Absolutely Fabulous-The Last Shout (1996)

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Released 20-Jun-2001

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Comedy Main Menu Audio & Animation
Outtakes
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1996
Running Time 85:22 (Case: 104)
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Bob Spiers
Studio
Distributor

Universal Pictures Home Video
Starring Jennifer Saunders
Joanna Lumley
Julia Sawalha
June Whitfield
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $36.95 Music Simon Brint
Simon Wallace


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/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, copiously
Annoying Product Placement Yes, sometimes annoying, sometimes funny
Action In or After Credits Yes, always a nice joke in the end credits

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

Plot Synopsis

    If there is one thing that the British do far better than the Americans, aside from gangster dramas like Snatch, it has to be comedy. This can be associated with the type of society that the United Kingdom (a misnomer if there ever was) is, with telephone billing being such that it is cheaper to call a country across the ocean than it is to call across town and order a pizza. It takes a good sense of humour to be able to live in such a place, and Absolutely Fabulous as a television series was a perfect reflection of this. Consisting of twenty episodes that were broadcast over a period of four years, Absolutely Fabulous originally began its life as a short sketch on the French And Saunders show, but co-creator Dawn French didn't make the transition from the sketch to the fully-fledged sitcom. That's probably for the best, because the limited amount of French And Saunders I have viewed leads me to believe that Jennifer Saunders is actually the more talented of the two.

    Nonetheless, Absolutely Fabulous is at heart a sitcom based around a family, and like Roseanne or The Simpsons before it, the show bears little relation to the horrid family-based sitcoms of the mid 1980s that were based around a picture-perfect family where father and mother always knew best. Indeed, when you look at the relationship between the mother and daughter in Absolutely Fabulous, it becomes obvious after a couple of exchanges who the real adult in this relationship is. The mother in this case is Edina Monsoon (Jennifer Saunders), the head of a fashion magazine who takes thoughtless hedonism to a whole new extreme while spending more time whining than doing anything in the slightest bit productive. The daughter is Saffron Monsoon (Julia Sawalha), also frequently called Saffy, who seems more concerned with educating herself than following in her mother's footsteps. Rounding out the regular cast are Edina's best friend and fellow self-centred moron Patsy Stone (Joanna Lumley), and Edina's mother, June (June Whitfield), or Gran and Mother as she is more often called.

    The Last Shout came at a time when the series was at its most popular, and Jennifer Saunders apparently decided that she'd rather end the show with a bang rather than a whimper. So the idea was to provide two lengthy episodes in a mini-series style that would close the book on the chaotic relationships between Saffy, Edina, Patsy, and Mother. The story opens with Edina and Patsy being their usual selfish, shallow selves while Saffron's boyfriend, Paolo (Tom Hollander) comes to visit. After some funny exchanges, Saffron and Paolo are left alone long enough for Paolo to propose marriage, with Saffy happily accepting in spite of the fact that Paolo comes across as a real jerk, even early on in the piece. While Edina and Patsy are on a skiing holiday, however, Edina nearly plummets off the edge of a cliff and is briefly spoken to by God (Marianne Faithfull). Keep your eyes peeled for a hilarious cameo appearance by Christopher Ryan as Marshall, one of Edina's ex-husbands, at 35:53.

    There's not much else I can say about this series that will persuade you one way or the other, so we can just dive straight into the transfer quality now.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    Another common long name for the BBC is British Broadcasting Charity, which they earned from their propensity to cut corners wherever they possibly could. Like many of their programs, Absolutely Fabulous was shot using whatever methods would look good when broadcast on analogue television, with nary a thought about how it might look when presented on formats with more definition in them. At a guess, I would say that this show, like numerous others in the BBC vaults was captured using video rather than any sort of film format, judging by the number of composite artefacts on display.

    The transfer is presented Full Frame, reflecting the format that it was intended for, and is not 16x9 Enhanced.

    Now, after describing the shortcut methods used by the BBC in producing a television series, it was something of a surprise to be able to report that the transfer is sharper than one would expect from a series captured on video. This is partly because the vast majority of the shots in the series were taken with the subject being barely six feet away from the camera. However, any long shot tends to have a significant fall-off in resolution, although this shows to a lesser extent than I would have expected. The shadow detail of this transfer is about average, although this is once again more to do with the source materials, and most of the action takes place in bright, well-lit locations anyway. There is no low-level noise.

    The colour saturation of this transfer is well-balanced, although not especially remarkable. Most of the shots are set in interior locations with plenty of solid, uninterrupted blocks of white, browns, or greys, which keeps the amount of rogue hues for the transfer to snag itself on to a minimum. Betraying the composite format of the source material, however, are a number of cross-colouration artefacts in venetian blinds and finely spaced lines on the actors' clothing, although this artefact is mild enough to be easily tolerable. The dot crawl found on several occasions around the edges of colours is also mild enough to be tolerated, except in the opening titles, where this artefact sticks out like Christopher Ryan during his cameo.

    MPEG artefacts consisted of two moderate losses of resolution in panning shots, although these can be just as easily blamed upon the source material as the encoding, which is very constantly above nine megabits per second, anyway. Film-to-video artefacts consisted of some consistent aliasing, which was mostly mild and tolerable, although it came to be somewhat distracting to look at when combined with the dot crawl or cross-colouration. Sadly, with all these composite and film-to-video artefacts, it looks like this is as good as its ever going to get where this and a lot of other classic BBC series are concerned. There were no film artefacts in this transfer.

    There are no subtitles encoded on this DVD.

    This disc makes use of Dual Layer formatting, and I failed to notice any layer change in either of the two episodes, or the out-takes.

Audio

    After such a complicated series of problems with the video transfer, the audio transfer comes as something of a relief. There is only one soundtrack in this audio transfer: the original English dialogue in Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo, with a bitrate of 192 kilobits per second.

    The dialogue is generally clear and easy to understand, although some characters were intended to be played so that understanding them gets a little tricky now and then. A small amount of Jennifer Saunders' dialogue consists of incoherent mumbling that is either meant to pass for Hindu prayers or a mockery of foreign speech, depending on the moment. There were no problems with audio sync.

    There are two distinct types of music in this collection of episodes. The original music is credited to Simon Brint and Simon Wallace, but it really consists of little more than reworkings of old numbers by such artists as The Animals. It is strangely appropriate for the scenes in which it appears, however, so it cannot be readily written off. What can be readily written off, however, is the frankly appalling rendition of the This Wheel's On Fire by Marianne Faithfull and P.P. Arnold, which almost sounds like a pair of drunken cats yowling. I can't remember who performs this song during the opening of the other episodes (I think Adrian Edmonson of The Young Ones fame is one of them), but they would have been much preferred.

    The surround channels were not used by this soundtrack, and it's pretty hard to imagine that the soundtrack would really be much different if they were used in any case. The subwoofer, on the other hand, took some redirected signal to support the frequent bursts of music, adding a nice bottom end to these numbers that made them somewhat more entertaining to listen to.

Extras

Menu

    The menu is mildly animated, and accompanied by 48 kHz Linear PCM audio. It is not 16x9 Enhanced. Navigation is a breeze due to its simple nature.

Outtakes

    A seventeen minute and fifty-eight second collection of out-takes, alternate takes, and other such tidbits from these and other Absolutely Fabulous episodes, presented Full Frame with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. Some of these outtakes are quite funny, while others fall flat, but overall, this is well worth a second glance. The video and audio quality are pretty much the same as the main feature.

R4 vs R1

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

    This disc is not available in Region 1. It should be noted, however, that a box set of the entire series, sans The Last Shout, is available in Region 1.

Summary

    Absolutely Fabulous: The Last Shout is a hilarious end to one of England's finest comedies, and makes me long to see Mirrorball, which will feature the same cast, apparently.

    The video transfer is acceptable given the limitations of the source material.

    The audio transfer is a very good stereo soundtrack.

    The extras are minimal.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Dean McIntosh (Don't talk about my bio. We don't wanna know.)
Wednesday, June 06, 2001
Review Equipment
DVDToshiba 2109, using S-Video output
DisplaySamsung CS-823AMF (80cm). Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 576i (PAL).
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationSony STR DE-835
SpeakersYamaha NS-45 Front Speakers, Yamaha NS-90 Rear Speakers, Yamaha NSC-120 Centre Speaker, JBL Digital 10 Active Subwoofer

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