The Darling Buds of May-The Best of (1991)

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Released 20-Jun-2001

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Main Menu Audio
Gallery-Photo
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1991
Running Time 300:10
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered
Dual Disc Set
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Rodney Bennett
Steve Goldie
David Giles
Studio
Distributor

Universal Pictures Home Video
Starring David Jason
Pam Ferris
Catherine Zeta-Jones
Phillip Franks
Case ?
RPI $36.95 Music Barry Guard


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/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

    I picked this DVD to review because it is one of my mother's all time favourite TV series and I thought she could review it for me! - (just kidding) - actually, I thought she might like to watch it after I had done the review.  All I really remembered about The Darling Buds of May was that it starred David Jason, whose roles in the classic British comedies Open All Hours and Only Fools and Horses were a treat and who had an annoying habit of saying "Perfick" when he meant "Perfect".  I didn't even know until last week that it also starred a very young Catherine Zeta-Jones (aged 22) in one of her first roles. The Darling Buds Of May was one of the most popular comedy/drama series on UK television and was equally popular in Australia.  A total of 20 episodes over 3 series were made, first screening between 1991 and 1993.

    Based on the novels by H.E. Bates and set in a Kent village in the late 1950s, it is the story of the Larkin family. Ma and Pop Larkin and their brood of children live on their idyllic Home farm. Pop Larkin doesn't seem to work but always has a ready supply of cash (and an even readier supply of alcohol in his cocktail cabinet).  Ma (Pam Ferris) seems to be the best mother and cook in the world and the children all live the ideal existence. Throw in strawberry-picking, gymkhanas, and several afternoon teas in the sun, and it is quite "perfick" but it can all become a bit too syrupy-sweet for my liking. The novel was also adapted into a 1959 US movie called "The Mating Game" starring Debbie Reynolds and Tony Randall (thanks to my mum for providing that information!).

    This dual disc set may be titled The Best Of The Darling Buds of May but how exactly they arrived at the "Best Of" part is anyone's guess. It contains the feature length series pilot, and another four 50 minute episodes from series 2 and series 3 joined into two double episodes. Speaking to my local Darling Buds expert (my mum again), she doesn't see how a "Best Of" could really be acheived and thinks this is more a sample of one episode from each of the series. Without watching all 20 episodes, who am I to argue!

    Disc 1 is a dual layered effort containing the series pilot The Darling Buds of May, and the Series 2 episode titled Stranger At The Gates. Disc 2 is a single layer effort that contains The Happiest Days of Your Life from Series 3 and the photo gallery.

    The 3 episodes presented are;

The Darling Buds Of May - Series Pilot  (100:22 minutes)

    A tax inspector (Phillip Franks) visits the Larkin farm in a futile effort to investigate Pop's (David Jason) income. He finds himself unable to leave due to the very attractive way of life at the farm and the even more attractive daughter, Mariette (Catherine Zeta-Jones).

Stranger At The Gates - from Series 2 (99:25 minutes)

    A young stranger claiming to be from Denmark arrives at the village. He becomes very popular with all the villagers for the jobs and favours he performs but he also hides a secret that is about to be uncovered. Meanwhile, the Larkin's second oldest daughter Primrose is intent on snaring herself the very eligible local vicar.

The Happiest Days Of Your Life - from Series 3 (100:23 minutes)

    The Larkin twins are proving to be too much of a handful for the local school, so Pop and Ma Larkin decide to send them to Brockhurst College, a nearby boarding school. It looks as if Brockhurst College will be forced to close due to its dilapidated state, but Pop steps in with a rescue plan. Meanwhile Mariette and Cedric are made an offer to purchase the local brewery, but all is not as it first seems...

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Transfer Quality

Video

    I thought I was in for a rough time when I first hit play as the intro credits are very, very hazy and muddy-looking. This is the closest I had seen a DVD image look to a VHS tape. Fortunately this cleared up once the main feature started, although it still isn't what I would call a pristine video image. Recorded in 1991, presumably straight to tape, it exhibits a general softness and washed-out look throughout.

    The transfer is presented full frame (1.33:1) and is not 16x9 enhanced. Being filmed in 1991, I expected slightly better quality, but then it is a made-for-television series and is on a par with most of the other series made around the time.

    Sharpness is only average with a general softness to many of the scenes. There is also much scattered low level noise. There are no problems with shadow detail.

    Colour is very muted and washed-out with little vibrancy or contrast.

    It is obvious that this series was made for commercial television due to the existence of pauses in the video designed to slot ads into. The most noticable of these is at 66:59 in episode 3. The vision suddenly pauses for 3 seconds and you can actually see the Darling Buds Of May titles suddenly flash on the screen very quickly and then disappear. Very clumsily handled and not at all necessary.

    There were no apparent MPEG artefacts.

    There are no subtitles present at all, which is a shame for those with hearing difficulty.

    I was unable to detect any layer change on the dual layer disc.  I would therefore assume that each layer on Disc 1 contains one episode.

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

Audio

    There is only one audio soundtrack presented, that being English Dolby Digital 2.0.

    Dialogue is always very clear and there are no audio sync issues. The only problem I noted was at 71:20 during episode 2.  The dialogue suddenly moved from both channels to the right channel for a second, then the left channel for a second and then back to both channels. Quite strange and very noticable.

    Think English village in the 1950s and that is the style of music you get. Quaint, and featuring predominatly flute and other pipe-based instruments, it reminds me of those English period pieces.

    There is no surround channel or subwoofer use.

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

Extras

Main Menu Audio

    The main credits theme playing in a loop. Can become quite annoying after a couple of minutes.

Gallery-Photos

    24 photos of various members of the cast.  A reasonable size for viewing on even smaller screens.

R4 vs R1

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

    It would appear that this title is not available in Region 1 which is not surprising as many other British series suffer the same fate. It is available in Region 2 where the specifications are exactly the same as our Region 4 offering. Given that our version is less than half the price due to the current poor exchange rate it certainly pays to stay local with this one.

Summary

    For a series that I had only a passing interest in during its first run, The Best Of The Darling Buds Of May is a mildly enjoyable way of spending a couple of hours on a rainy Sunday.  It can become a bit sickly-sweet as the sheer perfection of everything is a bit over-the-top, though that is probably what made this series such a hit. Aimed fair and square at the baby boomer market, it is a nostalgia trip at its greatest. It portrays life exactly as many of the people who lived in England during the post-war years would like to remember it. Think of how many times you have heard "Back in my day we never even locked the doors" and you'll know what I mean. Recommended, especially if you have parents that grew up in England during this time (like my mum!).

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Darren Walters (It's . . . just the vibe . . . of my bio)
Monday, May 28, 2001
Review Equipment
DVDToshiba 1200, using S-Video output
DisplayLoewe Calida (84cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationHarmon/Kardon AVR7000.
SpeakersFront - B&W 602S2, Centre - B&W CC6S2, Rear - B&W 601S2, Sub - Energy E:xl S10

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