Porridge (1979) (1974)

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Released 13-May-2002

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Comedy Main Menu Audio & Animation
Biographies-Cast
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 1974
Running Time 89:52 (Case: 94)
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Dick Clement
Studio
Distributor
Jack Gill
Magna Home Entertainment
Starring Ronnie Barker
Richard Beckensale
Peter Vaughan
Fulton Mackay
Case Click
RPI $19.95 Music None Given


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 1.0 (128Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    If there has ever been a quintessential British comedian then it would have to be Ronnie Barker. Apart from his many years as one half of the comedy duo, the Two Ronnies (1971-1987), Barker has also inculcated his brand of lightweight, yet deliciously funny humour through a series of comedy shows that included Porridge (1974-1977), Going Straight (1978) and Open All Hours (1973/1976-1985). Porridge was one of those series that combined reality with humour and originality. The movie, made a couple of years after the original series had finished, was a sort of compliment to the popularity of the show. Although slightly darker in look and feel to the series, it still retains the same sort of sly and subtle humour that permeated the half hour comedy show. The movie's writers, Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais should be well-known to most followers of British comedy, having written dozens of shows in their time, including another collaboration which has stood the test of time, The Likely Lads.

    The movie opens with the transfer of new prisoners to HMP Slade, in which are incarcerated one Norman Stanley Fletcher (Ronnie Barker) and his cell mate Lennie Godber (Richard Beckinsale). A long-time inmate and someone who knows all the tricks, Fletcher is every inch the match of the head guard Mr MacKay (Fulton MacKay), who has an instinct for trouble, and his meekly acquiescent fellow guard Mr Barrowclough (Brian Wilde), whose home life matches the decaying facade that is Slade (the movie was shot at Chelmsford prison for authenticity and it certainly adds to the drab atmosphere of the movie). MacKay is always on the look-out to catch Fletcher in the act, but can never quite nail him. One of the new inmates, Oakes (Barrie Rutter), is tired of prison life and approaches the prison hard man, Grouty (Peter Vaughan) about a prison break, so he can enjoy his ill-gotten gains while still a young man. Grouty sends for Fletcher and instructs him to organise a football game between the prisoners and a celebrity team. Using surreptitious means, Fletcher manages to convince a new guard that the game is his idea and soon the game is on.

    During the game, the prison break occurs, but unfortunately both Fletcher and Godber are forced into coming along when they stumble onto the plan in motion. This leads to a problem for Fletcher who has no desire to be part of a break-out with so little time left on his sentence, and indeed Lennie has even less time still left to serve. So, after convincing Oakes that they no longer threaten the getaway plan, he lets them go. The problem for Fletcher now is that getting out was easy, but getting back in might be a little tougher.

    Although not the greatest movie ever made, it certainly is an entertaining movie for one based on a TV show. Most of them usually fall flat on their faces or simply don't scrub up as well. For those of you that are fans of Barker, this is one for the collection although it does have its problems.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    Although only 23 years old, this transfer shows most of the ravages of old age and lack of restoration. The problems are fairly consistent throughout with very little to recommend it as anything other than it is - a fair copy transferred to DVD which at least can't get any worse.

    This movie is displayed in a Full Frame aspect ratio of 1.33:1 with no 16x9 enhancement. Given there appears to be no cropping, I'd assume this movie was made open-matte and therefore we are presented with the original and correct aspect ratio.

    One good thing about this transfer is that it doesn't suffer from blurriness, although at times it does suffer from excessive brightness. There is some good shadow detail on show with plenty of background detail visible but the general state of the original stock makes this a little superfluous. Fine detail is a little lacking due to the amount of grain which is persistent and prominent throughout. Low level noise doesn't appear to be a problem.

    The colours are mostly drab and unattractive, as befits a prison movie. Having said that, though, any naturalness that may have been present is further eroded by the desaturated quality of this transfer. Skin tones don't look too bad, but the lack of any real colour contrast in almost any scene (except the football match) makes this a lacklustre viewing experience.

    MPEG artefacts abound. Pixelization and MPEG blocking (24:14 is a good example) is everywhere. Just look at any shoulder line and you'll see one of the two. Cross colouration is also profligate, with the prisoners' shirts being thin-lined and attracting this artefact constantly throughout the movie (eg: 4:45, 13:50, 33:51, 48:04). Microphony can also be seen in many many places (eg: 21:16) as horizontal black lines through the picture. Film artefacts are too numerous to mention, with variations from tiny flecks to great rips of emulsion that plague the source material. Reel change marks can be seen throughout (16:16, 16:21, 34:15, 34:21, 52:03, 52:10, 70:22, 70:29). A large prominent black mark is visible at 2:27 on the left hand side of the screen. Some aliasing is visible at 23:50 on a gate grille and moiré artefacts are visible at 33:51, 35:51, 48:04 and 52:33. Others artefacts were seen, but they mostly blended in with the other glitches.

    There were no subtitles on this single layered disc.

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

Audio

    This disc contains only one soundtrack, an English Dolby Digital mono effort at 128 kilobits per second. The sound is strictly monaural and channelled exclusively through the centre speaker. It lacks any depth and sounds suspiciously like a typical TV episode, which it basically is except for the longer running time. If you don't expect much, you won't be disappointed.

    The audio sync is spot-on with no problems with the dialogue except for a couple of accents.

    The music in this movie consists of a radio station playing requests at the beginning of the film (Without You - by Nilsson, uncredited), some classical music being listened to in the prison by Grouty on a record player and the odd snip coming from a radio off in the background. Only the closing title track, Free Inside (by Lem Lubin and Ian La Frenais) is credited. Some special effects and noises are heard, but little else.

    There is no surround channel nor subwoofer usage on this disc

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

Extras

Main Menu Audio & Animation

    A series of pictures in a kaleidoscope effect with music from the end credits overlaid

Biographies-Cast

    Ronnie Barker - from 75-78, 14 pages.

R4 vs R1

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

    There doesn't appear to be a Region 1 release of this DVD but there is a Region 2 release which appears even more bare-boned than this one, including no extras at all (but then, a listing of Ronnie Barker's material from 1975-78 isn't much to get excited about). Price-wise I think the R4 is the winner given the exchange rate of the English pound versus the Australian dollar.

Summary

    Porridge is one of the better movies to come out of a TV series, and anything with the erstwhile Ronnie Barker in it is worthy of a look. The storyline is a bit hobbled together but it still views well after all these years and as a lightweight comedy it succeeds admirably.

    The video is a little on the poor side, obviously from a less-than-pristine copy, and it shows in every fleck, blemish and MPEG artefact.

    Seeing as it was probably made for TV, the audio is fairly consistent and reasonable, although strictly mono.

    Forget the extras - they are typical of a sell-through disc of this price range.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Carl Berry (read my bio)
Monday, December 09, 2002
Review Equipment
DVDToshiba SD5300, using RGB output
DisplayLoewe Xelos (81cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderRotel RSP-976. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationRotel RB 985 MkII
SpeakersJBL TLX16s Front Speakers, Polk Audio LS fx di/bipole Rear Speakers, Polk Audio CS350-LS Centre Speaker, M&KV-75 Subwoofer

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Comments (Add)
R2 Porridge disc - Anonymous