Huckleberry Finn (1975)

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Released 13-Nov-2003

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Adventure None
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1975
Running Time 77:08
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Robert Totten
Studio
Distributor
ABC Video Ent. Inc
MRA Entertainment
Starring Ron Howard
Don Most
Royal Dano
Antonio Fargas
Jack Elam
Merle Haggard
Dee Carroll
James Almanzar
Rance Howard
Jean Speegle Howard
Clint Howard
Sarah Selby
Alex Nicol
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $14.95 Music Steven North
Earl Robinson


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 2.0 (448Kb/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 Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

     There's something of a chequered past to Mark Twain's novel, Huckleberry Finn. In spite of Papa Ernest Hemingway himself proclaiming it as "the one book" from which "all modern American literature came," and not withstanding its enormous and ongoing sales, it was regarded as "coarse" and "uncouth" in its day, even to the point of being banned from a major public library in its year of publication, 1885. That seems to have set something of a precedent for the text, which has been removed and restored to school bookshelves ever since, although these days, it's more in reaction to what's seen as its racist content.

      Those who've ever actually read the book may attest to the fact that it can be pretty hard going. This is no pacey Harry Potter page turner. The densely described action in the book lends itself more to firesides in the parlour than our modern world of instant gratification, but intertwined amongst the adjectives is a story of wild childhood that manages to ring true.

      Distilled out from the pages there's potential for a wonderful, visual film, full of adventure, intrigue and derring-do. This 1975 version of the story derring-doesn't deliver.

      Aside from the fact that its production values are a faded version of its tawdry origins, the story has been oversimplified to incomprehensible banality and the acting, direction and presentation are embarrassingly bad.

      Royal Dano as Mark Twain does a credible job, but his very presence as a narrator to his own story appears like a bad copy of Sunday night World of Disney shows. Ron Howard and Donny Most do the script no favours, revising their Happy Days roles; and everyone looks horribly uncomfortable about being involved in the production at all. Both Howard and Most look far too old to inhabit their roles as Huck and Tom Sawyer respectively, and this alone dilutes much of the drama. What would appear a reasonable or interesting response from a young boy looks downright stupid coming from a lad who looks ready to shave every morning. The innocence and resourcefulness that gave Huck and Tom their charm is therefore completely lost in this production.

      We're introduced to Huck as he overhears his widow guardian negotiating the sale of their slave, Jim (Antonio Fargas). With his own drunken Pappy on the warpath, Huck and Jim sail off in search of a free state where both may change their fortunes. But the Mississippi can be a dangerous place, and our two escapees find themselves forcibly joined to a couple of shysters who call themselves The Duke (Merle Haggard) and The King (Jack Elam). Huck and Jim become unwitting participants in a couple of swift cons, but decide to right some wrongs when the ignoble "royal couple" try to swindle some recently bereaved young ladies.

      Their lives are further complicated by Tom Sawyer's inventive meddling and the ever-present hot pursuit to recapture the pair, but perhaps I won't be ruining the suspense by assuring you that everything works out just fine in the end.

      I think Mr Clemens would be somewhat underwhelmed at this retelling of his ultimate adolescent riparian adventure. The acting is soggier and damper than the Missysip herself, and the river would have taken the gong for best performance in this presentation.

      I'm convinced there must be a better version of this wild and reckless tale. I invite your comments to help us all navigate to a more satisfying version.

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Transfer Quality

Video

     The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 and is therefore not 16x9 enhanced. Given its television heritage, this appears to be a full screen transfer in the original aspect ratio.

     The disc's transfer qualities are pretty ordinary. This is a grainy, washed out and rather limp production. There is poor contrast, bad shadow detail and ever-present low level noise. It is frequently nigh on unwatchable in the dark sequences, of which there are plenty.

     The colour palette is extremely ordinary with no punch or dynamics at all, creating a very drab tone overall. Skin tones are passable, although they seem to have found the challenge of metering for a shot with a light skinned and a dark skinned person next to each other an insurmountable obstacle.

     MPEG artefacts, grain and dirt abound, but possibly the worst feature is the telecine wobble present in the frequent "art" freeze frames. At 16:34, the dirt and grain levels are particularly bad.

     There are no subtitles present on this disc.

     This disc is a single layered disc, and therefore does not have a layer change.

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

Audio

     This audio is utterly wretched with distortions, pops, warps and warbles throughout, making it almost intolerable.

     The English Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack is presented as a completely mono soundscape and it is thick and almost indiscernible at places.

     Dialogue was dreadful. It was either trilling out beyond the tolerance of the speakers, or sounded as if it had been dredged from the bottom of the Mississippi itself. Audio sync was problematic, with the sync out so badly that at times it was hard to keep track of who was supposed to be talking.

     The musical score by Steven North could not have been more hackneyed and woeful had he been paid specifically to do so. Its cringeable lyrics and sentimental warbling were almost laughable.

     The surround speakers and subwoofers appeared to sleep for the entire film. I envy them.

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

Extras

     There were no extras on this disc.

R4 vs R1

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

     That's funny - there doesn't appear to BE an R1 version! Well, it looks like if you just HAVE to have this movie, it's gotta be R4.

Summary

        If you thought the Mississippi was long and wet, wet wet, just try wading through these 77 long minutes. Gross miscasting, criminal plot truncation, ordinary production values and an indifferent DVD transfer manage to steal every last ounce of charm away from Mark Twain's classic story. If you loved the story, you'll hate this; if you don't know the story yet, this is NOT the way to find out about it.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Mirella Roche-Parker (read my bio)
Tuesday, February 17, 2004
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

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add)
The best Huck Finn movie - Noel
The definitive version of the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn - The Boy from Hannibal