Dad's Army-The Best of (1969)
Main Menu Audio
Featurette-Selection Box (28:24)
|Year Of Production||1969|
|Running Time||153:16 (Case: 152)|
|RSDL / Flipper||RSDL (91:33)||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||2,4||Directed By||David Croft|
Roadshow Home Entertainment
John Le Mesurier
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||Full Frame||English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)|
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||None|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.33:1||Miscellaneous|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||Yes, during credits|
Just about the first thing you would associate the British Broadcasting Corporation and DVD with would be their vast heritage of natural history programmes, almost unrivalled in world television. So it is that we have seen a few of these already appear on DVD. The other thing you would probably associate the British Broadcasting Corporation and DVD with would be their equally vast heritage of superb television comedy. Over the years, the Beeb has produced some of the most important and funny comedy seen on television. One of the very best has already been out on DVD for some time in Region 4 - the sublime brilliance of Fawlty Towers. But there is still plenty of serious quality still to come and amongst that is Dad's Army.
It is almost impossible to forget those halcyon days of the early 1970s when the first runs of Dad's Army were being screened by dear old Auntie (at least if my memory has not been completely shot). They represented the high point of television at the time, especially for a newly established migrant family from the mother country. It was essential viewing in our family and every week we sat down and obligingly laughed our proverbial heads off at the antics of the Walmington-on-Sea Home Guard. We did not really care about why it was so funny just as long as it was funny, which indeed it was. Yet it seems incredible today to sit back and discover just what an impact this show had on television. It ran for nine seasons between 1968 and 1977, which even by today's standards is no mean feat, and yet it comprised just eighty episodes in total. Whilst plenty of shows turn in over eighty episodes today, since the standard for a half hour show seems to be around 24 episodes per season, very few can proclaim to extend to nine seasons. In recent times I can recall the truly appalling Friends as one example, and the genuinely good Seinfeld as another, but then I would be scratching my head for ideas. It seems that in the olden days they understood the importance of quality over quantity, as opposed to the rubbish over quality approach today!
Not only was this great comedy on initial release, but the show still rates well on re-runs and remains genuinely funny even though we have seen the passage of thirty odd years since the first episode went to air. I don't recall too many comedy shows that you can return to for a fourth or fifth or sixth time and still laugh out loud at the comedy on display. Modern stuff is so bad that you can barely get a laugh the first time you watch a show let alone the sixth time, which is precisely why the timeless comedy of Dad's Army continues to endure, despite the fact that increasingly fewer people have any knowledge of the Home Guard and what it represented. The writing is quality, the acting is quality and the series has that certain subtlety that is completely lacking in American comedy. You get more laughs out of just one look from Arthur Lowe than any quantity of mindless drivel spoken in American comedy. All as I can say is that I hope that this is just the harbinger of plenty more releases from the show. There is simply no way that you can get too much of the antics of the militarily-challenged Captain George Mainwaring (Arthur Lowe), the laconic Sergeant Arthur Wilson (John Le Mesurier), Corporal Jack "Don't panic, Don't panic!" Jones (Clive Dunn), ARP Chief Warden Hodges (Bill Pertwee), the morbid Scottish funeral director James Frazer (John Laurie), draft dodger Joe Walker (Joe Beck), the old stager Charles Godfrey (Arnold Ridley) and Frank "Mum's not going to like this" Pike (Ian Lavender).
Any effort to encapsulate the very best of a show like Dad's Army is of course fraught with danger. After all, just how do you determine the very best of 80 episodes of one of the very best comedy shows ever produced? This sort of arbitrary collection is going to invoke all sorts of arguments amongst fans, but whether the very best or not the episodes chosen for inclusion here are:
The Deadly Attachment (Episode 54, Series 6, first transmitted October 31 1973, 29:28 minutes) - The motley crew comprising the Walmington-on-Sea Home Guard have never met the enemy, much to the chagrin of Captain Mainwaring. Eager for any chance to engage the enemy, General Headquarters finally gives him the chance. A German U-boat crew has been rescued in the English Channel, and is being brought ashore at Walmington-on-Sea. The local Home Guard is despatched to bring the crew to the church hall and hold them until they can be collected by the regular army. Well, we know what Captain Mainwaring is like so we can expect the usual understated reaction to the task.... and perhaps the usual impeccable performance to boot.
Keep Young and Beautiful (Episode 42, Series 5, October 13 1972, 29:25 minutes) - Questions are being raised in the Houses of Parliament about the condition of some of the personnel in the Home Guard and the ARP. It is decided that there shall be a review of personnel to see if some of the older Home Guard personnel should be transferred to the ARP and some of the younger ARP personnel moved the other way. As the directive comes down the chain of command, the effect upon the personnel liable to be finding themselves moved is immediate. With no one wanting to move between organisations, there is plenty of activity to reverse the effects of time.
Never Too Old (Episode 80, Series 9, November 13 1977, 35:21 minutes) - Yes, this is indeed the last episode of the series ever made, which makes its position in the middle of the DVD a tad perplexing, especially with the ending of the show. Corporal Jones is becoming increasingly erratic in his behaviour and it would seem to be the result of old age and one too many "don't panics". Everyone is starting to get just a little worried, but the reality is something far, far, far more disturbing... but are those jokes about meat a harbinger of the true meaning of life?
Asleep In The Deep (Episode 41, Series 5, October 6 1972, 29:29 minutes) - Our valiant defenders of the British coastline are on watch as the bombs drop over Walmington-on-Sea. Despite the situation, Captain Mainwaring is still eager to be giving it to Jerry on the other side of the Channel. His view might change though when he discovers that the local pumping station has been hit by a bomb. Unbeknownst to the ARP, Privates Walker and Godfrey were on duty at the station. A rescue mission is therefore demanded, but as usual the execution is anything but flawless.
Sons Of The Sea (Episode 26, Series 3, December 11 1969, 29:33 minutes) - At the bank, the death of a customer with a small overdraft has resulted in the bank coming into possession of a small boat. Captain Mainwaring figures that this is the perfect opportunity to expand the activities of the Home Guard unit - through river patrols. The mere thought of six of the Home Guard heading off to engage the enemy sounds daft to everyone, except Mainwaring obviously. So when their first attempt at rowing ends up in the swirling fog of the Channel, at the end of a long night things are not quite as Mainwaring would believe.
The transfer is presented in the usual aspect ratio of television shows of the era, namely 1.33:1. Naturally enough, the transfers are not 16x9 enhanced.
Whilst it might be stating the rather obvious, the transfers have to be looked at in the light of these being television shows recorded well over twenty years ago and one approaching thirty three years ago. In general, they pre-date the thought of the entire home video phenomena. So the expectation going in is that we are not likely to be seeing anything remotely similar to transfers of television shows that might be only five years old. Suffice it to say, the expectations were not exceeded. These are somewhat variable transfers in terms of absolute quality, but I guess for source material of this age they are not too bad. The main issue is the fact that at times the picture looks like there are hundreds of little soldiers drilling across the screen. You could say that the grain gets rather lousy at times and when combined with what appears to be low level noise, makes for a rather disappointing visual treat. Poor examples of the sort of problems encountered include 4:17 and 11:27 in The Deadly Attachment and 1:24, 6:25 and 6:50 in Asleep In The Deep.
The general state of the transfers shows a respectable definition for material of the vintage, with reasonable enough shadow detail. Funnily enough in some respects, the "newest" episode (Never Too Old) is the worst looking as it demonstrates some rather obvious ghosting of the image - notably at 7:20 and 21:58. There is also a hint of edge enhancement at 1:30 in Keep Young and Beautiful. As is to be expected in transfers blessed with some grain problems, clarity is not especially wonderful and is only impeded by these problems. I would be remiss however in not indicating that not everything was average about the transfers and at times we do see some excellent quality, with some very good sharpness and definition and a relative absence of problems in the transfer. I guess the only problem is that these excellent portions tend to highlight the less excellent portions.
The colour quality is almost as variable as the transfers in all other respects. Even from one shot to the next there are some obvious variances in the consistency of the colour, and whilst overall I did not find this objectionable, it is nonetheless a little blatant. Not that what we have is too shabby for television material of this age, bearing up pretty well in comparison to anything else of the vintage. It is just that there is no doubt that a bit more consistency and a whole dose of tonal depth would not have gone astray. There is some evidence of colour bleed in the transfers at times, with an example being at 9:40 of The Deadly Attachment.
There is basically an encyclopaedia of artefacts blessing the transfers. There is a painful to watch example of loss of resolution on a motion shot at 21:58 of Sons Of The Sea. Whilst this is probably inherent in the source material, the transfer to DVD has been less than kind. There is just some indication of compression pixelization at times, most notably during The Deadly Attachment. There is an unusual hatching-type artefact that occurs during Asleep In The Deep, which whilst barely visible does catch the eye - an example being at 27:45. It appears only briefly and could perhaps be evidence of some storage damage inherent in the source material. It sort of looks like viewing the picture through a fly screen. Film-to-video artefacts get a nice run here with plenty of aliasing on display. Whilst generally of a mild nature, it is so prevalent as to be hard to ignore. The Deadly Attachment sees examples in the shoulder epaulets at 1:52 and the helmet at 17:20, Keep Young and Beautiful sees an example in the hat at 3:17, whilst Sons Of The Sea shows up the problem in the oars at 17:10. Film artefacts get a bit of a run throughout the transfers, but really were not of much concern overall.
The main remaining problem with the transfer is actually during Sons Of The Sea, where significant chunks of Captain Mainwaring's right cheek go AWOL, leaving rather obvious gaps to be filled in by the black background. Quite whether this is source related or authoring related I would not know. Whichever is at fault, it is certainly an obvious and distracting problem.
We have an RSDL formatted DVD here, with the layer change coming at 32:40 in Never Too Old - 91:33 overall. It is placed mid-scene and is extremely obvious and disrupting. The action freezes on-screen for what is probably only a second but which seems much longer. I cannot help but feel that some of the black scene changes during the episode might not have provided vastly better places to hide the layer change.
There are no subtitle options on the DVD.
The is just the one soundtrack on the DVD, being an English Dolby Digital 2.0 effort at the higher bit rate of 224Kb/s.
The dialogue for all episodes was as clear and easy to understand as you would expect from this sort of vintage material. There did not appear to be any audio sync problems in the transfer.
There were no music credits for the episodes in the collection.
Basically, what we get here is exactly what we would expect. Nothing really flash, but quite serviceable sound that is variously afflicted by hiss. Sons Of The Sea is perhaps the worst afflicted episode and the hiss does at times get a little on the annoying side. Elsewhere, the problem is not so noticeable and easily ignored in the overall sense. Naturally enough we have no use for a subwoofer here and the surrounds are pretty well ignored too. There is a rather obvious, albeit brief, drop-out of the audio at 28:45 in Sons Of The Sea.
|Surround Channel Use|
Surprisingly, there is something! This I was not expecting at all, so the presence of something is even more welcome.
Nothing really flash with some minor audio enhancement of the main menu.
This is something a little bit different, and is probably the best that could have been done with television material. Comprising a bunch of short interview snippets with a whole bunch of (British) celebrities from various fields who offer their views on one of the best British comedy series ever. It is actually quite well done and rather interesting.
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
As far as we are aware, this has not been slated for release in Region 1 yet.
Dad's Army - The Very Best Of is a very good sampler of this beloved series and I sincerely hope that this is the start of plenty more DVDs of the series. It might not feature the best transfers ever seen or heard, which is partly due to the age of the source material, but in all honesty I rapidly overcame these issues and succumbed to hearty bouts of laughter. If you are a fan of the show, you will perhaps only be disappointed by the transfer quality, but I would rather the transfer quality than no Dad's Army at all. Well worth investigating.
|DVD||Pioneer DV-515, using S-Video output|
|Display||Sony Trinitron Wega (80cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.|
|Speakers||Energy Speakers: centre EXLC; left and right C-2; rears EXLR; and subwoofer ES-12XL|