|Year Released||1995||Commentary Tracks||None|
|Running Time||147:50 minutes||Other Extras||None|
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||MPEG||None|
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||1.78:1||Dolby Digital||2.0|
||Soundtrack Languages||English (Dolby Digital 2.0, 448Kb/s)|
|Theatrical Aspect Ratio||1.78:1||
|Subtitles||English||Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
I was almost not even going to bother to turn up to Les Miserables. Boy am I glad I did - words fail me when I try to describe how that first experience of Les Miserables affected me. It was love at first sight, from the strident opening chords to the profoundly sad and moving conclusion. I was moved to tears more than once by this musical, and still am to this day. Put simply, it is the musical of the 20th Century, peerless beyond compare, and musical perfection.
My love affair with this musical continues to this day, having seen it twice professionally, owning two CDs of the musical score, owning a documentary on laserdisc, and musical directing a non-professional version of the show. I know every note of the score, and it still moves me today every bit the same as it did over 10 years ago.
It was self-evident when this DVD appeared on the release schedule for Region 4 that I would be the one to review it.
Les Miserables-The Dream Cast In Concert is a video rendering of the Les Miserables 10th Anniversary Gala Concert at the Royal Albert Hall in London in 1995. As its title suggests, the best of the best voices from Les Miserables productions world-wide were combined on stage with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra for this most impressive of events. Taking the two primary roles are Colm Wilkinson as Jean Valjean and Philip Quast as Javert, however the talent on show here in all of the primary roles is simply breathtaking. Of particular note are Ruthie Henshall as Fantine and Lea Salonga as Eponine who are just brilliant, both far and away the best in their respective roles that I have ever heard.
So, we have a stellar voice cast, a stellar orchestra, and a chorus of 250-odd. How does it all come together? Frankly, it is just a little too loose around the edges for my liking. There are times throughout the score when some of the principals got just slightly out of step with the musical director, who seemed to be hurrying the score along a little too much for my liking. Indeed, it sounded to me like the entire ensemble could have down with just one more rehearsal before staging this production. Add to this the various minor but irritating technical glitches of this production and transfer, and I was left just a little disappointed. Make no mistake, I still enjoyed this immensely, but I felt that it should have been just that little bit better, especially considering the talent on offer.
One redeeming feature is the encore, which I will not spoil for you, but spectacular, brilliant, and moving are words which spring to mind. The encore alone made up for the various minor annoyances of the transfer, and was almost worth the price of the DVD on its own for any true fan of Les Miserables.
The transfer is presented at an aspect ratio of 1.78:1. It is 16x9 enhanced. This is the original aspect ratio of this particular production.
The transfer is variably sharp. Some specific camera angles are exceptionally good. Some camera angles are indistinct and poor. One specific camera is excellent - a middle distance camera located to the left of the stage is exceptional in clarity and definition. Take a look at 105:58, a medium shot of Enjolras. This is very nicely rendered. In contrast, by far the worst camera angle is a close-up camera located audience right. This particular camera suffers from numerous problems. It has poor definition. It has a poorly calibrated black level. It suffers from excessive noise, both in the luminance and in the chrominance components of the video signal. Most annoying of all, there are numerous white vertical lines running through the image from this camera. The best way I could describe the image emanating from this camera is to imagine that some black pin-stripe material has been placed over the camera lens and we are viewing the image through the pin-striping. This would not be all that much of a problem if this camera angle was infrequently used. Unfortunately, it is probably the most used camera angle of any of the camera angles available to the director, and this significantly mars this transfer. There are numerous examples of this camera angle being used that I could point out, but take a look at 20:01 and 114:47 - 115:17 for the most obvious examples of this problematic camera angle. The director of this video transfer had a habit of combining the very best and the very worst cameras, and cross-fading between the two, which made the poor quality image all the more noticeable.
Shadow detail varies between camera angles, between excellent and very poor. The same can be said for low-level noise.
Some still photographs were included in the transfer to illustrate the action. These were generally of very poor quality.
The colours were passable. Blue was a problem on occasion, once again variably depending on the camera angle. Some cameras exhibited considerable chroma noise, particularly in the blues, whereas others were extremely clear and well-defined in their rendition of colour.
There were no definite MPEG artefacts noted in this transfer.
Video artefacts, on the other hand, were plentiful. I have already described the most irritating and most frequent of them above, but there was another annoying video artefact on display. At 103:48 - 104:01 and again at 120:33 - 120:49 a ghost outline of the actor being imaged could be seen some way to the right of the actor's actual image. There is also a very odd edit at 105:58, where a brief fading image appears for a few frames.
This disc is presented on an RSDL-formatted DVD, with the layer change placed between Act 1 and Act 2 at 80:10.
The overall impression I got of this soundtrack was that it was somewhat lacklustre. If any musical presentation cried out for a decent 5.1 remaster, this is it.
The vocals were generally clear and easy to understand. Their overall level seemed to dip a little about half way through Act 2. Vocal peaks were frequently distorted, particularly from the more powerful male voices. It sounded like a source problem rather than a transfer problem. This is simply unacceptable at this level of production. The sound engineers responsible for this travesty should be ashamed of themselves as they should have made allowances for the sheer power of the voices on offer here. The distortion of the audio peaks significantly marred the overall presentation. There are also a number of odd noises scattered through the production; 32:43 is a case in point, as is 41:14, during Castle On A Cloud.
There were no audio sync problems with this DVD.
The surround and subwoofer channels were not used.
The video quality is problematic.
The audio quality is quite ordinary.
There are no extras.
© Michael Demtschyna
(read my bio)
10th April 2000
|DVD||Toshiba 2109, using S-Video output|
|Display||Loewe Art-95 95cm direct view CRT in 16:9 mode, via the S-Video input. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.|
|Audio Decoder||Denon AVD-2000 Dolby Digital AddOn Decoder, used as a standalone processor. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.|
|Amplification||2 x EA Playmaster 100W per channel stereo amplifiers for Left, Right, Left Rear and Right Rear; Philips 360 50W per channel stereo amplifier for Centre and Subwoofer|
|Speakers||Philips S2000 speakers for Left, Right; Polk Audio CS-100 Centre Speaker; Apex AS-123 speakers for Left Rear and Right Rear; Hsu Research TN-1220HO subwoofer|