Around the World in 80 Days (Michael Palin) (1989)

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Released 11-Nov-2003

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Documentary Main Menu Audio
Interviews-Cast-Michael Palin
Web Links
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1989
Running Time 342:00
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (71:41)
Multi Disc Set (3)
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Roger Mills
Clem Vallance
Studio
Distributor

Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring Michael Palin
Case Amaray-Transparent-Dual
RPI $59.95 Music Paddy Kingsland


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 Yes, In these countries, how could you not?
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits Yes, On final episode.

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

Plot Synopsis

    The intrepid and utterly charming Michael Palin races the imaginary Phileas Fogg in a quest to circumnavigate the world in 80 days without the use of airlines. Why? To see if it could be done! (Though in my humble opinion, eschewing aeroplanes but allowing super fast Japanese jet trains may be a debatable point!)

    Created in 1988, this was the beginning of a peripatetic odyssey for Palin, who later regaled us with such delights as Pole To Pole and Sahara, among others. Inspired by Jules Verne's literary creation, he set off from London on the romantic Orient Express, although even in that secure beginning in the lap of luxury, things did not go as planned. From a start point of train delays and premature terminations, Palin endured heat, culture shock, language barriers, impossible bureaucracies and stomach bugs; and continued to the end tackling logistics nightmares of missed ships and unrealistic time schedules.

    In spite of every trial and horror suffered, Palin managed to maintain a gentle and self-deprecating humour that expressed a genuine sense of curiosity about the people and places he encountered. From that perspective, he is the exemplary traveller - interested, involved and with a spirit of wonder and fun.

    Around The World In 80 Days is presented on 3 discs with 7 episodes and a recent interview with Palin himself. This initially caused some confusion, as the back blurb discusses only 6 episodes. All is made clear in the interview where he reveals that the editor (quite rightly) insisted that the journey across the Persian Gulf with an enchanting Indian crew deserved much fuller coverage, and the series consequently ran to the 7th episode. The more languorous pace of that particular episode really adds a sense of time and space to the series and it was clearly a wise move on the part of the BBC.

    One comes to expect a certain standard of story telling from the BBC, and they have certainly delivered again. Palin's collective "Passepartout" (his film crew) have excelled in garnering exquisite images and vignettes of daily life in lands as exotic and varied as Cairo, Bombay, Japan and China, and have rendered the more familiar images of Europe and America with a delicate eye for a good picture. Some of those pictures were of a somewhat stark nature, which gave a much more authentic travel experience to the viewer, and anyone of a squeamish persuasion may like to be warned about the vision of snake restaurants in China for example - not exactly for the faint-hearted!

    The content of the discs is:

DISC ONE:

  1. Outward Bound (London, Europe)
  2. Arabian Frights (Egypt, Saudi Arabia) (Layer Change at 22:47)
  3. Ancient Mariners (Dubai, Persian Gulf)

DISC TWO:

  1. A Close Shave (India, Singapore)
  2. Oriental Express (Hong Kong, China) (Layer Change at 35:50, and not a very good one on my player.)
  3. Far East & Farther East (China, Japan)

DISC THREE:

  1. Dateline to Deadline (USA, London)
  2. Interview With Michael Palin (18:35 minutes long)
  3. Weblink to Palin's Travels - a rather engaging site with personal letters from the man himself, e-cards of his journeys and plenty of interactive material.

    There is no action through the credits, with the exception of some vignettes in the final episode - most worthwhile as they complete and round-off the series perfectly.

    This series is an utter delight. Whether you have travelled extensively yourself or prefer the comforts of vicarious journeys in your armchair, Palin is the ultimate companion - compassionate, warm, engaging and enthusiastic. It was curious to see the only time he lost his cool was at journey's end when confronted with a hostile home town of London. But who would not forgive a weary and mile-worn traveller from losing his patience with his countrymen after having been sustained for so long by the kindness of strangers?

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Transfer Quality

Video

    This series was made in 1988, and to be honest, it shows. There was a consistent presence of low level noise that was particularly evident in lighter areas or high key scenes, resulting in a grainy quality in any light part of the scene. On a 76cm screen it was tolerable, but projected further, it may become more distracting.

    The aspect ratio is 1:33:1, which is precisely to be expected of a television show made in the 80s. There is no version available other than the full screen version.

    Due to the noise issues, shadow detail often left much to be desired and the depth of blacks was not very impressive. Macro blocking occurred minimally, but generally not enough to disturb the enjoyment of the programme. There was an overall softness to the picture which resulted in some amount of colour bleeding, although again, since the saturation of the video was not great, this was not too distracting.   

    In his interview, Palin asserts that film stock was used, yet the overall colour temperature appeared more like video stock. There appeared to be a lack of contrast overall, resulting in a somewhat flat palette. Places like India, which I have seen myself, and know to be almost neon in its colour vibrancy, appeared more subdued than I would have expected. However, whites were white and colours generally accurate, just not particularly vivid.

    There was the occasional film artefact in evidence. At 16:37 and 17:00 there appeared to be a higher concentration of them for a time. I was not conscious of any aliasing problems and the picture overall appeared relatively stable.  

    The available subtitles were English, burned into the video, and were accurate, timely and easy to read.

    The first 2 discs are RSDL discs, with the layer changes placed in Chapter 2 on Disc One at 22:47, and Chapter 2 on Disc Two at 26:50. This second layer change did not play well on my machine, and seemed strange, when there was an available and clean scene cut just moments afterwards that would have served much better.

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

Audio

    There is one available audio track on this DVD, which is English Dolby Digital 2.0.

    The dialogue was clear and distinct, well balanced and presented with a nice warm tone. Occasionally crackles and pops were discernible, particularly during Disc 2, Episode 1 at 10:48 through to 11:04, but as this segment was clearly using a remote radio mike, perhaps the sound had to be doctored somewhat to make it sufficiently audible. I noticed no challenges or distractions with audio sync.

       Paddy Kingsland is credited with original music in this series and the credit is much deserved. The score is appropriately suggestive of the various locations visited and is infused with a whimsical humour that supports the weary traveller's exploits, while never dominating or over-directing the action.

    There was no surround sound or subwoofer activity during this presentation, but it was not necessary in this context.

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

Extras

    What you see is what you get: an interview with Michael Palin, and a weblink to the site.

Menu

    The menu design is planned out like a map and is easy to navigate, and thankfully, contains a "play all" feature. It is 1:33:1 and has a very robust Dolby Digital 2.0 looped music track and a clear layout.

Interview

    Conducted recently, a now 60 year old Palin discusses how he got the gig, how it affected him, and where it's led him since then. It is a charming, chatty piece, with him answering (unheard) questions from an (unseen) interviewer. This interview is 16x9 enhanced and of demonstrably better quality than the actual source material of the series, but that's probably to be expected given the age of the original series. This is an enjoyable 18:35 minutes spent with a frank and friendly communicator. But for all his home-spun simplicity, he's not so silly as to miss a subliminal marketing opportunity, and a bank of Sahara video tapes feature prominently next to the monitor in the background!

Weblink

   

R4 vs R1

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

    There does not appear to be an R1 version of this series available.

Summary

    This is a most enjoyable set of DVDs. The transfer quality does not impede the utter enjoyment of the content nor does it overshadow the excellent filming and editing of the piece. If you have been to any of these places, you'll almost smell the smells again, as Palin takes us on a wide-eyed journey of enchantment. Sectioned in neat 48 minute pieces, it's a perfect antidote to the overworked blues, providing a patch of escapism and perhaps even motivation to get away and find your own adventure. Highly recommended.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Mirella Roche-Parker (read my bio)
Thursday, November 27, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDSinger SGD-001, using S-Video output
DisplayTeac 76cm Widescreen. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationTeac 5.1 integrated system
SpeakersTeac 5.1 integrated system

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