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Terry Pratchett's Going Postal Blu-ray Review (1 Viewer)

Todd Erwin

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The third in a series of adaptations of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels produced for Britain’s SKY-1 television network, Going Postal is a quirky comedic fantasy that features an all-star British cast that many Americans may recognize. The disc sports a solid video transfer, with over an hour’s worth of bonus material.


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Terry Pratchett's Going Postal



Studio: Acorn Media

US DVD Release Date: September 20, 2011
Original Release Year: 2010
Rated: Not Rated (but suitable for young audiences)
Running Time: 185 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
Audio: PCM 2.0 Stereo (English)
Subtitles: English (SDH)

Movie: 4.5 out of 5
Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series of comic fantasy novels have been extremely popular, with 39 books published over the last 30 years. Set in a fictional land balanced on the top of four elephants standing on the back of a turtle, Discworld, at least in this British television adaptation of Going Postal, looks much like Victorian London (although it was shot in Budapest).

Moist von Lipwig (Richard Coyle, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time) is a con man, swindling his way through the town of Ankh-Morpork until he is arrested and sentenced to be hanged by Patrician Havelock Vetinari (Charles Dance, HBO’s Game of Thrones). But Vetinari manages to save him within an inch of dying, as he has a proposition for von Lipwig: re-open the post office and assume the position of Postmaster, or leap to his death down a bottomless pit. But the Post Office has been defunct for several years and left in a state of decay, since most citizens use the Clacks (a system of semaphore light towers) to send messages and photos to other towns. Von Lipwig attempts to escape, but is quickly captured by his Golem parole officer, Mr. Pump, and delivers him to the post office, where he meets the two remaining postmen, the hygiene-challenged Mr. Groat (Andrew Sachs, Fawlty Towers) and pin-obsessed Stanley Howler (Ian Bonar, The Adventures of Tintin), whom Groat refers to as being a bit “return to sender.”

But Reacher Gilt (David Suchet, Agatha Christie’s Poirot) and his bookkeeper Crispin Horsefry (Madhav Sharma, Entrapment), who assumed ownership of the Clacks during the Credit Crunch, are not happy about the new competition, and begin to devise ways to shut the post office down permanently, including hiring a banshee to kill von Lipwig.

Von Lipwig is determined, though, to be free of the Post Office, which means freeing himself of Mr. Pump. This leads him to visit the Golem Trust, run by Adora Dearheart (Claire Foy, Little Dorrit). When she tries to kill him with a crossbow, von Lipwig is instantly smitten, trying desperately to get a date with her. The two eventually devise a plan to overthrow Gilt, leading to von Lipwig’s redemption for his former crimes.

I had never heard of the Discworld series prior to viewing this two-part TV-movie, but was immediately sucked into the story, thanks to the clever screenplay by Richard Kurti and Bev Doyle (both writers on the BBC series Robin Hood), the beautiful art direction and set design, Jon Jones’ (Diary of Anne Frank) well-paced direction, and the engaging performances from the entire cast. Richard Coyle is simply charming as Moist von Lipwig, injecting a great deal of fun into the 3+ hour movie right off the bat. His chemistry with Claire Foy as Adora Dearheart, who doesn’t appear until 40 minutes in, is also a delight, as she desperately tries to keep von Lipwig at arm’s length. Her scene where she tames Boris the wild horse is absurd and funny. David Suchet chews the scenery, relishing his role as the evil Reacher Gilt. Charles Dance lends a solid sense of authority to Vetinari, a man that may or may not have a sense of humor. Andrew Sachs (who most American audiences may recognize as Manuel from Fawlty Towers), Steve Pemberton, Timothy West, and Ian Bonar also turn in worthy performances in supporting roles.

What makes the film accessible to most Western audiences is the novel’s unintentional parallels to today’s economical woes (the novel was published in 2004), and these are played out in (and paid off) quite well in the film’s conclusion.

Moist von Lipwig’s confidence schemes against the banks had repercussions to Ankh-Morpork’s economy, forcing the closure of banks, and eventually leading to Adora’s father being forced to sell the Clacks to Gilt to help pay off his debts.

Video: 4 out of 5
Acorn Media brings this British import to Region A in a nice 1080i/60Hz transfer using the AVC codec, retaining the film’s original broadcast aspect ratio of 1.78:1. Originally photographed in HD with Arri D-21 cameras, the film has a definite British mini-series look to it, with deep browns and blacks. Contrast is very good, as is detail. The textures of the buildings and fabrics used in the costumes (especially the wings of the Postmaster’s cap) are well-rendered, and the CGI rarely, if ever, stands out. Although this is 1080i, the transfer still retains a film-like look.

Audio: 3.5 out of 5
Fox’s Region B release contained a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix. Unfortunately, Acorn’s Region A release only sports an uncompressed PCM 2.0 stereo track. Dialogue is centered and intelligible, with good stereo effects and when played back in Pro-Logic mode, provides a nice sense of ambiance. Bass response is good, but don’t expect any discrete LFE or surround effects.

Special Features: 4 out of 5
The Blu-ray has a nice set of features:

Terry Pratchett Introduction (HD, 4:44): The author discusses, while eating popcorn from a screening room, the story, the making of the film and his involvement, and how pleased he was with the outcome.

Commentary with Director Jon Jones: Selectable as either a Picture-in-Picture or audio only commentary, Jones has a lot to say about Going Postal, ranging from the casting process, the financial hurdles they had with the production (including fighting with an un-named American production for use of the backlot), and the extensive CGI work used throughout the film to extend sets and props, and even duplicate the Golems for crowd scenes.

Interviews (SD, 51:35): The interviews can be selected individually or Play All, providing more tidbits on the making of the film. One of the more interesting interview segments was with the fans, who were given the opportunity to be extras in the film.

  • Terry Pratchett

  • Director and Producer

  • Costumes

  • Make-Up

  • The Fans

  • Steve Pemberton

  • Richard Coyle

  • David Suchet

  • Claire Foy

  • Charles Dance

  • Andrew Sachs

  • Ian Bonar

  • Madhav Sharma

  • Timothy West

Deleted Scenes (SD, 6:26): Six scenes are included, but without commentary (although some of the scenes are mentioned in the feature commentary)

  • Dave Pins (extended version)

  • Princess and Rogers Clacks Towers

  • Lipwig Bribes Mr. Spools

  • Gilt and Horsefry, Snake Sheds His Skin

  • Coach Has Been Attacked

  • Lipwig Finds Out About Lodgers

Image Galleries: Three sets of galleries are available.

  • Storyboards (HD, 4:40): Some of the key effects and action sequences are highlighted here, but as video and not as a slideshow, with up to six panels on the screen at a time.

  • Props (HD, 1:50): Some of the props, mostly pamphlets and product cartons, are featured, again as a video rather than a slideshow.

  • Set Drawings (HD, 0:30): Pencil sketches of many of the sets and props (such as the Clacks Tower) are featured, again as a video rather than a slideshow.

Bloopers (SD, 3:54): Prop malfunctions and blown lines are featured in this amusing gag reel.

Overall: 4 out of 5
Fans of the Discworld series are split on this adaptation, but if you are a fan of the British productions of Dr. Who or Hitch-hiker’s Guide To The Galaxy, then you will likely enjoy this often bizarre and quirky comedic fantasy. Although Acorn was only able to provide a PCM stereo track, many (if not all) of the features from the Region B release have made it on to this disc.
 

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