On the Buses-The Best of Series 3 & 4-Volume 1 (1969)

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Released 7-Oct-2003

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Comedy None
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 1969
Running Time 96:13
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Stuart Allen
Howard Ross
Studio
Distributor
VCI
Universal Pictures Home Video
Starring Reg Varney
Bob Grant
Stephen Lewis
Doris Hare
Anna Karen
Michael Robbins
Case ?
RPI $24.95 Music None Given


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 Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    About thirty years ago I went along to the local cinema to see The Best Of Benny Hill. The supporting feature was Holiday On The Buses. I did not appreciate at the time the unintended irony of the double bill: when Reg Varney was a stand-up comedian in the late 1940s, his stooge was one Benny Hill. Hill quickly went on to fame and fortune, while Varney had to wait until the 1960s and a series called The Rag Trade to gain any sort of national exposure.

    In 1969, On The Buses began a seven-season run that lasted until 1973. Volume 1 of On The Buses: The Colour Years presents four episodes from series three that were first broadcast in January and February 1970.

    As soon as the opening credits began, the memories came trickling back. Stan Butler (Reg Varney) and Jack (Bob Grant) are driver and conductor on a Luxton bus, forever harassed by Inspector Blake (Stephen Lewis), who wears a Hitler moustache and has the attitude to boot. Stan lives at home with Mum (Doris Hare), his nearsighted sister Olive (Anna Karen) and brother-in-law Arthur (Michael Robbins).

    What I had not realised about this series at the time was the obviousness of the jokes and the cheapness of the production. It looks like each episode was made for London Weekend Television for the price of a pack of fags. The sets seem flimsy and if an actor muffs a line, well, so what, let's keep the camera rolling. The performances are loud and obvious, although Stephen Lewis is pretty restrained as the officious Blakey. It is hard to believe that he is actually 20 years younger than Reg Varney. In spite of the thin veneer of sophistication I have cultivated over the past 30 years, I still found myself chuckling at this tatty but good-natured British comedy. It was immensely popular at the time, and some of the appeal still lingers, despite changing times and attitudes. There was less overt political incorrectness than I expected, though one dark-skinned character was referred to as "Chalkie".

    The four episodes on this disc are:

First Aid (24:01)
    Blakey falls down the bus stairs and injures his leg. The company decides to give a first aid test to every employee, and Stan and Jack have to go first, the next morning.

The Cistern (23:49)
   
Stan accidentally demolishes the family toilet while attempting to repair the faulty cistern. So the family goes out to buy a new one. This unleashes a flood of loo jokes.

Busmen's Perks (24:15)
   
Olive and Arthur's room needs redecorating, so Stan acquires some paint from the Depot, with disastrous consequences.

The Snake (24:07)
   
Stan and Jack are both interested in an Indian waitress at the Depot's canteen. During an Indian party at the Depot she performs a fertility dance with a snake. Jack invites her out and gets an unwitting Stan to take the snake home. This episode features Indian characters named Fatima and Achmed.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    Being a TV series from the dim dark past, the video is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1.

    In the time honoured tradition of British television, the indoor scenes are filmed on video and the outdoor scenes on 16mm film. The video footage looks much sharper than the film footage, though it still shows its age.

    The film segments have some dirt and some spots and flecks. I imagine that the original broadcast looked like this. The film segments are soft and the colour is fairly poor. The video segments are sharper but still have that faded colour of much British TV. There are a number of video tracking errors throughout, usually in the form of small glitches creating brief horizontal black lines. There are also some slight and infrequent examples of aliasing.

    Shadow detail is poorer in the film segments than in the video segments, but in neither case is it an issue. While the source material is not of pristine quality, it is very unlikely that anything better is going to materialise.

    This is a single layered disc. The hearing impaired should note that no subtitles are provided. Also, there are no chapter stops within each of the four episodes, which is annoying when trying to locate a particular passage.

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

Audio

    The sole audio track is in English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono. No surround coding is present.

    The audio is reasonably good for television of this age. Dialogue is quite clear and although the audio has a small dynamic range, it is realistic enough so that the quality is not really noticed.

    The music score is by a person unknown and is limited to the opening and closing credits.

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

Extras

    Expecting an audio commentary by Reg Varney and Stephen Lewis? Sorry, no extras are provided.

R4 vs R1

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

    This is a clone of the Region 2 disc, and it has not been released in Region 1.

Summary

    If you are a fan of On The Buses, you will probably already have this. If you weren't around when this series was first broadcast, then you might want to have a look at this to see what your parents were laughing at.

    The video quality is acceptable.

    The audio quality is acceptable.

    There are no extras.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Philip Sawyer (Bio available.)
Wednesday, February 25, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-S733A, using Component output
DisplaySony 86CM Trinitron Wega KVHR36M31. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD player, Dolby Digital, dts and DVD-Audio. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationYamaha RX-V596 for surround channels; Yamaha AX-590 as power amp for mains
SpeakersMain: Tannoy Revolution R3; Centre: Richter Harlequin; Rear: Pioneer S-R9; Subwoofer: JBL SUB175

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