Beyond the Fringe (1964)
|Year Of Production||1964|
|RSDL / Flipper||No/No||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||4||Directed By||None Given|
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||Full Frame||English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)|
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||1.29:1|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.29:1||Miscellaneous|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||Yes|
Before Monty Python, The Goodies, or even The Frost Report, four men introduced Britain, and later the world, to absurd satire. Assembled by a promoter who thought there was an off-chance the quartet may come up with something different to fill a slot at the stagnating Edinburgh Festival, Peter Cook, Dudley Moore, Alan Bennett and Jonathan Miller made history. The hope was for something a little edgier, closer to what one would normally expect at the Edinburgh Fringe than the Festival itself. The result was a show that would change the direction of comedy for years to come. Their show, Beyond the Fringe was so successful that it moved to the West End of London for a year and then onto Broadway for another, selling out shows all the way. This recorded performance was a one-off final return to London at the end of the rollercoaster tour.
This recording was long thought to be lost, indeed the original 65 minute televised version is still lost, and had become somewhat of a legend. After an unexpected discovery of a video copy, the full performance is presented on this disc. There isn't a dull moment for the near two-hour duration.
The sketches stand up almost as well today as they ever did. Though they certainly aren't as edgy as they were in 1961 (when only 23 out of the 35 sketches the quartet submitted to the censors were passed), the humour has not dulled and the delivery is perfectly pitched. Many of the sketches will seem familiar to fans of the genre as they have been borrowed or recycled numerous times. I could nearly recite Man Bites Dog and The End of the World word-for-word, having never seen this performance!
Beyond the Fringe is an unexpected gem. This is a rare instance of something that lives up to the legend that precedes it. Fans of any of the cast or classic satire will not be disappointed.
The show is presented in its original 1.29:1 aspect ratio.
The video is fair given its age and circumstances, but certainly shows both.
The video is black and white, with varying contrast and an uneven brightness level that flickers frequently. Blacks feature a reasonable level of detail, all other factors considered. The image is rather soft and slips in and out of focus fairly frequently. There is noticeable grain and low level noise, but it is rarely distracting.
The source material has been well cleaned and only features a handful of mild video artefacts. Video tracking noise lines appear in the odd frame and there are a couple of vertical lines of image feedback, out of frame (which tube TVs would not see due to overscan), on the far left of the image. These issues are quite minor and not distracting. There are a few skipped and skewed frames, which are the most noticeable issue with the video but they aren't too distracting. The MPEG compression is very good and does not introduce any new problems to the material.
There are no subtitles on this disc.
This is a single layer disc.
The audio is functional and nothing more. It could have used a better cleanup, but is mostly good enough to get the dialogue across.
One very mono English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kbps) audio track is present.
The dialogue is a little muffled, the levels waver somewhat and there are a few audio dropouts (that mostly coincide with video dropouts). A constant, reasonably high, level of white noise is present for the duration of the show, which has the unfortunate habit of competing with the dialogue and making some of the softer parts a little hard to hear properly. On the plus side, the dialogue appears fairly well synchronised to the video.
Aside from the slightly muffled closing theme, the only music featured comes in the form of Dudley Moore's hilarious piano sketches. The piano comes across quite well in the mix, somewhat better than the dialogue.
There is no surround speaker or subwoofer usage (which probably won't come as a surprise to anyone).
|Surround Channel Use|
A 48 page PDF of the show's original playbill. The world hasn't changed, as this is two thirds full of ads and a lot of the real content is filler. Nonetheless this is a great extra, providing a nostalgic sense of completeness to the package.
Text biographies are provided for the four cast members and a history of the show and its place in British comedy history. Each is several screens long and provides a good level of information, without turning each segment into a novel.
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
The Region 1 and Region 4 versions are identical.
A legendary show that opened the door for the decades of British satire that followed. These sketches, even the more dated ones, hold up well today.
The video is fair, particularly given its age and circumstance. The audio is rather muddy, but adequate. The extras are slim, but worthwhile.
|DVD||Sony Playstation 3, using HDMI output|
|Display||Samsung 116cm LA46M81BD. Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 576i (PAL).|
|Audio Decoder||Pioneer VSX-D512. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials.|
|Speakers||150W DTX front speakers, and a 100W centre and 2 surrounds, 12 inch PSB Image 6i powered sub|