Wuthering Heights (1998)

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Released 7-Oct-2003

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama None
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1998
Running Time 112:31
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By David Skynner
Studio
Distributor

Universal Pictures Home Video
Starring Peter Davison
Tom Georgeson
Matthew MacFadyen
Sarah Smart
Robert Cavanah
Kadie Savage
Ken Kitson
Kevin Jones
Terry Clynes
Polly Hemingway
Ian Shaw
Catherine Chesire
Flora Montgomery
Case ?
RPI $36.95 Music Warren Bennett
David Mack
Andy Wyatt


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 None Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

      In Emily Brontė's epic drama, Cathy (Orla Brady) and Heathcliff (Robert Cavanah) are brought together in childhood and cement a bond that is both enduring and devastating to themselves and all others within their orbit.

     There. That's it. No spoilers here, and certainly not enough information to help you cheat on your English Lit. exam, but, essentially, that really is the story. Okay, there is a little more to it than that, but before I get drawn into a long discussion about how faithful or accurate this film is to the original text, can we all agree on one point? The Brontės and other novelists of their time might be described as "fireside writers." In a time before radio or telly, when people would draw together on long winter's evenings by the fire to enjoy a good book, there was time aplenty and distraction afew, and so minutiae of detail was a prized commodity in a novel. But what's good for a slow roasting literary piece is not so good for a film of reasonable pace and duration. So, that said, this film is faithful to the intent of Brontė's novel, and did not leave me wondering if the scriptwriters and I had read the same source material.

     Wuthering Heights is a story for a world before psychotherapy. Today, Heathcliff would have been diagnosed as a sociopath and Cathy would probably have gone for self-help at a workshop for codependents; and if their therapy had worked, they might have ended up in the suburbs with 2.5 kids and a Camry in the driveway. Which would have made a bit of a mess of the storyline really, so thank the good lords of literature that Emily wasn't whipping up the plot in these self-actuated times!

     All flippancy aside, this production presented to us by Granada seems intent on bringing the gritty reality of 19th century England to far greater prominence. There is grime, mud, sleet, dead animals, grease and dogs, dogs, dogs permeating nearly every shot. And in a rather pleasing move from the plummy "classics" productions we're accustomed to, much more attention is paid to regional accents rather than having everyone sound like a Knightsbridge native.

     If you're coming to this piece having adored the novel, you may enjoy putting flesh to the characters in your imagination. And if you want to use it as a reference point before you tackle the literary version, it may be a helpful tool to assist you to visualise the scenes on your 400 odd page journey.

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Transfer Quality

Video

      I would like to say that this is an excellent transfer. I'd like to, but I can't. In fact, it's pretty horrible.

      It is a television programme and presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, presumably full frame. For a production made in 1998, I was surprised at its overall lack of quality.

     Throughout the production, the transfer is "grimy" and muddy, with precious little sharpness and an irritating lack of definition beyond the shallowest of focus fields. There is virtually no detail in the shadows, which are all a dirty grey, with little evidence of a crisp black to be found. There were occasions where edge enhancement was quite visible and the presence of persistent low level noise made backgrounds murky and highlights terribly grainy.

     Whilst it was no doubt a deliberate choice by the producers to control the colour palette on this film, the transfer quality further degraded the tonality, resulting in a drab, flat and dull rendition of colour. This was further exacerbated by colour bleeding spoiling the edges of the image, and a particularly irritating halation that surrounded images at times. The scenes at around 109:58 were particularly distracting, and cost a great deal of the impact of what was supposed to be a high pathos moment.

     To its credit, I wasn't particularly distracted by elements such as aliasing, but in retrospect, there weren't that many surfaces where it could have been a problem, so I think they might get a brownie point by default here. There were no subtitles available for the production, so they win another one by omission, but the overall softness and lack of definition are sins that outweigh the gaining of tiny brownie points.

     As a single sided, single layered disc there was no layer change to worry about.

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

Audio

      There are more points to award with the soundtrack. Just. There is one and only one Dolby Digital 2.0 track, but it actually packs quite a wallop. The sound is intensely directional and clear. There is the sound of whimpering dogs through a vast majority of the film, and more than once I almost instinctively jumped up to let my own dog in! That said, there are times when it's actually a bit too sensitive, and the rustling of ladies' taffeta is almost enough to make one clap one's hands over one's ears!

     Nonetheless, dialogue is always pin sharp and clear and mercifully there are no major problems with audio sync, which is one of my pet hates.

     The music is atmospheric and torrid, which is fitting, as with such a melodramatic piece the music is, by definition, virtually a character in its own right. The stereo sound was working overtime to provide a surround experience and probably did the best job possible, though my subwoofer just sat back and watched the movie with me, since it had no work to do.

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

Extras

     This DVD is as bare bones as a bare bones DVD can be without blushing.

Menu

     There's a static full screen menu, without sound and one option - "Play". And that's all folks.

R4 vs R1

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

     So far as I can see, there is no R1 version of this particular production, although there is an R2 available. It appears to be the same production and does not seem to offer any additional attractions so it's R4 all the way.

Summary

     Wuthering Heights is a classic, and deserves respect accordingly. This production is a lusty, earthy presentation with energetic and histrionic acting and plenty of drama afoot. Some less familiar with the text may find it a little disjointed in places, while others will devour every 112 minutes of it. It's a shame that its visual quality was substandard.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Mirella Roche-Parker (read my bio)
Sunday, December 07, 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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Comments (Add)
It's panned and scanned :-( -