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DVD Reviews

HTF REVIEW: The Apple Dumpling Gang (RECOMMENDED)



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#1 of 9 OFFLINE   DaViD Boulet

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Posted September 10 2003 - 09:56 AM



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The Apple Dumpling Gang
Studio:Disney
Year:1975
Film Length:100 minutes
Aspect Ratio:16X9 encoded 1.78:1
Audio:5.1 DD English
Extras:Feature Commentary, Cartoon “Two Gun Goofy”, Lost Treasures documentary (Disney’s Back-Lot), Conversations with Tim Conway, more...
Release Date:Available


Story...


By a twist of fate a gambling-oriented bachelor is made guardian of three unruly children who manage to get into all kinds of mischief as he struggles to maintain control of his unexpected “family”. A budding romance adds some sexual tension (as much as can be expected in a 1975 family-oriented Disney film) between he and the local stage-coach-driving gal who brought the youngsters to town. When the kids find a gold nugget in an abandoned gold-mine the stakes get high and all eyes turn to Arakis (just seeing if you’re paying attention).

Naturally everything ends up working out predictably positive as one would imagine. Profound? No. Fun and entertaining? Yes. Tim Conway and Don Knotts contribute their own talents to pull The Apple Dumpling Gang into an enjoyable movie that won’t change your life, but will offer some G-rated fun for the whole family.


Picture


Disney has done a marvelous job. I checked out a few scenes on my friend’s Sony 10HT before watching the full-length film on my 16x9 direct-view. Both display systems confirm that this is a first-rate film-tape transfer that is about as good as it can look given the inherent quality of the source film-elements which do seem to have been restored quite well. Some images convey noticeable film-grain (the opening scene) but most scenes are very clear with fine-level film-grain visible (not a transfer problem...just telling you what the image looks like). Overall I’d say the image looks “soft” but there are some scenes that look very sharp/clear even on the projected screen.

Colors are good if just slightly-washed out at times and to my eyes things look slightly skewed to yellow/brown. Flesh-tones appear somewhat red-brown at times which caused me some distraction but it's consistent...so eventually I got used to it. This overly "warm" look to the colors is quite possibly an intentional effect to try to recreate an aesthetic that reminds the viewer of the "Old West". Again, this may very well be a faithful replication of the appearance of the film itself (I would imagine this is the case given the obvious care Disney has taken to deliver a very solid picture on this disc). For comparison, I found the Witch Mountain films to have a more natural color-balance and contrast. Film buffs chime in if you have anything to share.

No visible haloing from EE and no digital noise from compression or DNR that I can see. Black level is solid and clean and the image is steady. Very satisfying to watch even at 1.5 screen-widths. Fans will be impressed.

Picture: 4.5 / 5
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Sound...


The 5.1 DD sounds about as good as the audio for this film is able to sound. However, the results are not very spectacular, though they are satisfactory. Surround use is occasional and generally carries ambience from the occasional effect or music track. Sounds like a “fat mono” recording overall which isn’t a bad thing considering the films mono-audio origins, it just doesn’t particularly inspire. On par with the Witch Mountain soundtracks if you’d like a comparison.

Sound: 3.5/ 5
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Extras...


Some nice extras are fit onto the single disc which is impressive given the lack of artifacting in the feature film. The first most folks will encounter is the animated short “Two Gun Goofy”—a cartoon where goofy inadvertently outwits an outlaw by sheer stupidity. Great cartoon, with great colors and vibrancy...only I notice visible dot-crawl artifacts (also see them on the Luv Bug cartoon-extra ) which tells me Disney has utilized a composite master and a rather poor comb-filter when mastering this short for DVD. I find it frustrating that the folks with the $$ studio gear can’t manage to use better comb-filters when mastering legacy composite source material for DVD...but rest assured you won’t find this distracting from a normal “TV” viewing distance.

The next extra that I really enjoyed was the “Lost Treasures: The Disney Back Lot”. It’s a great historical look at how the production was shot on a back-lot set and how the back-lot set evolved over many years and was used repeatedly in many live-action Disney films. Sadly, the lot was destroyed in the 1980’s to make way for a parking lot and some new buildings which I found devastating (had to get out the tissues) the but narrator for the documentary didn’t seem to comprehend the loss in quite the same way. Anyway...I’m one of those historic-preservationists folks so the thought of our material history getting paved over is something I respond to very personally. In any case, be sure to check out this documentary—very interesting and I’m glad Disney included it.

Also a nice interview with Tim Conway which most folks will enjoy. And yes...we’ve got feature commentary with Conway and Knotts that fans of those two comedy idols will no doubt enjoy.

Then there’s the less glitzy but still cool list of stuff like Biographies and production stills etc. If you’re a devoted fan or get the flu and have to stay home for a week and run out of DVD movies to watch, you might check them out.

Conclusion...


Take a walk down memory lane if you remember this film from your childhood. Once again Disney has dusted off the film-print of a movie you grew up with and delivered it to you on a 5” disc with the greatest of care and attention. I don’t think The Apple Dumpling Gang could look or sound better than it does here on DVD. If you’re a fan of the film or looking for some enjoyable and harmless entertainment for the kids to add to the shelf...

RECOMMENDED
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#2 of 9 OFFLINE   TonyD

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Posted September 10 2003 - 12:48 PM

i remember this when i was a kid. wasn't there a "rides again" sequal?
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#3 of 9 OFFLINE   Matthew_Millheiser

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Posted September 10 2003 - 02:45 PM

"Rides Again" was the 1979 sequel, but IIRC only Knotts and Conway returned. (The "Bradley orphans" and their new family are absent.) David, did you notice any unnatural-looking flesh tones? While I really enjoyed the heck out of the DVD much more than I thought I would, I noticed that the actors looked positively radioactive in many shots. A fine transfer otherwise, but this little bit kept gnawing at me while watching the film.
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#4 of 9 OFFLINE   DaViD Boulet

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Posted September 11 2003 - 01:11 AM

[quote] David, did you notice any unnatural-looking flesh tones? [quote]
Yes, I noticed that too (and updated my review to reflect it). A strange overly warm-brown look to their faces...a reddish-brown to flesh tones like the caucasions were native-americans.

That's why I'm *asumming* that the film's color-pallet might be designed to look "old west" or something...like a faded photograph or something.

BTW, IMO, the colors on several other Disney "vault"-style discs (Old Yeller, Polyanna, Parent Trap, 2000 Leagues) have similar odd color-shifts that affect flesh-tones in unnatural ways. I'd love for someone with some historical knowlege (RAH?) to help clarify if we're seeing problems due to film-deterioration and fading, mastering, or if these films were indeed produced originally with these color-shifts as part of their aesthetic design.

-dave
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#5 of 9 OFFLINE   Steven Wesley

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Posted September 11 2003 - 06:45 AM

Did the menu system have a "Vault Disney" look to it or was this something completely different?
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#6 of 9 OFFLINE   DaViD Boulet

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Posted September 11 2003 - 06:46 AM

Yep...the same "Vault Disney" special-feature menu like on the Witch Moutain DVDs.
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#7 of 9 OFFLINE   Ken_McAlinden

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Posted September 11 2003 - 07:05 AM

It also has the standard all purpose "making of" documentary that appears on the "Vault Disney" titles, and its a pretty decent one. Regards,
Ken McAlinden
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#8 of 9 OFFLINE   Steven Wesley

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Posted September 11 2003 - 08:18 AM

Great. Thanks for the answers on that! Posted Image
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#9 of 9 OFFLINE   Brian W.

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Posted September 29 2003 - 02:21 PM

A running commentary with Don Knotts and Tim Conway??? Sold!





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