Kings of Speed (2003)

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Released 13-Jan-2004

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Sports Featurette-The World's Fastest Bowlers
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 2003
Running Time 78:17 (Case: 91)
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Charles Stewart
Studio
Distributor

Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring Brett Lee
Shoaib Akhtar
Dennis Lillee
Jeff Thomson
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $29.95 Music None Given


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (320Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio Varies Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    With the cricket season again in full swing, it is time to take a look at another of the seemingly endless titles dedicated to the national game. This time around it is a documentary produced by the same team responsible for last year's excellent Cricket Connoisseur series. Kings Of Speed is dedicated to those bowlers who, for many years, have struck fear into the hearts of most batsmen - the paceman or fast bowler. Pace bowlers have often been derided for not being all that bright, and with their sole intention in life to claim wickets and maim as many bodies as possible (and not necessarily in that order), who can argue.

    Now technically there aren't all that many true fast bowlers playing test or one-day international cricket in the world. I believe (unless someone can correct me) that to be classified as a true 'fast' bowler (as opposed to fast-medium or medium-fast), a bowler needs to regularly bowl deliveries in excess of 140km/h. Of the current players in the Australian test and one-day teams, only Brett Lee can lay claim to this mantle, and as a result he is the focus of much of this programme. He shares much of the limelight with his fellow speedster and protagonist, Pakistan's Shoaib Akhtar. The two struck up a bit of a friendship during the last Pakistani tour of Australia and of course Cricket Australia used their battle to become the fastest bowler in the world by breaking the magical 100mph barrier as part of their promotion of the winter one-day series.

    In addition to focusing on the two young heart-throbs of world cricket, the programme looks back several decades (albeit all-too-briefly) and offers Fred Spofforth, Harold Larwood, and Frank Tyson as possible candidates for the title of world's fastest ever bowler. Of course, without the benefit of technology to measure anything in those days, all we can go on as to how fast these guys were is an awful lot of guesswork and some tall stories.

    During the 1970s, there were many attempts to finally settle the debate over just who was the fastest bowler in the world, culminating in a special competition organised by Channel 9 during the World Series Cup games in Perth in which the pacemen taking part in that series were asked to send down a series of deliveries and have them all timed by some new high-tech equipment. Jeff Thomson ended up winning this competition (which is included in full as an extra on this disc) with a fairly average speed in the low 140 km/h range. It was in another game in the 1970s, though, that the world's fastest recorded time of around 159 km/h was recorded for Thomson and this mark stood for many years until both Brett Lee and Shoaib Akhtar broke through the magical 160km/h barrier during the 2003 cricket world cup in South Africa. Akhtar also smashed the 100mph barrier during the same tournament and currently holds the title of world's fastest bowler (despite several people commenting on his peculiar bowling action - which gets a reasonable mention in this programme).

    While this documentary runs for a healthy 90 minutes, I thought it lost its way a little towards the end and focused a little too much on the pursuits and antics of Brett Lee and Shoaib Akhtar, so much so that it almost takes on This Is Your Life proportions at times, especially when Brett's older brother Shane is discussing their childhood. A little more research and footage from the period before the 1970s would have gone a long way to making this a quality documentary, rather than the half-hearted compilation highlights package it often resembles. But don't be too disappointed, because if you are like me and love seeing some of the classic one-day and test match highlights from the last three decades replayed, there is certainly plenty to keep cricket fans happy.

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Transfer Quality

Video

     The video is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, and also benefits from being 16x9 enhanced. All up, this is a very pleasing transfer.

    With it containing a mixture of archival footage from as early as the 1930s right through to modern pristine digital-based footage, the quality is obviously going to differ greatly, with the new interview material being really quite excellent. It is vivid, sharp, clear, and brilliantly vibrant in colour. It is also presented using the full 1.78:1 screen. The older material suffers from the usual afflictions of material ranging in age from 75 years onwards. This material is presented in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.33:1. It fills the centre of the 1.78:1 image, with a static background filling up the edges of the widescreen picture. Overall, there are no traces of edge enhancement, and grain is absent in the new material and not a real issue with the older material.

    Colours for the new interview footage are superb, benefiting from modern digital video equipment. They are vivid and vibrant with deep solid saturation. The small amount of footage from the 1930s to the early 1970s is black and white, but with the advent of colour television in 1974, the bulk of the footage of the likes of Lillee and Thomson is in full living colour. It often appears quite washed out and hazy looking, but it is nonetheless serviceable for the task.

    There are no MPEG artefacts. Some of the older television material features all manner of artefacts including tracking noise, scratches, lines, noise, and the like. The various problems are pretty much as expected and really nothing to get excited over.

    There is a set of subtitles available on this disc, English for the Hearing Impaired, which are available throughout the entire presentation. They are quite good, not completely accurate, but close enough and don't encroach on the screen graphics that are so prevalent in cricket broadcasts. They move up the screen whenever any graphics appear on the screen - a nice touch..

    This is a single layered disc, so there is no layer change to navigate.

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

Audio

    A fairly basic audio selection graces this disc. We get an English Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack as the only option.

    Dialogue is pretty much all this is about, with a little game commentary thrown in for good measure. This is handled well with no obvious problems. The older commentary audio features all manner of hiss, distortion, and generally mixed fidelity. It still does the job expected. There are also no audio sync issues.

    There is no surround or subwoofer use at all.



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

Extras

Featurette - The World's Fastest Bowlers

    In 1979, with World Series Cricket in full swing, Channel 9 gathered together some of the faster bowlers that were taking part in the rebel competition and using some "high-tech' equipment (well it was high tech for 1979), tried to finally settle the argument over who was the fastest bowler in the world. This 13:00 minute programme shows some of the highlights from the session held at Gloucester Park trotting track in Perth (where the WSC games were played in the west). Introduced by the venerable Richie Benaud and hosted by Nine Perth presenter Bruce Walker, this shows bowlers of the ilk of Dennis Lillee, Richard Hadlee, Andy Roberts, Michael Holding, Mike Proctor, Garth Le Roux, Imran Khan, and of course Jeff Thomson going through their paces and trying to bowl as fast as possible while being recorded by some boffin from the University of Western Australia. First prize was $1000 cash.

R4 vs R1

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

    This disc is not available in Region 1.

Summary

    Kings of Speed will appeal to cricket fans no end. There is plenty of good old-fashioned fast bowling footage from many years past to keep every fan perpetually content. While the documentary value of this programme is a little low given the quite narrow scope of the research and the tendency for it to become a little bit of a Brett Lee/Shoaib Akhtar love-fest, the quality of the interviews, the wide-ranging archival footage, and a few laughs from a dead-pan Jeff Thomson should see everyone happy.

    The video quality is excellent overall, with the new interviews being pristine and beautifully coloured. The older material is from 70s television and is as good as can be expected.

    The audio is functional and does the job with no problems.

    There is only one extra, but it is a little gem for any true cricket fanatic wishing to own all the little bits and pieces of footage from the 1970s and 80s.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Darren Walters (It's . . . just the vibe . . . of my bio)
Saturday, January 31, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDLoewe Xemix 5106DO, using RGB output
DisplayLoewe Calida (84cm). Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL). This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL).
AmplificationHarmon/Kardon AVR7000.
SpeakersFront - B&W 602S2, Centre - B&W CC6S2, Rear - B&W 601S2, Sub - Energy E:xl S10

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