Swallows and Amazons (1974)

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Released 2-Dec-2004

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Family Main Menu Audio
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 1974
Running Time 88:39
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Claude Whatham

Universal Pictures Home Video
Starring Virginia McKenna
Ronald Fraser
Simon West
Suzanna Hamilton
Sophie Neville
Stephen Grendon
Kit Seymour
Lesley Bennett
Brenda Bruce
Mike Pratt
John Franklyn-Robbins
Jack Woolgar
David Blagden
Case ?
RPI ? Music Wilfred Josephs

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Screen, not known whether Pan & Scan or Full Frame English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.29:1
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio Unknown Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

     When I was a child, my mother, father, brother, sisters, assorted cousins, aunts, uncles and family friends would descend each holiday on the tiny town of Yunderup, nestled on the Murray River in Western Australia. The children ranged in ages from babes-in-arms to sophisticated and knowledgeable sixteen year olds. It was always a blissful week of long walks and "messing about in boats." Inspired by my father's experiences as a navigator in the merchant navy, we spent hours negotiating the tiny rivulets and estuary sweeps, mapping out "Snaggy Alley" and recording dire warnings about the dangers of toe-nipping crabs in the estuary shallows. And best of all, we had our own island - Alan's Island, named after our erstwhile leader. We each had landmarks named after ourselves - Lou's Lagoon, Santhia's Sandpit, Neale's Nest - my dubious honour was to lend my name to Mirella's Mudpatch! Most of our holiday was spent on our own private island, which occasionally we'd share with our parents, if they bore the appropriate "visas" (handwritten at night, with Neale charged with hand-drawing our Island seal on each chit.) Watching Swallows and Amazons was therefore a nostalgic blast from a gentle part of my past. It is a film that harks back to a time which bears little relationship to the modern day.

     Set in 1929 but filmed in 1974, this adaptation of the well-loved book by Arthur Ransome is a kids' adventure story, much in the mode of the Secret Seven or the Famous Five. Our main heroes are John, (Simon West) - the leader of the group; Susan, (Zanna Hamilton) - the mother figure; Titty, (Sophie Neville) - the imaginative firebrand tomboy and Roger, (Stephen Grendon) - a bit of a duffer. On their holidays in the Lake District, they are given permission to take their little boat, The Swallow, over to an island to set-up camp. On their journey, they encounter a houseboat, with a shifty occupant (Ronald Fraser) who has a parrot on his shoulder. No doubt, this suspicious character is a pirate, or at least an ex-pirate.

     As they settle in to their island idyll, their tranquillity is disturbed by arrows being shot over their head. The Swallows have just encountered the Amazons, namely Nancy (Kit Seymour) and Peggy (Lesley Bennett). Also there on their holidays, the group parley and decide upon a contest to try to capture each other's boat. After sundry adventures and strategies going awry, Titty manages to save the Swallows' honour, but they all find themselves on the same side when some sinister men are observed concealing a treasure chest on their island. What are they hiding, and what does it have to do with the houseboat pirate?

     In truth, this production of Swallows and Amazons is a little clumsy and awkward. The children are rather stilted in their performances, and the entire direction is particularly self-conscious. But, in many ways, this is a film that has more value in its innocent nostalgia than in its inherent cinematic merits. If your children are fond of slick, smash-em-up video games and 3D animations, then this may be a little crude and facile for their tastes, but it does provide a gentler moment and counterpoint to today's harsher times.

     This disc comes as a double feature with The Railway Children.

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Transfer Quality


     This transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.29:1, which is probably a pan and scan effort.

     The presentation is rather soft and flat, with significant evidence of compression and some low level noise. The highlights tend to be rather burned out, and there's not a lot of detail in the shadows. Grain levels are extremely high.

     The colour range is rather limited and somewhat pallid, although the skin tones are generally reasonably accurate.

     This transfer is plagued with significant dust spots and scratches, and some aliasing is present.

     This is a dual layered disc, but the layer change is between the two features (this disc includes The Railway Children as well) and consequently does not interfere with the presentation.

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


     The soundtrack is delivered in English Dolby Digital 2.0 from a mono source.

     The dialogue is relatively clean, but there are occasional audio sync sins committed. There are no subtitles.

     The film score by Wilfred Josephs is adequate, though unremarkable.

     There is virtually no sense of direction in the audio, and the subwoofer is nonexistent. There are occasional distortions and pops throughout the production.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use



     The menu is static with theme music from Swallows and Amazons.

R4 vs R1

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

      This does not appear to be available as a DVD in R1 so we have a winner by default.


     Whilst the filming and acting looks very self-conscious by today's standards, there's some homespun, bully-beef charm in this rather plummy presentation.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Mirella Roche-Parker (read my bio)
Wednesday, October 27, 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

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add)
Ransome avoids the conventional melodrama. - John