Porridge-The Christmas Specials (1975)

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Released 10-Nov-2004

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Comedy Main Menu Audio-Prisoner And Escort (Pilot)
Featurette-Britain's Best Sitcom
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1975
Running Time 84:56 (Case: 144)
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Sydney Lotterby
Studio
Distributor

Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring Ronnie Barker
Brian Wilde
Fulton Mackay
Richard Beckinsale
Sam Kelly
Tony Osoba
Peter Vaughan
Christopher Biggins
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $29.95 Music Max Harris


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None 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 English for the Hearing Impaired Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

    Porridge was one of the most successful comedy series ever produced by the BBC, and the comedy still stands up well thirty years later. The series followed the fortunes of habitual criminal Norman Stanley Fletcher (Ronnie Barker) and first-time inmate Godber (Richard Beckinsale) in Her Majesty's Prison Slade. Regular cast members included Fulton Mackay as tough-as-nails Glaswegian warder Mr Mackay and Brian Wilde as the soft and wimpish Mr Barrowclough. Now that all of the regular series episodes are available on DVD, the BBC have decided to release the two Christmas Specials just in time for Christmas. The episodes are as follows:

No Way Out (41:02)

    First screened 24 December 1975.

    In this episode, the prisoners are covering for the tunnelling of Slocombe, whose relatives are friends of genial Harry Grout. Fletcher is trying to get Christmas in the infirmary due to his gammy knee, but the prison doctor (Graham Crowden) doesn't want anyone in his nice clean clinic. Fletcher gets taken off to a civilian hospital for an x-ray, and Grouty seizes the opportunity to get Fletch to smuggle a passport for Slocombe into the prison.

The Desperate Hours (43:54)

    First screened 24 December 1976.

    Fletcher and Godber are caught with contraband liquor. While waiting outside the Governor's office for their punishment, they and Barrowclough are taken hostage by Urwin (Dudley Sutton), who wants a helicopter to take him to Mexico. A secret about Mr Barrowclough is revealed.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The Christmas specials are shown in an aspect ratio of 1.29:1 and are not 16x9 enhanced.

    The material seems to be in slightly better condition than the episodes of series 2 and 3 that I reviewed. While the video is necessarily limited by the technology available in the mid 1970s, it is still very watchable. It is not especially sharp, with the video footage showing some slight smearing and the film footage lacking in fine detail. That being said, the film footage seems clearer and with less artefacts than on the earlier discs. Shadow detail is average, though every scene is brightly lit, so it is never an issue.

    Colour is muted and slightly drab, with no vivid colours on display. Contrast levels are acceptable.

    There is some aliasing, though it is very slight. There is also occasional moire effect on the striped clothing. Gibb Effect visible throughout the entire programme. There is flaring at times reflected on furniture and clothing, resulting in some false colours.

    Subtitles are provided, and while the text is small, it is clear and close to the original dialogue. The disc is dual-layered, but if there is a layer break it occurs between programmes, so there is no disruption.

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

Audio

    The original series has only a Dolby Digital 2.0 mono track.

    Audio is adequate and reflects the nature of the original material. There is slight distortion at times, but otherwise dialogue is clear and clean. There is little in the way of dynamic range, with little difference between the quieter and louder passages.

    The music is credited to Max Harris. The only use of the music seems to be over the end credits, and it will be familiar to fans of this series. There is some carol singing in the first of the Christmas specials.

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

Extras

Main Menu Audio

    The static menu has the opening remarks from the show, with the judge (Barker himself) sentencing Fletcher to five years.

Britain's Best Sitcom - Porridge (58:34)

    This is an episode of a 2004 series screened on BBC2 devoted to determining Britain's best situation comedy. This show features Johnny Vaughan trying to convince the public to vote for Porridge. Presumably there were another nine episodes devoted to each of the other nominees. The show takes the form of Vaughan putting forward the case for Porridge including brief excerpts and interviews with surviving cast and crew. In the former category, we get an ancient-looking Ronnie Barker, Sam Kelly (Warren), Tony Osoba (McLaren), Christopher Biggins (Lukewarm), Peter Vaughan (genial Harry Grout) and Dudley Sutton (Urwin). The latter category includes director Sidney Lotterby and writers Dick Clement and Ian La Fresnais. There are also some fans of the series, including Craig Charles from Red Dwarf.

    Brief excerpts from archival interviews with Fulton Mackay and Richard Beckinsale are shown. There is also an emotional BAFTA award acceptance speech from Barker three days after the sudden death of Beckinsale.

    Incidentally, Porridge came in 7th in the viewers' poll, behind Blackadder, Dad's Army and Fawlty Towers. The winner was Only Fools and Horses.

    The show is presented in 1.78:1 and is 16x9 enhanced. Aliasing is rife, with lots of jagged edges that should be smooth. The clips from the original series are zoomed in to fill the wider screen, and as a result they look less clear and sharp than in their full frame incarnations. The background music gets irritating after a while. There are no subtitles.

R4 vs R1

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

    This material is being released simultaneously in Region 2, and appears to be identical to the Region 4 version.

Summary

    Easily digestible classic comedy, a must-buy for Porridge fans.

    The video quality is pretty good, despite the poor quality sources.

    The audio quality is satisfactory.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Philip Sawyer (Bio available.)
Thursday, November 11, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-S733A, using Component output
DisplaySony 86CM Trinitron Wega KVHR36M31. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD player, Dolby Digital, dts and DVD-Audio. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationSony TA-DA9000ES
SpeakersMain: Tannoy Revolution R3; Centre: Tannoy Sensys DCC; Rear: Richter Harlequin; Subwoofer: JBL SUB175

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