- May 10, 1999
Wish Me Luck
Acorn Media releasing a London Weekly Television production originally broadcast on England’s ITV. Two standard definition DVDs containing eight episodes, full-screen 4x3 aspect ratio. Total run time, about 6 hours, 28 minutes, with an average program time of 48.5 minutes. Dolby Digital sound, essentially monaural audio. Not captioned or subtitled. Larger slip-case holds two half-thickness DVD cases, each with one disc. Disc 2 has some production/publicity photos and some text-background on female spies during World War II. Both discs have a couple of unskipable copyright and Acorn-type logos. Disc 1 also includes some Acorn Media highlights, as well as two preview-type trailers; these can be skipped with the “chapter search” function.
Note: the disc cases have one or two sentences for each episode. In general, I would qualify these brief descriptions to be SPOILERS for those who have not seen these programs.
Suggested retail price for this set is $39.99 and streets on March 16, 2010.
The Program —
Espionage, danger, and romance behind enemy lines. This is the curious tag-line for the series. What makes it particularly interesting is that while it is technically accurate, the series it describes is surprisingly not like what comes to mind. Colonel “Cad” Cadogan and his number two, Faith Ashley, are the principals in charge of a Special Operations section during World War II. They are tasked with sending ‘unconventional agents’ into Occupied France, to conduct intelligence, resistance, and sabotage operations against the Nazis. In Series 1, the agents we focus on are two women, a relatively young mother trained as a courier, and a younger, impulsive, half-Jewish wireless operator.
The series begins with what becomes the recruitment of Liz and Matty, progresses through their training, deployment, and operations in France. Complications abound, from old friends from the pre-War, to Matty fighting boredom and romance whilst dodging Nazis looking for her and her transmitter.
Filmed in the late 1980s, the sets, costumes, and overall production design are richly detailed, and the viewer is allowed to appreciate the detail put into dressing the English and French locations, and all of their loving set-dressings to restore the world of 1943. The program is also slightly coy, not always explaining everything, but leaving it for the astute viewer to assemble the things he or she has been shown — or only shown the implication of — to understand the actions and reactions of the people on-screen.
Wish Me Luck Series 1 stars Julian Glover, Jane Asher, Suzanna Hamilton, Kate Buffery, Michael J. Jackson, Jane Snowdon, Jeremy Northam, and Warren Clarke.
The Video —
What can be said? Late 1980s video production has a certain fingerprint to it. The gear with which the programs were edited and posted on varies, as some new toys and techniques were just becoming more economical — but the training was not always there. Some of the video titles, for example, leave something to be desired. Some of the location equipment was better than others, and much of the program was shot on location. And some of the materials are suffering, either from the PAL to NTSC conversions, or perhaps there was a loss of some of the early-generation tapes. There are some dropouts here and there, and there are a few scenes that look as though the video was passed through a composite stage, and then restored to component. The DVDs, however, are quite accurate in their depiction — and perhaps betrayal — of the sources used for this release.
The Audio — ½
The audio on these discs is completely unexceptional. Dialog is clear, sound effects fit into the scene, and do not distract. If there is a distraction, it is a stylistic choice in the nature of the music used in this program. This, however, is a subject of personal opinion, and does not reflect on the construction of the program or of the discs themselves. While one could certainly ask for more from the entire soundtrack, there is nothing wrong with it.
Of curious note is the use of language — and I do not mean Matty’s fairly frequent use of the expression, “Sod!” Rather, whilst in England, they speak English, save for when they are speaking French, which is uncaptioned French. When in France, and are supposed to be speaking French, they are still speaking English — although the Germans speak their French with the classic stereotypical German accent, “Ve haff vays off makink yov talk!” What is spoken in German is spoken in German, but with English subtitles. Morse code, of course, is still in code, and such code (when audible) is not captioned.
The extras are not terribly deep. The stills slide-show is accompanied by the show’s score, and consists of perhaps two dozen stills taken on the sets for publicity. There are five pages of text talking about the real lady spies who inspired Wish Me Luck.
In The End —
From a technical standpoint, what is important is that the DVDs are an excellent rendering of the source-material at hand. There was no heavy-handed noise reduction, or much else in the way of abuse. Instead, Acorn continues to release good quality programming where the content invites the viewer beyond the technical issues of the time. While Wish Me Luck is not a James Bondian super-thriller with gadgets and supersophisticated agents running around in perfect evening-wear, it is a simply told story, about people living in difficult times, and either rising to the difficult nature of the challenges in their life — or not. And how those difficult times bring out the best, the worst, or even just the different from ordinary men and women. I look forward to the future releases of the next two series of fifteen more episodes.