84 Charing Cross Road (1986)

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Released 10-Nov-2003

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Trailer-The Remains Of The Day, Sense And Sensibility
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 1986
Running Time 95:20
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By David Hugh Jones
Studio
Distributor

Sony Pictures Home Entertain
Starring Anne Bancroft
Anthony Hopkins
Judi Dench
Case ?
RPI $19.95 Music George Fenton


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
French
German
Italian
Spanish
Dutch
Arabic
Bulgarian
Czech
Danish
Finnish
Greek
Hebrew
Hindi
Hungarian
Icelandic
Norwegian
Polish
Portuguese
Swedish
Turkish
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits Yes, split screen end titles

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

Plot Synopsis

    I remember reading the book 84 Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff many years ago and thinking "Now, this is a book that would be hard to translate into a film." Well, someone obviously is keen to prove me wrong, for they did make a film out of it starring Anthony Hopkins and Anne Bancroft.

    The premise is simple, though on the surface somewhat unexciting. A single white female writer, Helene Hanff (Anne Bancroft), with a love for obscure and not-so-obscure English literature, find it hard to find copies of the books that she wants in New York, so in desperation writes a letter to an English bookstore specializing in second hand and hard-to-find prints. A letter, as in pieces of paper with writing on it that you fold into an envelope, and then affix a stamp and deposit into a post box, upon which the Post Office will obligingly deliver to a destination of your choice. These days, of course, we would just pick up the phone, or send an email, or surf the net.

    To her surprise, an employee of the book store, Marks & Co., Frank Doel (Anthony Hopkins) not only replies to her letter but manages to secure the majority of the titles she requests at very reasonable prices even when postage is taken into account.

    Thus begins 20 years of correspondence by mail, as Helene sends off not only increasingly esoteric requests, but gradually gets to know the employees of the shop via their replies back to her. Soon she is sending them packages of food (England was under post-war food rationing). Helene promises to visit one day and drop by for a visit, but somehow one thing after another prevents her from doing so.

    A lot of the tension in the film (but less so in the book) comes from us wondering whether Helene and Frank will fall in love with each other, whether Helene will ever make it to London, and what will happen to Frank's wife Nora (Judi Dench) and his kids ...

    Apparently much of the story is true, and Helene's book is mostly autobiographical. There really was a Frank Doel, a Marks & Co., and the address was really 84 Charing Cross Road (the shopfront is now a wine bar). All in all, this is a good film to watch on a rainy afternoon, but reading the book is even better. It's a fascinating glimpse into life in New York and London in the fifties and sixties.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    Thankfully, we are spared the 1.33:1 transfer used for the R1 DVD, and this is a widescreen 16x9 enhanced transfer, in the intended aspect ratio of 1.85:1.

    However, the transfer is rather soft, and I'm wondering whether it may have been upconverted from a cropped full frame transfer. Detail levels are there, if you can see past the softness. Colours are okay, although slightly faded.

    Film grain is visible, though not to the point of annoyance.

    Thank goodness there are no video or compression artefacts that I could find.

    There are quite a few subtitle tracks: English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Dutch, Arabic, Bulgarian, Czech, Danish, Finnish, Greek, Hebrew, Hindi, Hungarian, Icelandic, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Swedish, and Turkish. I turned on the English subtitle tracks briefly - the dialogue transcription accuracy seemed okay.

    This is a single sided single layered disc.

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

Audio

    There are several audio tracks: English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s), French Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s), German Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s), Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s), and Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s).

    This is of course a dialogue-centric film, so don't expect any explosions or lots of surround activity. In fact, as far as I can tell, it seems to be mono since all the sound appears to be coming from the front centre channel only.

    Despite that, however, the soundtrack was quite pleasant to listen to, with a reasonable degree of body.

    Dialogue was reasonably clear, and there were no issues with audio synchronization.

    The original music score is by George Fenton, and is vaguely romantic orchestral instrumental music.

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

Extras

    The only extras present are two trailers.

Menu

    The menu is 16x9 enhanced but static.

Trailer- The Remains Of The Day (2:17), Sense And Sensibility (2:09)

    The Remains Of The Day is presented in full frame (but intended for 1.85:1 viewing). Sense and Sensibility is presented in 1.85:1 letterboxed. The audio track for both trailers is Dolby Digital 2.0 surround encoded (192Kb/s).

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 version of this disc misses out on:

    The Region 1 version of this disc misses out on:

    I would rate the R4 a winner due to the 16x9 enhanced transfer. Otherwise, the discs are similar apart from foreign language content.

Summary

    84 Charing Cross Road is a film about the correspondence between a New York writer and the staff at a London second hand bookshop.

    The video transfer quality is somewhat soft.

    The audio transfer quality is acceptable.

    The only extras are two trailers.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Christine Tham (read my biography)
Tuesday, November 04, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDCustom HTPC (Asus A7N266-VM, Athlon XP 2400+, 512MB, LiteOn LTD-165S, WinXP, WinDVD5 Platinum), using RGB output
DisplaySony VPL-VW11HT LCD Projector, ScreenTechnics 16x9 matte white screen (254cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials/Ultimate DVD Platinum/AVIA. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationDenon AVC-A1SE (upgraded)
SpeakersFront and surrounds: B&W CDM7NT, front centre: B&W CDMCNT, surround backs: B&W DM601S2, subwoofer: B&W ASW2500

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