Sharpe's Rifles (1993)
|Year Of Production||1993|
|RSDL / Flipper||No/No||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||4||Directed By||Tom Clegg|
Time Life Video & TV
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)|
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||1.59:1|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.59:1||Miscellaneous|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
The Sharpe series of novels and telemovies based around the adventures of a soldier during and after the Napoleonic wars was something I was blissfully unaware of until the latest film, Sharpe's Challenge, appeared recently on the ABC. There have been 15 movies made in the series, all starring Sean Bean in the leading role of Richard Sharpe. The first fourteen were made in the period 1993 - 1997 and then there was a large gap until the latest one was made this year. They have all been directed by Tom Clegg and quite a few of the cast members (besides Bean) have made multiple appearances. The most notable of these is Daragh O'Malley who plays Sharpe's offsider Patrick Harper and has appeared in all the films.
Sharpe is a young Sergeant in the first film of the series (included here) who saves the life of General Sir Arthur Wellesley, thus earning himself a field commission as an officer. His mother was a whore and he was born in a brothel, so his upbringing certainly sets him apart from other officers of the time who were mostly from rich, privileged upbringings. He is smart, tough, uncompromising, resourceful, brave and very annoying to his superiors, especially if he has no respect for them. The series then follows his adventures through the various battles of the Napoleonic Wars in Spain & France and then on to other adventures such as in India in the latest film. This 2 disc set includes the first two films made (both in 1993), Sharpe's Rifles and Sharpe's Eagle formatted into 2 episodes each as they would have been shown on television originally. It would seem that Time Life plan to issue the whole series (excluding the latest one which has been issued locally by Roadshow).
The first film is set in Portugal & Spain in 1809. This film starts with the promoting of Sharpe to Lieutenant after saving Sir Arthur's life. He is then given command of a Rifle company with orders to head into French territory and rescue a banker who is on his way from Switzerland with a bank draft to pay the troops' wages. Major Hogan (Brian Cox ) is in charge of the mission overall but leaves it to another officer to actually command the troops sent. The Rifle company which Sharpe is given command of is composed of sharpshooters who are mostly ex-criminals or misfits. He sets out to pull them into line which causes a clash with the men, especially Patrick Harper. After disaster befalls the column, Sharpe and his men meet up with some Spanish partisans led by a woman, Teresa. Teresa becomes Sharpe's first romantic encounter in the series. On the basis of this first film alone you might not think this series had legs as the story is a bit confused, especially the role of Major Hogan. However, despite these difficulties the characters draw you in and this is an enjoyable historical action adventure.
These first two movies in the series suffer somewhat from an obviously low budget which means that many battle scenes feel like there just aren't enough people and the production values are generally a little below more modern television productions. The acting is very good, especially from Sean Bean, who gives an excellent characterisation of Sharpe. Both films were shot on location in Portugal and the Crimea, which adds authenticity. These films will provide enjoyable viewing for historical adventure/drama buffs such as fans of the Hornblower series.
Well worth a look.
The video quality is resoundingly ordinary, no better than VHS. It is watchable but that is the best you can say.
The feature is presented in a 1.59:1 aspect ratio non 16x9 enhanced which I would guess is the original aspect ratio or something close to it.
The picture was quite soft and was quite badly affected by a general smokiness which seems to be a combination of grain and some clouds of what looks like white powder across the picture. These clouds are especially noticeable across the bottom of the picture in this first film. There is light grain throughout, which is heavier is some scenes and occasionally borders on macro-blocking. There is also quite a bit of low level noise.
The colour was dull and lifeless. The colours seemed quite dark which may be related to the source material. There was also some colour bleeding.
Artefacts included a few lines and marks plus some minor tape tracking errors.
There are no subtitles, however there are burned in captions for when Spanish is spoken.
The discs are single layered.
The audio quality is fair but certainly nothing special.
This DVD contains an English Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo soundtrack encoded at 192 Kb/s.
Dialogue was a bit difficult to make out at times and with the lack of subtitles this made things a little difficult. Audio sync was fine.
The score of these films by Dominic Muldowney & John Tams is pretty good, featuring folk style instrumentation and some vocal songs. Occasionally it strays into being slightly overbearing. The theme is quite memorable. From a sound quality perspective there is some distortion in the music from time to time.
The surround speakers and subwoofer are not used.
|Surround Channel Use|
The menu included music & motion.
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
These titles are available separately in Region 1, seemingly with the same ordinary video quality (based on reviews). The Region 2 release also includes both films and also includes a featurette on the shooting of the films and a photo gallery. Region 2 seems to be the best choice.
The video quality is resoundingly ordinary.
The audio quality is fair.
|DVD||Pioneer DV667A DVD-V DVD-A SACD, using Component output|
|Display||Sony 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 Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.|
|Speakers||Monitor Audio Bronze 2 (Front), Bronze Centre & Bronze FX (Rears) + Yamaha YST SW90 subwoofer|