|Running Time||102:36 minutes|
|Case||Amaray style, three clip|
|RPI||$39.95||Music||John Du Prez|
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||English (Dolby Digital 2.0, 192
German (Dolby Digital 1.0, 96 Kb/s)
French (Dolby Digital 1.0, 96 Kb/s)
Italian (Dolby Digital 1.0, 96 Kb/s)
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||1.81:1 (measured)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.85:1||
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||Yes, during credits|
The broad story of Monty Python's The Meaning Of Life is non-existent! Well, actually not so much non-existent as being rather disjointed, for this is not much more than a collection of sketches that in some rather loose fashion links together to present the meaning of life, from birth through to death. The way the film is put together actually adds to the comedy as each "episode" showcases some rather original talents to their best advantage. However, when one is talking about one of the all-time comedy classics, I guess that the plot really is irrelevant - just enjoy the classic sketches and the rather interesting songs that accompany a few of them. The seven parts of the film are (just for the record):
Monty Python's The Meaning Of Life is an utterly classic film that never ceases to amuse, and on that score alone this is an essential addition to any collection. However...
The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.81:1 measured, and it is NOT 16x9 enhanced. I am staggered that Universal continues to release DVDs without this utterly essential feature, resulting in the issuance of what to me is completely sub-standard product. It is criminal that a film of this stature is served up in this way and adds another lousy mark on the legacy of Universal releases in Region 4. I suppose however that we should at least be grateful that we got a widescreen presentation.
The transfer appears to be a recycled laserdisc transfer: if it is, that may be the reason why we have something that is less than adequate in my view. Regrettably, the transfer displays every one of its seventeen years, in addition to transfer problems. This is not an especially sharp nor well detailed effort at all. Indeed, at times the transfer has an extremely flat appearance where there is little definition between foreground and background. Whilst it never gets unwatchable, I cannot help but feel that the fact that I am anything less than scathing here is for the simple reason that I hold the film in such high regard. On the odd occasion the transfer does break into a very sharp and detailed transfer that really highlights the problems in the bulk of the transfer. Shadow detail is not exactly impressive. This is not only a reflection of the age of the film but also the quality of the transfer. It never descends into anything truly disgusting, but on the odd occasion you do really miss some decent shadow detail. This is also anything but a clear transfer, and the transfer is riddled with grain - which at times gets very distracting. There seemed to be the odd instance of low level noise, but this is not exactly certain as the overall lack of real quality in the transfer does tend to mask such problems.
The colours are not exactly great either, with a decided, albeit consistent, undersaturation of colours throughout. Whilst the film was shot in a manner that would preclude a large degree of naturalness, I would have thought that the colours would have been a degree more natural than they are. There is a decided lack of depth and consistency in the blacks here. You can cheerfully forget bright, primary colours here! Oversaturation of colours is only a problem in the opening credits to both the short feature and the main feature, and on a couple of occasions in the titles to some of the chapters. Colour bleed is also a bit of an issue in these same sections.
Alas the transfer displays a plethora of artefacting problems. There appears to be a degree of blockiness in the transfer at times, and there are a few odd examples of loss of resolution on pan shots (such as at 17:12) or even jerky pan shots (such as 97:24), but other than that there did not seem to be any significant MPEG artefacts in the transfer. However, the transfer is riddled with aliasing problems, much like the lamentable Backdraft, although nowhere near as bad in degree. Mostly it is a question of sheer consistency, so that what starts out as a minor irritation in the lack of solidity of things like collars ends up just being plain annoying. Just about every possible occasion where film-to-video artefacting could be a problem, is. Window sills display lack of solidity, old buildings display shimmer, modern buildings display something approaching moiré artefacting and so on. Added to the transfer problems are some rather obvious film artefacts that to be honest do get just a little distracting at times. And just to really add problems into the transfer, the section between 11:58 and 12:03 is blessed with some obvious jumps in the transfer, where it would appear frames are missing from the transfer although there is also some indication of some repeated frames. The video jump at 12:02 is accompanied by a noticeable jump in the audio too.
This is an RSDL
formatted disc, with the layer change coming at 47:22.
This is not an exactly brilliant placing of the layer change, coming during
the middle of a scene, but it is not too disruptive to the film. The fact
that this is an RSDL formatted disc
is just a little surprising, given the quality of the transfer: if this
is as good as it gets with so much space available for compression, I would
hate to see what a single layer, single sided DVD transfer of this film
would look like.
There are four audio tracks on the DVD, being an English Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack, a German Dolby Digital 1.0 soundtrack, a French Dolby Digital 1.0 soundtrack and an Italian Dolby Digital 1.0. I listened to the English soundtrack since I could not face the antics of Monty Python in any other language.
Dialogue is somewhat problematic in the transfer, with some sections sounding quite noticeably recessed. Overall though, the dialogue cannot be considered much beyond reasonably clear and relatively easy to understand.
There did not appear to be any real problem with audio sync problems with the transfer.
The musical score comes from John Du Prez, but this really is grossly overshadowed by the "delightful" songs composed by the Monty Python gang.. I mean, how can one forget songs such as Every Sperm Is Sacred? And how can any score compete with them?
This is a bit of a dated soundtrack that sounds very
much like mono tweaked into sounding like stereo. However, on the odd occasion
it sounds like there is surround encoding used here, at least until you
realise that there may be action out of the rear channels but there was
none out of the front channels. I rather suspect that there may be a bit
of a problem in the mastering here. Other than that, there is nothing especially
noteworthy nor distinguished here at all. There are some inconsistencies
in the transfer, such that at times there is a noticeable fluctuation in
the level of the sound. Congestion is a bit of a problem but thankfully
there did not seem to be any noticeable problems with distortion. The overall
effect is a soundtrack that sounds a heck of a lot older than seventeen
years. You can of course forget the bass channel here.
|Surround Channel Use|
© Ian Morris (have
a laugh, check out the bio)
5th October 2000
|DVD||Pioneer DV-515; S-video output|
|Display||Sony Trinitron Wega 80cm. 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 C-2; rears EXLR; and subwoofer ES-12XL|