The Millionairess (Force) (1960)

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Released 3-Dec-2001

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Comedy Main Menu Introduction
Main Menu Audio & Animation
Biographies-Cast
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 1960
Running Time 86:24 (Case: 80)
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Anthony Asquith
Studio
Distributor

Beyond Home Entertainment
Starring Peter Sellers
Sophia Loren
Alastair Sim
Vittorio De Sica
Dennis Price
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $24.95 Music Georges Van Parys


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Pan & Scan English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    One of the nice things about having independent distributors such as Force Video in the marketplace is that they will release some very non-mainstream films, such as The Millionairess. While this sort of tame, G-rated escapade was commonplace in 1960, I doubt that there would be too many other distributors willing to take the trouble to present it to the film-buying public of the twenty-first century. Still, there is a very good reason why films like this one are no longer made, and a lot of it has to do with the public being somewhat more difficult to entertain. Based on the play of the same name by George Bernard Shaw, The Millionairess concerns itself with a young woman inheriting a fortune but finding that money cannot buy her everything.

    Epifania Parerga (Sophia Loren) has inherited control of her vast family fortune after the death of her father, and one of the extremely strange conditions of her inheritance is that she cannot marry a man who is unable to turn five hundred pounds into fifteen thousand within three months. She found a way to get around this rule when she decided to marry her current husband, but he has turned out to be a money-grubbing wife beater that she is sick of having around. After separating from him, Epifana happens upon an Indian doctor by the name of Ahmed el Kabir (Peter Sellers), and she decides that she must have him regardless of the cost. Ahmed tries to make Epifana realise that while money can buy hospitals and businesses, it cannot buy people, while Epifana tries to lay the world at his feet in order to make him feel the same way for her as she does for him.

    To call this comedy heavy-handed, as Leonard Maltin has done, is understating the mark. Everyone in the film looks decidedly uncomfortable in scenes that are meant to be funny, and it wouldn't surprise me to learn that the actors found it an excruciating experience to shoot. I also find it hard to recommend this disc to fans of the film, for reasons I will cover below.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, and it is not 16x9 Enhanced. The credits do two things to make it clear that this is a Pan & Scan transfer: first, the transfer zooms back to an approximate 2.35:1 ratio during the credits so that all of the text can be shown, and secondly, both the opening and closing credits state that this film was shot in CinemaScope. CinemaScope is an anamorphic filming process that allowed for ratios of 2.35:1, 2.55:1, and 2.66:1, so we are missing out on at least half of the picture in this case.

    The sharpness of this transfer is good, but it appears to have been artificially enhanced at some stage of the transfer process, judging by the amount of aliasing that occurs throughout the feature. Shadow detail is not an issue for the most part here, because almost all of the film is shot in bright conditions, with the only dark scenes taking place in the last reel. These scenes were well lit, but the blacks were murky enough to obscure small details. No low-level noise was apparent.

    The colours of this transfer vary quite wildly at times, but when they stabilise, they tend to appear washed out and murky. Several shots, such as at 13:40, showed a yellow discolouration in the picture that can probably be attributed to the deterioration of the film stocks from which the transfer was taken. No composite artefacts were noted.

    MPEG artefacts were not apparent in this transfer, which is amazing when the condition of the source material is taken into account. Film-to-video artefacts were found in abundance during this transfer, with frequent and severe aliasing taking place, as well as changes in the vertical orientation of the picture, such as at 12:32. Essentially, this artefact consisted of the picture noticeably moving up or down for several seconds, as if the print slipped in the telecine machine. The aliasing appears to have been introduced by artificial sharpening, as much of the film has a harsh and edgy look, especially around the edges of the actors. Film artefacts were found in abundance during this feature, with all sorts of black and white marks appearing on the picture with great size and regularity. Reel change markings were noticed during the end credits, too.

    No subtitles are provided with this DVD.

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

Audio

    Thankfully, the audio transfer is in better shape than the video transfer, although it is still pretty unspectacular.

    There is one soundtrack on this DVD: the original English dialogue rendered in a Dolby Digital 2.0, 224 kilobit per second soundtrack that sounds distinctly monaural to me.

    The dialogue is clear and easy to make out at all times, although Peter Sellers' obviously phoney Indian accent tends to get on the nerves before too long. I did not detect any serious issues with audio sync.

    The music in this film is credited to Georges Van Parys. It is not especially remarkable, and not often easy to make out in the overall soundtrack, but it does the job required of it.

    The surround channels were not used by this soundtrack, and I must hastily add that the film would really sound much the same even if they were specifically encoded into this transfer. The subwoofer also had the night off.

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

Extras

Menu

    The menu features an introduction and animation with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio. It is not 16x9 Enhanced.

Cast Biographies

    A couple of very comprehensive and well-presented biographies for Peter Sellers and Sophia Loren are presented under their own submenu. Interestingly, the filmographies are presented separately in this menu.

R4 vs R1

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

    The Region 1 and Region 4 versions of this disc appear to be fundamentally identical, with both of them featuring a 1.33:1 transfer and a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack. The Region 1 version of the disc does not appear to have animated menus or Cast Biographies, but it does have Production Notes. All in all, I would declare the two versions to be equal.

Summary

    The Millionairess is a hard film to sit through, and one that does not have a lot to reward the patient viewer save for shots of Sophia Loren ever-so-slightly undressed. Maybe I am being too harsh, but some films are best left in the dust to rot, and it looks like exactly that has been done for some time with the print that this transfer has been taken from.

    The video transfer is very poor.

    The audio transfer is good.

    The extras are sparse.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Dean McIntosh (Don't talk about my bio. We don't wanna know.)
Friday, December 14, 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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