The Little Prince (1974)

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Released 6-May-2004

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Family None
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 1974
Running Time 84:49
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Programme
Region Coding 4 Directed By Stanley Donen
Studio
Distributor

Paramount Home Entertainment
Starring Richard Kiley
Steven Warner
Bob Fosse
Gene Wilder
Joss Ackland
Clive Revill
Donna McKechnie
Victor Spinetti
Graham Crowden
Case ?
RPI $24.95 Music Douglas Gamley
Frederick Loewe


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio Unknown Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles Arabic
Bulgarian
Czech
Danish
German
Greek
English
Spanish
Hebrew
Croatian
Icelandic
Hungarian
Dutch
Norwegian
Polish
Portuguese
Romanian
Slovenian
Serbian
Finnish
Swedish
Turkish
English for the Hearing Impaired
Spanish Titling
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

     There's always a danger in adapting a popular book into a film. And when that book is beloved by millions, the territory becomes even more perilous. Now I shall confess right at the outset that I am a long-term devotee of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's exquisite story, The Little Prince. I have read it in English and in French... I have read it as a child and as an adult.... and then to my children, and now to my grandchildren. It has given me joy and helped me shed tears over the years, and has frequently become the common touch point for a fledgling friendship, as we discuss our favourite parts of the text.

     And I hold myself completely to blame - if I had read the DVD specifications more carefully, I would have realised that when Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe are involved in a project, it's highly likely that they'll impose their stamp on the result.

     But all of that not withstanding, after some of the most appalling opening credits I can recall seeing finally subsided, I was rather shocked and dismayed when the narrator of this story opens the film by introducing a vile ensemble cast of chorus singers in clumsily choreographed sequences, droning away in three part harmonies about his childhood drawing being of a hat. Then, in a swift segue, we now see the narrator as a grown up pilot, flying high in the sky, and - oh no! He's opening his jaws WIDE and baying out a positively wretched song about needing lots of air! Not a good start, I'm afraid.

     And, for my sensibilities, it never really got any better. Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's book is a tender, quiet and contemplative piece, filled with haunting little insights and almost heartbreakingly simple wisdom. It is a delicate fable, tasselled with a gentle melancholy, and embroidered with an innocent candour. This self-conscious musical number features some truly terrible songs, some rather disastrous miscasting, and an uneasy lack of understanding about the subject matter.

     Little Steven Warner does a rather charming turn as the Little Prince, but Richard Kiley would have done better getting his plane to perform the adult lead role - at least the plane lifted off the ground eventually, which is more than can be said of Kiley's performance. He was consistently wooden and unsympathetic throughout. The complicated rose that the Little Prince has left behind on his planet looked preposterous in this film, with the overlay of film of Donna McKechnie over a static shot of a red rose looking like a cutaway shot of Jeannie in the bottle from I Dream of Jeannie.

     The story begins with our narrator crashing his plane in the Sahara Desert. Isolated and alone, he is working on his plane when suddenly he encounters a little boy, curiously dressed, who begs him to draw for him a sheep. After several disastrous attempts, the pilot in frustration finally draws a box with air holes, and assures the Little Prince that the sheep he desires is inside. This delights his miniature visitor, and the two begin a quiet friendship, as the Little Prince tells the pilot of his adventures.

     He has arrived from a very small planet, a very long way away. On his travels, he has encountered the inhabitants of other small planets, notably a king who rules over no one (Joss Ackland), a general who has no troops (Graham Crowden), a businessman who is counting the stars he "owns" (Clive Revill), and an historian who writes imaginary histories (Victor Spinetti). And his adventures are not confined to meetings with people. His discourses with The Snake (a creepily stylish Bob Fosse) and The Fox (Gene Wilder) are significant moments for the little adventurer. Fosse brings some genuine panache to his role as The Snake, but, in my opinion, the characterisation is entirely opposite to Exupéry's original intent. Only Wilder's Fox has some redemptive qualities, in spite of the wretched song he has to sing. When he sits, forlorn in the wheat field, and quietly says, "It's only with the heart that one can see clearly. What's essential is invisible to the eye;" it is the first and last hint of the spirit of the original source that I felt remained to peep through the celluloid.

     So, for this reviewer at least, this film was, sadly, a horrid mess. And perhaps it's a pertinent reminder, for me at least, that some things just shouldn't be tampered with.

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Transfer Quality

Video

     This transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 16x9 enhanced.

     The quality of the transfer left much to be desired. The sharpness levels were rather poor, with considerable low level noise in evidence, and frequent pulsing of the vision. Contrast was also rather soft and mushy, with some compression problems further flattening the image. Blacks and highlights all fell away rapidly.

     The colour range was acceptable, though skin tones were on occasion rather florid.

     This presentation was very grainy, with prevalent dust spots and scratches marring the vision.

     This is a single layered disc, and there is no layer change present.

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

Audio

     The soundtrack is delivered in English Dolby Digital 2.0, German Dolby Digital 2.0, and Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0.

     The dialogue is often rather thick and "soupy", with some words difficult to distinguish at first pass, with a fractional delay in audio sync. There are myriad subtitles available, and the English ones are quite acceptable.

     The original music by Douglas Gamley and Frederick Loewe, with lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner is, in my opinion, one of the lowest points of this film. The musical numbers are discordant and totally against the spirit of the text.

     There is the occasional hint of direction in the soundscape, although there is no subwoofer activity.

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

Extras

Menu

     The menu is static and silent.

R4 vs R1

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

      There are no extras provided on either region's DVD, so choose your appropriate region.

Summary

     I'm afraid I cannot give this many points at all. It is clumsy, wooden and jarring, and strays so far from the spirit of the original that it has retained virtually no charm at all. May I recommend you read the book to your children instead.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Mirella Roche-Parker (read my bio)
Saturday, October 23, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDSinger SGD-001, using S-Video output
DisplayTeac 76cm Widescreen. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationTeac 5.1 integrated system
Speakers fronts-paradigm titans, centre &rear Sony - radio parts subbie

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