Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1985)

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Released 1-Dec-2002

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Family None
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1985
Running Time 211:22
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Peter H. Hunt
Studio
Distributor
Century Group Ltd
MRA Entertainment
Starring Patrick Day
Anne Shropshire
Sada Thompson
Eugene Oakes
Samm-Art Williams
Frederic Forrest
Lillian Gish
Richard Kiley
Jim Dale
Barnard Hughes
Butterfly McQueen
Geraldine Page
Jason Hankins
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI ? Music William P. Perry


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None 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

    This disc contains a four episode TV series made in 1985 for the US Public Broadcasting Service, part of a series of Mark Twain adaptations for public television. Unlike every other adaptation of Twain's controversial novel, this one apparently includes more or less the entire story, though as I have not read it, I cannot be certain. The novel has been described by many critics as the first great American novel.

    Huckleberry Finn (Patrick Day) is being raised by the Widow Douglas. His Pap (Frederic Forrest), has been missing for a year. When he turns up, he wants Huck back. But Pap Finn is a violent drunkard, and the local judge rules that Huck must stay with the Widow, much to Huck's relief. However, Pap Finn kidnaps his son, and in drunken rages beats him terribly. Some viewers may find these sequences disturbing.

    To escape, Huck fakes his own death and sets out on an odyssey downriver on a raft with Jim, an escaped slave. The last three episodes chronicle their adventures.

    This is a well-made and engrossing series. While it is a little slow, it is sincerely played and not shy of telling the entire story warts and all. In addition to scenes of Huck being beaten, there is a hanging, some shootings and depictions of racism, so this is not necessarily a series for the whole family. Nowadays it would be difficult to produce a series like this given the confrontational nature of the material. The word "nigger" is used quite a lot, which probably accounts for the lack of a Region 1 DVD release.

    The performances by the large cast are by and large very good. Patrick Day is a fine Huck Finn, however Samm-Art Williams is merely adequate as Jim. Frederic Forrest is suitably frightening as Huck's father. There are a few veteran actors in cameo roles. 91-year-old Lillian Gish, with more than 70 years of films behind her, appears briefly as Mrs Loftus. Geraldine Page plays Tom Sawyer's Aunt Sally, and Butterfly McQueen, memorable in Gone With The Wind, has a small role as a blind woman. Jim Dale, Barnard Hughes and Richard Kiley have more substantial roles.

    The direction of Peter H. Hunt is quiet and undemonstrative, in service of the material. Most impressive though is the cinematography of Walter Lassally, with some striking images of the river, sunsets and the landscape.

    All in all, this is an entertaining series and it is unlikely to be surpassed in the foreseeable future.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The video quality is good given the source material, but could have been better.

    The DVD is presented in the original TV aspect ratio of 1.33:1 and is not 16x9 enhanced.

    The video is not ideally sharp. It is quite soft and detail does not always stand out as it should. While the original series was shot on 35mm film, it looks as if the resolution is less than that of the PAL format, so perhaps this transfer has been made from an NTSC video master. There are some night scenes, but these have been filmed with fairly flat lighting, so shadow detail is not badly compromised.

    The colour is a little muted, though not overly so. The costumes tend to look fairly drab and colourless, but the natural scenery makes up for that.

    The opening credits are shown over an engraved picture, which exhibits some moiré effects. There is also some very mild aliasing from time to time.

    Film artefacts are few and far between, with just some small white flecks from time to time.

    The film is presented on a dual layered disc. As far as I can tell, there are two episodes on each layer, so there is no layer change to contend with. No subtitles are provided.

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

Audio

    The single audio track is advertised as Dolby Digital 2.0, but I could not detect anything other than a mono signal coming from the main speakers. No surround or subwoofer activity could be detected.

    Dialogue is quite clear and distinct. The audio quality is typical of 1980s television, so do not expect high fidelity sound. As this is primarily a dialogue-driven narrative, the audio is adequate for the task.

    The music score is by William Perry, who was a specialist in writing new scores for silent films. Perry became a producer in later life, and co-produced the Mark Twain adaptations made for PBS, as well as writing the scores. This score is not entirely idiomatic but is perfectly acceptable.

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

Extras

    No extras are provided.

    The main menu enables each of the four episodes to be selected, which appear in their entirety including opening and closing credits. There is no option to play all four episodes consecutively.

Censorship

    There is censorship information available for this title. Click here to read it (a new window will open). WARNING: Often these entries contain MAJOR plot spoilers.

R4 vs R1

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

    This production is not available on DVD in Region 1. It has been released on VHS there, but only in the shorter feature length version. It sells for $US60, indicating how scarce copies are. I would be surprised if it became available soon in Region 1 due to the politically incorrect content.

    The UK Region 2 looks to be identical to the Region 4, so I will call this a draw.

Summary

    The best adaptation of the book by Mark Twain that I have seen, this can be highly recommended, though discretion should be used with younger viewers.

    The video and audio quality are satisfactory.

    No extras are provided, but surely 211 minutes is enough material for a single disc.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Philip Sawyer (Bio available.)
Monday, March 08, 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

Other Reviews NONE
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Sawyer -
The BEST! -
Re: The Best! - Bill T