North & South (2004)

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Released 5-May-2005

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Main Menu Audio
Audio Commentary-Filmmakers - Episodes 1 And 4
Deleted Scenes
Interviews-Cast-Richard Armitage (Actor)
Production Notes
Biographies-Cast
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 2004
Running Time 231:04 (Case: 260)
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered
Dual Disc Set
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Brian Percival
Studio
Distributor

Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring Daniela Denby-Ashe
Richard Armitage
Tim Pigott-Smith
Pauline Quirke
Sinéad Cusack
Lesley Manville
Brendan Coyle
Lucy Brown
Case Amaray-Transparent-S/C-Dual
RPI $29.95 Music Martin Phipps


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.78:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

    Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell was an important fiction writer during the early 19th century. She was born in 1810 and died in 1865.Her writings are often associated with Charles Dickens. Her writings often address similar issues as his such as the plight of the working man and the underclasses generally in the newly industrialised England. There was also an ongoing relationship between them, as Gaskell's novels were often first published as serials in Dickens' publications such as his Household Words. The novel upon which this BBC mini-series is based, North and South was completed by Gaskell in 1855.Others of her works have also been made into movies or mini-series including Wives & Daughters (twice), Cranford and A Manchester Marriage. In fact North & South has also been previously produced for television in 1975 and one of the actors Tim Piggott-Smith appears in both versions. The version included here is the new 2004 version. This should not be confused with the American Civil War mini-series from the 1980s of the same name.

    The plot involves a 19 year old woman, daughter of a parson in southern rural England, Margaret Hale (Daniela Denby-Ashe) and the effect on her life of her father's decision to move the family from tranquil Helstone to the northern industrial city of Milton (which is supposedly Manchester renamed). Due to a crisis of faith and the actions of the local Bishop, her father, Richard Hale (Tim Piggott-Smith), quits the church and takes a job as a teacher in Milton, with the assistance of a young local mill owner, John Thornton (Richard Armitage). The first meeting of Margaret & John does not go well as she sees him mistreating an employee. She immediately decides that he is a brutal pig, without really understanding the situation. The other important characters include:

    One of the real strengths of this costume drama/romance is that there is much more to it than just the central romance as it has a very interesting plot about the new merchant class in the industrial revolution, the working poor, industrial unrest and the vast differences in England between north and south, which still exist today. I found the story enthralling and dramatic and it kept me interested for its four hour running time.

    Additionally, this is an excellent production with some wonderful cinematography, costumes, acting and high production values. The locations and sets are very realistic. The cinematography is highlighted early on in a wonderful sequence as Margaret enters a cotton mill for the first time as the cotton flies around in the air. The excellent cast, many British television stalwarts, all do a wonderful job of inhabiting their characters with the central relationship very believable and both showing the passion required of their characters, both romantic and otherwise.

    I did find a minor glitch with these discs in that if you attempt to select the second episode of each disc after jumping back to the menu from the first episode, the disc stops rather than playing the next episode. This happened on both discs. Once you play the disc again it works fine.

    A wonderful production of an interesting and dramatic story, based on a novel written in and about England in the mid-1850s. Highly Recommended.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The video quality is very good with only some minor issues.

    The feature is presented in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio 16x9 enhanced which is probably the original aspect ratio.

    The picture was quite clear and sharp throughout although brighter sections such as those in the south of England showed some softness probably due to some colour bleeding. There was no evidence of low level noise. Shadow detail was good but not spectacular. The bitrate was quite high across all four hours.

    The colour was very good generally, excepting the abovementioned colour bleeding from light colours.

    On the artefacts front, there was some very occasional mild aliasing such as at 9:15 in episode 1 on some boxes and some edge enhancement here and there.

    There are subtitles in English for the hearing impaired. They were clear and easy to read but slightly summarised from the spoken word.

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

Audio

    The audio quality is good.

    This DVD contains an English Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo soundtrack encoded at 192 Kb/s.

    Dialogue was mostly clear and easy to understand although some lines were a little indistinct. There was no problem with audio sync.

    The score of this series by Martin Phipps is excellent, enhancing the feel and mood of the series. It is one of the production highlights.

    The surround speakers added some mild atmosphere when played with Dolby ProLogicII.

    The subwoofer added bass to the music and some thunder but this was a function of my amp's bass management rather than the soundtrack directly.

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

Extras

Menu

    The menu included music, and the ability to select episodes, scenes and subtitles.

Disc 1

Commentary - Director Brian Percival, Producer Kate Bartlett & Writer Sandy Welch - Episodes 1 & 4

    A very good quality commentary despite some pauses. All three contributors are interesting and are sitting together to record the commentary which to my mind gives a better quality commentary than one with pre-recorded snippets. They discuss the book, changes they made to the story, locations, editing issues, shooting issues, use of lighting and colour, the story and characters, accents and costumes. The only real difference between the commentaries on Episode 1 & 4 is that they seem to pause more during Episode 4.

Disc 2

Commentary - Director Brian Percival, Producer Kate Bartlett & Writer Sandy Welch - Episodes 1 & 4 (see above)

Deleted Scenes (11:39)

    An interesting selection of deleted scenes, some of which probably should have been retained. Included are a scene where Mr Hale discusses the move with his daughter, an extended sequence about them searching for housing in Milton, some more of Mrs Hale, more of the relationship between Higgins and Boucher and an extended version of the proposal scene which adds some interesting dialogue. Presented 4x3.

Interview with Richard Armitage (11:33)

    A reasonably interesting interview with the male lead about his role, casting, research he did, the novel, costumes, production style, locations, his favourite moments, funny moments during production and his character's links to Mr Darcy.

Production Notes

    Text crew credits followed by a 5 page essay on the production.

Cast Biographies

    Text information for Daniela Denby-Ashe, Richard Armitage, Tim Piggott-Smith, Sinead Cusack & Pauline Quirk. These are not really bios so much as quotes from the actors about the production and their characters. They give no run-down on their lives or careers at all.

R4 vs R1

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

    This series is available in Region 1 in the same format.

Summary

    An excellent production of an interesting and dramatic story set in 1850s England.

    The video quality is very good.

    The audio quality is good.

    The set has a good quality collection of extras.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Daniel Bruce (Do you need a bio break?)
Sunday, January 15, 2006
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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