Steptoe and Son-The Best of-Volume 2 (2002)

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Released 4-Nov-2002

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Comedy Main Menu Audio
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 2002
Running Time 149:57 (Case: 152)
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Various
Studio
Distributor

Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring Harry H. Corbett
Wilfrid Brambell
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $29.95 Music Ron Grainer
Denis Wilson


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits Yes, Credits roll over end scene in each episode.

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

Plot Synopsis

    Steptoe and Son was one of the classic BBC series of the 1960's and 70's, the story of a father and son business, carried on through the generations (it's said the '& Son' in the name was actually Albert) who occupy the very bottom rung of society and epitomise the very core of class division. Harold (Harry H. Corbett) is a man who seeks to better his lot in life and wants something better, but it alway seems out of reach. His father, Albert (Wilfrid Brambell), on the other hand, is content with his lot and disparages his son's lofty ambitions. Together they battle life and each other, scheming and plotting to get the upper hand over the other in a series of minor conflicts rich in humour and pathos.

    The original series began on TV in 1962 and ran for 4 years in black and white. It returned in 1970, this time in colour and ran for another 4 years until 1974. In all, 55 x 30 minute episodes were produced plus 2 Christmas specials. So successful was the series that the Americans attempted a spin-off called Sanford and Son, but it never had the same impact as its British original. It is said that during its heyday over 20 million people tuned in to watch it, which is testament to its appeal. The series was created by Ray Galton and Alan Simpson, who also wrote scripts for the legendary Tony Hancock, and who inspired the creation of the series after he severed ties with the two scriptwriters.

Episodes: - These episodes are from Series 1 and Series 8.

    Upstairs, Downstairs, Upstairs, Downstairs - 30:35, Colour - 1974
Albert is laid up in bed with a bad back and Harold is stuck looking after him as well as having to do the rounds. Harold muses about his future and sees nothing but a life of misery, toil and servitude. After a visit by the doctor, Harold takes a cuppa to his old man who makes out he's sicker than it was at first suspected. Harold's attempt at levity by informing his dad he's off for a holiday to Cornwall is not well received and after the jokes the whinging starts and slowly Harold is worn down by the demands of his father. Meantime, Albert is living in luxury since his back isn't that bad and Harold is turning into a total wreck. That is, until 2 cans of lager and all the pink liquorice all-sorts go missing.

    The Bath - 30:19, B&W - 1963
(nb: according to official websites this was titled 'The Bird', not The Bath)
Harold comes home from his rounds to find his father taking a bath in the middle of the living room, the same night he's invited his new girlfriend around for cocktails. While helping to hurry things up, Albert starts eating his dinner and dropping pickles into the bathwater and Harold assumes the worst. Delia (Yootha Joyce) comes around after Harold finally manages to get his father upstairs and out of sight and he makes his play. The only problem is that Albert has put horse liniment into the whisky bottle and things go from bad to worse. Determined to not let this happen again, Harold decides to install a proper bathtub upstairs, but his home handiwork isn't quite up to snuff.

    Porn Yesterday - 28:41, Colour 1974
Coming back after his rounds on a stinking hot day, Harold finds Albert sunbaking while he sweats it out. A minor domestic ensues until Harold displays his latest acquisition, an old hand-driven penny arcade porno machine that offered subtle titillation to the masses at the turn of the 20th century. Deciding to plug in his new toy and check it out he makes an awful discovery about his father and the shenanigans he used to get up to.

    Séance in a wet rag and bone yard - 29:24, Colour 1974
On a wet and rainy night Harold is listening to Mahler on the turntable and catching some sleep while Albert is hammering on the door to be let in. Albert it seems has been to a séance and Harold, being a natural sceptic, believes his old man is being fleeced by scam merchants. Albert, though, is convinced it's all real and brings out a Ouija board to prove it to Harold, but Harold is having none of it. Albert then announces that on the next night he's invited around his friends to hold a séance in the house and Harold is invited.

    And so to bed - 30:58, Colour 1974
Harold brings around his latest girlfriend for a bit of nookie but Albert is in bed cobbling and spoils the moment. Since the moment is spoiled Harold begins reminiscing and notices her wedding ring, only to find out she's married to a felon in jail doing time for GBH. Finally he gets his chance, but it all goes awry when she discovers his bed is full of nasty bugs. After this disastrous attempt, Harold decides to invest in a new bed (one without bugs) and he's determined to get a round one. After checking out the beds at the local bedding shop, he is convinced to buy a water bed which he does, and then he's off to invite his latest fling around for some wave motion.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    A television series from the archives of the BBC doesn't inspire confidence in the quality of the transfer. This is especially true here with many of the episodes having been purged in the great BBC cleanout (most of the 5 and 6th series were lost, but Ray Galton had made copies from the original masters, although many of them now are only available in black and white). Still, this disc isn't as bad as I thought it might have been, but neither does it set the world on fire in the quality stakes.

    The transfer is presented in its original TV ratio of 1.33:1 and is not 16x9 enhanced.

    The sharpness varies from episode to episode but it isn't great by any means. Episode 1 starts off blurry and remains so throughout. Episode 5, on the other hand, is reasonably good. Edge enhancement is visible in every episode and is used extensively and quite openly to give some sort of delineation to the characters. The colour episodes fare a little better than the older black and white episodes, though. Grain is pretty obvious in all episodes although it doesn't become too annoying. Shadow detail is mostly irrelevant since the show takes place on 1 or 2 sets that never change from episode to episode. I didn't notice too many problems with low level noise, but then there was plenty of other problems to worry about.

    The colour is mostly fine with only Episode 3 - Porn Yesterday - being a problem with high levels of saturation and an overly bright presentation. Some cross-coloration can be seen on a checked overcoat in Episode 5 at 19:34, but otherwise no chroma noise or colour bleed was noted. Skin tones were reasonably good throughout all episodes.

    Artefacts are the biggest problem on this disc so I've noted the more interesting ones by episode.
Episode 1 - Pixelisation at 2:19 as Harold is putting out the rubbish and some aliasing at 8:08 on a door panel. Otherwise this is a fairly clean presentation.
Episode 2 - There are lots of marks and scratches on the print at 1:28 and a piece of emulsion missing at 0:56. At 3:50 there is a spot on the camera lens. Pixelisation can be seen at 4:05 on Harold's shirt, and at 9:05 aliasing on the striped shirt he's wearing. At 10:24 is a big rip in the picture, and at 11:38 a black line down the middle. 16:55 sees some moiré on Harold's coat and at 28:48 there is a definite wobble in the picture.
Episode 3 - There is some aliasing on a car grille at 0:10 with a strange video artefact at 1:35 that I haven't seen before. At 24:49 there is a black line down the print and some shimmering at 28:08.
Episode 4 - No major problems with this episode.
Episode 5 - At 2:31 there is an analogue tape dropout occurring along Harold's face. There is pixelisation at 7:20 along a blanket edge and again at 10:33 on his shirt. There is another tape dropout at 8:10 along the corners of his mouth.

    The subtitles are attributed to the speaker by being indented or placed beneath the person speaking. They were reasonably accurate and easy to read although a little higher than normal on the screen. The usual white font with black border was utilized.

    There was no layer changed noted on this disc.

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

Audio

    This was originally broadcast in mono as were all TV shows at the time. The disc is offered up in Dolby Digital 2.0 at a reasonable bitrate of 192 kilobits per second and is still in effect a mono soundtrack. With the presence of my 5.1 system, the dialogue becomes a fixture in the centre channel with the left and right speakers holding the music, laughter and any effects. There is no noticeable separation across the fronts even so, but there is a steady and solid soundfield in effect making it very comfortable to listen to even at low volumes. No noticeable hisses or pops were detected for a very clean presentation aurally.

    The dialogue is clean and clear with good articulation by both main characters at all time. No syncing issues were noted on any episode.

    The original theme by Ron Grainer still remains a classic to this day and is instantly recognisable by any aficionado of BBC comedies. The incidental music used during the various episodes was by Dennis Wilson and is typical of the day.

    There was no surround or subwoofer activity on this disc.

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

Extras

Main Menu Audio

    A simple repetition of the theme music over a static picture. Not really an extra as such.

R4 vs R1

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

    There is no other version of this disc available at this time. Given the probable lack of other quality source material, I'd also hesitate to say this is the definitive version as well.

Summary

    One of the classic British comedy series of the 60's and 70's, Steptoe and Son still has a lot to offer. Although the concept of rag and bone men is long gone now, this is the essential class struggle of two battlers with totally different outlooks on life and still has relevance. Harold, who always looks on the bright side of life, is paired with a father who is as cunning as a rat with a sarcastic wit who is content to wallow in the mire. Best known for its catch cry of "you dirty old man" it stands tall amongst its contemporaries. Unfortunately, the quality of the transfer is not up to the usual DVD standards, but given that this is the best that will ever be available, there is little choice.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Carl Berry (read my bio)
Saturday, October 11, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDSony NS-305, using RGB output
DisplayLoewe Xelos (81cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderRotel RSP-976. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationRotel RB 985 MkII
SpeakersJBL TLX16s Front Speakers, Polk Audio LS fx di/bipole Rear Speakers, Polk Audio CS350-LS Centre Speaker, M&KV-75 Subwoofer

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