Pollyanna (1960)

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Released 12-May-2004

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Family Main Menu Introduction
Main Menu Audio & Animation
Featurette-Making Of-Pollyanna: The Making Of A Masterpiece (29:01)
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 1960
Running Time 128:57
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (76:12) Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By David Swift
Studio
Distributor
Disney
Walt Disney Studios Home Ent.
Starring Hayley Mills
Jane Wyman
Richard Egan
Karl Malden
Nancy Olson
Adolphe Menjou
Donald Crisp
Agnes Moorehead
Kevin Corcoran
James Drury
Reta Shaw
Leora Dana
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $19.95 Music Paul J. Smith


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.75:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.75:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
English for the Hearing Impaired
Spanish
Norwegian
Swedish
Danish
Finnish
Portuguese
Spanish Titling
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    Okay, let's cut to the chase. Just over a month ago I reviewed one of the most beloved family films of all time in Old Yeller. I swung a mighty roundhouse right at the chin of Buena Vista Home Entertainment for the deplorably shoddy DVD treatment meted out to us poor Region 4 inhabitants in comparison to Region 1. It was one of the most pathetic comparisons that I ever had to make in one of my reviews. Guess what? I can now follow it up with a mighty roundhouse left to the chin of Buena Vista Home Entertainment that by rights ought to have them grovelling on the floor wondering why I have no intention of pulling any punches on yet another disgustingly shoddy treatment handed out in the name of Region 4 DVD. Yes folks, arguably the most beloved of the Disney live action films has been given if anything an even shoddier Region 4 release than that afforded Old Yeller.

    So if you want this film on DVD, don't bother reading this review any further and just find the nearest Region 1 retailer and buy the Region 1 release. This Region 4 release is a pitiful waste of anyone's time and trouble. Buena Vista Home Entertainment should be roundly and soundly condemned for foisting yet another travesty of a release on Region 4. It is simply disgusting and frankly it has reached the stage that it is simply just easier to avoid Region 4 Buena Vista releases as it seems that we are just about guaranteed to receive crappy treatment in comparison to Region 1. And this from someone who actually hates extras...

    As arguably the most beloved of the Disney live action films, it would seem rather pointless for me to try and provide any synopsis as most of you probably know the film at least as well as I. However, on the off chance that you don't know the film at least as well as I do...

    Set in the early 1900's in small town America, this is the tale of a recently orphaned young girl by the name of Pollyanna Whittier (Hayley Mills). Having been used to not having an awful lot in the way of worldly goods as a result of being the daughter of a minister, her arrival in the town of Harrington and the home of her aunt, Polly Harrington (Jane Wyman) is something of an eye opener. You see, Aunt Polly represents the wealthy elite of the town in no small manner, being obviously one of the family after whom the town is named. She basically has her fingers in most of what goes on in town, financially and otherwise, and so the town pretty much does what it can not to upset her. This "stature" has come at a price of course - Polly is not exactly the most loving person you will ever find and wealth has its issues to contend with, not the least of which are appearances. As such she rules her household with an iron rod, which does not exactly go down well with the likes of Nancy (Nancy Olson) and her beau. So into this rigid, generally unloving and certainly less than fun environment comes the young, eternally optimistic Pollyanna who proceeds to infect the town with her bright nature. Slowly but surely even the genuine sourpusses of the town, like Mrs Snow (Agnes Moorehead) and Mr Pendergast (Adolphe Menjou) succumb. With the pushing of Mayor Karl Warren (Donald Crisp) and a former beau of Polly, Doctor Edmond Chilton (Richard Egan), the townsfolk are encouraged by the nature of young Pollyanna to actually contemplate throwing off the shackles of deference to Polly in order to raise funds for a new orphanage. However, when Pollyanna suffers a serious accident not even her staid Aunt Polly can ignore the impact she has had upon the town.

    A gorgeously simple story that was turned into a wonderful script by director David Swift was but the start of where this film excelled. With the full backing of Walt Disney, he proceeded to hire a terrific ensemble cast to bring the script to life. And that they did. Most of the names you may not recognise instantly but you certainly recognise the faces and the cast is just teeming with some strong character actors. Some of the names are of course easily recognised - Karl Malden for instance is a very well known name, and a very good actor. His performance here as Reverend Paul Ford is amongst his finest moments on the silver screen. Nancy Olson really does a great job as the maid, Jane Wyman is thoroughly believable as the slightly too rigid but slowly melting Aunt Polly, Adolphe Menjou is wonderful as Mr Pendergast, Agnes Moorehead is terrific as old cantankerous Mrs Snow... well you could just keep going on through the whole cast. But general consensus is that rising above them all was Hayley Mills - so much so that many would argue that the film would not have been the same masterpiece were it not for the presence of the young daughter of John Mills. Indeed, for most people this is the one film for which she is always remembered and she even managed to move the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to present her with a special Oscar in 1960. David Swift was a television director when given the chance with this film. That he turned out such a wonderful piece of work on a relatively modest budget shows that money is not the be all and end all of movie making - you still need talent.

    Amongst the Disney live action films, there are very few that can aspire to being the very best of the best. Pollyanna is one of those films. A genuine classic of the Disney studios, were we talking about just the film alone we would be talking about an essential inclusion in any family DVD collection. Other matters however do have to be considered and whilst a DVD of Pollyanna should certainly be in every such collection, you would have a hard time justifying the Region 4 DVD being the one.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    One place where Pollyanna does score over Old Yeller is in the full restoration it has received. The result is a very clean looking transfer that barely has any sort of blemish to indicate that the source material is well over forty years old.

    The transfer is presented in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.75:1, and it is 16x9 enhanced. It should be noted that the opening credits are ever so slightly constrained to the left hand side of the picture, which seems a tad unusual given that the film is in its intended ratio.

    There is really nothing much wrong with the transfer at all. About the only issue I noted was some slight grain at times - such as at 6:08 - otherwise this is a rather nice looking transfer indeed. Detail and definition are very good, shadow detail excellent and clarity very good.

    One immediate reaction to the transfer is the muted look of the colours. In comparison to recent well saturated efforts from Buena Vista Home Entertainment, this is almost insipid looking at times. But that is exactly the way it is supposed to look: the era had a tendency to pastelly colours and this comes up very well in that regard. Of course this means vibrancy is not a high point of proceedings, but overall this is a very natural looking effort indeed. It is probably the first time in years that we have actually been able to see the colours the way they are supposed to look. Oversaturation is not an issue at all, nor is colour bleed. Skin tones are quite natural, whilst blacks are slightly underdone in keeping with the rest of the colours.

    There is nothing really obvious in the way of MPEG artefacts in the transfer. Film-to-video artefacts are confined to some rather minor aliasing that barely raises above peripheral and just the slightest indication of cross colouration in the jacket at 86:28. The restoration has of course resulted in most film artefacts being given the flick and there are very few left to attract attention.

    This is an RSDL formatted DVD with the layer change coming at 76:12. Once again I failed to notice the layer change during playback.

    There are a reasonable selection of subtitles on the DVD. The English efforts are very good with hardly any variation from the actual dialogue.

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

Audio

    There are two soundtracks on the DVD, being an English Dolby Digital 5.1 effort and a Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 effort. Once again we actually gain a soundtrack over the Region 1 release. Once again it is a great shame that it is not the original mono soundtrack.

    Dialogue comes up pretty well in the transfer and is fairly easy to understand. There did not appear to be any significant issue with audio sync in the transfer.

    The original music score comes from Paul Smith. It is a fine effort too, not very intrusive, not terribly distinctive but with a nice degree of support that is close to individualised for the main characters.

    Whilst we don't get the original mono soundtrack, it has to be said that the six channel sound is pretty sympathetic to the original - it does not add any significant bells and whistles to proceedings, so most of the time it is simply a case of a slightly more robust sound than would otherwise have expected. The remastering has certainly added body to the sound but thankfully that body is in the front surrounds and not in the low frequency channel. What little information does turn up there is barely noticed and the rear surrounds are also quite noticeably restrained. The clean-up in the remastering has certainly left the audio sounding as good as it ever has.

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

Extras

    Slap the DVD into your player expecting some of the myriad of extras that abound on the two disc Region 1 release and you will be sadly, sadly disillusioned. What we have here as an extras package is a travesty of the highest order. With the disc only running to 6.61 GB of information, there was still plenty of space to include at least some of the stuff that made the Region 1 release surely?

Menu

    Quite decently presented with some nice audio and animation enhancement across the board. Just be aware that there MIGHT be a problem in the audio selection: a couple of times when I went to select the audio language the menu appeared to hang and no selection was actually made. This was an intermittent problem that was not always encountered but certainly occasionally encountered.

Featurette - Pollyanna: Making Of A Masterpiece (29:01)

    A retrospective look at the film mainly through interview material with the surviving cast and crew - including Hayley Mills, Nancy Olson, Kevin Corcoran and David Swift - along with the likes of Roy E. Disney and Stacia Martin (a film historian), amongst others. Also along for the journey is Walt Disney himself courtesy of some archival material that I vaguely recall seeing many, many years ago on television. This is actually quite an interesting effort, even if David Swift is perhaps a little too deprecating and everyone is perhaps a little too deferential in assigning so much of the success of the film to Hayley Mills. Still, there certainly is more here to enjoy than to quibble about. The presentation is generally excellent technically with just some aliasing in some of the film excerpts and archival photographs to raise any serious ire. The presentation is Full Frame, it is not 16x9 enhanced and comes with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. There are selectable subtitles in Spanish, Norwegian, Swedish, Danish and Finnish. If you don't like this effort then you have a problem - there ain't nothing else! And this package makes the impoverished effort afforded Old Yeller look like a stellar Special Edition.

R4 vs R1

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

    Take a gander at this list:

    I think that is the complete listing of the extras available on the Region 1 release. You thought I was kidding about how bad the Region 4 release was didn't you? Well as you can see, I was not understating how utterly appalling the Region 4 release is in comparison to the superb Region 1 release.

    I simply am lost for adequate words to describe the horrendous Region 4 release and there is not a cat's chance in hell that there is anything redeeming about the Region 4 release in the face of the Region 1 competitor. Region 1 is the ONLY way to buy this film on DVD.

Summary

    Pollyanna is one of the genuine masterpieces of Disney live action films. It should be in every family DVD collection. It should not be the Region 4 release though. There are simply not any adequate words to communicate to you by exactly how much you should avoid this release. Perhaps the simplest indication I can give is to say that I was extremely close to inducting this into the Hall of Shame simply because of how lamentable the contents are in comparison to the Region 1 release. The only people who should indulge in this Region 4 release are those who don't have all-region players. And to those people I would strongly suggest that this is a d*** good indication of exactly why you should have an all-region player. Avoid at all costs. The overall rating below has been docked at least one star for the atrocious comparison with the Region 1 release.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ian Morris (Biological imperfection run amok)
Saturday, May 22, 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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