The Power of Gold (2003)

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Released 7-Oct-2004

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Documentary Main Menu Audio & Animation
Rating Rated E
Year Of Production 2003
Running Time 148:13 (Case: 150)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (25:24) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Adam Salkeld
Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring Paul Darrow
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $29.95 Music Ben Heneghen
Ian Lawson

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/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 None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

    I have been reviewing a few documentary discs recently and enjoying them greatly. Accordingly, I decided to rescue this disc from the pile of unreviewed releases and give it a shot.

    This series, which I believe was shown on SBS locally, is based upon the book The Power of Gold by Peter L Bernstein and focuses on the role that gold has played in the history of mankind, from the ancient world up to the present day. It is an English production. It is spread across 3 episodes of approximately 50 minutes each.

    The episodes cover the following:

  1. Overview of what gold is and where it comes from, followed by gold's importance in the ancient world including Egypt, Incan Empire and the ancient Greeks and Romans. It covers the first minting of coins in Rome and the rise of various other currencies. Also covers interesting characters such as Crassus (where the term crass comes from).
  2. This episode covers the European lust for gold which led them to South America and the Spanish slaughter of the natives for their gold. Also covered is what the Europeans wanted the gold for, which was to trade with the East for spices and textiles. Interestingly, the favour was not returned with very little of the gold returning to Europe from the East. This episode also covers the rise of using gold as the basis for currencies and economies and the institution of the Gold Standard which was an agreement that the price of gold would be set to a certain amount of Pounds. This was the basis of the world's economy until the 1960s, in one form or another.
  3. This episode brings the story of gold up to the modern day and covers how a small French invasion of England in 1797 caused a major problem for the Bank of England which led to the rise of paper money. Also covered are the gold rushes in California, Siberia, Australia, South Africa & Alaska. This also covers what gold is now used for and some possible future uses.

    Frankly, this series was fairly disappointing because, although it contained some fascinating information, it was not well presented, including significant amounts of stock footage which did not always relate to the topic at hand directly. Also, some portions of footage were repeated in other episodes. Considering that the series was only 150 minutes in total this seemed pretty slack. The voiceover was generally interesting and there were some interviews with people in the business of gold which were quite good.

    If you have a particular interest in the subject, this is worth a look, but otherwise I could not overly recommend it.

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Transfer Quality


    The video quality is reasonable but badly afflicted by MPEG artefacts.

    The feature is presented in a 1.75:1 aspect ratio 16x9 enhanced which is probably the original aspect ratio.

    The picture was generally clear and sharp throughout, with no evidence of low level noise, although there was some grain throughout which I would assume was caused by the compression. Shadow detail was reasonable but was hardly ever needed.

    The colour was fine, but not particularly vibrant.

    This transfer was obviously not given a great MPEG compression as it is full of aliasing, jagged edges and significant macro-blocking. The macro-blocking is worst in landscape and shots of buildings such as at 45:40 in Episode 3. The aliasing and jagged edges are everywhere. It is not unwatchable but it is certainly not spectacular either.

    There are subtitles, however, they are not in a subtitle stream. They are burned in yellow subtitles for the foreign speaking interviews only. When they do exist they are fine.

    The layer change occurs at 25:24 in Episode 2 and causes a significant pause.

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


    The audio quality is good.

    This DVD contains one audio option, an English Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack encoded at 224 Kb/s. The soundtrack is fairly quiet, and I had to set the amplifier at 5dB above my normal reference level for the dialogue to be clearly audible. There are some points where the volume of the voiceover seems to dip in relation to the rest of the soundtrack. Also, at 39:50 in Episode 3, sound is lost for a couple of seconds.

    Dialogue was generally clear and easy to understand (once the volume was turned up).

    The music used in this series was composed by Ben Heneghen & Ian Lawson. It seemed a little too dramatic for the topic, but certainly came across well in the soundtrack.

    The surround speakers were not used 

     The subwoofer was used to support the music, however, this had more to do with the bass management of my amp than it does the DVD itself.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use



    The menu includes music and is very simple, allowing for the playing of all episodes or each individually.


    A menu item marked 'Extra' takes you to one text page advertising the book this series is based upon. Riveting.......not!

R4 vs R1

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

    This series does not seem to be available in other regions.


    This disc contains a documentary series about the history of gold and how it has affected mankind.

    The video quality is badly affected by MPEG artefacts.

    The audio quality is good.

    The disc has one very ordinary extra.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Daniel Bruce (Do you need a bio break?)
Saturday, October 09, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV667A DVD-V DVD-A SACD, using Component output
DisplaySony FD Trinitron Wega KV-AR34M36 80cm. Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL). This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 576i (PAL)/480i (NTSC).
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationPioneer VSX-511
SpeakersBose 201 Direct Reflecting (Front), Phillips SB680V (Surround), Phillips MX731 (Center), Yamaha YST SW90 (Sub)

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