Kingdom Hospital (2004)
Main Menu Introduction
Main Menu Audio
Dolby Digital Trailer
Audio Commentary-Filmmakers - Episode 1
Featurette-Making Of-Inside The Walls
Featurette-Patients And Doctors: The Cast Of Kingdom Hospital
Featurette-Designing Kingdom Hospital: The Tour
Featurette-The Magic Of Antubis
|Year Of Production||2004|
|Running Time||583:07 (Case: 594)|
|RSDL / Flipper||
Multi Disc Set (4)
|Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||2,4||Directed By||Craig R. Baxley|
Sony Pictures Home Entertain
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||
English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||1.78:1|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.78:1||Miscellaneous|
English for the Hearing Impaired
English Audio Commentary
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
Stephen King is one of the best known American writers of the late 20th Century, known for such horror classics as The Stand and The Shining. Danish director Lars Von Trier is one of the most confronting filmmakers alive today, infamous for such films as The Idiots and Dancer In The Dark. In 1994, Von Trier began piecing together a mini-series set in a mental hospital called Riget (The Kingdom). The series left many issues unresolved. In 2004, King saw something in the script, and in a collaborative effort rewrote the series to give it a complete feel. The result is this 13-episode masterpiece that is sure to become a classic in its genre in due course.
Kingdom Hospital follows the strange occurrences at a neurological hospital shortly after a local famous painter, Peter Rickman (Jack Coleman), is hit by a van and brought into the ward. The hospital itself is populated by a group of very strange professionals, including the brilliant but troubled Dr. Hook (Andrew McCarthy), a deranged and borderline psychotic chief surgeon, Dr. Stegman (Bruce Davidson), a loopy hospital administrator, Dr. Jesse James (Ed Begley Jr.), the stunning surgeon Dr. Christine Draper (Allison Hossack), an almost blind security chief named Otto (Julian Richings), a somewhat lazy orderly named Bobby Druse (Del Pentecost) whose hypochondriac mother Sally (Diane Ladd) believes she has the spiritual power to stop the strange occurrences at the hospital, a pair of Down Syndrome cleaners who know far more about what’s going on than anybody else, and the beautiful dream specialist Dr. Lona Massingale (Sherry Miller).
As Peter slowly recovers, he becomes aware of a ghost world existing at Kingdom Hospital in parallel to reality, populated by a lost little girl with a bell named Mary (Jodelle Micah Ferland), an angry and violent boy called Paul (Kett Turton), and a carnivorous giant anteater that can talk called Antubus. As things go on, the others at the hospital begin to be aware of this parallel reality as slowly the hospital begins to come apart around them.
In the interest of not spoiling any of the abundant surprises that await the viewer between the walls of Kingdom Hospital I will provide only the briefest of summaries of the episodes:
1. Thy Kindgom Come (76:24)
The barrier between the real and the mystical is shattered when a famous local artist is struck by a van while jogging and admitted to Kingdom Hospital.
2. Death’s Kingdom (37:18)
What is with all these strange occurrences at Kingdom Hospital? Can mystic Sally Druse uncover the secret?
3. Goodbye Kiss (38:17)
The Kingdom has a new patient – a psychotic murderer who tried to commit suicide.
4. The West Side Of Midnight (39:50)
Dr. Stegman is not a well man. Physician heal thyself.
5. Hook’s Kingdom (39:24)
Welcome to Kingdom Hospital, at least how Dr. Hook sees it.
6. The Young And The Headless (40:10)
A homeless man who has a passing resemblance to intern Bobby may become his way to get into Mona’s... affections.
7. Black Noise (38:37)
When an alcoholic seismologist takes a fall off the wagon he finds himself seeing things at the Kingdom.
8. Heartless (40:05)
Can a dodgy lawyer make a deal with the devil to get a new heart? In a place like Kingdom Hospital, anything is possible. Just be careful what you wish for...
9. Butterfingers (39:17)
A washed out baseball player puts a bullet in his head after his team loses the World Series and winds up at the Kingdom.
10. The Passion Of Reverend Jimmy (39:11)
When the Reverend Jimmy is crucified by crack addicts, even stranger things start happening around the hospital than normal.
11. Seizure Day (40:11)
The patients at Kingdom Hospital are undergoing a series of strange seizures after a cop was struck down with panic blindness in the parking lot.
12. Shoulda Stood In Bed (39:32)
Peter is given a vision of the future through his seizures. Can he prevent what he knows will happen?
13. Finale (74:51)
What will happen to the Kingdom? Who will survive? Who will get what’s coming to them?
This show is just so cool.
Kindom Hospital thrives off its quirkiness, its mix of black humour with eerie terror. Its most frightening moments are definitely those of psychological horror, like where Peter is lying crippled by the side of the road. That scene is enough to make your skin crawl. The supernatural aspects of the show are far less scary, but there are still a lot of ‘jump out of your seat’ frights and chills along the way. I highly recommend watching this alone in the dark with the sound turned up.
To be sure, this show owes a lot to the success of series like Six Feet Under and Twin Peaks with its offbeat sense of humour, random left-field occurrences, and overall bizarreness. But for some reason it all just gels so amazingly well, leaving the show its own individual style, a complete thirteen chapter TV novel that is highly engrossing, very effective, and ultimately addictive. You will want more when this is over.
Sure, it slips a little in its final leg, losing pace with episodes like Butterfingers and The Passion of Reverend Jimmy. But it really brings it home at the end, which is important as endings are generally how series like this are remembered. Dotted along the way there are many moments of pure genius, and Antubus, the giant CGI carnivorous anteater, is a spectacle to behold. Sly, funny and frightening, its schizophrenic nature makes it one of the best creations of modern television.
In fact, it is a joy to behold a Stephen King transition to the small screen that was not done on the cheap. The production values in this series are cutting edge, and the show really does look fantastic – everything from the intensely graphic but utterly compelling scenes of brain surgery, to the immaculate set designs, to the special effects. No corners were cut in making this.
And to round the show off, the performances are spectacular. It’s amazing that this thirteen part (half season) format is not used more often on TV to tell one-off stories. Unlike a movie, where you have perhaps two and a half hours max to make a compelling story that fully delves into the consciousness of a group of characters, with thirteen episodes you have over six hours to create a full ensemble of characters. This is put to great use here, with Andrew McCarthy and Bruce Davidson shining through in the fleshing out of their characters.
Kingdom Hospital will not be for everybody. It is very strange and off beat. But it is incredibly engrossing, funny and rewatchable. Trust me, the first time is not enough. I highly recommend this series.
Transferred here in its original 1.78:1 aspect ratio, 16x9 enhanced, this is an all but flawless transfer.
I’ve had a lot to complain about recently in some of the TV transfers I have reviewed, with the last season of Alias a fairly botched job by most standards. Kingdom Hospital, however, stands head and shoulders above the rest.
The picture is sharp, smooth, clear and intensely detailed. There is some use of overexposure and so forth to create special visual effects, but none of these seemed to have any impact on the overall picture quality, barring some increased film graininess that was not distracting.
Colours are cinematically good – perfectly balanced, rich and literally glowing off the screen. Even Antubus was extremely well blended in with the various changes in colour tone throughout the show. Shadow detail is right on the money, with rich blacks, and even shading without any real graininess.
There are no MPEG artefacts, and some extremely minor background aliasing is the worst I could find for transfer artefacts. You will have to go looking for these, though, so don’t expect to be distracted. I noticed no edge enhancement.
There was no noticeable dirt on the print. This is very clean.
Subtitles are available in English, English for the Hearing Impaired and Hindi for the show and English for the audio commentaries. They are white with a black border, clear and easy to read, and follow the dialogue fairly well.
The dual-layer pauses are between the episodes, with two episodes per layer.
Thankfully, we are given an amazing cinematic English 5.1 Dolby Digital surround sound track to really make this show something scary. Man, you really get the gooseflesh up at some points.
Dialogue is right on the money, with no noticeable sync problems.
There is an extremely dynamic range here, with deep growly lows and a fine tuned upper range. The score is wonderfully rendered, particularly the credit theme song ”Worry About You" by Ivy.
There is an abundance of surround sound here, with not only the front surrounds nearly always active in some regard, but also the rears chiming in for extra cinematic effect.
The subwoofer gets a great workout, with Antubus’ overall fear-inducing menace amped up many notches by the sub, and the various earthquakes given an outstanding edge by the deep bass.
|Surround Channel Use|
All menus are presented in 1.78:1, 16x9 enhanced. They are static with bits of various themes from the show playing in 2.0 Dolby Surround. The discs have a brief motion introduction of little cuts from the show. It’s not enough to give anything away, though.
The star field one.
Presented in 2.0 Dolby Surround, the pilot episode Thy Kingdom Come has an audio commentary by Stephen King (writer, executive producer), Craig Baxley (director), Mark Carliner (executive producer) and James Tichenor (special effects supervisor). This is a very interesting commentary, and quite engaging, which is rare because I normally hate these things.
Presented in 2.0 Dolby Surround, the first disc has the following trailers:
Presented in 1.33:1, 2.0 Dolby Surround, with clips from the show letterboxed in 1.78:1, this is a look at the making of the show.
Presented in 1.33:1, 2.0 Dolby Surround, this is a look at the casting and characters of the show with interviews with most of the principal cast and crew.
Presented in 1.33:1, 2.0 Dolby Surround, this is a look at the production design of the show, including the elaborate sets of the hospital.
Presented in 1.33:1, 2.0 Dolby Surround, this is a look at the creation of the CGI creature Antubus, from design sketching, CGI animation, to integrating him into the shots.
Without a copy of the R1 release, I cannot give you a direct comparison. From what I can tell by surfing the Net, though, the only difference is that the R4 release comes with those two trailers on Disc 1. Other than that, there’s only region coding and NTSC/PAL formatting to distinguish the two. I say buy whichever you can find the cheapest.
Kingdom Hospital is an amazing mini-series, a thirteen part tele-novel that works on just about every level. I cannot recommend this highly enough.
Video is outstanding, and this is one of the better TV transfers I have seen of late.
The sound is a fabulous 5.1 Dolby Digital mix that really adds to the show.
The extras are good, and it’s nice sometimes not to be drowned in pure promotional crap.
|DVD||Pioneer DV-676A, SACD & DVD-A, using S-Video output|
|Display||Beko 28" (16x9). Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with THX Optimizer.|
|Speakers||Digital Accoustics Emerald 703G - Centre, Front Left & Right, Rear Left & Right Satellites, Subwoofer|