Richard III (1995)

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Released 10-Apr-2001

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Main Menu Audio & Animation
Theatrical Trailer
Featurette
Biographies-Cast & Crew
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1995
Running Time 99:36
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Richard Loncraine
Studio
Distributor
Mayfair Entertainmnt
Madman Entertainment
Starring Ian McKellen
Annette Bening
Jim Broadbent
Robert Downey, Jr.
Nigel Hawthorne
Kristin Scott Thomas
Maggie Smith
John Wood
Case Soft Brackley-Transp
RPI $34.95 Music Trevor Jones


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
Not 16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

    Richard III is Shakespeare's classic tale of betrayal and politics, set in an alternate 1930s England.

    Ian McKellen plays what has been described as the ultimate villain in the title role of this film. He is the youngest brother of the new ruler of England and during his struggle to make his way to the throne Richard will manipulate, betray, kidnap and murder all those that stand in his way. The movie is set in an alternative 1930s England, directly after a civil war and draws influences from the influential leaders of that time.

    With a running time of just under 100 minutes, some sections of the original play have been removed to speed the pace of the movie and to accommodate the small budget of this film. The sections that remain have had only slight alterations to the original dialogue.

   The screenplay was developed by both the director Richard Loncraine and Ian McKellen who had previously performed the role of Richard over three hundred times on stage in England. With his extensive insight into the character, Ian was able to work with the director to develop a screen adaptation that works surprisingly well.

    The director originally had reservations when asked to make this movie, as he did not find Shakespeare's work relevant to today's audience. He was finally convinced to take on this project when he was shown an early draft of the script. Under his guidance, they were able to produce a film that will appeal to both fans of Shakespeare as well as to people who would not consider watching a traditional Shakespearean play.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The transfer of this film shows a number of problems that detract from an otherwise highly enjoyable film.

    The feature is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is NOT 16x9 enhanced.

    The film is acceptably sharp throughout, but during darker scenes the sharpness is reduced slightly. This can be blamed on the original source material and not on the transfer. No low level noise was detected during the transfer. One concerning problem with the transfer is with shadow detail. During many darkly-lit scenes or scenes with large expanses of black, there is little detail visible. Examples of this can clearly be seen during the dance at 5:45 when the characters' tuxedos often become single blocks of black. In addition to the problems with shadow detail there is also a problem with white levels. All brightly lit objects such as lights and windows appear to be extremely bright and show no detail. Both the problems with black levels and white levels continue throughout the film and it appears as if the contrast of the transfer has been expanded, resulting in the loss of detail at both ends of the spectrum.

    The colour palette intentionally appears slightly muted throughout this film and remains consistent at all times.

    No MPEG artefacts were detectable during this film. Aliasing occurs at numerous points during the film, often associated with objects of high contrast. Some examples of this problem can be seen at 4:15, 21:05, 21:20 and 25:25, which proves to be mildly distracting to the viewer.

   Constant film artefacts are present throughout the transfer with examples of these visible at 9:19, 9:25, 9:47, 10:43 and 11:13. A hair can be seen for a single frame at both 40:16 and 52:27 and a small amount of water damage can be seen on a single frame at 16:18. These film artefacts are slightly distracting to the viewer.

    Considerable grain is present during the entire film and is more obvious during the darker scenes. The levels of grain are inherent in the original source material and are not distracting to the viewer at any time.

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

Audio

    Unfortunately, we are not provided with the original 5.1 soundtrack that was developed for the film as this does add significant depth to the surround effects and an increased dynamic range when compared to this disc.

    An English Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack is included and does NOT have the surround flag encoded even though the packaging states that the soundtrack is Dolby surround-encoded. Consequently, surround mode must be manually enabled on your decoder.

    The dialogue is always clear and easy to understand during the film. At no stage were dropouts or sync problems detected.

    The surround channels are used for effects and music throughout, but as this is primarily a dialogue-driven film, they are used most obviously during the battle scenes.

    The subwoofer is used sparingly during the film and is only highly engaged during the war scenes at both the beginning and end of the film.

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

Extras

Main Menu Audio & Animation

    The main menu is animated and presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1. One unusual aspect of the menu is that it does not allow you to stop the disc - to do this you must select a submenu and then press Stop.

Theatrical Trailer

    This trailer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and is not 16x9 enhanced. A Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack is provided. The trailer shows constant film artefacts and a high level of grain. The titles at the end of the trailer also exhibit a small amount of dot crawl. This is the UK version of the trailer which differs from the US in only the distributor's details and the end credits.

Featurette

    The short featurette mixes interview segments with clips from the film. It is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 with the film clips letterboxed. This featurette is the usual promotional-type featurette and provides little insight into the film.

Biographies-Cast & Crew

    Short biographies are included for Annette Bening and Sir Ian McKellen and includes a selected filmography. A filmography for director Richard Loncraine is also included.

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;     The Region 1 version of this DVD has a significantly better audio and video transfer of this film including a 5.1 soundtrack and 16x9 enhancement with significantly less film artefacts, much better shadow detail and no problems with contrast. The booklet included in the R1 version also provides significantly more information on the film than provided in the short R4 featurette. Due to these differences, the Region 1 version is the clear winner in this case.

Summary

    Richard III is an excellent adaptation of Shakespeare's work that is easily accessible to contemporary audiences. Unfortunately, problems with shadow detail, contrast, film artefacts and the exclusion of the 5.1 soundtrack reduce the viewer's overall enjoyment of this disc.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Anthony Kable (read my bio)
Friday, April 20, 2001
Review Equipment
DVDToshiba 1200, using S-Video output
DisplaySony KP-E41SN11. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationFront left/right: ME75b; Center: DA50ES; rear left/right: DA50ES; subwoofer: NAD 2600 (Bridged)
SpeakersFront left/right: VAF DC-X; Center: VAF DC-6; rear left/right: VAF DC-7; subwoofer: Custom NHT-1259

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