The Saddle Club-Storm (2001)
Main Menu Audio
Music Video-We Can Do Anything
|Year Of Production||2001|
|Running Time||80:30 (Case: 83)|
|RSDL / Flipper||No/No||Cast & Crew|
|Start Up||Ads Then Menu|
|Region Coding||1,2,3,4,5,6||Directed By||
Roadshow Home Entertainment
Lara Jean Marshall
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)|
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||1.78:1|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.78:1||Miscellaneous|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
Those of you with pre-teen daughters, who are fascinated - neigh, obsessed ;-) - with horses may sympathise with my plight. This is the latest in a growing series of Saddle Club DVD releases, and the fourth one which I have reviewed to please my daughter. Those who suffer a similar affliction will surmise that The Saddle Club - Storm is the latest release taken from the Canadian/Australian ABC co-produced television series based on the stories of Bonnie Bryant. As ever it features the three main characters of Stevie (Sophie Bennett), Carole (Keenan MacWilliam) and Lisa (Lara Jean Marshall) - the three founding members of the Saddle Club. Of course, the spiteful, snooty Veronica (a talented Heli Simpson) is there to make everyone's life just that bit more unpleasant.
As ever there are plenty of traumatic goings-on to be enjoyed this time around. Stevie discovers that Pine Hollow is in danger of being sold, as that nasty bank wants its mortgage payments...and now! This could mean that the trails around the stables may have to be sold off to repay the debt. At the same time, Red is finding his new role as trainer hard to handle, with juggling all of those conflicting priorities and all of those hormonal and temperamental young ladies. Lisa has fostered a horse, named Storm, to rehabilitate prior to its adoption - or destruction - depending on her success. Unfortunately, poor Storm has been abused by a former owner and is in real danger of trampling all those who try to help him.
Meanwhile, the girl everyone loves to hate, Veronica is starting to fall for the strangely-accented Scooter from JB's Diner. Lisa is bonding rather strongly with Red as they try to tame the fiery Storm, and everyone is trying to raise some funds to save the trails. All looks lost, unless someone can find a way to come up with some cash - if only there was a rich young lady, with over-indulgent parents able to help out...
The acting in this instalment is not quite up to the quite high standards of the previous releases - I cannot help feeling that the girls are possibly starting to look a little too old for their naive behaviour. There are some significant cast changes this time around and unfortunately, they are not all for the better. Pine Hollow owner, Max, is missing in action (ostensibly away at a French Riding School), and the father figure is replaced by the younger, less talented and amazingly DiCaprio-esque Drew (the fantastically named Nikolai Nikolaeff). This recent business-school graduate is charged with saving Pine Hollow from the dreaded bank manager as the business slips into the red. Talking of Red, the stable hand character all the girls love to love, he has also been replaced on this release - by a far inferior actor. Actor James O'Dea replaces Nathan Phillips and provides a hopelessly wooden performance which will have all but the most pre-teen of fans cringing with every disinterested and unconvincing line. As ever the scenery is lovely and there are some nice POV shots to accentuate Storm's bucking and rearing, along with some neat slow-mo and video processing effects.
Anyhoo, this is children's television. It just happens to be children's television of a reasonably high standard, and it will not disappoint fans of the series to date. Whilst not as good in the casting, the story is just as viable - and just as basic - as the previous instalments. For fans of the series, or for pre-teens (girls mainly) interested in horses and adventure, this will deliver all that is asked of it. Good, clean, honest entertainment recommended for fans.
The overall video transfer of this disc is once again acceptable without being overly impressive.
The feature has once again reverted to a 16x9 enhanced 1.78:1 transfer, as afforded its older stablemate The Saddle Club - The Mane Event.
There is no significant grain or pixelization evident, and overall the transfer is acceptably sharp. On a larger screen the limitations of mid-ground shots become more apparent with a fair degree of softness present. Overall, whilst foreground shots are usually satisfyingly sharp, it is generally rather too soft for my liking.
Shadow detail is good and black levels are fairly deep with no hint of low level noise. Colours are very solidly rendered, with some nice primaries cropping up in this bright and lively transfer. Skin tones are perfectly acceptable throughout.
The transfer has no major MPEG artefacts. Surprisingly, even on my progressive scan system, aliasing is apparent and verges on the distracting. Instances of aliasing are numerous with examples obvious on the jump at 5:52, the rooflines at 13:25, the railings at 26:43 or the bull bars at 74:51. There are also some instances where edge enhancement becomes apparent, but these are much less intrusive - for instance on Lisa's arms at 17:56 or around Red's butt at 75:03.
This is a clean transfer, being generally free from significant film artefacts.
Shamefully for the ABC, there is no subtitle track present.
This is a single sided, single layered (DVD 5) disc so there is no layer change to disrupt the high drama.
The audio quality of this disc is, as usual, technically adequate with no significant audio defects.
There is a solitary English audio track available which is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo encoded at 224 kbps.
Dialogue was perfectly clear throughout, despite the mildly confusing blend of Canadian and Australian accents. There are one or two minor lapses in audio synch - for instance at 9:47 and 44:58. There is also a problem with lip synch at 60:53 during the musical number.
The original music score is courtesy of Dale Cornelius and is fairly subtle and generally unobtrusive. As ever, the infuriatingly catchy main theme is well performed by the three main actors (Bennett, MacWilliam and Marshall). Call me a pop music victim, but this is a darned good effort which gets under your skin in about thirty seconds flat. There are actually quite a few (rather cheesy) musical numbers scattered through this DVD and they are generally all produced by David Roy Williams and nicely performed.
The soundstage is of course fully frontal unless you have the benefit of Dolby Pro Logic II at your fingertips. With this technology enabled, the surrounds see some reasonable action in carrying the musical score and the odd ambient effect.
Depending on your set-up, the subwoofer may be used to support the musical score if you have Pr Logic II enabled. Obviously there is nothing in the way of true LFE presence on offer.
|Surround Channel Use|
There are almost no extras on the disc.
The menu is once again a colourful cartoon affair featuring a static backdrop accompanied by the infernally catchy theme song. It allows the selection of playing the feature, selecting one of twelve chapter stops, or the sole extra.
We Can Do Anything is performed by the three female leads and is formulaic drivel about horses and personal freedom...it had my toes tapping by the fourth listen. Running for 2:28, it is presented letterboxed at 1.78:1 (not 16x9 enhanced) and has a Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo soundtrack encoded at 224 kbps.
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
This disc does not appear to be available in Region 1 yet.
The Saddle Club - Storm will delight existing fans, although the quality of the acting from some of the replacement characters lets the show down a little in my book. As ever, the pre-teen female target audience will be happy to watch it despite the fairly average audio and video quality. A sure-fire win for dedicated fans, and of little to no interest for everyone else.
The video quality is acceptable.
The audio quality is acceptable.
The extras are minimal.
|DVD||Harmony DVD Video/Audio PAL Progressive, using Component output|
|Display||Sanyo PLV-Z2 WXGA projector. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 720p.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials.|
|Amplification||Onkyo TX-SR600 with DD-EX and DTS-ES|
|Speakers||JensenSPX-9 fronts, Jensen SPX-13 Centre, Jensen SPX-5 surrounds, Jensen SPX-17 subwoofer|