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Relic Hunter-Season 1-Volumes 1-3 (1999)
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Details At A Glance
Year Of Production
516:12 (Case: 515)
Multi Disc Set (3)
|Cast & Crew
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Warner Home Video
NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.
Relic Hunter is the kind of TV series that can very easily go unnoticed. I have only recently discovered this series made between 1999 and 2002 and have been very pleasantly suprised at the quality of the light weight entertainment it offers. The series ran for only three seasons, a total of 66 episodes, and was inspired by the video game Tomb Raider, but in execution it becomes more a female version of Indiana Jones.
Each episode begins with a short "flashback" to the origins of a particular "relic" and its subsequent disappearance. Considering the three or four minutes devoted to this section of each episode, there is considerable production value in each of the widely different openings, ranging from China 1000 B.C. and a stolen sarcophagus to 1960's Germany and a lost Elvis guitar. We then cut to present day America and Trinity College where an archaeologist, Sydney Fox (Tia Carrere) lectures. Sydney has an aspiring junior archaeological assistant, acquired in the opening episode,Nigel Bailey (Christien Anholt) and a ditsy blonde secretary, Claudia (Lindy Booth).Each week, as regular as clockwork, Sydney is visited by some representative of an interested party who wants the relic restored to its rightful place, the interest coming from an agency, museum, private collector or government. The task having been set Sydney and Nigel embark on another globe-trotting adventure, leaving Claudia to "hold the fort". We then follow our attractive duo as they track the relic and defeat the bad guys who are inevitably seeking the same object, until it is restored to its rightful place. A final scene at Trinity College ties up loose ends and explains the outcome.
With very little variation, this is the blueprint of every episode of Relic Hunter. What saves the series, or at least these twelve episodes, from boredom is the variety of locales and the production values of their recreation, combined with the spirited playing of the cast.
At the beginning of each opening sequence there is a time and place title. For the twelve episodes contained in this set these are :
Buddha's Bowl : Nepal : 523 b.c.
Transformation : Salzburg, Austria : 1946
Smoking Gun : Chicago : 1930
The Headless Nun : Nova Scotia : 1600s
Flag Day : California : 1846
The Emperor's Bride : Huang River, China : 1000 B.C.
Diamond in the Rough : Boston : 1946
Thank You Very Much : Elvis's Berlin : 1960
Etched in Stone : Northumbrian Coast : 935 A.D.
Nothing But the Truth : Barbary Coast : 1534
The Book of Love : Casanova's Italy : 1749
Each one of these openings is thoroughly convincing with very good sets, props and costumes, the recreatiuon of Al Capone's Chicago being very admirable in Smoking Gun. The abrupt cut to Trinity College is genuinely startling, and there again attention to detail is commendable, with Sydney's library/office looking very lived in, musty and used.
Once the task has been set our archaelogical duo set off around the world. Although it seems the production rarely moved out of Toronto, excellent use is made of location footage and recreated studio locales. Obviously there are many very beautiful old buildings, such as churches, schools and country estates around Toronto, and these double very well indeed for their European counterparts or, in the episode Smoking Gun, as a very attractive old Chicago hotel. In Bowl of Buddha, the first episode of the series, we even get a most impressive steam locomotive! Relic Hunter definitely benefits by not having the hugely overexposed Universal backlot in evidence, thus creating much more believability with the recreated markets, back alleys, temples and other exotic settings for the action.
The performances are really of a very high standard for such action fodder. Tia Carrere (Waynes'World, True Lies, Rising Sun) is an exotically beautiful Sydney, her strong character being a welcome change from the bimbo nature of many female protagonists. She has a strong foil in Nigel as played by Christien Arnholt. Nigel is a wide-eyed, thirtyish male ingenue, extremely Hugh Grant down to, or should it be starting with, the hair.There is a fair bit of sexual tension and banter between the two, and they seem to be emerging from the shower - in towels - in almost every episode. Nevertheless, despite the predictability of the characters, their interplay is a strong point of each episode, and sometimes the writing is even downright witty!Lindy Booth's Claudia is briefly seen in each episode, and she is attractive, sexy and funny. Evidently Miss Booth was replaced in Season Three for a more stereotypically blonde actress, fans asserting that her replacement contributed to the demise of the series.
Also contributing to the enjoyment of various episodes are actors who appear in recurring roles. John Schneider (The Dukes of Hazzard) appears, blonde and handsome as ever, as Dallas Carter in The Emperor's Bride, and reprises this role in Season Two's M.I.A. Thomas Kretschmann (In Enemy Hands, The Pianist / Eichmann) also appears in M.I.A., after making two Season One appearances as Kurt Reiner in The Emperor's Bride and Diamond in the Rough.
The series contains some quite intelligent, if at times pseudocultural, writing - The Headless Nun containing a memorable discussion on beliefs - and original music by Donald Quan that is always appropriate and at times, as in Smoking Gun and Diamond in the Rough, even nostalgic and evocative.All of these ingredients combine to make Relic Hunter a diverting and entertaining piece of escapist television and a darn good way to spend forty minutes.
Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.
The video quality of the three discs is uniformly very good, although image quality has vastly improved since 1999.
The twelve episodes are presented in a 1.33:1 aspect ratio, Relic Hunter having been made prior to the advent of widescreen television and 16x9 enhancement.
The transfers are very clear and clean, although not as brilliantly sharp as we see in today's television productions.
Detail is extremely good, as in Sydney's cluttered office. Shadow detail is also very good, and there are plenty of dark and dingy places encountered by the two archaeologists.
The colour is generally a little muted, which gives a more realistic look to the, at times, fantastic goings on.This palette is carried over into the costuming of the two leads, muted browns and greens particularly suited to Tia Carrere's colouring.
The only real problem found with the image resulted from Noise Reduction. This occurred fairly regularly throughout the episodes, with one particular instance noted in Bowl of Buddha (42.30) and on greenery, especially during camera movement.
The discs are dual layered with the changes occurring between episodes.
Video Ratings Summary
The audio on this disc is a pleasant surprise.
There is only one audio track, English Dolby Digital 2.0 surround-encoded.
All dialogue emanates from the centre channel, with the front speakers utilsed for directional sound effects and music. The directional sound is used extensively, particularly in crowd scenes and scenes in crypts and tombs with clanging doors and other sources of ominous and threatening sounds. The rear speakers have an equally busy time with a seemingly continuous flow of information from the very well reproduced music score to sifting sand, flickering flames, elevator noises, crowd sounds, and other clangs and bumps associated with sliding stone doors, tombs and crypts. The surround environment most definitely contributes to the enjoyment of the series.
The dialogue was clear and always easy to understand. There were no sync problems.
The music score by Donald Quan has already been mentioned. This single composer scored all sixty-six episodes of the three seasons of Relic Hunter, and judging from the episodes on these discs, his accomplishment is quite remarkable. Ranging from a jazzy-bluesy 1930s Chicago to ancient China and just about everything in between, the music is entertaining and is another plus for the series, especially with such good use being made of the surround channels.
Subtitles are provided in English and English for the Hearing Impaired, and were accurate. The Hearing Impaired titles also add the speaker's name if the speaker is off-camera.
Audio Ratings Summary
|Surround Channel Use|
There are no extras with this set.
The information below applies to each disc in the set.
All menu screens are 16x9 enhanced.
The main menu design is extremely basic.Over a silent still of Tia Carrere there are three options:
The Episode Selection option leads to a second still of Tia Carrere with the four episodes on that disc listed.
Clicking on the title of an individual episode brings up a third screen with two stills of Tia Carrere and a listing of the ten chapters in that episode.
Clicking Languages brings up the only language offered, English, and a choice between subtitles in English or English for the Hearing Impaired.
R4 vs R1
NOTE: To view
non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually
also NTSC compatible.
Relic Hunter is no longer available in Region 1. Second hand copies of releases from other regions are expensive.
In Region 2 only compilations of some "best of" episodes are available.
Australia is the only country in which complete seasons are available.
This was a series that combined mystery, comedy, fantasy, action and adventure - and wasn't afraid of the occasional literate reference. This was no world beater, but more enjoyable than many of today's "blockbuster" theatrical CGI showcases aimed at fourteen year-olds but masquerading as adult fare. There are many worse ways to fill forty minutes and, if this is your cuppa, seek out Seasons One and Two while they're still in the stores.
© Garry Armstrong (BioGarry)
Thursday, February 21, 2008
|DVD||Onkyo-SP500, using Component output|
|Display||Philips Plasma 42FD9954/69c.
Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080i.
|Audio Decoder||Built in to DVD player.
Calibrated with THX Optimizer.
|Speakers||VAF DC-X fronts; VAF DC-6 center; VAF DC-2 rears; LFE-07subwoofer (80W X 2)|