The Fortunes & Misfortunes of Moll Flanders (1996)

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Released 5-Dec-2012

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Comedy Drama Featurette-Making Of-Making of Moll Flanders (25.26)
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1996
Running Time 193:00
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By David Attwood
Studio
Distributor
ITVS
Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring James Bowers
Alex Kingston
Nicola Kingston
Geoffrey Beevers
Lucy Evans
Anthony Bessick
Struan Rodger
Chrissie Cotterill
Peter Jonfield
Neville Phillips
Case Amaray-Opaque
RPI ? Music Jim Parker
Mark Springer


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
Not 16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.66:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

†††† Moll Flanders by Daniel Defoe is generally considered to be one of the first English novels. Released in 1722 it was only three years after the first, Robinson Crusoe, also by Defoe. Despite its important place in English literary history there have been only a few attempts at translating the book for the small and big screen and none of them have been entirely successful. This is probably due to a couple of factors. Firstly, the book is somewhat unwieldy, following the life of a woman from birth through to her dotage. It is more of a series of events in her life than a cohesive novel with distinct dramatic arcs. Secondly, the costume drama crowd tend to prefer their stately romantic melodramas, most particularly anything by Dickens or Jane Austen, and Moll Flanders does not fit that mould. It is bawdy from start to finish and features a heroine who could be described most politely as morally dubious.

†††† This ITV adaptation was a direct response to the hugely successful BBC Pride and Prejudice from 1995. The series was presented in four parts each of approximately an hourís duration. I doubt that there are many people who would watch this series who have actually read the book but those who do will find that the adaptation does make for some startling drama and romance and keeps close enough to the plot to be recognisable.

†††† Moll Flanders (played by Alex Kingston from Doctor Who and ER) is born in in Newgate Prison in the 1600s. Her mother "pleaded the belly" and avoided execution but was eventually sent off to the colonies as a convict. Moll was taken by gypsies but eventually make her way into the household of the Mayor of Colchester, being raised as one of the family, albeit a family member who should never forget her place. Moll catches the eye of her two "stepbrothers" and gives herself in love to one on a promise of future marriage only to have her hopes dashed. She marries the other brother and so begins the first of her escapades and five marriages.

†††† The full title for the book is: The Fortunes and Misfortunes of the Famous Moll Flanders, &c. Who was Born in Newgate, and during a Life of continu'd Variety for Threescore Years, besides her Childhood, was Twelve Year a Whore, five times a Wife (whereof once to her own Brother), Twelve Year a Thief, Eight Year a Transported Felon in Virginia, at last grew Rich, liv'd Honest, and died a Penitent. Written from her own Memorandums.

†††† So it is easy to see that Moll has a rollicking time jumping from bed to bed and husband to husband. All is in the name of keeping herself as a woman of substance. If Dickens had written the book it would be about the terrible life of women in 17th century Britain but for Defoe it is more of an adventure as Moll uses her wits and comely form to get what she wants. She frequently addresses the audience directly in key moments asking us: "Well, what would you do?".

†††† Andrew Davies, the doyen of adapted costume dramas, does a good job of turning this unwieldy work into an interesting story. Many fans would be keen to pick it up as it features an early performance by Daniel Craig as a swashbuckling scoundrel. However Alex Kingston dominates, appearing in almost every frame as the sexy, cunning and sometimes dangerous Moll.

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Transfer Quality

Video

†††† The aspect ratio for Moll Flanders is a little confusing. IMDB simply records that it was shot on 35mm film. On the case Roadshow tells us that the transfer is 16:9, in other words in 1.78:1. The actual transfer measures closer to European Widescreen 1.66:1. However, horror of horrors, it is a non-anamorphic transfer. Therefore on a widescreen television the image appears as a much smaller rectangle surrounded by a large black border. It feels strange having to explain what a non-anamorphic transfer looks like as it has been a long time since one has found its way into my player.

†††† The result is not simply a reduction in image size. It is a reduction in quality and the film looks older than 1996. It is soft throughout and there is a lack of detail. As it happens the colours are quite good particularly Moll's array of lovely costumes.

†††† The flesh tones are accurate.

††††There are subtitles in English for the hearing impaired.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

†††† Moll Flanders comes with a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack running at a pretty measly 192 Kb/s. This is consistent with the original broadcast sound and there are no particular problems with the sound itself.

†††† The dialogue can be heard clearly throughout.

†††† The music for the series consists of a number of period specific themes and won a BAFTA for experienced composer Jim Parker, although the opening theme immediately recalls Blackadder, and not in a good way.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Making of Moll Flanders

†††† There is one extra included with the DVD. It is a Making of feature of decent length. We get to go on to set and see the production of the series. Not only do the producers and the director talk about the production but we also get a good deal of input from the technical people including the costume and set designers as well as the cinematographer. The cast talk about their roles. Generally this is a pretty good making of featurette.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

†††† The show has been released in Region 1. Apparently it has been combined into two episodes and loses the BAFTA winning music. It is not clear whether the transfer available in Region 1 is any better.

††††Fans may need to chip in here but from my trolling through the 'net this version looks as good as any other although the Region 1 appears to have more content.

Summary

†††† It is fascinating to see a work like Moll Flanders which has not had a great representation to date. The production is a pretty good one although the decision to present a non-anamorphic transfer is very disappointing. I was not expecting an entirely remastered work like Pride and Prejudice but would still have appreciated if a little bit more effort was put into the presentation.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Trevor Darge (read my bio)
Saturday, March 23, 2013
Review Equipment
DVDCambridge 650BD (All Regions), using HDMI output
DisplaySony VPL-VW80 Projector on 110" Screen. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationPioneer SC-LX 81 7.1
SpeakersAaron ATS-5 7.1

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