The League of Gentlemen-Christmas Special (1999)

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Released 7-Oct-2004

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Comedy Main Menu Introduction
Menu Animation & Audio
Audio Commentary-The League
Featurette-Tales From Behind The Crypt
Featurette-Jackanory: The Curse Of Karrit Poor
Interviews-Crew-Joby Talbot (Composer)
Interviews-Cast & Crew-In Conversation...(Radio 4 Interview)
Additional Footage-Extended Scenes
Outtakes
Gallery-Fx
Theatrical Trailer-National Film Theatre Trailer
Gallery-Daguerrotypes, Make-Up Designs
Biographies-Character
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1999
Running Time 56:22 (Case: 181)
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Steve Bendelack
Studio
Distributor

Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring Mark Gatiss
Steve Pemberton
Reece Shearsmith
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $29.95 Music Joby Talbot


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 2.0 (256Kb/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 Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

Yule never leave...

    The League Of Gentlemen is probably the most innovative and surreal black comedy to have emerged from the BBC. Anyone who has read any of my previous reviews would realise that I am indeed a real fan of this unique, chillingly funny blend of humour and horror. For those unfamiliar with the series, take a look at my reviews of Series 1 followed by Series 2 and Series 3 before digesting the Christmas Special reviewed here.

    As ever, the hugely talented Steve Pemberton, Mark Gatiss and Reece Shearsmith take us into the shadowy world of the lives of the denizens of the fictitious Northern village, Royston Vasey. This time around there is a limited range of your favourite characters featuring in this portmanteau (I just learned that word from the extra features) of three stories, but there are numerous cameo appearances through the feature. Those familiar with the Halloween specials of The Simpsons (Treehouse of Horror) will know the format to expect in The League of Gentlemen Christmas Special. Essentially, what we have here is three short scary stories, joined by a linking thread. This link is provided courtesy of the repulsive, hateful local vicar Reverend Bernice.

    This feature has Reverend Bernice keen to get home on Christmas Eve. Unfortunately for her, she keeps getting interrupted by needy parishioners who want her help or absolution. First we have Charlie Hull, whose relationship with the abrasive Stella has reached a new low. He is experiencing frightening dreams and wonders if Bernice can help him to cope. Charlie's love of line dancing is irritating Stella, causing her to hook up with the mysterious, white-masked "Solutions Ltd." in an homage to the movie Eyes Wide Shut.

    No sooner has Charlie told his tale of woes than Bernice is disturbed by Matthew Parker - now a derelict, with unkempt hair and a three foot long beard. Matthew wasn't always this way however...and he recounts to Bernice a sad and horrific tale. During 1975, Matthew, then a young chorister, spent some time in Duisburg at the home of sexually ambiguous choir master Herr Lipp. He slowly comes to realise that not only does Herr Lipp have an unnatural desire for the pleasures of young, male flesh...but also for human blood!

    The tales of mystery and terror do not stop there dear reader. Oh no. When Dr Chinnery, the hapless veterinary surgeon arrives, we are told the sombre tale of Karrit Poor. Chinnery believes that he may be cursed. Given his lack of success in the veterinary field, perhaps the experience of his great grandfather is pertinent? In a flashback, we see how Edmund Chinnery is summoned by Dr Majolica and told to report to the practices of Purblind, Boothby and Canker...in Royston Vasey. When Chinnery arrives for his interview, he is immediately hired on the spot, but warned never to enter the bedchamber of Mr Purblind. When creaking and clanking awakens Chinnery late one night, he cannot suppress the urge to investigate. It is then, in that candle-lit room, that Magnus Purblind reveals to Chinnery the supernatural tale of the Maharajah of Karrit Poor...

    The League of Gentlemen Christmas Special is possibly not as laugh-out-loud funny as any of the main series. It was created between the second and third seasons of the show and first aired in the UK in December 2000. With the superb story-telling, wonderful characterisations and chilling setting it is still however a must-own for fans. The very significant extra features available on this single disc help to add some substantial value - and LoG fun - to the overall package. Recommended for Leaguers everywhere.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality

Video

    The video quality of this transfer is as good as any we have seen in the series.

    The series is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and it is 16x9 enhanced. This is the original (digital) televised aspect ratio. The video transfer is a little soft at times, but feels sharper than the earlier series overall. The now familiar post-processing effect, deliberately applied to make the series look like it was shot on grainy film is still present, but suits the feel of the feature very well.

    Black levels are satisfyingly deep with no major low level noise and reasonable shadow detail. Colours are well rendered and whilst the palette is often muted to suit the individual tales, it is always in keeping with the story. Skin tones look suitably natural - or unnatural - as required.

    The transfer is free from major MPEG artefacts. There is occasional aliasing evident but, whilst noticeable, it never becomes annoying. Edge enhancement is not an issue and telecine wobble is absent.

    The feature is free from significant film (video) artefacts, and overall this is a very clean transfer.

    The English subtitles (for the hard of hearing) are legible, well timed and provide appropriate audio cues including song lyrics. There are some omissions in the subtitles, for the sake of brevity, but none are significant enough to detract from their primary function.

    The disc is dual layered but I did not notice a layer change, so I assume it is placed between episodes.

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

Audio

    The overall audio transfer is very impressive indeed for a television comedy show and is by far the most dynamic on any of the LoG DVDs thus far.

    The main English audio track is, much to my delight, presented on this disc in Dolby Digital 5.1 encoded at 448 kbps. It is lively, vibrant and has a surprising dynamic range. There is also a lesser Dolby Digital 2.0 track encoded at 256 kbps. This is also very robust.

    Dialogue is always perfectly clear - although for some the Northern accents may require concerted listening at times - and I noticed no issues with audio sync. There are really no significant defects in the way of hiss, clicks or dropouts.

    The musical score is once again credited to Joby Talbot, and he has excelled on this disc. The number of variations on his basic theme are impressive, with a truly cinematic feel to the score. The extra features contain an interesting interview with Talbot. The festive nature of the Special and the historical twist provided by the Chinnery tale allow plenty of scope for improvisation.

    The soundstage benefits tremendously from the use of a surround mix, and all of the speakers get a substantial workout. The surrounds are used to provide a surprisingly immersive feel. There is an impressive use of LFE in this track, and your subwoofer will see some genuine activity. Given the spooky feel of the feature, the surround track is most welcome and most impressive for a television comedy show. It leaves any of the series' audio tracks in the dust.

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

Extras

    There are some really impressive extra features on offer here.

Menu

    The menu is a superbly animated, spooky affair, complete with scary sound effects and some great video wipes. It allows selection of the feature, selection of one of fifteen chapter stops, audio selection, subtitles activation, or viewing the following extras "Stocking Fillers":

Audio Commentary

    The kindly chaps at The League have once again provided a wonderful, lively, informative and - most importantly - very funny commentary track.

Tales from Behind the Crypt

    A slightly tongue-in-cheek discussion with The League on the early British horror films (from Amicus and Hammer) which influenced their approach to this Christmas Special, and to their lives in general. Running for a healthy 21:04, this is presented at 1.33:1 with a Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo soundtrack encoded at 256 kbps.

Jackanory: The Curse of Karrit Poor

    Those who grew up in the UK will fondly remember the children's program Jackanory. In it an actor would tell a story, unassisted by special effects or supporting actors. In this homage, running for 20:27, Mark Gatiss, dressed as a Victorian gentleman, recounts the full tale of the jinxed veterinarians, cursed by the testicles of a Maharajah's monkey. Hilarious, hilarious, hilarious! Presented with added scratches and grain at 1.33:1 with a Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo soundtrack encoded at 256 kbps.

Interview with Composer Joby Talbot

    Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 with a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack encoded at 256 kbps. This featurette has Joby being interviewed on the sofa by Reece and runs for 13:28.

In Conversation...

    The full, unedited BBC Radio 4 interview with The League from March 2002. The broadcast version ran for thirty minutes. Fans are now presented with the full Monty - running for an impressive 63:12. Being a radio interview there are no visuals, so we are thoughtfully provided with a slideshow of photographs from the show presented at 1.78:1 (16x9 enhanced) and a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack encoded at 192 kbps.

Gallery

    Anyone familiar with my reviews will know that I consider these things a total waste of time. Well, this is not a total waste, as we are provided with lots of photos - some of which are annotated. Presented silent but 16x9 enhanced, the pictures are divided into various sections:

Local People

    As for the individual series, this is a collection of silent text-based screens providing an hilarious summary of the major new characters seen in this series...seven of them in this case.

Extras

    A collection of extended and deleted scenes presented with a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack encoded at 256 kbps and presented in a ratio of 1.78:1 16x9 enhanced. They can be played individually or with a Play All feature.

Easter Egg

    This can be found by (SPOILER ALERT: highlight with mouse to read) clicking on the wire man in the puppet's hand on the "Stocking Fillers" menu and is a little game for all to enjoy! If you solve the puzzle, you are treated to a short (2:41) video clip.

R4 vs R1

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

    This DVD does not appear to be available in Region 1. The Region 2 release appears to be identical to our own. Buy whichever is cheaper.

Summary

    The League of Gentlemen Christmas Special is possibly not quite as funny as the main series. It takes the form of three short ghost stories tied together by the local church and the impatient gaze of the Reverend Bernice. Nevertheless it remains a sterling example of The League's twisted black humour and, with a very substantial set of extra features, this is well worth a purchase for fans.

    The video quality has some minor issues with aliasing but is generally very good.

    The audio transfer is exceptionally good for a television series.

    There is a wonderful collection of genuinely valuable extras on offer. Well done yet again BBC.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Daniel O'Donoghue (You think my bio is funny? Funny how?)
Sunday, October 03, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDMomitsu V880 upconverting DVI player, using DVI output
DisplaySanyo 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 DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-SR600 with DD-EX and DTS-ES
SpeakersJensenSPX-9 fronts, Jensen SPX-13 Centre, Jensen SPX-5 surrounds, Jensen SPX-17 subwoofer

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