Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991) (NTSC)

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Released 1-Nov-2001

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Action Notes-The Legend Of Robin Hood
Notes-Creating 12th Century England
Teaser Trailer
Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1991
Running Time 143:15
RSDL / Flipper FLIPPER (74:34) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Kevin Reynolds
Studio
Distributor

Warner Home Video
Starring Kevin Costner
Morgan Freeman
Christian Slater
Alan Rickman
Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $34.95 Music Michael Kamen


Video (NTSC) Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.66:1
16x9 Enhancement
Not 16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 480i (NTSC)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles Portuguese
Spanish
English
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

    Last year, I had the opportunity to review Robin Hood: Men In Tights, a film that garners the vast majority of its comedic value from parodying another Robin Hood film - Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves. Certainly it cannot be denied that Prince Of Thieves leaves itself open to ridicule from many angles. It is not the most historically accurate film ever made, nor are the real-world politics of the day given an airing. Prince Of Thieves is, however, a fantastic piece of entertainment, with its highlight being a film-stealing performance from Alan Rickman as the Sheriff of Nottingham (doing the same to Kevin Costner here as he did to Bruce Willis in Die Hard).

    I doubt there are any out there who are not familiar with the story of Robin Hood, but there have been a few alterations and additions for Prince Of Thieves, most notably in Robin's travelling companion Azeem (Morgan Freeman). Regardless of any changes from the traditional, and the obvious difficulty of having a Robin Hood who speaks in an American accent that no-one else seems to notice, this movie works extremely well. It is a big swash-buckling tale in the style of many of the older Hollywood films. There is no CGI here, or any sign of high-speed camera work, or fight scenes strung up on wires. Instead, there are good old-fashioned stunts, and Real Men going hand to hand with real(ish) swords.

    This film has little in the way of characterisation - Robin is the Good Guy: he is forgiving, kind, tolerant, and learns from his mistakes. On the other hand the Sheriff of Nottingham is the Bad Guy: always wearing black, and trying to gain power by any means possible. Supporting characters are even less fleshed out - Robin loves Marian (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio) because she is Beautiful, and Azeem stays with Robin because he is Noble. Despite this, the charisma of the actors (even Kevin Costner) is sufficient that the audience still cares what happens to them. In the end, Prince Of Thieves is a great adventure movie that is fun to watch and provides a good night's entertainment.

    The final thing that needs to be mentioned in connection with Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves is the single that was written for the movie by Bryan Adams - (Everything I Do) I Do It For You. This was an extremely successful song in 1991, lasting well over 20 weeks in the number one position - however the movie makers were unhappy with it and almost refused to put the song in the movie at all. An interesting point to note is that while the VHS release of Robin Hood contains the music video for this song at the conclusion of the movie, the DVD does not.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    While the majority of recent transfers for big-name films have been of at least decent quality, what we have here is - in a word - bad. Not only do we have to put up with the disc being a flipper, but it is also NTSC formatted. This transfer is identical to the R1 transfer that has been available since 1997. In fact, Robin Hood - Prince Of Thieves was one of the first DVDs ever released by Warner in the US. This really is abysmal treatment of the Australian DVD buying public, and Warner should be ashamed of themselves.

    This transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.66:1, not 1.85:1 as stated on the packaging, and is not 16x9 enhanced again despite what the packaging says. It was somewhat of a surprise to me to learn that, according to the IMDB at least, the original aspect ratio for Robin Hood was 1.85:1 - if any movie was deserving of the full widescreen treatment it is this. Given the original aspect ratio, the formatting we have of 1.66:1 is not such an egregious error.

    Given the age of this transfer, it is not surprising to find that it is not at all sharp, and is severely lacking in detail. In most cases, any fine detail is completely lost in the murk. The transfer is not helped by the presence of an enormous amount of grain. Beginning from the opening logos, grain is a constant problem throughout the movie; it is particularly noticeable almost any time a portion of sky is visible in the shot, and during most of the establishing shots, such as that of Nottingham Castle at 20:07. Shadow detail is likewise appalling, with almost anything that falls under the slightest amount of shade becoming all but invisible. This causes major problems, as a good portion of the movie takes place at night, or in the bowels of castles - scenes in which the vast majority of the screen is black, with a murky blur representing the actors, are common. As a small positive, I did not notice any low-level noise in the transfer.

    Colours, while certainly not brilliant, fared somewhat better than some other aspects of the transfer. Most appear faithfully represented, with the English forest being nicely green, while indoor settings are harshly beautiful thanks to the outstanding work of Director of Photography Doug Milsome.

    As with colours, compression artefacts fared quite well in this transfer, with some minor background pixelisation during scenes of high grain being the only artefacts present. In a movie full of swords and arrows, aliasing is almost noticeably absent, although this is most likely due to the extreme softness of the image. The only really noticeable instances are on the opening and closing titles, on a roof at 35:04, and on a sword at 56:59. The entire transfer is afflicted with quite bad telecine wobble. It is particularly noticeable during the opening and closing credits (and does not help with the aliasing problems therein), but at any time the camera is steady, a wobble can be perceived. This transfer displays just about the entire range of film artefacts, in almost any imaginable shape, in both black and white. There are simply too many occurrences of quite noticeable artefacts to list, and the entire transfer is covered with minor artefacts.

    The subtitles on this disc are quite accurate. While a few words are left out, none are essential to the flow of the dialogue.

    This is a Flipper disc, with side one finishing very close to half way through, at 74:34. One minor advantage our disc has over the R1 is the placement of a helpful "flip-me-now" symbol at the conclusion of side one. Side two launches immediately into the movie, so continuity is preserved as much as possible for a flipper.

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

Audio

    The audio transfer presented for Robin Hood is a considerably better effort than the video. It is, however, still flawed, being presented in only a 2.0 surround mix. A movie like this is really crying out for a full 5.1 remix.

    There is only a single audio track present on this disc, being the original English dialogue in Dolby Digital 2.0, surround encoded at the normal bitrate of 192Kbps.

    Dialogue was usually clear and easy to understand. On the odd occasion, a mumbled word slips by, but for the most part there are no problems in this regard.

    Audio sync is likewise never a problem. All dialogue is in sync, as are all sound effects.

    The score for Robin Hood is provided by Michael Kamen (of Metallica: S&M fame), and does its job admirably. There is only one real downside, and that is the frequency with which that song from Bryan Adams is worked into the score. Neither Adams or Kaman are to blame for this (how were they to know it would break world-wide records for stays at number 1?), but the fact that the song is so well known, and so recognisable, leads to a few moments of really noticing the score, which should not happen.

    For a 2.0 surround effort the surrounds are quite respectably used, backing the score to a good extent, and even taking part in some directional sound effects, such as voice reverb at 75:59, and a few instances of arrow shots, and horses running past camera. Certainly this does not stand in for a full 5.1 mix, but until this film gets the treatment it deserves, this surround mix will suffice.

    The subwoofer received quite a large of amount of re-directed bass, and was very effective in backing up the bigger effects in the movie.

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

Extras

    Not only do we have to put up with the same bad NTSC transfer as the R1 disc, but we get fewer extras!

Menu

    The menu is static, non 16x9 enhanced, and does not have a soundtrack.

The Legend Of Robin Hood

    This is 8 pages of text, giving an interesting, if somewhat brief, background to the Robin Hood legend.

Creating 12th-Century England

    This is 5 pages of text detailing some of the steps the production went to to create an authentic looking England (although there is no mention of trying to find a Robin Hood who could speak with an English accent).

Theatrical Trailer (2:04)

    Presented in letterboxed 2.35:1, and featuring a Dolby Mono (1.0) soundtrack, this is a fairly good example of the trailer. Why the trailer is in 2.35:1, when the movie was 1.85:1, I cannot work out.

Teaser Trailer (1:19)

    Also presented in letterboxed 2.35:1, and featuring a Dolby Mono soundtrack, this is quite a boring trailer, and would not have enticed me to see the movie.

R4 vs R1

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

    The Region 4 version of this disc misses out on:

    The Region 1 version of this disc misses out on:     While the differences are not major (don't forget the R1 features the exact same transfer as the R4), it is still disappointing to find that we not only have to suffer the terrible NTSC transfer, but we don't get as many extras. Alternatively, there appears to be an English R2 version of the film that is single-sided dual-layered, in PAL with a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. So what is the catch? The British version features the almost requisite BBFC cuts, removing 29 seconds from the movie. By all reports the transfer is simply a PAL version of this NTSC transfer, so the decision is whether the lack of flipper status is enough to overcome the downside of the cuts. In my opinion, Warner have done the right thing by giving us the uncut version, but it still does not make up for their shameful treatment of the Australian DVD public.

Summary

    Prince Of Thieves is a fantastically entertaining adventure romp, that proves yet again there are few actors that can stand up to Alan Rickman. It is presented on a very poor quality DVD - for fans only.

    The video quality is terrible, being pretty much equivalent to VHS quality for most of the presentation.

    The audio is quite good given the restrictions of a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack, but is still crying out to be remastered in full 5.1 discrete sound.

    There are almost no extras on this disc. Those that are present are of low quality, and are not worth purchasing for.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Nick Jardine (My bio, it's short - read it anyway)
Friday, February 08, 2002
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-535, using S-Video output
DisplayRCA 80cm. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-DS787, THX Select
SpeakersAll matching Vifa Drivers: centre 2x6.5" + 1" tweeter (d'appolito); fronts and rears 6.5" + 1" tweeter; centre rear 5" + 1" tweeter; sub 10" (150WRMS)

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