Charles Mingus-Triumph of the Underdog (1998)

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Released 12-Mar-2003

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Documentary Main Menu Audio
Rating Rated E
Year Of Production 1998
Running Time 77:53
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Don McGlynn

Umbrella Entertainment
Starring Charles Mingus
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $29.95 Music Charles Mingus

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Pan & Scan English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio Varies Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

    Like most creative geniuses, Charles Mingus was an outsider who struggled for acceptance and a way to express himself throughout his career. This documentary mainly focuses on Mingus' work as a composer rather than as a Bass player, for which he is more widely known. Some of the archival footage used in the film is incredibly obscure (film of Mingus performing with Duke Ellington in the 30's for example), and interviews done on TV programmes from around the world. Like many artists, Mingus had a difficult, sad life but also a triumphal one and this documentary places just the right amount of emphasis on these aspects of the great man's life without being too maudlin. However, it is only 78 minutes in length and does unfortunately leave the viewer with a sense that so much more could have been said.

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Transfer Quality


    Triumph of the Underdog was made for a theatrical release, however it is presented here in 1.33:1 format. Some of the material has been sourced from film, and some from Television appearances, so the source format varies quite a bit.

    As you would expect from a documentary like this, much of the material is of varying quality. Only the newest footage of Mingus from the mid 70's onwards is in colour, as are the newer interviews with his band members and former wives and friends. Much of the archival footage is in good condition and is quite sharp with an acceptable level of graininess. The older black and white television footage lacks shadow detail and sharpness but that is to be expected.

    There is quite a lot of unrepaired damage in the form of film and video artefacts throughout the documentary. These take many forms such as the spots and scratches from 0:50 to 0:58 vertical lines and cracks in the 30's concert footage from 20:39 to20:53 There are mild tape tracking errors during old TV interviews from 28:08 to 29:23 and not so mild ones in the newer colour footage from the Montreux Jazz Festival from 56:47 to 59:29.

    There are no language or subtitle options on the disc, and only one layer due to the length of the program.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    This being a documentary about a musician, a lot more care seems to have been taken with the restoration and mastering of the audio content than has been taken with the video. Triumph of the Underdog features many segments of performances and music makes up a large part of the soundtrack. Even on the oldest musical segments, the audio quality of the sole English Dolby Digital 2.0 224kbps soundtrack is very good.

    Some of the older TV interviews are quite muddy, however the viewer can always understand what is being said. The audio sync is flawless throughout.

    The soundtrack is presented in stereo only so no use is made of your surround speakers or subwoofer.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


Main Menu Audio

    You're drawing a very long bow indeed when you try and call the main menu audio an Extra feature!


    The discography is not complete but 'selected' in terms of the director's favourite albums. It is a good selection which shows Mingus at his best during all the different periods of his life.


    A selection of Umbrella Entertainment promos of other music documentaries.



R4 vs R1

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

    The R1 version is identical to the R4, however the R1 version does not have the local distributor's promos on it, obviously.


    Not a complete documentary on Mingus' life by any means, however it is well worth a look due to the amazing collection of archival footage, including Mingus composing at his piano in the 30's and getting evicted from his studio and arrested during the height of the civil rights movement in the 60's. A must for any fan.

Ratings (out of 5)


© George Soropos (read my bio or the puppy dies)
Thursday, November 06, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDDenon DVD-1600, using S-Video output
DisplayGrundig ST70-670. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
Audio DecoderMarantz SR7200. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationLuxman LV600 valve hybrid stereo amp for front stereo pair and Marantz SR 7200 for centre and surround channels
SpeakersAltec Lansing Model 15's front stereo, matched Krix Centrix front and rear, Krix matched rear surrounds, Sony rear subwoofer (Altec's provide sub for front)

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