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PLEASE NOTE: Michael D's is currently in READ ONLY MODE. Anything submitted will simply not be written to the database.
Lots of stuff is still broken, but at least reviews can now be looked up and read.
On Golden Pond (1981)

On Golden Pond (1981)

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Released 21-Mar-2005

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Main Menu Introduction
Main Menu Audio
Rating ?
Year Of Production 1981
Running Time 104:48
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Mark Rydell

Universal Pictures Home Video
Starring Katharine Hepburn
Henry Fonda
Jane Fonda
Doug McKeon
Dabney Coleman
William Lanteau
Christopher Rydell
Case ?
RPI $14.95 Music Dave Grusin

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits Yes, Credits rolling over scenery.

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

Plot Synopsis

   On Golden Pond was a successful Broadway play before Ernest Thompson adapted his own work into the screenplay for the film version.

   The casting of the film is a casting agent's dream; two Hollywood legends in the twilight of their careers, playing a husband and wife, with the real life daughter of one of them playing the daughter. The casting of Katharine Hepburn and Henry Fonda provided massive interest in this film when it was first released in 1981, the added twist being Jane Fonda, Henry's real life daughter, playing the role of their daughter Chelsea.

   Norman Thayer Jr (Henry Fonda) and his devoted wife Ethel (Katharine Hepburn) are in the twilight stage of their lives. They arrive at their summer house, on Golden Pond, to spend the summer months and to celebrate Norman's 80th birthday.

   Norman is not coping well with age. He is showing some signs of memory loss, which is resulting in anger, frustration and fear. Ethel on the other hand still has her faculties in abundance, and is the assurance and emotional support that Norman secretly craves at this difficult time of his life.

   Their daughter, Chelsea (Jane Fonda), arrives with her dentist boyfriend, Bill Ray (Dabney Coleman) and his thirteen year old son, Billy Ray Jnr (Doug McKeon). Chelsea's relationship with Norman is clearly strained as they arrive for his 80th birthday. There are many deep-seated and long-standing issues between the two, which is a source of frustration for Ethel as she constantly calms rough waters.

   In a gesture of goodwill, Norman and Ethel agree to look after Billy Ray for a month while Chelsea and Bill go to Europe. In this time, the teenager and the old man, both with rather large attitude problems, develop an unlikely friendship. Upon her return, this serves to heighten Chelsea's frustration at her lack of a relationship with her father. Finally, Norman and Chelsea are forced to confront each other and reconcile the past.

   The screenplay, as you might expect, is a little syrupy at times, but there are enough wonderful moments in the film to overlook that fact. The uneasy scene with Norman and Bill is hilarious, and is one of the many highlights of this funny and ultimately moving film. I have seen On Golden Pond many times over the years, and can testify that the film stands up well to multiple viewings.

   On Golden Pond received ten Academy Award nominations in 1981. It won Oscars for Best Actor (Henry Fonda), Best Actress (Katharine Hepburn) and Best Adapted Screenplay (Ernest Thompson). Both Henry Fonda and Katharine Hepburn were not in attendance at the Oscars ceremony that night. Jane Fonda emotionally accepted the award on behalf of her then very ill father. This was Henry Fonda's final film, and he died a short time after.

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Transfer Quality


   The video transfer is adequate, without being stunning.

   The film is presented on this DVD in the original aspect ratio of 1.85:1, and is 16x9 enhanced.

   The transfer displays various levels of sharpness. While some scenes display a reasonable degree of sharpness, other scenes are quite soft. However, I do recall this was inherent in the source material. These scenes were certainly deliberately shot softly. Blacks were very clean, with no signs of low level noise. Shadow detail was also quite good overall, despite some light grain being evident at times.

   Colours, including skin tones, appeared to be quite natural. During softer scenes, bright whites tended to glisten slightly.

   There was no evidence of MPEG artefacts. Film-to-video artefacts were also quite scarce. I found no problems with aliasing, however, edge enhancement was a minor issue. Film artefacts in the form of fine vertical scratches are evident from 23:00. The scratches are indeed minor, but appear and disappear for a couple of minutes.

   The only subtitles available on this DVD are English for the Hearing Impaired. These subtitles are easily legible in white, and are accurate in content.

  This disc is a single sided, dual layer disc, with the layer change occurring at 46:45 . It is very well placed, and is hardly noticeable.

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


   The audio transfer is surprisingly very good in quality.

   There is only one audio track available, English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s). Although the track is surround encoded, don't expect to hear much at all from the rear speakers. This audio track is based very much front and centre.

   Dialogue quality is excellent throughout. I had no trouble hearing and comprehending any of the dialogue. There was some hiss evident when the volume was increased to a moderate level. Audio sync was spot on.

   The musical score by Dave Grusin captures the essence of the film extremely well. The main title score has been featured on many film music CD compilations over the years, and is really quite a beautiful piece of music. My only criticism of the score is that at times it tends to be a little melodramatic.

   Surround usage here is basically irrelevant. The subwoofer was not used.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


   There are no extras at all on this DVD.


    The menu contains some initial animation, then becomes static. It contains looped music from the film, and is 16x9 enhanced. The only options are Play, Scenes and Subtitles. The audio for the menu is in Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s), surround encoded. The surround presence on the menu is actually much stronger than in the film itself.

R4 vs R1

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

  There are two R1 versions available of On Golden Pond. Both are substantially more comprehensive in terms of presentation than this version.

  The standard R1 version features:

   There is also an excellent Special Edition available in R1 which features:

   With the total absence of extras on the local version, it's clear that either of these R1 versions would be an obvious winner.


   On Golden Pond is a funny and moving film, that showcases the talents of two screen legends in particular. Sure, it's a little corny at times, but it's well worth the effort. It's a film that certainly benefits from repeated viewings over the years.

   Both the video and audio transfers are quite good.

   Extras equal to those presented on the R1 versions would have been fantastic. Why none at all are offered on this disc is a mystery - the film deserves a better presentation on DVD.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Steve Crawford (Tip toe through my bio)
Sunday, March 27, 2005
Review Equipment
DVDJVC XV-N412, using Component output
DisplayHitachi 106cm Plasma Display 42PD5000MA (1024x1024). This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080i.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationPanasonic SA-HE70 80W Dolby Digital and DTS
SpeakersFronts: Jensen SPX7 Rears: Jensen SPX4 Centre: Jensen SPX13 Subwoofer: Jensen SPX17

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