Hans Christian Andersen (1952)

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Released 15-Mar-2005

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Musical None
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 1952
Running Time 107:43
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (65:31) Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Charles Vidor
Studio
Distributor

MGM
Starring Danny Kaye
Farley Granger
Zizi Jeanmaire
Joseph Walsh
Philip Tonge
Erik Bruhn
Roland Petit
John Brown
John Qualen
Jeanne Lafayette
Robert Malcolm
George Chandler
Fred Kelsey
Case ?
RPI $14.95 Music Frank Loesser


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.37:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired
German for the Hearing Impaired
French
Italian
Spanish
Dutch
Finnish
Danish
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    Danny Kaye stars as the famous fairy tale writer, the title character of Hans Christian Andersen, in this musical star vehicle. As the shoe cobbler of a small town, Hans spends most of his day regaling the school children with entertaining musical fairy tales, such as the The King's New Clothes. Although his preoccupations never seem to detract from his cobbling duties, his popularity with the children invariably leaves the schoolmaster with an empty classroom. An ultimatum is given: either Hans must leave the town, or the town must find a new schoolmaster. But before Hans can be dealt the blow of redundancy, his young apprentice, Peter, packs him up and pushes him out the door on his way to Copenhagen.

    Soon after arriving in Copenhagen, and after Hans has set up business again as a cobbler, he falls in love with a famous and beautiful ballet dancer, Doro. Mistakenly believing her to be in a miserable relationship with her husband, Niels, who is the creative director of the ballet company, Hans labours under the fantasy that he will sweep her off her feet. His profession of love takes the form of a short story, The Little Mermaid, but unfortunately (or fortunately, to be more accurate) it is not recognised for the romantic folly it is, except by Peter. It is however recognised as a great story and becomes the basis for the ballet company's next performance. With the exception of his love life, Hans is mostly more successful in Copenhagen than the small town he came from: the children still flock to hear his stories; his cobbler business fares well; and he is soon asked to write his stories for publication.

    I can not judge the historical fidelity of Hans Christian Andersen, but it is a safe bet there was less singing in the streets which would not have been so Technicolor perfect. As this is a Danny Kaye vehicle, the production design displays the artifice of the musical genre, and the cinematography brings to life the colour in the costumes and the sets. The supporting cast of Joseph Walsh as Peter, Farley Granger as Niels, and Zizi Jeanmaire and Doro are all very good. Granger and Jeanmaire are able to switch instantly between loving and squabbling couple, which is fine for Peter who is witness to their volatile version of domesticity, but a problem for the lovelorn Hans who only ever sees them at each other's throats.

    Strangely for a Danny Kaye film, particularly one with ballet at the centre of the plot, he does very little dancing. He does plenty of singing though, including a number of tongue twisters for which he was famous, although nothing like his work in the outrageously funny The Court Jester. Danny Kaye musicals are not for all tastes, but this film is definitely a fun and fanciful film for the family. If you like Danny Kaye or musicals then Hans Christian Andersen will be a welcome addition to your collection.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    Hans Christian Andersen is in the 1.33:1 ratio, which is close to its original 1.37:1, and is therefore not 16x9 enhanced.

    This is an average transfer of a film made in the early 1950s, and there obviously hasn't been a restoration of the source print. It is quite sharp for most of the film, although there are occasions of slight softness, which might be the result of lens filters. The choice of painted backdrops for many backgrounds on the studio sets also come up as a little blurry. The shadows are rendered in nice deep blacks, with some Low Level Noise, although most of the film is brightly lit and set during the day.

    The colour is very good, very bright and vibrant. Although the production and costume design tends towards bright and fanciful colouring, the flesh tones are always natural. There is unfortunately a slight problem with a subtle shift in colouring that occurs from second to second; it is not too distracting, but it is there if you look for it. Some colour bleeding does occur, which is most notable during long shots, and tends to show on the brightly coloured costumes. There is also a problem with a slight haze on the left hand side of image.

    MPEG artefacts are not too bad, but there is definitely some compression pixelization to be had along with posterization. This often shows in Kaye's face which is a little disconcerting as his expressive features draw the eye consistently. Noise Reduction can also be noted throughout. There is almost no telecine wobble or aliasing, and I didn't notice any edge enhancement.

    There are a lot of film artefacts on the source print for this transfer; everything from scratches, specks of dirt, blotches and discolouration, as well as a recurring purple star-shaped mark, which is possibly the reel change mark, as it seems to recur consistently. Many of the artefacts on this print show up as bright blue or green. Most of these flash by so quickly they are only moderately distracting, however this colouring does make them stand out, particularly a speck of bright blue at 6:41 close to Kaye's head and at 59:50 when a bright blue fleck is actually in his eye.

    The subtitles tend be quite accurate, but they occasionally forsake some words that might be considered redundant, presumably for the sake of fitting full sentences on the screen.

    This is an RSDL disc, and the layer change occurs at 65:31, during a scene change. There is only a slight pause, and although there is some background sound, the change is not too disruptive.

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

Audio

    There are five language soundtracks to choose from here: English, German, French, Italian, and Spanish. All are Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s), and are not surround encoded. Because this disc is intended for multiple regions, the language is the first choice after loading and that choice becomes the default. A separate menu allows another language to be chosen. The songs in the foreign languages are dubbed by another singer, so therefore audiences in other countries will miss out on Kaye's singing (unless they choose to select the English track for the songs). I sampled the foreign dubs and found most were good choices to match Kaye, although the French voice was a bit too deep, and oddly on the Spanish track they have only dubbed Kaye's spoken dialogue and maintained his original singing in English; all the other dubs include a foreign singer in his place.

    This is a good soundtrack, with clear and easy to understand dialogue. Given the nature of the genre, enunciation tends to be quite good, particularly from Kaye and Joseph Walsh. There was no problem with audio sync, even though much would have been done by ADR.

    There is a good selection of musical numbers in this film, and as is typical of the genre, the narrative pauses while Hans sings a tune. Some songs describe narrative events, such as Wonderful Copenhagen which is sung as Hans and Peter approach the city, and other songs are based on the fairy tales the real Andersen wrote and provide a moral or amusing message, such as The Ugly Duckling and Thumbelina which are both sung to cheer up sad and lonely children.

    Walter Scharf is credited as the Musical Director and is probably responsible for the incidental music, whereas Frank Loesser wrote the words and music for all of Hans' songs. Both are very suited to the overall film, and complement each other nicely.

    There is nothing in the way of surround or subwoofer activity in this film.

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

Extras

    There are no extras to speak of, not even a trailer.

Menu

    The menu is 4x3 with no accompanying music. There are five different symbols at the bottom of the image for 'play', 'chapter selection', 'audio', 'subtitle', and 'return' (to take you back to the first screen which gives the default audio choice). The choice of symbols instead of labels obviously reflects the multi-region destination of this disc.

R4 vs R1

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

    Hans Christian Andersen has been released twice in Region 1, first by HBO on September 29, 1998, and second by MGM/UA on March 6, 2001, and once in Region 2 by MGM on 14th March 2005. All of these versions have packed the film onto a single layer, whereas ours is spread over two layers, and they seemed to have used the same print and transfer. However, there are subtle differences in language and subtitle choices.

    The Region 2 version seems to be the same package as ours, right down to the soundtrack and subtitle options. It also uses the same generic symbols instead of labels on the menus.

    I'm not sure about the HBO version, but I was able to directly compare the local release with the MGM/UA Region 1 disc. It comes with two English soundtracks, a Dolby Digital 2.0 (192 kb/s) track and the original Dolby Digital 1.0 (192 kb/s) track, plus a French and a Spanish track, both Dolby Digital 1.0 (192 kb/s). It has French and Spanish subtitles, but strangely no English subtitles. The background pictures for the menus use the same pictures as the local disc, but all the menus are conveniently labelled in English, and do not use the symbols found on the Region 2 and 4. This disc also comes with a theatrical trailer which runs for 2:42. The runtime is 112:15 which is the same as the Region 2 and 4 if you take into account the 4% speed up.

    Although the MGM/UA Region 1 disc is from the same source print as the local disc, clearly observable by the identical film artefacts, it is seriously compromised by a much higher compression to squeeze it onto a single layer. It is not very sharp and suffers from very noticeably posterization, as well as low level noise. Reviews of both the Region 1 and 2 discs mention the problem of shimmering colour. The original mono track is a nice inclusion on this Region 1 disc, as is the trailer, but not at the expense of a superior transfer; the new Region 4 disc is an easy winner.

Summary

    Hans Christian Andersen is a classic Danny Kaye musical, which proudly shows off the talents of this major star and the vibrant colours of Technicolor.

    Even though it is over 50 years old, and the source is in relatively good condition, the video quality is average and could have been better.

    The audio quality is very good, with no noticeable problems.

    The are no extras, which is disappointing considering this is a major film from one of America's biggest movie stars.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Michael Cohen (read my bio)
Wednesday, October 26, 2005
Review Equipment
DVDPhilips 860, using RGB output
DisplaySony 76cm FD Trinitron WEGA KV-HX32 M31. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver.
AmplificationSherwood
SpeakersSherwood

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