Upstairs Downstairs-Series 4 (1974)

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Released 15-Sep-2004

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama None
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1974
Running Time 655:37 (Case: 676)
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered
Multi Disc Set (4)
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Bill Bain
Derek Bennett
Cyril Coke
Lionel Harris
Studio
Distributor

Universal Pictures Home Video
Starring Charlotte Bingham
Julian Bond
Raymond Bowers
Terence Brady
Maureen Duffy
John Harrison
John Hawkesworth
Elizabeth Jane Howard
Deborah Mortimer
Jeremy Paul
Alfred Shaughnessy
Rosemary Anne Sisson
Anthony Skene
Case ?
RPI $79.95 Music Alexander Faris
Martin Case
Barbara Bates


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame 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 1.33:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    Season Four is without a doubt the finest of the five seasons of Upstairs Downstairs. There are several factors that contribute to this but probably the greatest of these is the historical backdrop against which this season is set. The start and the end of World War I bracket this season and provide an extremely rich section of history against which we see our characters.

    It brings this section of history, one of the darkest in modern history, to life as we follow through the effects of the war on the many characters. It also makes it somewhat more personal - if you have been following along in the previous seasons you cannot help but become attached to some of the characters and this adds great impact to what you are viewing. We see the impact on the three main sections of the British society of the times. Richard Bellamy takes us through the impact on the parliament and also though the impact a parent feels when their child goes off to war. James Bellamy gives us an insight into the life of an officer in the British military. One of the most fascinating transformations is that experienced by the young Miss Georgina when she finds herself transported from the ballrooms of the aristocratic upper class to a field hospital in France in the middle of some of the most bloody fighting that was seen in that war. The wife's part is shown from a number of perspectives of both upper and lower classes. Downstairs there is the tension of seeing some of their number join the war effort directly and also the impact of the jobs that were either created (war munitions factories) or opened to women for the first time as all the men were overseas.

Some lighter moments are built around Mrs Bridges' discovery of the 'war diet' and the need to be creative in the kitchen in these hard times. The social commentary does not cease and some of the stories that revolve either around refugees from the continent or from the plight of English nationals of German descent are particularly hard hitting.

    This was one of the most turbulent times in British history - all the rules governing society were under strain in one form or another. On the battlefield class was broken down, and back home there were jobs for any woman that wanted one - in fact, there were advertising campaigns telling women that this was their patriotic duty. I wouldn't wonder if the war did more for women's rights than the previous suffragette movements and other political organisations. There are also moments that make you shudder, such as one rich woman complaining that she was short of servants because the government introduced conscription and took her best people. Again, the social turmoil adds to the backdrop and rich tapestry that makes up this season.

    All of the transformations are played wonderfully well by their respective actors and it was nearly impossible to simply watch one episode on a particular night as each led into the other and was such riveting viewing that you simply had to watch just one more. This is British period drama produced by the BBC at its very finest.

A Patriotic Offering (49:24) The menu title for this episode is wrong - it incorrectly titles it "A Patriot Offering". Lady Prudence imposes on the Bellamys to take in a family of refugees, one of the large number streaming in from the continent, in this case from Belgium. Of course she promises that only the better class of refugee will be sent to them. This turns out not to be true and as we learn about these refugees and their plight we start to understand just what this war is going to be like.

News from the Front (50:45) James is home on leave from the war and describes the terrible conditions, in particular the woeful lack of support that the British army is receiving in the field. This is a little indiscreet as those at the dinner party are all members or supporters of the 'loyal opposition' and just looking for ammunition to use against the government. This lands James in lots of hot water.

The Beastly Hun (51:23) The terrible treatment of British nationals that just happen to have recent German ancestry is shown in this episode along with the anti-German propaganda that was being circulated in England at this time.

Women Shall Not Weep (49:56) The changes in British society are brought to prominence in this episode as Ruby announces her resignation so that she can work in a munitions factor (at a far better wage than she is receiving now) while Georgina starts her journey as a volunteer nurse. At the same time there is a lighter note, though tinged with worry over the war, injected by a wedding.

Tug of War (49:22) James is again on leave but this time he is frustrated by his behind the lines staff job. Hazel does a wonderful job portraying the tension created by wishing James happy as opposed to him being safe behind the lines.

Home Fires (51:12) Our intrepid and egalitarian Aussie makes a reappearance fresh from the battle of Gallipoli. He is in a confused state thanks to the war and wishes to see Rose again but is unsure just where to take the relationship.

If You Were The Only Girl In The World (50:37) Hazel is attracted to a young pilot she meets at a tea party for wounded officers. She spends the rest of his leave with him. Hazel has always felt a little out of place in her position within the upper society in which she has found herself - some of the attraction to this dashing young pilot is that they come from a similar background.

The Glorious Dead (50:22) We move on to some of the strongest and most harrowing episodes of this season as death strikes at the loved ones of those living at the Bellamy residence.

Another Year (51:02) Even those that return physically in one piece will carry the scars of the war for a very long time. Edward returns home suffering badly from shell shock.

The Hero's Farewell (49:49) Perhaps the producers of the show were a little worried about the level of drama in the episodes surrounding this one. A more light-hearted episode outlining an attempt to produce an 'historical tableaux' - a series of static skits with costumed members portraying a scene from history as a fundraiser for the Red Cross. While light-hearted, the war again intrudes when the Bellamy residence is involved in a bomb raid.

Missing Believed Killed (50:19) Hazel and Richard are suffering the dreaded unknown after the receipt of a telegram, one of the most feared types of messages during the war as it usually came from the war department signalling a death. In this case, James is missing in action, presumed dead.

Facing Fearful Odds (50:31) Virginia Hamilton approaches Richard directly for aid in setting up a fund to help the families of naval personnel that have been killed in the war. He is rather short with her until he is hauled over the coals by his superiors. After warming to her he discovers that her son is up for courtmartial. We see here the treatment of near children that are being used as soldiers or in this case naval officers.

Peace out of Pain (50:54) The Great War, the war to end all wars, is drawing to a close and a sigh of relief sounds throughout the land. Unfortunately, there is one other great historical event that intrudes on this year in history. The great flu pandemic called the 'Spanish Flu' strikes, killing somewhere between 20 and 100 million people across the globe, and one person in the Bellamy residence.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    Presented at its original 1.33:1 aspect ratio, the image quality is of the same order of magnitude as the previous season.

    Sharpness is acceptable for close-ups but fades rapidly on longer shots. There is quite a bit of low level noise present. Shadow detail is workable but could be better in places.

    Colours are lacking saturation overall but this is only to be expected. The colours are also affected by the low level noise triggered by the video signal noise present in the source material.

    While the MPEG artefacts continue, unless you are sensitive to blocking they are not as noticeable as the occasional tearing in the video image, most probably a videotape error from the source material. These occur on average about every 5 minutes.

    There are no subtitles on these discs.

    All four discs are RSDL discs and there are mid-episode layer changes on three of them (those with three episodes); Disc 1: 29:35, Disc 3: 19:56 and Disc 4: 30:28. All are well placed and not intrusive.

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

Audio

     There is a single Dolby Digital 2.0 mono soundtrack on these discs. Overall, the quality is not bad with only minor hiss and the very occasional click.

    Dialogue quality is good as is the audio sync.

    Music only accompanies the opening and closing credits.

    The surrounds and subwoofer were not used by this series.

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

Extras

Menu

    A simple static menu with a picture from the series adorning the centre of the screen. Presented at 1.33:1 with no audio.

R4 vs R1

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

    Content across the regions appears identical. The R4 version remains the pick as R1 reviews report transfer problems.

Summary

    Absolutely riveting viewing, fantastic stories, great acting and a lesson on one of the most interesting periods of modern history. Combine this with an excellent social commentary and that makes this series compulsory viewing for those that enjoy period dramas.

    The video is affected by age and source material limitations.

    The audio is good.

    There are no extras.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Terry McCracken (read my bio)
Monday, December 20, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDSkyworth 1050p progressive scan, using RGB output
DisplaySony 1252q CRT Projector, Screen Technics matte white screen 16:9 (223cm). Calibrated with AVIA Guide To Home Theatre. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with AVIA Guide To Home Theatre.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-SR800
SpeakersB&W DM305 (mains); CC3 (centre); S100 (surrounds); custom Adire Audio Tempest with Redgum plate amp (subwoofer)

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