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PLEASE NOTE: Michael D's is currently in READ ONLY MODE. Anything submitted will simply not be written to the database.
Lots of stuff is still broken, but at least reviews can now be looked up and read.
Empires-Martin Luther (Roadshow) (2002)

Empires-Martin Luther (Roadshow) (2002)

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Released 10-Jun-2004

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Documentary Main Menu Introduction
Main Menu Audio
Trailer-The Empire Series
Rating Rated E
Year Of Production 2002
Running Time 109:24
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (54:08) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Cassian Harrison
Studio
Distributor
SBS
Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring Timothy West
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $29.95 Music None Given


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (320Kb/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 for the Hearing Impaired 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 next release in the great Empires documentary series, as screened/screening on SBS TV and now being released on DVD, is Martin Luther. Previous releases in this series already reviewed by this site are Japan: Memoirs of a Secret Empire, Egypt's Golden Empire, The Greeks: Crucible of Civilisation and The Roman Empire: In the First Century. Others to follow soon are Peter and Paul and the Christian Revolution, Islam, Kingdom of David: The Saga of the Israelites, Napoleon, Queen Victoria's Empire and The Medici: Godfathers of the Renaissance.

    This documentary series has been of generally very high production quality so far, apart from some minor lapses from the rule in terms of DVD transfer quality (a couple in this series were not presented 16x9 enhanced and one with notably lesser video quality than all the rest). But above all, the content of these independently written, produced and directed documentaries has proven to be particularly enlightening and entertaining (again, with only one exception in the series so far proving to be less well written). As a series, so far it has been a winner.

    So it was with some high expectation that I picked up Empires: Martin Luther to review. The first thing I must admit to you (and I'm sure this will confuse others looking at the title too) is that I was expecting a documentary on one Martin Luther King, Jr the famous 20th century black American civil rights activist. But this is NOT his story. Instead, it is the equally fascinating story of Martin Luther, a 15th century German monk who single-handedly challenged and shook one of the greatest and most powerful empires in all of history, the empire of the Roman Catholic Church. Martin Luther boldly challenged the hypocrisy and riches and self-appointed power of the church and stressed to the world that 1/ we should all stand up for what we believe in, and 2/ that every person (not just the self-appointed clergy) is precious in the sight of God. Such thinkings were revolutionary and considered heretical against the established rules and dogma of the church at the time. Standing up against the weight of enormous pressure from the Pope and the church, Martin Luther remained defiant in his unveiling of hypocrisy in a mighty empire and in the end, started a religious and political revolution in the early 16th century that swept across Europe and started the movement known as Protestantism. Martin Luther turned out to be one of the greatest single emancipators of human history. He took on a hugely powerful empire and said "you are wrong". If you are unfamiliar with this man's story - as I was - then this documentary will be highly enlightening at the same time as entertaining.

    The two episodes on this DVD are:   

    Both these episodes are narrated by Liam Neeson, and his distinctive and strong voice adds weight to what is already an A-class production.

    A minor complaint:  As with some other DVDs in the Empires series, the placement of chapter markers on this disc leaves a little to be desired. There is a lack of adequate chapter markers in appropriate places to separate the content and provide quick access to relevant key sections within each episode. The placement of what chapter markers there are seems somewhat spurious and not well thought out at all.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The quality of the video transfer is as per (the majority of) previous releases in this series, quite good.

    The presented aspect ratio is the original 1.75:1, as screened on TV, and the transfer is 16x9 enhanced.

    Sharpness is for the most part high, as would be expected of a very recently-produced, decent budget series. Most scenes offer satisfactory to quite pleasing levels of detail in foreground and background images, with little grain, ample shadow detail and minimal low level noise. As has been the case in others in this series however, there is noticeably more grain in scenes shot in lower light levels and this is no doubt a function of the type of film stock used, also resulting in softer resolution and, occasionally, low level noise in these scenes. As it turns out though, the vast majority of the action in these two episodes takes place in daylight or in sufficiently lit interiors, and so the vast majority of this DVD transfer boasts very good image quality.

    Colour is consistent and well rendered, with perfectly adequate saturation and a varied colour palette used to good effect, particularly highlighted in the rich renaissance artworks of the Vatican. Skin tones are fine and black levels are pleasingly solid, although black levels do tend to drop off a bit to being less solid charcoals in the occasional low-light scene.

    Pleasingly, there are virtually no artefacts to note at all - this is a modern, very clean and very well-handled transfer. MPEG artefacts are absent, film-to-video artefacts are restricted to only the most minor instances of near-aliasing on very fine lines of drawings and structures, and there are no film artefacts at all, other than the visible grain in the low-light scenes.

    The English for the Hearing Impaired subtitle language stream is very clear, well placed, well timed and accurate.

    This disc is RSDL-formatted, but I did not note the layer change, so assume it has been logically placed in between the two episodes.

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

Audio

     The quality of the audio transfer is also high, being a perfectly sufficient English Dolby Digital 2.0 track (encoded at 320 Kb/s).

    Dialogue quality cannot be faulted; the narrator Liam Neeson enunciates clearly and is a pleasure to listen to. I had no issues with the audio sync.

    The music score is appropriate, lends well to the context and is not overused. The DVD's audio transfer handles the score clearly across the range.

    This is not a surround-sound audio track, but if you listen with Dolby Pro-Logic engaged there will be the odd subtle bit of re-directed music and ambience.

    Subwoofer use is minimal.
   

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

Extras

    The only extra is an advertisement for the Empire series, presented using 5 text screens, each of which features 2 titles (there are 10 titles in total in this Empires series), in turn each with a further selectable single text screen giving a very brief synopsis.

    After a short Empires series main menu introduction sequence, being animated with audio and provided at 1.78:1 but not 16x9 enhanced, the main menu for this DVD itself is static with audio and provided at 1.33:1. It is sufficient.

R4 vs R1

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

    The Empires series does not appear to have been released in Region 2 yet, but most episodes, including Martin Luther, have been released in Region 1.

    In comparison to the Region 1 release, Region 4 misses out on:

    In comparison to the Region 4 release, Region 1 misses out on:

    It is unclear exactly what these featurette extras comprise, but I'm willing to bet the interview segments are really just 'more of the same', re-hashing what is contained in the documentary proper. It is also unclear whether the "behind-the-scenes" featurette is anything substantial or just a piece of fluff - after all, this is a documentary, so apart from just more interview segments with the researchers, one wonders how much value this featurette could really add.

    You can make up your own mind, but I am going to call this one even, recommending the local release for the PAL transfer.

Summary

    Yet another highly enlightening and entertaining documentary in the Empires series makes its way to DVD. This is proving to be quite a valuable little history documentary series indeed. This one deals with an episode of history that many of us may not be familiar with, but one which is very important in the annals of the great emancipators of human history. A highly recommended documentary.

    Video and audio quality are very good.

    Unfortunately, there are no real extras.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Sean Abberton (read my bio)
Thursday, June 24, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDToshiba 2109, using Component output
DisplayToshiba 117cm widescreen rear projection TV. Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL). This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderYamaha RXV-1000. Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL).
AmplificationElektra Theatre 150 Watts x 6 channel Power Amplifier
SpeakersOrpheus Aurora III mains, Orpheus Centaurus 1.0 centre, Velodyne CT150 sub and B&W DM303 rears

Other Reviews NONE