Basil, The Great Mouse Detective (1986)

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Released 7-Apr-2003

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Animation Main Menu Audio & Animation
Menu Audio
Featurette-Making Of-The Great Mouse Detective (7:53)
Featurette-Animated Short - Clock Cleaners (8:10)
Featurette-Animated Short - Donald's Crime (7:41)
Karaoke-Sing-Along Song-The World's Greatest Criminal Mind (2:00)
Gallery-Scrapbook - The Great Mouse Detective
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 1986
Running Time 71:14
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Ron Clements
Burny Mattinson
Dave Michener
John Musker
Studio
Distributor

Walt Disney Studios Home Ent.
Starring Vincent Price
Barrie Ingham
Val Bettin
Susanne Pollatschek
Candy Candido
Diana Chesney
Eve Brenner
Alan Young
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $29.95 Music Henry Mancini


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.66:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.75:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
English for the Hearing Impaired
Spanish
Portuguese
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    First things first, the name of this film has variously been The Great Mouse Detective (on original release), The Adventures Of The Great Mouse Detective (on re-release), and then back to The Great Mouse Detective (on video release). The name Basil, The Great Mouse Detective appears to be just a variation upon the original title, adopted in the United Kingdom - probably in response to an outcry regarding the butchering of the name as the book upon which the film is based is called Basil Of Baker Street. Exactly how it all fits together chronologically speaking leaves me somewhat perplexed, especially as there seems to be no logical reason for the name variations. However, the original video release did apparently have the titles of The Adventures Of The Great Mouse Detective yet the titles on this release are most assuredly a rather out of character Basil, The Great Mouse Detective.

    Okay, enough of the mindless ramblings about name variations - what about the film itself? The film comes from the dark days of Disney prior to the resurgence in the company's fortunes ALM (After The Little Mermaid). As such the film does play something of an important role in the history of animated features. Firstly, The Little Mermaid was directed by part of the team that directed Basil, The Great Mouse Detective: Ron Clements and John Musker. In some way therefore, the slightly more impressive showing in Basil, The Great Mouse Detective continued with the later film - much to everyone's delight, after some of the stuff that Disney tossed out prior to the film. Another important step for the film was the fact that it was the first time that a significant CGI contribution was made to an animated feature. By today's standards, it is pretty ordinary, but that gear sequence in the clock tower was in its day about as envelope-pushing as you could get with computer animation. That, to some extent, is the problem with the film today - what was quite innovative for 1986 is rather passé today in light of fully digital animated features that can capture realism with a capital R.

    Obviously Basil, The Great Mouse Detective is the story of one Basil (Barrie Ingham) - the mousey equivalent of Sherlock Holmes - who happens to live at 221½ Baker Street, London. The film begins with the dreadful kidnapping of one Mr Hiram Flaversham (Alan Young) - toy maker extraordinaire - by none other than one despicable character known as Fidget (Candy Candido). Unfortunately Fidget is working for someone even more diabolical - Basil's arch enemy, Professor Ratigan (Vincent Price). The only witness to the kidnapping was Flaversham's young daughter Olivia (Susanne Pollatschek), who goes in search of the only person she knows will be able to find the dastard who perpetuated the heinous crime. Now London is no small place even in 1897 and for a small mouse it is positively humungous - so Olivia is soon lost. A saviour in the form of Dr David Q. Dawson (Val Bettin) happens upon the lost young lady and promptly aids her in her search for 221½ Baker Street. Obviously they find the address and its resident detective, otherwise the story would be pretty d*** short (and not the least bit interesting). So with the aid of a certain well-known detective's faithful dog Toby, Basil sets off in pursuit of the kidnappers with the aid of Dawson and Olivia. The adventure leads them to some of the dingiest parts of London and puts them into contact with some of the seediest characters to be found in the dingiest parts of London. But have no fear - Basil (and the ever-reliable Disney storytellers) are here, so we pretty much know what the outcome of this adventure is before we put the DVD into the player.

    Like so many Disney stories, this one is rather clichéd but what the hey - we know they are and that is part of their charm. Add into the mix the now-obligatory catchy tunes and a few cuter characters, and the clichés are pretty much here in abundance. But where the film stands out is the presence of one of the great horror actors of all time - Vincent Price. His voicing of Professor Ratigan is superb and really brings to the part some sinister menace that is often lacking in Disney films. Apart from his superb vocal contributions, Vincent Price also manages a first - he actually sings a couple of songs! Okay, so they are not exactly Oscar-winning efforts, but it is great to hear the man pushing his personal envelope a bit here. The rest of the cast does not in anyway compare to the immortal Vincent Price, but it does have its moments and is certainly not without some charm.

    By no means the best thing the Walt Disney Company has ever done, but considering some of the stuff that the company put out after Walt Disney's death and before the acclaimed period ALM, it is no bad effort and could probably be argued to be the best of the 1970's and 1980's releases before The Little Mermaid. Worth considering if you are growing tired of some of the other Disney animation in your collection, but certainly not top drawer stuff to rush out for (now that piece of Disney animation would be The Lion King - later this year).

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Transfer Quality

Video

    What we have here is your basic ubiquitous unrestored Disney transfer - quite decent but lacking just a little in the way of sparkle that distinguishes those transfers where care has been taken (and lavished). The transfer is in an aspect ratio of 1.66:1 and it is 16x9 enhanced.

    There really is nothing much wrong with what we have here - at least for the market that the film is aimed at. The more discerning adult viewer might notice a few things to be moderately unhappy with. The transfer is reasonably sharp and rather well detailed for the age, although ideally I would have preferred a bit more sharpness to the character lines. It obviously does not compete with the stuff from the 1990's and nor should we expect it to. Shadow detail is obviously not an issue here and clarity is adequate enough. This is, however, where the age of the transfer seems to show - there appears to be a fair chunk of film dirt on the source material, giving the transfer that "dirty window" look to it at times. There doesn't appear to be any issue with low level noise.

    The colours are rather well handled, especially given the attempt to give the film that 1890's look. This means that if you want strong, vibrant colours then perhaps you best look elsewhere. The colours are quite solid in tone and depth and there is nothing really wrong with the depth of the blacks. There is no hint of over-saturation or colour bleed.

   There does not appear to be any MPEG artefacting in the transfer. There is plenty of suggestion of film-to-video artefacting in the form of aliasing. None of this is anything really horrid, but those character lines certainly alias a bit and at other times you can see aliasing in spectacles, sharp furniture lines and the usual suspects. The worst culprits are actually the subtitles, which get a bit wearing on the eye as they are anything but solid, smooth fonts. There is some minor issue with interlacing in the transfer, which may or may not be noticeable depending upon the quality of your setup and the quality of your eyes (see 0:32 as an example). There are plenty of film artefacts floating around - inevitably the telltale indication of an unrestored transfer - most notably during the credits. They get a bit wearing when they are as obvious as in the credits, but otherwise are not that much of a problem.

   This is a single sided, single layer DVD. There are four subtitle options on the DVD, but I stuck with those that have meaning to me - English and English for the Hearing Impaired. Nothing really wrong with them other than the aliasing issue already noted.

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

Audio

    There are just two soundtrack choices on the DVD: an English Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack and a Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. Since you know I did not want to check out the Spanish soundtrack, you can safely deduce which soundtrack I did listen to.

    The dialogue comes up quite well, and even the broader Scottish accents present no problem. Of course there are the usual synching issues associated with (slightly) older animation.

    The music for the film comes from none other than Henry Mancini. While it would hardly rank as the best thing he has ever done, it certainly is decent enough. The musical highlight is however the song Let Me Do It To You, err - sorry, Let Me Be Good To You. Phew, got carried away with the X-rated version there... Sung by Melissa Manchester, for its day the song and accompanying animation were a bit raunchy.

    The soundtrack pretty much draws a complete blank as far as comments go. Does the job well enough, but hardly tests the format at all with no really terrific demonstrations of surround channel use and certainly no really worthwhile bass channel use. Could probably have benefited from a little more openness in the sound but perfectly adequate.

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

Extras

    Considering that the Special Edition was not applied to the package, this is not too bad - although a chunk of it has not a heck of a lot to do with the film.

Menu

    The main menu features some subtle animation enhancement to go with the audio enhancement that is also present on the sub-menu.

Featurette - The Making Of The Great Mouse Detective (7:53)

    This really comes across as a glorified EPK-style presentation, although back in 1986 I am not sure they had such things as Electronic Press Kits. Unfortunately it looks quite poor at times, being afflicted with grain at times as well as a rather nasty looking artefact that looks for all the world like wavy vertical lines across the image. It crops up quite frequently during the featurette and is something I don't recall seeing before. It is most likely overmodulation in the source recording. The presentation is Full Frame, not 16x9 enhanced and with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. The content is not especially inspiring and the presentation certainly is not. Note the name of the featurette!

Animated Short - Clock Cleaners (8:10)

    Dating from 1937, it really looks it! Film artefacts aplenty to blight the image, a rather hissy soundtrack that also features some distortion an a fair sprinkling of grain mean that you have to endure not quite video hell, but getting towards it, in order to enjoy this classic animated short. I don't know how many times I have seen it, but it must be in the dozens of times. For those into trivia, this is the short where the American Family Association believed that Donald Duck uttered the F-word and got Disney to recall early editions of the Disney Treasures set that included this short. Classic animated cartoon that still raises a laugh. Presented in a Full Frame format that is not 16x9 enhanced and with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. Basically the immortal three of Disney, Mickey Mouse, Goofy and Donald Duck, are clock cleaners - just imagine the hi-jinks they get up to!

Animated Short - Donald's Crime (7:41)

    Dating from 1945, it is amazing the difference that eight years can make to the look of a short. This is not just any old short either - this is an Academy Award nominee (1946 Best Short Subject, Cartoons). Whilst there are certainly still plenty of film artefacts floating around, there are less other concerns with the transfer other than an occasional lack of solidity to the edges of colour (sometimes you can see Donald's famous blue hat extending past the solid edging line). Donald has a date with Daisy, he has no money but the three nephews do. You guess the rest... Same again in the presentation stakes.

Sing-Along Song - The World's Greatest Criminal Mind (2:00)

    Aside from some obvious dot crawl in the large-lettered words on screen, an acceptable enough two minutes of the immortal Vincent Price singing! Ditto in the presentation stakes.

Gallery - Scrapbook: The Great Mouse Detective

    In almost typical style, this presents 47 images across 15 pages, showing various aspects of the production of the film: Visual Development, Character Development, Storyboard, Behind The Scenes and Publicity. Mildly interesting but needing to be more voluminous and annotated.

R4 vs R1

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

    It would appear that the Region 4 release misses out on:

    It would appear that the Region 1 release misses out on:

    From reading the available reviews of the Region 1 release, the video transfer is almost spotless. I can only assume that there is a vastly different master for the NTSC release, but on the basis of the image being substantially better by all accounts, Region 1 would be the version of choice.

Summary

    By no means a classic to rank up there with Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs or Beauty And The Beast, but nonetheless an entertaining enough film. The transfer is adequate but not spectacular. The extras package is a good one simply due to the presence of the two animated shorts. Worth checking this out, but not before some of the genuine Disney classics.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ian Morris (Biological imperfection run amok)
Sunday, May 04, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDDenon DVD-1600, using S-Video output
DisplaySony Trinitron Wega (80cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationYamaha RXV-795
SpeakersEnergy Speakers: centre EXLC; left and right C-2; rears EXLR; and subwoofer ES-12XL

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