Sea Wolves, The: The Last Charge of the Calcutta Light Horse (1980) (NTSC)

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Released 8-Aug-2003

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category War None
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1980
Running Time 120:23
RSDL / Flipper Dual Sided Cast & Crew
Start Up Programme
Region Coding 1,4 Directed By Andrew V. McLaglen
Studio
Distributor

Warner Home Video
Starring Gregory Peck
Roger Moore
David Niven
Trevor Howard
Barbara Kellerman
Patrick Macnee
Kenneth Griffith
Patrick Allen
Wolf Kahler
Robert Hoffman
Dan van Husen
George Mikell
Case ?
RPI $19.95 Music Roy Budd


Video (NTSC) Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Pan & Scan English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 480i (NTSC)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
French
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    The Sea Wolves: The Last Charge of the Calcutta Light Horse (quite a mouthful for a film title) is based on the true story of the sinking of a German spy ship in the neutral port of Goa, during the Second World War, as recorded in James Leasor's book Boarding Party.

    It centres around some aging ex-soldiers who belong to the Calcutta Light Horse - a unit that hadn't seen action since the Boer War - and who now want to do their bit for the war effort. They're frustrated at sitting around while all the younger men do the fighting, and pass on this sentiment to the powers-that-be through their Colonel (David Niven), via his friend Colonel Pugh (the recently departed Gregory Peck).

    Pugh is attached to a "special operations" unit, and along with Captain Stewart (Roger Moore) he uncovers a German spy network in Neutral Goa which is transmitting exact shipping times and locations of Allied convoys to nearby U-boats. When the transmitter is found to be on board a German "civilian" ship in port, the English are somewhat hamstrung due to the fact that they can't send military men into the neutral Portuguese colony (this is in the good old days, when the rules of war were still obeyed by some).

    Enter the Calcutta Light Horse, who are now technically civilians and are willing to do anything to get their hands on Jerry. The rest of the story follows the preparation for and execution of the attempt to blow up said German ship, whilst also trying to uncover the spy who is passing on the information to the ship's crew.

    This is a fairly light-hearted look at war and is certainly no Saving Private Ryan, despite its occasional commentary on the reasons for killing one's fellow human beings. However if you're not fanatical about the modern penchant for ultra-realism then this is certainly worth a viewing, especially if you're a WWII history enthusiast, since the story is based on fact. I'd be interested to know how close to the truth this version goes actually, since I haven't had a chance to research the incident myself and unfortunately there aren't any historical extras on this DVD either. I strongly suspect that quite a bit of liberty was taken with Moore's character so that he could play his stock-standard smooth ladies man.

    One of the things that makes this film so watchable is all the older British actors involved. If you can see past the wooden pairing of Peck and Moore (who eyebrows his way through the whole film, a la his Bond appearances), then the performances are very good. David Niven, Trevor Howard and Patrick MacNee were standard household names in the world of British cinema, but other bit-part members of the Brigade are just as good in their roles as these keen but not-quite-as-able-as-they-used-to-be characters.

    This is worth a look if you're at all interested in either the events portrayed, or the actors portraying them.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    This is a very pleasant transfer for a film that is over 20 years old. However, it's yet another of the Region 4 NTSC transfers that are for some inexplicable reason becoming more common.

    This DVD is dual sided with each side containing the same material, but at different aspect ratios. One side contains a transfer with an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, which is 16x9 enhanced, and the other is presented at 1.33:1. The original theatrical aspect ratio was 1.85:1. The following comments relate to the 1.78:1 transfer.

    This transfer is nice and sharp. Take for example the scene at 113:20 where you can clearly make out every bead of sweat on the actor's face, in a scene that isn't overly bright either. There is one outdoor scene which stands out as being quite grainy at 45:43, but it's in contrast to the rest of the film and I suspect is a problem with the source. Some of the real wartime footage shown at the start of the film is also quite grainy (0:50), but this is quite understandable. Shadow detail is good, demonstrated well by the later portions of the movie taking place at night on the ship. There are some problems with low-level noise in the darker scenes though, such as at 30:46 and 97:50.

    Colours are pretty good, with a slight 1980s look to them (in other words very slightly muted), but then the dull military colours everywhere probably don't help to make things look bright and vibrant. The flesh tones are almost spot-on with most characters displaying some stage of sunburn or another. Unfortunately, due to the low-level noise mentioned above, some of the blacks don't come across as very black.

    Film to video artefacts are for the most part absent. There are a number of film artefacts that appear throughout though, with the occasional really obvious one, such as at 4:19 and 73:05.

    There are only two subtitle streams on this DVD; English and French. I sampled the English one, and found the lines to be very accurate to the spoken word.

    This is a dual sided disc, with each side being single-layered (DVD 10), and hence there is no layer change.

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

Audio

    Audio is a mixed bag, with some nice use of the surrounds and subwoofer for an old stereo track, but some real problems with dialogue audibility.

    There is one audio track; English Dolby Digital 2.0 surround encoded, at 192 Kbps. The original track was Dolby stereo.

    Dialogue is the weakest element in the sound department, with the main problem being changes in volume. Dialogue volume will drop suddenly with no warning and require you to either be really straining to hear, or have to turn the volume up and down. Some of the worst examples are at 16:05, 78:00, and one scene where voices are almost inaudible at 50:51. At least we have British actors who are enunciating their lines very clearly, which does go somewhat towards making the problem more bearable, but it is still an annoyance. It's a shame too because the rest of the audio transfer is more than acceptable.

    Audio sync for the most part is OK, but with the very occasional bit of bad ADR work evident, such as at 11:07.

    The musical score is by Roy Budd, and the main theme is a mostly light-hearted march tune that fits in with the general mood of the film. The song playing throughout the end credits (sung by Matt Munro) does however seem very out of place, and is more at home in 1980 than the 1940s. The incidental music doesn't really stand out at all as being particularly bad or good.

    Using Pro-Logic II processing there is a surprising amount of both surround and subwoofer action for a 2.0 track. The surrounds come to life with music (right from the start at 0:50), gunshots, fireworks and so on. Music benefits greatly from this, and is very immersive. However there are some examples of hissing coming from the rear speakers as well, such as at 48:04 and 84:20, which can be a bit annoying for those sitting closest to these speakers.

    When it comes to the subwoofer; engines of all sorts, music and explosions (most notably the one at 115:40) all benefit from the low frequency channel.

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

Extras

    I felt that this disc really could have done with some extras, especially of a historical nature. However, we get nothing whatsoever.

Menu

    The main menu is 16x9 enhanced with looping main theme music in the background.

R4 vs R1

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

    The Region 4 and Region 1 versions of this DVD seem to be absolutely identical, right down to the NTSC transfer and the subtitles.

Summary

    The Sea Wolves: The Last Charge of the Calcutta Light Horse is an interesting war film with some good acting performances as well as some wooden ones. There is not a whole lot of action till the end, but if this kind of story is of interest to you then that won't be a problem.

    The video is of good quality for the age of the film, if you don't mind NTSC transfers.

    The audio is good in some areas, but poor in others - most notably dialogue volumes.

    There are no extras whatsoever.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© David L (Only my Mum would have any interest in my bio)
Saturday, July 19, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDOmni 3600, using RGB output
DisplaySony 1252QM CRT Projector, 250cm custom built 16x9 matte screen. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-DS797- THX Select
SpeakersAccusound ES-55 Speaker set, Welling WS12 Subwoofer

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