Noises Off... (1992)

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Released 5-Aug-2004

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Comedy Menu Audio
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1992
Running Time 99:24
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Peter Bogdanovich

Walt Disney Studios Home Ent.
Starring Michael Caine
Carol Burnett
Denholm Elliott
Julie Hagerty
Marilu Henner
Mark Linn-Baker
Christopher Reeve
John Ritter
Nicolette Sheridan
Kate Rich
Zoe R. Cassavetes
Kim Sebastian
L.B. Straten
Case ?
RPI $19.95 Music Irving Berlin

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
English for the Hearing Impaired
French Titling
Spanish Titling
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    Let's see, here we have a farce starring an ensemble cast of first class actors who play second class actors starring in a farce. Got it? Easy plot really isn't it? Confused? You should be because the cast (that is, the characters) spend most of their time confused. That the actual cast make sense of this mayhem is a tribute to their thespian skills.

    The film is a screen adaptation of Michael Frayn's stage play of the same name and does a good job of giving a theatre-like feel to the proceedings. The play's name comes from theatre jargon for a commotion offstage, but in this play the offstage commotion finds its way onstage.

    Lloyd Fellowes (Michael Caine) is the director of a sex farce being put together to be staged on Broadway. The movie starts at the final dress rehearsal where it becomes rapidly apparent that the cast of this play, incidentally called Nothing On, is anything but first rate. Despite the play being due to open the next night, they still confuse their lines and have problems with the props. None of these actors are particularly bright and Fellowes finds himself constantly cajoling, yelling and pleading with them to get it right.

    Added to this is the minefield of personal problems that intrude on the performances. There are the inevitable relationships between cast members as well as the fights and jealousies that these foster. All the traditional ingredients of a top quality farce are present, combining subtle verbal humour and slapstick comedy.

    As the group move the show from town to town, the back-stage fighting escalates and eventually spills out onstage with hilarious results. As the Broadway premiere draws closer, Fellowes verges on a nervous breakdown as he becomes more and more convinced that the show will fail catastrophically.

    The cast is brilliant and reads like a who's who of the industry. Carol Burnett (The Carol Burnett Show), Christopher Reeve (Superman), John Ritter (8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter), Nicolette Sheridan (Desperate Housewives), Julie Hagerty (Flying High) and Denholm Elliott (Bangkok Hilton), amongst others, form the theatre company and all perform brilliantly. There is no individual star in this film as the entire cast perform faultlessly as an ensemble. This is best observed in the scotch bottle scene which is tightly acted, the timing and interactions of the cast making this difficult scene seem effortless.

    This was, sadly, Denholm Elliott's last film, and this stalwart of British stage and screen plays the aging, near deaf alcoholic actor to perfection and seems to enjoy every minute of it.

    If you haven't guessed already, I really enjoyed Noises Off. It is very funny, features some fine performances from actors in roles you don't normally see them in, and proves that there is much more action back-stage than on-stage in the theatre. The laughs range from slight chuckles to good belly laughs. It is a classic British farce that has been successfully carried across into a screenplay.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality


    Alas, this transfer does not do this movie any justice. The transfer looks like it was taken from a video master. Sharpness is lacking and shadow detail is less than ideal. There is an overall graininess to the video that takes you back to the bad old days of VHS. Colour seems to be a little over-saturated, with skin tones being unnaturally dark. The overall effect is that the video has been over-processed.

    There are a few film artefacts to be seem, most noticeable at 67:47 as black flecks in the upper right corner; and there is some telecine wobble, particularly during the opening titles.

    If all that's not bad enough, we are presented with a 1.33:1 full frame transfer instead of the originally screened 1.85:1 aspect ratio, although strangely, the menus are presented at 1.85:1. This disc is not 16x9 enhanced.

    In short, this is one of the most disappointing video transfers I have seen recently.

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


    Audio is somewhat better than video. A Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is provided that is clean and clear.

    This movie is all about dialogue, so the audio is predominantly across the front soundstage. The rear speakers are used for ambience, such as the echo of an empty theatre during rehearsal, and the sub-woofer gets a very occasional part to play in a few audio effects.

    There isn't really much more I can say about the audio. A workman-like transfer that stands out because the video is so poor.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    There are no extras. The menu is static with a few bars of background music played in a loop.

R4 vs R1

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

    Region 1 gets a 1.85:1, 16x9 enhanced transfer, but misses out on the Spanish soundtrack and only has the English for the hearing impaired and Spanish subtitles. Reviews of the Region 1 release that I have read suggest that there are video issues with this release also, but they are no worse than the Region 4 quality, and at least the aspect ratio is correct.

    The Region 4 release seems to be the same as the British Region 2, and gains a host of subtitle options, the Spanish soundtrack and is 1.33:1.

    Unless you really want to see the film in Spanish or have the need for Danish subtitles, then Region 1 is the clear choice here.


    Here is a funny, enjoyable movie spoilt by a second-rate transfer.

    I enjoyed the movie, despite the video shortcomings. While not to everyone's taste, anyone with an interest in live theatre will appreciate the humour in this movie. The cast do a fine job and the laughs are plentiful. But, oh, that video transfer! Why do distributors feel that any old transfer is good enough and that incorrect aspect ratios are acceptable; particularly when a transfer in the correct ratio exists?

    If you like farce, you'll love this farce within a farce, but buy the Region 1 release. At least you'll get the correct aspect ratio, and possibly a slightly better video transfer.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Glen Randall (If you're really bored, you can read my bio)
Wednesday, May 18, 2005
Review Equipment
DVDToshiba SD-1200Y, using S-Video output
DisplayGrundig M84-210 80cm. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationYamaha RX-V596
SpeakersRichter Wizard fronts, Richter Lynx centre, Richter Hydra rears, Velodyne CT-100 sub-woofer

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