Midsummer Night's Dream, A (1981)

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Released 9-Sep-2004

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Main Menu Audio
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 1981
Running Time 111:17
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (53:39) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Elijah Moshinsky

Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring Estelle Kohler
Nigel Davenport
Hugh Quarshie
Geoffrey Lumsden
Pippa Guard
Nicky Henson
Robert Lindsay
Cherith Mellor
Geoffrey Palmer
Brian Glover
John Fowler
Don Estelle
Nat Jackley
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $19.95 Music Stephen Oliver

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1 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

    This is another in the series of The Complete Dramatic Works of William Shakespeare, this one being first screened in 1981.

    This is one of Shakespeare's most popular plays, and has been filmed many times. There is a 1935 Hollywood version that was the only film directed by legendary stage director Max Reinhardt. This had a fine performance by Victor Jory as Oberon, but an annoying Puck from Mickey Rooney. James Cagney played Bottom in an unusual bit of casting that seemed to work. The production design of this film was exceptional. In 1968 there was a film that featured the young Helen Mirren as Hermia, who also appears in this version as Titania. In 1999 it was brought to the screen again, with an all-star cast of mainly Americans, which did not work for me. It is also the subject of an opera by Benjamin Britten, and Felix Mendelssohn was inspired to write incidental music for the play, including the famous wedding march which has been played as a recessional at countless real-life weddings ever since.

    Set in Athens, the play tells of the loves of various humans and fairies, and proves that the course of true love never did run smooth, even though it all ends happily. The Duke of Athens, Theseus (Nigel Davenport), announces that he will wed Hippolyta, Queen of the Amazons. He also declares, following a complaint by her father, that Hermia (Pippa Guard) must marry Demetrius (Nicky Henson) rather than Lysander (Robert Lindsay), whom she loves. Lysander and Hermia flee to the nearby forest, closely followed by Demetrius and Hermia's less attractive friend Helena (Cherith Mellor). Helena is enamoured of Demetrius who has loved and discarded her.

    Meanwhile, in the forest Titania (Helen Mirren), Queen of the Fairies, refuses to give up an orphan child to her husband Oberon (Peter McEnery). Enraged, Oberon tells Puck to obtain from Cupid a flower whose juices will cause Titania to fall in love with the first person she sees. He also tells Puck (Phil Daniels) to anoint Demetrius with the potion, so that he will fall in love with Helena, but Puck mistakenly anoints Lysander, causing much consternation.

    While this has been going on, a group of Athenian tradesmen have been putting together a play for the approaching nuptials of the Duke. These players include Quince (Geoffrey Palmer) and Bottom (Brian Glover). While practising in the forest, Puck decides to turn Bottom's head into that of an ass. Of course, he then stumbles on the sleeping Titania...

    While the original play seems to have been set in ancient Athens, the costumes and settings of this production are of the era of Shakespeare himself, or perhaps later in the seventeenth century. The strength of this version of the play is the acting, which is uniformly fine. Helen Mirren is excellent as Titania, and so are Robert Lindsay and Nicky Henson in their respective roles. Geoffrey Palmer is good as Quince, though Brian Glover is a little less convincing as Bottom. Phil Daniels makes a fine Puck. Don Estelle (Lofty from It Ain't Half Hot Mum) is Starveling, and he gets to sing as well, but not the expected Whispering Grass.

    The play is well directed by theatre director Elijah Moshinsky, and the striking night scenes in the forest are not as dark and murky as in some of the plays in this series. It is quite enjoyable as a whole, though one could imagine that some of the parts could have been better.

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Transfer Quality


    The play is presented in the original television aspect ratio of 1.33:1 and is not 16x9 enhanced.

    As a video production, it is lacking in sharpness and clarity. There is considerable glare from harsh studio lighting especially in the indoor scenes. Much of the time the lighting levels are low in the background (covering up the cheap studio sets), resulting in poor detail, especially in shadows. Some of the video when the players are distant from the camera is murky. Contrast is adequate in the more brightly lit scenes.

    Colour is drab and muted, with a slightly washed out look. Flesh tones are reasonable but not always lifelike. Black levels are poor, lacking solidity and including low level noise.

    There are a range of video artefacts present. Excessive noise reduction is a problem in the darker sequences, of which there are several. Motion blurring is visible in many sequences. There are comet trails from bright sections of the image when the camera or actors move. Cross-colourisation, colour bleeding and chroma noise is also visible throughout much of the running time. There are occasional horizontal dark lines indicating analogue tape tracking errors. There are also interference lines across the screen in a number of shots, similar to those seen in microphony but seemingly not due to any high volume sounds on the set.

    As the production was shot on video, there are no film artefacts of any description.

    Subtitles are provided in English, in small white lettering. Being familiar with the play I was able to watch without subtitles. From a sampling of them, it seems that the subtitles repeat the text verbatim.

    This is an RSDL-formatted disc with the layer change positioned at 53:39 during the break between parts one and two, and is therefore not disruptive in the slightest. I only noticed it while watching the play because the display on my player showed that it was searching for the start of the second layer.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    The sole audio track is Dolby Digital 2.0 mono, reflecting the original mono broadcast.

    The audio is satisfactory. Dialogue is clear and the sound is clean despite the limitations of the recording and the presence of a slight background hiss. I had no trouble understanding any of the dialogue. There is a bit of shabby audio sync near the end of the play, caused by some of the singing being mimed by Helen Mirren.

    The fanfare music that is played under the opening titles of each play in this series was written by Sir William Walton. Incidental music during the play and end credits comes from Stephen Oliver. There is a lot of music in this play, with several songs included. It has been done in the Baroque style and is very effective, removing any disappointment that I may have had regarding the omission of Mendelssohn's music.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    No substantial extras are provided. A missed opportunity, as with the addition of background materials and other information this DVD could have been useful for schools and students.

Main Menu Audio

    The static main menu has music from the score playing in the background.

R4 vs R1

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

    The UK Region 2 release of this material is identical to the Region 4.

    This production is also available in Region 1 as part of an expensive box set only. The box set contains five of the comedies, with The Taming of the Shrew, The Tempest, The Merchant of Venice and As You Like It. Given that the material has been transferred from PAL to NTSC, you would be better off getting the Region 4 releases as they appear, as hopefully they will.


    A fine traversal of this play.

    The video quality is not very good, but this is as good as it can be given the source material.

    The audio quality is acceptable.

    No significant extras are provided.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Philip Sawyer (Bio available.)
Saturday, October 09, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-S733A, using Component output
DisplaySony 86CM Trinitron Wega KVHR36M31. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD player, Dolby Digital, dts and DVD-Audio. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationSony TA-DA9000ES
SpeakersMain: Tannoy Revolution R3; Centre: Tannoy Sensys DCC; Rear: Richter Harlequin; Subwoofer: JBL SUB175

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