The World According to Garp (NTSC) (1982) (NTSC)

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Released 6-Feb-2002

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Biographies-Cast
Listing-Cast & Crew
Awards
Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1982
Running Time 136:14
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (60:46) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,4 Directed By George Roy Hill
Studio
Distributor

Warner Home Video
Starring Robin Williams
Mary Beth Hurt
Glenn Close
John Lithgow
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $34.95 Music None Given


Video (NTSC) Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 1.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 480i (NTSC)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
French
Spanish
Portuguese
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    The World According to Garp is an enjoyable movie and many people will want to either see it or revisit it for the curiosity factor of seeing Robin Williams in one of his earliest movie performances. This disc fulfils its function in bringing a successful back-catalogue movie to the realm of DVD, however it is very much limited by both its age and the quality of the source material.

    I remember first seeing Garp in the early 80s and it was certainly interesting to review it again now in order to see whether the story still holds up. There are some obvious comparisons which can be made with such later films as Forest Gump, as both are epic life stories, both are told from the perspective of someone who looks upon life a little differently, largely because of strong maternal influences and the circumstances in which they were born, and both are about overcoming life's tragedies in some way (although with Garp not nearly as much about overcoming adversities as Forest Gump). Both are ultimately very interesting life stories and rewarding film experiences, however it must be said that Forest Gump this movie aint, with no special effects or interactions with famous people of the time and the story is not nearly as bold or grand in the telling. Garp is however still a very captivating story, is extremely well acted and is also ultimately moving. It should be viewed in its context, bearing in mind that it does pre-date the other life-epic movies with which it invites comparison, plus has the curio benefit of both Robin Williams and Glenn Close in very early performances (in fact Glenn Close's film debut). In that context, this movie still holds up.

    It is hard to say too much about the plot without giving away critical points. Very simply though, this movie is told via several discrete cuts out of the life of T.S.Garp (Robin Williams), from baby to childhood to teen to adult. The movie spans his entire life from 1944 to the early 80s. Garp was born under very unorthodox circumstances (don't ask me to elaborate here!), brought up by an over-protective mother (Glenn Close) and without a father, in a time when this was far from the norm. He tries to lead an ordinary life but is surrounded by some very unordinary influences. In doing so, he has to overcome life's tragedies but also experiences life's rewards. My plot description sounds rather contrite and does not do this very involving and well paced story justice. (Try to sum up the plot of Parenthood succinctly for example without making a great movie sound tediously dull....) Just watch it; you'll enjoy it.

    Williams' performance is somewhat reserved in this movie but is genuinely well-acted - it's just a pity that the performance lacks the trademark comedic wit for which he is now famous and we come to expect. You get the feeling that he is very much finding his acting feet at this stage of his acting career, before cutting loose in later roles such as Dead Poet's Society and Good Morning Vietnam. Glenn Close also delivers a very solid performance, particularly for her film debut. Also watch out for John Lithgow, who steals the show entirely and gives a memorable early performance as a transsexual ex-NFL player.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The first thing to note is that this is an NTSC transfer; yet another movie in an annoying trend for DVD distributors of simply re-badging a Region 1 DVD and then re-releasing it here in Region 4 - great to the extent that this means we get exactly the same extras as Region 1, but there should be no excuse (other than laziness) for distributors releasing NTSC product in this country, where the adopted television system is PAL. Please be aware that if your TV isn't NTSC capatible, then you won't be able to watch this DVD.

    The video transfer of this movie can be summed up by stating that it is adequate but not exceptional in any way.

    The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 (not 1.85:1 as listed on the cover) and is 16x9 enhanced. Unfortunately the transfer sharpness and resolution is not great. This appears to be solely due to the age of the film and the quality of the film print, rather than any significant errors in the transfer process itself.

    Unfortunately the majority of scenes in this movie are grainy and lack real definition. Some scenes are faithfully rendered but overall there is little distinction in the poor resolution across both background and foreground action. Focus-pulling did also appears to be a bit questionable on occasion, as the images are certainly not as sharp as we may come to expect from more modern movie transfers, but I am putting all of these sharpness and focus/resolution problems down to the source material rather than film-to-video artefacts. If this is the condition of the original 1982 film print, then all I can say is what a great pity that it has come to such a state of neglect. A quality film like this deserved better storage treatment.

    Colouring is quite accurate, with (mostly) faithful skin tones and blacks and blues. This is most important, as the movie involves a great deal of close-up acting and indoor scenes, so this movie does require accurate skin tones as well as strong colours necessary for the odd contrasting landscape/scenery shot. A couple of scenes did appeared a tad washed out though and not quite as saturated in colour as may be expected, so I wouldn't rave, but again I'll put this down to the poor quality of the film print.

    Thankfully the transfer is largely free of film-to-video artefacts. There was only some very minor and trivial aliasing noticeable on my monitor, for example on Garp's coat at 22:47, and no real edge enhancement or other problems that were discernable. There was the odd motion artefact, due to NTSC "3:2 pulldown", which was annoying though. (See Michael's great PAL vs NTSC article under the Articles link for an explanation of this NTSC problem.) Check out the noticeable image judder as the camera pans across the room at 64:56 for example.

    The bad news is that whilst film-to-video artefacts aren't a major problem, unfortunately film artefacts definitely are. As stated above, this DVD is not sourced from a very clean film print and there are numerous annoying film flecks and scratches throughout the feature. The most prominent of these was a big white scratch (negative artefact) at 31:29, right over the top of the characters as you are watching them walking away centre frame. This is just one example, but there were many other annoying little flecks and film scratches throughout. Another issue to note was that some blacks and colour expanses (for example on walls) at first glance appeared to be suffering from low level noise or chroma noise, but on further inspection I think this too was just reflective of the graininess inherent in the degraded film print. I do wish that a better quality print could have been located, or else some more love and care taken to clean it up, before rushing to transfer this movie on to DVD.

    This disc is RSDL formatted, with the layer change occurring at 60:46. This was a very inconsiderate place to insert the layer change; it is not only in the middle of a dialogue scene, but a crucial expose of an important plot piece (you'll see what I mean when you get to it). A minor point I suppose, but why oh why mid scene right here? Just a little more thought is needed in these things before slapping a movie on to DVD and picking any old arbitrary point for layer change, without due consideration for the viewer.

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

Audio

    The audio transfer is, in a nutshell, very flat.

    The audio tracks available are English Dolby Surround 2.0 and French Dolby Stereo 1.0. I listened to the default English track with the Dolby Pro-Logic encoding turned on and found that there was so minimal surround encoding present as to be a complete non-event. Of course this is a 1982 movie, so it must be expected that the audio mix is a victim of its age. However, there has certainly been no effort made at re-mixing or enhancing the track in any way for DVD release.

    The good news is that dialogue quality is generally quite acceptable; perhaps a touch harsh in the high end at times, but generally very clear. There was only one scene where I had genuine trouble in deciphering the dialogue, that being at 4:12, a scene involving Garp's mother shouting out to her parents from a long way away. As this scene involved the parents having trouble hearing her too, clearly the director intended for this dialogue to be mixed down a bit, however he was so successful in making it hard to hear that after two attempts I had to resort to turning on the subtitles momentarily in order to catch it! One other noticeable dialogue issue was some very obvious ADR at 71:02, a scene involving Garp and his son dressed up in bear suits on Halloween night. Have a listen to the very pronounced hiss turning on and off, as the track switches from location dialogue to ADR! Besides that one rare instance though, it has to be said that ADR appears to have been kept to an absolute minimum in this film, which is great as personally I think it is used far too often in modern day movie-making.

    I did not notice any audio sync issues with my player.

    Ah yes, the music and effects mix.... What music? what sound effects mix? The first thing you notice is that there is virtually no music score to this movie at all, just the very rare source song which is used to good effect over the opening and closing credits and also in the odd scene, for example in the car over the radio. Apart from that though, there is practically no music score to speak of. This movie is very dialogue-driven and is reliant on its strong acting, so I suppose this does make sense and I'll admit it's certainly better than having to contend with some distracting schmaltzy music score over the top.

    However the next thing you notice about this film is that there is also very very little stereo separation of sound effects. It is an extremely flat centre-speaker mix indeed. Even cars and helicopters don't seem to cross-fade or pan from side to side much. OK, again let's put this down to the movie being a product of its time, however even a modest effort to remix and liven up this audio track for DVD would have been most appreciated.

    Next, on to the use of LFE/subwoofer.... What use of subwoofer?!  Even with the plane crashing into the house at 58:25 there was virtually no LFE at all. My sub had a 2 hour nap during this puppy! OK, OK, again I hear you say, let's remember to place the movie in the context of its time of release, but did going to the cinema in the early 80s really sound this dull? Again, I must harp that there has been absolutely no additional effort at all put in to enhancing this transfer for a DVD/home theatre environment. What a pity.        

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

Extras

    Extras are as you may expect, acceptable enough but certainly nothing outstanding. Extras comprise a trailer, some cast bios and awards information.

Menu

    Thankfully, all menus are 16x9 enhanced. All menus are stills and non audio underscored.

Theatrical Trailer

    Not a bad trailer as far as it goes and yes it was also 16x9 enhanced thank you, but very grainy and in mono if you please!

Cast Bios

    Some extra cast and crew credits are provided on this screen, however the only names which can be highlighted for detailed bio information are Robin Williams, Glenn Close and John Lithgow. These are brief and unspectacular bio pages, but all screens are 16x9 enhanced, which is nice.

Awards

    This still screen gives a snapshot of some of the acting award nominations earned by the cast of this movie. Mildly interesting.

R4 vs R1

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

    Both the Region 1 and Region 4 versions of this disc are exactly the same. This release is in fact zoned both Region 4 and Region 1. It was certainly a minimal re-badging effort, but looking on the bright side, it's at least the case that the Region 4 and Region 1 releases are of equal merit.

Summary

    The World According To Garp is an epic life story. It is extremely well acted and will be of interest to anyone wanting to check out Robin Williams in one of his earliest major film roles. Whilst the transfer effort does not detract as such from the feature, sadly this disc is very much a victim of the movie's age and the degraded quality of the film print. Best described as merely adequate, this DVD release definitely warranted at least some effort to clean up the video and remix the flat audio track.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Sean Abberton (read my bio)
Friday, February 08, 2002
Review Equipment
DVDToshiba 2109, using Component output
DisplayToshiba 117cm widescreen RPTV. Calibrated with AVIA Guide To Home Theatre. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderYamaha RXV-1000. Calibrated with AVIA Guide To Home Theatre.
AmplificationElektra Home Theatre surround power amp
SpeakersOrpheus Aurora III mains, Orpheus Centaurus 1.0 centre, Velodyne CT150 sub and B&W DM303 rears

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