks). In the early 1980's, not alot of attention was being paid to soundtracks quite yet, though the trend for better soundtracks had started. Stars Wars started the Dolby revolution, but the quality of the sound of many movies in the early post-Dolby period was just not that great. This is one of those soundtracks that the studio obviously spent ALOT of money on and I think was one of the best from its era. The orchestra was beautifully recorded and sounds crystal clear and the singing voices never sounded this good, even in the theaters. I found my subwoofer kicked in many times (for Dolby Surround, I have my Denon 3808 receiver set to send all low frequencies to the right, left AND subwoofer). Some of the kettle drums and bass drums kicked the room pretty hard. Much more than the laserdisc, and that was not compressed like the DVD is.

     

    So just a different opinion here. I think it's a fabulous transfer and I give the movie itself a 5 because it is very entertaining. Taking the very traditional operetta and modernizing it with modern orchestrations and added humor was brilliant and works exceptionally well.

     

    If I had one complaint, it is that Universal did a bit of tinkering with this soundtrack. I noticed it first on cable TV showings. When this originally was released, and on the laserdisc, EVERYTHING was panned. Voices move from left to right as do all sound effects, everyting! On the cable showings, I Noticed immediately that in certain scenes, certain sung musical phrases were center-ized where before they had been in either the left or right channels. That is the soundtrack we get here. Don't get me wrong, most of the music, sound effects AND singing is panned, but some of it was moved to the center and I don't understand Universal's decision to spend time doing that, unless they were doing it because they kept showing pan and scan versions and felt that left and right dialogue didn't fit a 4:3 frame. I wish they had gone back to the original mix. But I only noticed this about 9-10 times. When Linda Ronstadt sings with the policemen "Go ye Heroes Go to Glory" that was always only in the right channel, she is coming in from the right side of the screen....here it is in the center. So about 9 or 10 times I noticed this type of change, otherwise, most of the stereo was left alone.

     

    I appreciate that Universal released such a great transfer of this movie, and at least finally made it available on home video in 2:35:1 because it really suffered in pan and scan, you could not even see people singing on the pan and scan. When I see a picture this good on a DVD blown up on a 150" screen, I feel it is a fabulous transfer. But I am left wanting because there is no Blu-ray release and I really feel this would make one terrific Blu-ray with excellent picture and great lossless audio! From one HUGE fan who has seen many versions of this, this is one fantastic remaster job.

     

    Highly recommend if you can't wait for a Blu-ray. And since this movie took over 15 years after DVD was invented to be released on DVD, I wonder if we will have to wait that long for a Blu-ray.

     

    Might I suggest that anyone who is interested in this title on Blu-ray, go to Universalstudios.com and click on "contact us" and then click on "Bluray and DVD dept" and request a Blu-ray release. The more we let them know we want it, the better the chance. Link is below.

     

    http://universalstudios.com/contact_us.php
     
  12. Mark B

    Mark B Supporting Actor

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    Not true. It was broadcast in widescreen on the Bravo channel in the late 1990s.

     
  13. RobertSiegel

    RobertSiegel Screenwriter
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    Must have missed that showing. Must have been the only one because I have watched for it over the years.
     
  14. Chuck Pennington

    Chuck Pennington Supporting Actor

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    I had a DVD of that broadcast (probably copied from a VHS recording) that I can now retire that the official release is out. But make no mistake - it DID air on Bravo in widescreen, but possibly in mono. The DVD I have of that broadcast is mono, anyway.
     

     
  15. Mark B

    Mark B Supporting Actor

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    Yes, I believe it was, because I also have never seen it broadcast that way before or since. It was also just before Bravo started showing films with commercial interruptions and I stopped watching that channel.
     
  16. Kevin EK

    Kevin EK Producer
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    Robert, I am truly impressed both by your knowledge of this film and your home theater setup. 150 inch screen! That is truly what I would call a home THEATER. Very nicely done. I'll be happy just to upgrade to 65" this year...

     

    I appreciate your perspective on the picture and sound quality. Having not seen the film in its theatrical release, nor in the various home video incarnations, I would not have a point of reference for the altered soundtrack you're noting. I only picked up on a clear and intelligible 2.0 mix that showcased the singing and music nicely.

     

    I agree that having a show like this available in anamorphic widescreen is really a must if you want to see it correctly. The staging of the musical numbers demands that you see all the way from widescreen left to widescreen right, and I shudder to think what a pan and scan transfer of this will do.

     

    Thanks very much for your input here.
     
  17. RobertSiegel

    RobertSiegel Screenwriter
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    Kevin, thanks for the kind comments. Usually I do not know the home video history of movies like I do this one. Probably the only 2 I know all of this about is Pirates and The Sound of Music.I think your review was fair considering you had not seen it before and certainly appreciate the time you spent on it. As for the 150" screen, it is great to watch these movies like this. They do not have the sharpness of the 40-60" tv models being a HD projector and enlarged so much but they do look fantastic compared to my old Sony projector.
     

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