Arthur (1981)

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Released 10-Aug-1999

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Comedy None
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1981
Running Time 93:15
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Programme
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Steve Gordon

Warner Home Video
Starring Dudley Moore
Liza Minnelli
John Gielgud
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $24.95 Music Burt Bacharach

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 1.0 (192Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 1.0 (192Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 1.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
English for the Hearing Impaired
Italian for the Hearing Impaired
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits Yes, New York City street scene (?Park Avenue)

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

Plot Synopsis

    Arthur is the story of Arthur Bach (Dudley Moore), a young man who was born with the proverbial silver spoon in his mouth and so far has led a life of relentless luxury where his every desire is fulfilled. Not having experienced anything as remotely dull as responsibility, pain, or even an honest hard day's work, he ends up being drunk all the time to avoid the necessity of growing up.

    His father, Stanford Bach (Thomas Barbour), thinks he is a spineless weakling and wants him to marry Susan Johnson (Jill Eikenberry), the daughter of self-made tycoon Burt Johnson (Stephen Elliot), in order to further consolidate the family's power and wealth. If Arthur refuses the marriage, he will be disinherited and he will lose his share of the family fortune - a cool $700 million (OK, maybe that's not a lot by today's standards, but remember this movie was made in the early eighties).

    The only person he truly cares for is his butler Hobson, played magnificently by the late Sir John Gielgud who deservedly won an Academy Award for his performance in this movie. We get the feeling that Hobson played the role of Arthur's father in a way that his real father never did, and therefore the scenes between Arthur and Hobson are particularly poignant towards the end.

    Just when Arthur has almost resigned himself to becoming respectable and marrying someone he can't stand, he meets poor, struggling waitress-who-wants-to-be-an-actress Linda Marolla (Liza Minelli) while she is shoplifting a tie at Bergdorf Goodman (birthday present for unemployed Dad played by Barney Martin). He starts to fall in love with her, but which shall it be - love or money?

    Arthur is a delightful comedy. The movie starts off with Arthur and his chauffeur cruising around the streets of New York trying to pick up a prostitute. Don't be put off by the world's most irritating laugh (coming from Arthur) at the beginning - if you stick it through you will be rewarded by some of the funniest one-liners ever, delivered with impeccable timing by a perfect ensemble cast. The humour works at several levels in this movie, ranging from straightforward slapstick and situational comedy to some very dry and sophisticated observations on life.

    I particularly liked Geraldine Fitzgerald as Martha Bach - the perfect example of a matriarch, combining gentleness and sweetness with absolute ruthlessness.

    I was initially introduced to Arthur not through the movie itself, but through the soundtrack, featuring music composed by Burt Bacharach and his then-wife Carole Bayer-Sager. I found the soundtrack album (yes, it's a genuine vinyl LP - they didn't make CDs in those days) in a record store and was so captivated by it I bought it. The title song sung by Christopher Cross deserves the popularity it received and is still vibrant and easy to listen to today, nearly 20 years after it was written.

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Transfer Quality


    The video transfer must have been done by someone who liked the movie, because it is relatively good. It is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is 16x9 enhanced.

    The print used is fairly clean and devoid of marks. There is some grain present, but no more than what you might expect considering the age of the movie. The picture is a little soft, but exhibits reasonable detail. Shadow detail is below reference quality but probably about average for movies of the period.

    The start of the movie (when Arthur and his chauffeur are cruising the streets of New York City in Arthur's Rolls Royce) seems to suffer from poor black levels. I suspect this is present in the original film and not a result of the film-to-video transfer as the rest of the film exhibits very good black levels. The car and street lights exhibit minor posterization but I did not find the effect too annoying.

    Colour saturation is below the quality of a recent film but is actually quite good for a movie originally released in 1981. I suspect colour correction has been applied during the transfer. Liza Minelli's outfits in particular stand out and are vividly saturated with primary colours.

    The DVD comes with a reasonable selection of subtitle tracks. I turned on the "English for the Hearing Impaired" subtitles at the beginning of the movie to check them out. I would rate the selection of captions as below average in terms of completeness and accuracy for a "Hard of Hearing" track but probably about average if it was just a normal subtitle track. I apply a higher standard to the Hearing Impaired tracks as I expect non-verbal audio cues to be captured on the subtitle track in addition to dialogue.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    There are three audio tracks in this DVD (English, French and Italian), all in Dolby Digital mono (1.0) at a bitrate of 192Kb/s. I listened only to the English track.

    The audio transfer appears to have been mastered at an extremely low level. I had to crank up the volume control all the way to reference level (0 dB) to get a reasonable sound level. Despite that, however, the audio transfer exhibits reasonable equalization and sounds rather natural.

    There are no obvious audio glitches such as audio synchronization problems. The IMDB reports that the music doesn't seem particularly synchronized to the band during the engagement party but I didn't particularly notice anything amiss.

    As the soundtrack is in mono, the subwoofer and surround speakers are not engaged during the feature.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    There are no extras on this DVD.


    The menus are pretty basic (i.e. non-animated) but do come with 16x9 enhancement.

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;     My strong preference is for the Region 4 version as it is in the original aspect ratio and is 16x9 enhanced.


    Arthur is a genuinely funny comedy presented on a DVD with a slightly above average video transfer and an average audio transfer. It has no extras whatsoever.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Christine Tham (read my biography)
Saturday, January 27, 2001
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-626D, using Component output
DisplaySony VPL-VW10HT LCD Projector, ScreenTechnics 16x9 matte white screen (203cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationDenon AVR-3300
SpeakersFront and rears: B&W CDM7NT; centre: B&W CDMCNT; subwoofer: B&W ASW2500

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