Charles II: The Power and the Passion (2004)

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Released 10-Jun-2004

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Main Menu Audio
Audio Commentary-Filmmakers ( Episodes 1 And 4 )
Featurette-The Boy Who Would Be King
Featurette-Making Of
Gallery-Photo Montage
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2004
Running Time 234:42 (Case: 322)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (29:06)
Dual Disc Set
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Joe Wright
Studio
Distributor

Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring Rufus Sewell
Charlie Creed-Miles
Martin Freeman
Rupert Graves
Shirley Henderson
Helen McCrory
Ian McDiarmid
Diana Rigg
Case Amaray-Transparent-S/C-Dual
RPI $49.95 Music Rob Lane


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.78:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    Charles II - The Power and the Passion is a truly magnificent production in itself, and this 2 disc DVD set only adds extra depth and interest. It is, fairly obviously, the story of Charles II, King of England from 1660 to 1685 and while this subject might turn many people off, if you are thinking to yourself 'here we go, another boring costume drama', think again. This story has everything; murder, intrigue, romance, violence, sex (even a dash of necrophilia for those so inclined), friendship, war, backstabbing, political manoeuvring and lashings of history and pretty dresses for the costume drama crowd.

    Charles II was the king to whom the term 'The Restoration' refers, as he was the king restored to the throne after the death of Oliver Cromwell. The programme begins with Charles I's execution as a flashback dream sequence. The actual story starts in earnest in the last few months of Charles II's exile and follows through his restoration and on until the end of his reign. In between, there are numerous conspiracies, mistresses, political triumphs and failures and the continuous problems of dealing with his very difficult family. The main conflicts involved are Catholic Vs Protestant and King Vs Parliament and both of these are key to the storyline.

    I will give you an overview of the main characters involved, whilst trying to avoid giving away too much of the plot (although obviously if you are a history buff you know the plot already). The main characters are:

    The cast members mentioned above and most of the other players here give excellent performances but a special mention definitely needs to go to the man himself, Rufus Sewell, for his brilliant portrayal of a very difficult character to master. His performance here is very layered - we can see both sides of his nature both loving and forgiving but also ruthless and self-serving. Diana Rigg is also extremely impressive in a fine ensemble of actors, portraying a character with very few redeeming features.

    The show here is presented in four one hour episodes, three on the first DVD and the last on the second DVD along with some high quality extras. It was made for the BBC last year, and has just been screened on the ABC here locally. The television version seems to have been cut significantly as it runs for only about 210 minutes whereas the DVD runs for 234:42. Additionally, the version being shown on TV is rated M whereas the DVD is rated MA. The rating is deserved because there are a number of gory sequences and some quite explicit sex scenes. One particular gory scene encouraged me to write 'This is very nasty' in my review notes.

    There are some very stylish sequences in this production incorporating stunning visuals and excellent direction. These include the opening scene of Charles I's execution, the tour of London during the plague, the entry of Catherine of Braganza and Charles II's final address to parliament. These are very powerful and linger in the mind long after watching this presentation.

    The music by Rob Lane is absolutely wonderful and very fitting to the presentation. As soon as the music plays over the menu you know you are in for a musical treat. The use of the music throughout this production is excellent.

    The production was mostly filmed in a castle in Prague, with the interiors built specially within the castle walls and the surrounds of the castle filling in for the streets on London. Due to the relatively low budget of this production, there are no large battle scenes, but you do not miss them due to the fireworks in the script.

    Overall, this is a wonderful production that I would recommend to anyone, not just history or costume drama buffs.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The video quality is excellent, with richness and depth of colour throughout.

    The feature is presented in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio, 16x9 enhanced which is the original aspect ratio.

    The picture was very clear and sharp throughout, with no evidence of low level noise. Shadow detail was quite good. There was some light grain in some scenes but it was never distracting. This was especially true during the documentary The Boy Who Would Be King.

    The colour was very good throughout with all colours being well saturated and free from colour bleeding. A notably restrained colour palette was used for the early scenes in exile, but once the restoration occurs the colour palette opens out.

    No artefacts of any kind were noticeable.

    The main title included subtitles in English. I sampled some of the English subtitles and found them to be easy to read and  very close to the spoken word.

    This first disc is an RSDL dual-layered disc and the layer change quite well placed at 29:06 in the second episode. The second disc seems to have the extras on one layer and episode 4 on the other.
    

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

Audio

    The audio quality is quite good.

    This DVD contains one audio option, an English Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack encoded at a less than full 192 Kb/s bitrate.    

    Dialogue was clear and easy to understand except where Catherine of Braganza was deliberately speaking in a half crazed mixture of Portuguese and English.

    There were no problems with audio sync.    

    The score of this film by Rob Lane was absolutely excellent and came across well despite the encoding.

    The surround speakers were not used all that often but as I was using Dolby ProLogic II they were used for some effects. In one particular scene in a small cabin where it was obviously raining outside, the surrounds carried rain sounds.

    The subwoofer was rarely used.

    

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

Extras

Menu

    The menus were presented in 1.78:1 16x9 enhanced, and included Rob Lane's wonderful score..

The Boy Who Would Be King (57:07)

    This is an excellent and very complementary documentary which focuses on his life before the restoration, a time which is really not covered by the main feature. It contains details of his early life, his bravery during the civil war, his early bedroom conquests and his escape from England after his father's execution. This part is very interesting as he was a fugitive for 6 weeks hiding out in various houses and in the countryside. Descendents of people who helped him are interviewed including a very welcome Michael Palin of Monty Python. The program also includes interviews with a number of eminent historians. The picture quality here is not as good as the main feature with a bit more grain and some black artefacts, however, this does not really affect the enjoyment of the program.

Making of Charles II (28:08)

    A very good making of documentary with three main sections; The Characters, The Story & The Production. The characters section includes interviews with most of the main cast discussing their characters' motivations and how they prepared for their roles. The story includes an interview with the writer.

Photo Montage (1:28)

    A short collection of behind the scenes photos accompanied by the score.

Commentary on Episodes 1 & 4 with Kate Harwood (Producer), Joe Wright (Director) & Adrian Hodges (Writer)

    This is an entertaining and informative commentary which covers missed historical details and why they had to leave them out, scenes which are historically correct and others which they felt they needed to make up, information about the production in Prague and some discussion of the core themes of power and religious intolerance. This is all done with a good sense of humour with the writer regularly making fun of the director, even accusing him of cross-dressing. One anecdote involving cats and the burning of effigies is interesting if a bit gruesome. Well worth a listen.

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.

    The Region 4 version of this disc misses out on;

    The Region 1 version of this disc misses out on;

   Based upon the above, the Region 4 would have to be considered the better version especially when PAL/NTSC differences are taken into account.

Summary

    This movie is an excellent historical drama with enough sex, violence and intrigue to keep modern audiences interested.

    The video quality is excellent.

    The audio quality is quite good.

    The disc has over 3 hours of extras, all of top quality.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Daniel Bruce (Do you need a bio break?)
Friday, May 28, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDToshiba 1200, using Component output
DisplaySony FD Trinitron Wega KV-AR34M36 80cm. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 576i (PAL)/480i (NTSC).
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD Player, Dolby Digital and DTS.
AmplificationPioneer VSX-511
SpeakersBose 201 Direct Reflecting (Front), Phillips SB680V (Surround), Phillips MX731 (Center), Yamaha YST SW90 (Sub)

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Comments (Add)
This is on TV now and the doco was on the ABC 26/5/04 - REPLY POSTED