Grey Owl (Tribe) (1998)
Main Menu Audio & Animation
Interviews-Cast & Crew
Featurette-Behind The Scenes
|Year Of Production||1998|
|Running Time||113:12 (Case: 117)|
|RSDL / Flipper||RSDL (56:36)||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||1,2,3,4,5,6||Directed By||Richard Attenborough|
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||Pan & Scan||English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)|
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||None|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||2.35:1||Miscellaneous|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||Yes, end titles over beautiful forested valley|
However, there is one small, teensy-weensy, tiny little problem - Archie Grey Owl is a fake. Not only was he not born an Ojibway Indian (or even a part-Apache as he later claimed), he did not have a single drop of Red Indian blood in his veins. He was born Archibald Belaney in Hastings, England in 1888. He emigrated to Canada in 1906 and took the name of Grey Owl.
Just in case you think I have revealed a massive plot spoiler - relax. Archie's "secret" is revealed in the opening scenes of the film, and the rest of the story is a flashback of Archie talking about his life story to the reporter who uncovered his real past.
They say that behind a great man is a great woman ... and Archie's story is no exception. The film deals with Archie's relationship with Anahareo (nicknamed "Pony") - an attractive, "town-bred", half-blood Mohawk working as a waitress in Temagami. Pony (played by Annie Galipeau) is intrigued by Archie's clean and simple lifestyle and wants to rediscover her own heritage. Archie at first pretends that he finds her a nuisance but gradually falls in love with her. Pony was responsible for many of the turning points in Archie's life - she convinced him to stop trapping and to write and lecture instead. She also sowed the seed of his conservationist "message".
The film conveniently glosses over some of the less pleasant aspects of the real Archie - his drinking binges and bigamy. However, there is no denying the soundness of his plea for preservation nor his powerful charisma.
Directed by Richard Attenborough (director of Gandhi and executive producer of Dances with Wolves), Grey Owl has interesting parallels with both those films. Like Gandhi, Grey Owl is a film based on the true story of a man with a powerful vision. Both films are structured with a circular storyline - an ending that ties back to the opening scene.
Like the real Archie, the film is somewhat flawed but its strengths overcome its weaknesses. I quite enjoyed the film, especially the part where he visits his aunts (Renée Asherson as Carrie Belaney and Stephanie Cole as Ada Belaney) in his hometown in England and we get to see the genesis of his adult life.
The DVD has been released by an independent distributor, and I suspect that they probably lack the resources to commission a new widescreen telecine transfer, so the video has probably been sourced from a transfer intended for use on broadcast TV.
The film starts off 2.35:1 letterboxed to accommodate the opening credits, then reverts to 1.33:1 pan & scan for the rest of the film, before ending with the closing credits displayed in 2.35:1 letterboxed again. This is pretty standard practice for pan & scan movies shown on TV, and I encountered the usual issues with pan & scan - including characters shown with half their faces cropped off (notably around 11:45-12:26) and characters coming alternately into and out of frame.
Apart from the annoyance of pan & scan, the transfer is actually not too bad. It is just a little bit soft, but features reasonable colour saturation.
The film source is reasonably clean of marks, apart from a black mark at 17:01. Medium level grain is present occasionally in some scenes, particularly in low-light conditions but otherwise grain is not an issue. The transfer is relatively devoid of artefacts (apart from a minor video glitch at 15:41).
The film is mastered somewhat unusually on this single sided double layered disc (RSDL) - instead of mastering the feature as a single title spanning two layers (with a layer change inserted at some point in the title) the DVD is mastered as two titles of exactly the same length (56:36) - one on each layer - and joined together using seamless branching. Instead of a freeze frame during a layer change, we get a completely blank screen. Fortunately, this happens in between scenes, but it left me with a sneaking suspicion that part of a scene has been cut off. The fact that the two titles are exactly the same length is just too much of a coincidence.
This is pretty much a near reference quality audio track, and sounds very full bodied, yet crisp and detailed. There is a minor audio dropout in Title 6 (the second half of the film) Chapter 5 at 24:46 (or around 81:17 into the film) - there is a brief period (roughly 1 second) where the background hiss disappears. Fortunately this dropout occurs during a silent part of the film so we're not missing any dialogue or sound effects.
The dialogue was pretty easy to understand most of the time, which is good since the disc does not contain any subtitle tracks. There were no audio sync problems.
The original music score by George Fenton sounds rather lush and symphonic, with a hint of ethnicism in the melody carried by the flutes, and seems to be well spread across the five main channels at all times. I think the "epic soundtrack" nature of the music suits the film rather well and the music played over the closing titles is suitably grand and moving.
The surround speakers are engaged mostly for music, but I did get a nice, satisfying enveloping ambience for most of the film.
As there are not much low frequency content in the soundtrack (limited to plane engines and the occasional 'thump' from the orchestra), the subwoofer is very rarely engaged.
|Surround Channel Use|
|DVD||Pioneer DV-626D, using Component output|
|Display||Sony VPL-VW10HT LCD Projector, ScreenTechnics 16x9 matte white screen (203cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.|
|Speakers||Front left/right: B&W DM603; centre: B&W CC6S2, rear left/right: B&W DM601|