In the Line of Duty-Siege at Marion (1992)
|Year Of Production||1992|
|RSDL / Flipper||No/No||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||1,2,3,4,5,6||Directed By||Charles Haid|
Ed, Jr Begley
Paul Le Mat
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||Full Frame||English Dolby Digital 2.0 (448Kb/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||No|
I must admit up front to a bias of not being a big fan of made-for-television docu-dramas. I'm especially sceptical of those that involve re-enactments, as I'm always suspicious as to just how much of the content really is based on fact and how much of it is sensationalism, inserted to make the presentation of the story more interesting dramatically. Furthermore, this series of docu-dramas is tainted well and truly from the perspective of the FBI agents involved, such that the storytelling itself is sanitised and biased from that particular point of view. Of course, this inherent bias should be obvious to anyone reading the cover of the DVD, before even starting to watch the feature. It's clear that you're not about to view either Gone With The Wind (from a dramatic sense) or The World At War (in terms of documentary standards). Therefore, this title should be viewed (and reviewed) in the vein of what it is; an informative and hopefully entertaining piece of dramatisation behind this particular event in FBI history; not the definitive facts behind the event, nor a great insight into the protagonists by any means, but rather a light, made-for-television story of the events as told from one party's perspective.
I tried to put aside my dislike for docu-dramas and review the title with the above in mind. After doing this, I did find this feature fulfilled its objective. Remembering the news reports of this siege back in 1988, I did have an interest in finding out a bit more of the story and people behind the events, and I did find the dramatisation of this story quite interesting.
For anyone who may not recall the events, they revolved around a fanatically religious Utah family, members of a polygamist Mormon cult that sought to shut themselves off from the corrupt non-believers of the outside world. After skirmishes with the local community, the authorities become involved and soon foster concerns for the welfare of the children of the household, who have now been withdrawn from their schooling. A tense stand-off results, with the authorities wanting to gain access to the house and the children and this being zealously denied by the protective head of the family, John Singer. A confrontation results, with the FBI resolving (botching?) the matter by shooting and killing Singer, predictably enough only succeeding in making Singer a martyr to his widow Vickie (superbly acted by Tess Harper). The family is then joined by equally fanatical Adam Swapp (Kyle Secor), who assumes the position of head of the household by marrying both of Singer's daughters. He turns out to be just as much of a loony, if not more so, than his predecessor.
Concerns for the welfare of the children are used by the authorities as the main reason for wanting and needing to break up this religious cult, as it continues to pose a threat to the local community specifically, but more so the morals and legal sensibilities of the community at large. The trouble is that, as the household is simply bailed up on their own property and ostensibly not infringing anyone else's rights or breaking any other laws, there is no obvious justifiable reason for the FBI to storm the house and forcibly remove the family from their own property without appearing to infringe the very rights that the family is defending. But of course the concerns for the innocent children caught up in this mess are valid, and it becomes a moral dilemma and logistical nightmare as to how to gain access to remove the children. The ensuing siege lasts 13 days and is credited as being "the longest siege in FBI history in which the subjects have not talked to the authorities". The FBI is forced to resort to blatant psychological warfare, respecting the physical borders of the private property but using all means possible, including 24 hour a day bright floodlights and noise to disrupt the household and try to force them out.
The acting in this docu-drama is better than I was expecting. The FBI Special Agent in charge is played by Dennis Franz, of NYPD Blue and Die Hard 2 fame. He does an excellent job. Well, considering the constraints of a stereotypical characterisation and a contrite script anyway. Similarly, all the other acting performances in this feature are first rate for a production of this type. Siege At Marion is ultimately interesting, informative, well-paced (if not predictable) and well produced.
Please note that Siege At Marion did NOT have any time-coding present. Whilst it does have chapter markings, there are no chapters numbers on the on-screen display. As a result of there being no time-coding or chapter numbers, I am unable to give specific reference points for the artefacts mentioned below.
For a made-for-TV show, this is a remarkably clean and very visually pleasing presentation.
The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 and is not 16x9 enhanced, almost certainly the same as the TV show was originally presented.
The sharpness of this transfer is quite exemplary, with no real signs of any edge enhancement to be seen. Grain is surprisingly light throughout the movie, although it is visible much of the time. Shadow detail is quite satisfactory, with plenty of fine detail in most scenes, apart from a couple of the darker scenes, where detail drops a bit (note that this is the exception rather than the norm). As a general comment, I found the level of grain to be more than satisfactory for a production of this type, again with only one or two notable exceptions being a couple of darker scenes shot in the Singer house in low light. Low level noise is not an issue in the transfer.
There is a decent palette of colours on offer, with plenty of variety, although much of the film is shot in the fairly drab surroundings of the Singer household, with drab wallpaper/decor and clothing. On the positive side, the quality of the blacks in this transfer (for example in the ATF uniforms and in the night-time scenes) is uniformly authentic and so the drab colour palette of the indoor shots is juxtaposed to very good effect with these stark blacks, as well as the whites of the snow. No colour bleed or chroma noise is apparent and the skin tones are spot on.
There are no MPEG artefacts to speak of, although there is some occasional (non-material) aliasing, on some car grilles and a large marble staircase at the courthouse for example, and one instance of moire effect on a TV screen. Otherwise this is certainly a respectably decent quality transfer. Film artefacts are unfortunately more of an issue, with persistent film flecks throughout the feature. Thankfully, all of these film flecks are very minor in nature and in that sense they are not distracting. It is just the regularity of them that started to annoy me.
There were no subtitles on this single-layered disc.
The dialogue in particular is very clean and clear throughout and there is no problem with audio syncing. The only exception to this is a bit of dialogue over the FBI radio, which borders on starting to distort but still remains audible.
The music was credited to Gary Chang. It is fairly innocuous and does the job.
There is no surround channel use nor subwoofer activity to note in this audio track.
|Surround Channel Use|
|DVD||Toshiba 2109, using Component output|
|Display||Toshiba 117cm widescreen RPTV. Calibrated with AVIA Guide To Home Theatre. This display device is 16x9 capable.|
|Audio Decoder||Yamaha RXV-1000. Calibrated with AVIA Guide To Home Theatre.|
|Amplification||Elektra Home Theatre surround power amp|
|Speakers||Orpheus Aurora III mains, Orpheus Centaurus 1.0 centre, Velodyne CT150 sub and B&W DM303 rears|