|Year Released||1964||Commentary Tracks||None|
|Running Time||133:46 minutes||Other Extras||None|
Warner Home Video
Dick Van Dyke
|RRP||$34.95||Music||Richard M. Sherman
Robert B. Sherman
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||No||MPEG||None|
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||2.05:1||Dolby Digital||5.1|
||Soundtrack Languages||English (Dolby Digital 5.1, 384 Kb/s)
French (Dolby Digital 2.0 mono, 192 K/bs)
Italian (Dolby Digital 2.0, 192 K/bs)
Dutch (Dolby Digital 2.0, 192 K/bs)
|Theatrical Aspect Ratio||1.75:1||
English for the Hearing Impaired
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
So obviously we are talking about a film of some stature here, and one of the most beloved films of all time. Which makes it all the more remarkable that this is not a moratorium title of Di$ney. However, after the disaster of Pete's Dragon, a much later effort in the genre of live animation, this was approached with a deal of reticence.
There would be very few I would have thought that are not aware of the film, and therefore only a brief synopsis is warranted in my view. Mary Poppins (Julie Andrews) is a magical nanny with many powers. She arrives to assist banker George Banks (David Tomlinson) and suffragette wife Georgina Banks (Glynis Johns) with their children Jane (Karen Dotrice) and Michael (Matthew Garber). Along the way she transports the children to a magical new world with the aid of local chimney sweep Bert (Dick Van Dyke) and shows George Banks that there is more to life than his work at the bank and that his family needs him. In short, the usual dollop of Di$ney syrup. But this is very special Di$ney syrup indeed, and this is one of the best examples of what great heights the Di$ney company could attain, as evidenced by the fact that I must have seen this probably thirty times and it is still as enjoyable today as it was way back when I was a little kid.
Begin where you like, but superlatives are not going to be adequate here. Julie Andrews is delightful in the lead role, old trooper David Tomlinson is wonderful as the stiff upper lip, middle/upper class British banker, the wonderful Glynis Johns is sublimely superb as the slightly dippy suffragette wife and Dick Van Dyke proves that he is a great entertainer with a great singing/dancing act as the loveable cockney chimney sweep - just a pity that the accent was a little on the poor side! The Shermans provided a superb score and some especially memorable songs, and the whole pot was well mixed by Robert Stevenson. This whole film though is memorable for the special effects- whilst they are not real flash in modern terms, they are still fine and were state of the art thirty seven years ago! Some wonderful blending of animation and live action, including the almost iconic penguin waiters, is not let down too much by the passing of the years, although if you want to be picky there are obvious faults brought to light by the high resolution of the format. If you do want to be really picky, check out the horse race sequence and watch the horses hooves on the railing, and the start of the rooftop scene with the chimney sweeps - wonderful trapeze rig being worn by Julie Andrews there! People have been enjoying the film for thirty seven years now, and they will continue to enjoy it in all its widescreen glory for many more to come.
The transfer is presented in widescreen format, although it is regrettably not 16x9 enhanced. The theatrical aspect ratio of the film was 1.75:1, yet according to Michael D's wonderfully trustworthy PowerDVD, this is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.05:1. Most unusual ratio, and visually it does look more than 1.85:1 so PowerDVD may be right. Accordingly, it would seem that the film has been incorrectly framed for this release.
The transfer has in general come up wonderfully in the remastering by Di$ney. The picture is sharp, there is a lot of detail and definition is good. However, that is the generality - in practice there are also some regrettable lapses, especially in the second half of the film. There are some quite grainy sections to the film, which hampers enjoyment just a little. It is also not an especially clear transfer at times. There is the odd hint of some low level noise problems in the transfer, but this is sporadic and may be indicative of problems with the thirty seven year old film.
The colours have in general come up wonderfully rich and vibrant, although again there are some lapses which do detract especially in the second half of the film; indeed the second half of the film is far less successful in this respect. Especially problematic are the chimney sweeps scenes on the rooftops. The colours are anything but natural here and are prone to poor definition: the transfer becomes very dark indeed and far too rich in tone, resulting in very unnatural skin tones. The fireworks effects result in some minor oversaturation problems too, and this sequence really lets down the entire package. But especially in the first half of the film you can barely find fault and the scenes inside the chalk picture are as good as I have seen on DVD. Wonderful stuff indeed, let down somewhat by the second half of the film.
There appears to be some evidence of MPEG artefacts in the transfer, notably some minor blockiness in the picture at around 44:45 on side B. There is also a rather weird effect at around 52:30 on side B, as Banks is walking up the steps to the bank. I don't know if it is my eyes or not, but it looks as if his legs are taking the shape of the steps; really weird looking if you notice it. Overall though these problems are not too distracting. Film-to-video artefacts comprised some relatively minor aliasing, but this was not too distracting at all. Where the transfer really stood out though was the noticeable lack of film artefacts: this has really been cleaned up nicely in the remastering.
Obviously there is a FLIPPER alert required here! Yes folks, this is one of those dreaded things with the get up and turn over coming at 66:59 in the film. Whilst any flip is a disruption really, this one is especially badly placed in the middle of a scene and is so disruptive to the film that it is not funny at all - this and The Rock are vying for the title of the worst located flip on DVD. How Di$ney can butcher this classic in this way is beyond my comprehension. Obviously RSDL formatting was the required choice here, although it is noted that the Region 1 release is actually on a single sided, single layered disc. We can I suppose be thankful that this is apparently the last such abomination to come from this source, but really this demands to be withdrawn and reissued in a decent RSDL format in my view.
There are four audio tracks on the DVD: an English Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack, a French Dolby Digital 2.0 mono soundtrack, an Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack and a Dutch Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack. I listened to the English default, with some minor sampling of the other tracks.
The dialogue was always clear and easy to understand.
There appeared to be some audio sync problems with the transfer, which may be the result of sloppy ADR work as it mainly affected the singing.
The musical score and songs from Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman are absolutely wonderful and so much of what makes this film so great is the contribution made by the music. This is in the very best traditions of magical Di$ney scores and is utterly memorable.
Apart from one rather noticeable drop out, albeit very brief, at 40:38 there is not a lot wrong with this marvellously remastered soundtrack. This is a gorgeously remastered soundtrack with some lovely use of the front and rear surround channels to provide a nice warmth to the sound. The music is conveyed wonderfully through the rears in particular and the whole soundscape is extremely natural. Thankfully this is a nicely restrained soundtrack and the subwoofer gets only nicely supportive work rather than anything too strident, even during the fireworks scene and the use of the cannon.
In general a very good video transfer.
In general a fine audio transfer.
© Ian Morris
15th January 2000
|DVD||Pioneer DV-515; S-video output|
|Display||Sony Trinitron Wega 84cm. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in|
|Amplification||Yamaha RXV-795. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.|
|Speakers||Energy Speakers: centre EXLC; left and right EXLR; and subwoofer ES-12XL|