A Handful of Dust (1988)

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Released 20-Sep-2005

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Main Menu Audio
Audio Commentary-Charles Sturridge (Director)
Theatrical Trailer
Trailer-Anna Karenina, The Shooting Party, Tess,TheTrip To Bountiful
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1988
Running Time 113:05 (Case: 118)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (65:17) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Charles Sturridge
Stagescreen Prods
Umbrella Entertainment
Starring James Wilby
Kristin Scott Thomas
Rupert Graves
Anjelica Huston
Judi Dench
Alec Guinness
Richard Beale
Jackson Kyle
Norman Lumsden
Jeanne Watts
Kate Percival
Richard Leech
Roger Milner
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $24.95 Music George Fenton

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.59:1
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio Unknown Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits Yes

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

Plot Synopsis

    Evelyn Waugh is an interesting novelist who I was first introduced to some years ago when I read The Loved One, a satirical story about Los Angeles written from an English perspective. Waugh is probably best known for Brideshead Revisited, which was made into a famous television series in the early 1980s. A Handful of Dust is based upon another of his novels, and made into this feature film in 1988. It was directed by Charles Sturridge who also directed some of Brideshead Revisited. It was also produced by Brideshead's producer, Derek Grainger. Unfortunately, despite a stellar cast it does not reach the heights of that excellent series but would still certainly be of interest to fans of Waugh and stories of England between the wars.

    The story is set in the 1930s and involves a young aristocrat, Tony Last (James Wilby), a decent but fairly boring man and his wife, Lady Brenda (Kristen Scott-Thomas very early in her career). They live in his ancestral country home and she is becoming bored with the country and him. A young socialite, John Beaver (Rupert Graves) is invited for the weekend and she finds him attractive. At the suggestion of Beaver's mother (Judi Dench), Lady Brenda decides to take a flat in London, splitting her time between London and the family home. She starts an affair with Beaver and starts spending more and more time in London, away from her husband and young son. Finally, a tragedy ends what had become a sham marriage and Tony agrees to stage infidelity so that she may get a divorce from him. Depressed and alone, Tony decides to go off for an adventure in South America with an incompetent explorer. When their guides run off and the explorer drowns, Tony is left sick and alone until rescued by a jungle dwelling eccentric, Mr Todd (Alec Guinness, although the case gives the impression he plays the explorer). The film follows the fate of Tony & Brenda. Angelica Houston and Stephen Fry also appear in cameo roles.

    This film is interesting and I believe quite true to the novel (although I haven't read it), however the first half seems to drag and it is not until the divorce that the film really caught my attention. The film was nominated for an Academy Award for costume design.

    One to investigate for fans of the author or Brideshead Revisited, however not of too much interest to other audiences.

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Transfer Quality


    The video quality is disappointing.

    The feature is presented in a 1.59:1 aspect ratio non 16x9 enhanced which may be the original aspect ratio. I can find no information about how this film was presented theatrically and the Region 1 DVD is in a very similar aspect ratio. The case says it is 1.85:1 but this is not even close.

    The picture was quite soft throughout. There was no evidence of low level noise. Shadow detail was average. There was light grain throughout.

    The colour was dull and fairly lifeless although this may have been by artistic choice. Skin tones were quite pale.

    Artefacts were present but not overly intrusive. There was some aliasing such as on railway tracks at 25:50, the clock tower at 47:05, a dress at 71:55 and the floor at 75:26. There were a few film artefacts such as a black spot at 57:55 and others occasionally. There were also some lines at 109:40. A reel change marker showed up at 97:58.

    There are no subtitles.

    The layer change occurs at 65:17 causing a slight pause.

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


    The audio quality is decent.

    This DVD contains an English Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack encoded at 448 Kb/s and an English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono soundtrack encoded at 224 Kb/s. Both sound virtually mono.

    Dialogue was mostly clear and easy to understand, however some lines were muffled and there was no problem with audio sync.

    The score of this film by George Fenton is quite good however is sometimes distorted.

    The surround speakers and subwoofer were not used to any great effect despite the encoding.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use



    The menu included music and the ability to select scenes and audio.

Commentary - Director/Co-writer Charles Sturridge

    Quite an informative commentary without being earth shattering. He covers development of the project, the novel, his reasoning behind the opening sequence, locations, set design, casting, financing, general issues with adapting Waugh, insurance, editing, shooting and other worthwhile topics. Certainly of interest to fans of the film or Evelyn Waugh.

Theatrical Trailer

    Decent quality trailer.

Umbrella Trailers

    Trailers for Anna Karenina, The Shooting Party, Tess & The Trip to Bountiful.

R4 vs R1

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

    This film has been released in Region 1 with some small differences as follows:

    Region 4 misses out on;

    The Region 1 version of this disc misses out on;

    On this basis the Region 4 is the clear winner as the Region 1 version seems to have similar video issues.


    A slow-moving adaptation of Evelyn Waugh's novel, A Handful of Dust.

    The video quality is disappointing.

    The audio quality is decent.

    The disc has a small selection of decent quality extras.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Daniel Bruce (Do you need a bio break?)
Wednesday, December 14, 2005
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV667A DVD-V DVD-A SACD, using Component output
DisplaySony FD Trinitron Wega KV-AR34M36 80cm. Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL). This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 576i (PAL)/480i (NTSC).
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationPioneer VSX-511
SpeakersBose 201 Direct Reflecting (Front), Phillips SB680V (Surround), Phillips MX731 (Center), Yamaha YST SW90 (Sub)

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