Darby O'Gill and the Little People (1959)

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Released 16-Mar-2004

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Family Menu Audio
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 1959
Running Time 86:54
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Robert Stevenson
Studio
Distributor
Disney
Walt Disney Studios Home Ent.
Starring Albert Sharpe
Janet Munro
Sean Connery
Jimmy O'Dea
Kieron Moore
Estelle Winwood
Walter Fitzgerald
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $19.95 Music Oliver Wallace


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Pan & Scan English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.75:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
English for the Hearing Impaired
French
German
French Titling
German Titling
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    The Walt Disney Family Collection seems to be assembling a sizeable portion of the live action films produced by the Walt Disney Company during the 1950's and 1960's, at least judging by the releases so far and already announced. Some are rather familiar whilst others are not. It would be fair to say that Darby O'Gill And The Little People falls into the not familiar category. I vaguely recall seeing it once but where and when certainly escapes me. The viewing must have been rather vague as I simply did not remember anything of what I saw during the review session, so this was pretty much like seeing a film for the first time.

    Obviously with a title like Darby O'Gill And The Little People, we are talking about a film based in Ireland. Darby O'Gill (Albert Sharpe) is noted for three things: his cushy job working as caretaker for Lord Fitzpatrick, his beautiful daughter Katie (Janet Munro) and his affinity with the little people, the stories of which he regales the clients at the local pub with. Unfortunately, things are not going well for Darby, as his latest tale hints at: he finally had met King Brian (Jimmy O'Dea), been granted and taken his three wishes - and was then promptly tricked out of them by making a fourth wish. So his pot of gold had gone even before he had a chance to show it around. In real life things are not too easy, either. Lord Fitzpatrick unexpectedly arrives with Michael McBride (Sean Connery) in tow and Darby finds his cushy job is no more. He will have to move out of the spacious gatekeeper's house to a small cottage (at no rent mind) with his Lordship granting him half pay as a pension. Darby needs time to break the bad news to Katie who has lived in the gatekeeper's house all of her twenty years. There is also his standing in the village to be considered as his job and home gives him respectability. Local old crone Shillelagh Sugrue (Estelle Winwood) thinks that her son Pony (Kieron Moore) would make a fine replacement for Darby - as well as a fine husband for Katie. Michael of course has other ideas.

    The little people come into the story as King Brian hears of the bad news about Darby and respecting the wily Darby lures him to the little people's kingdom to live out his life. Darby is not too thrilled about it though, which creates the hijinks of the film as he captures King Brian and asks for and is granted three wishes. Now what will those wishes be?

    To be fair, the story is not that much to write home about, and contains enough stereotypes to make it recognisably Irish, but that is hardly the point here. This is not a scintillating intellectual diversion nor was it ever intended to be. What it is and what is always was supposed to be was eighty-odd minutes of good old family entertainment with just a sprinkling of magic. In that regard, the film still works. Just as the story was never meant to be anything profound, you will find little in the way of profundity in the acting either. Like so many a Disney film, what was expected was something solid and that is what the cast really provide - good solid performances. Early in his career, Sean Connery was hardly ever accused of being an actor and what we have here is one of those amiable performances that succeed more because of his good nature rather than his acting chops. Who cares? Albert Sharpe and Jimmy O'Dea do grand jobs as the two adversaries, nothing special but certainly solid. The tragic Janet Munro (last seen of course in the Swiss Family Robinson) again was very solid and certainly hints at what her future may have been had she not died so young.

    Any film involving the little people, however, is going to live and die by the quality of the effects work used to bring the little people to life. Whilst there are certainly places where the quality of the effects work leaves something to be desired, it also must be said that there are times when the primitiveness of the work is not at all disgraced. Indeed, for much of the time the integration of the little people and the normal people is handled very well indeed and you hardly ever sit there scoffing at what is being seen on-screen.

    Somehow, the film comes across exactly as it should: a tale full of blarney being told at the local pub over a few not-so-quiet ales. Take it all with a pinch of salt but enjoy the blarney anyway. I might not be familiar with the film, which after all was produced in the year of my birth, but I found it an enjoyable tale that does not tax the brain too much and fills in a quiet Sunday afternoon with ease. As such, it is well worth investigating. A pity therefore that the transfers leave something to be desired.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    Whilst we should not expect miracles in transfers of this age when the source material is clearly unrestored, it is fair to say that we could perhaps have expected better than we have here. The transfer is presented in what by all accounts I can find is a Pan and Scan format that in no way accords with the reported theatrical aspect ratio of 1.75:1. It is of course not 16x9 enhanced.

    The transfer is generally only fair, suffering somewhat from poor contrast and poor shadow detail in the darker parts of the film. Sharpness is probably better than average but nothing to write home about. Detail is in general average, with the transfer actually looking a bit flat at times. The transfer is not exactly clear and whilst grain is not a real problem it is certainly noted at times, such as at 63:22 and 75:59. The whole transfer really just reeks of age and is desperately in need of a full restoration.

    The colours are not at all good, generally being underdone tonally speaking and lacking in just about every respect. The transfer is of course lacking anything in the way of vibrancy. There are no problems with oversaturation. The dark nature of the transfer simply does not help things at all.

    There were no readily apparent MPEG artefacts in the transfer. There was also not much in the way of film-to-video artefacts, with just a few barely obvious instances of aliasing to be found. Of course, the unrestored image than goes overboard in film artefacts in some form of compensatory manner. It would not be so bad if they were just of the small speck variety but this is not the case: the specks can be quite large and there are some very obvious, and large, scratch marks to be seen too.

    This disc is single sided, single layered disc, so there is no layer change to worry about.

    There are six subtitle options on the DVD. The English efforts are fairly good but there are obvious deletions from the dialogue.

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

Audio

    There are three soundtracks on the DVD, all of which are Dolby Digital 2.0 efforts. The language options are English, French and German.

    The dialogue comes up reasonably well in the transfer and is generally easy to understand. There were some indications of audio sync issues in the transfer, although these are most likely due to some sloppy ADR work as the dialogue sometimes sounds a little too bright (most especially when the action is outdoors when the sound should not be so focused).

    The original score comes from Oliver Wallace and it is of course quite Irish in nature. I cannot say that it is very distinctive but it certainly does the job required of it - namely supporting the film.

    One very noticeable aspect of the sound is that it is rather hissy even at normal listening levels. Whilst you sort of filter it out so that it is not really annoying, it is a little sad that the lack of restoration extends to the soundtrack. Clearly this is just the original soundtrack with minimal changes or cleaning up. Other than that, the whole deal is quite serviceable but hardly the most distinctive effort that you will ever hear.

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

Extras

Menu

    With just some minor audio to lift them out of the plain Jane arena.

R4 vs R1

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

    The equivalent Region 1 release is due out on 3rd August and it would seem that it will be pretty much the same DVD with just the usual variations in language and subtitle options.

Summary

    Whilst hardly the high point of Disney output, Darby O'Gill And The Little People is a reasonable enough, and fairly enjoyable, family film. A pity therefore that the source material has not been subject to restoration and the transfers as a result highlight every single one of the film's forty five years.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ian Morris (Biological imperfection run amok)
Saturday, March 27, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDDenon DVD-1600, using RGB output
DisplayLoewe Aconda 9381ZW. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationYamaha RXV-795
SpeakersEnergy Speakers: centre EXLC; left and right C-2; rears EXLR; and subwoofer ES-12XL

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ny but now in nc -