i bought the DVD at Amazon

I just viewed a DVD of the film I ordered from Amazon. Here are some impressions:

The web site says the film is widescreen. The DVD box lists a 4:3 screen ratio. If anything, it's a 3:3 ratio, almost a perfect square. But the picture has been squashed, and setting your 16:9 TV set for the widescreen setting will make the picture look the way it's supposed to. It's not quite 16:9 -- there are a narrow set of black bars on both edges of the screen -- but it's nothing to complain about.

If you watch the film on an old-fashioned 4:3 TV set, though, you're out of luck: it'll be the squashed 3:3 ratio, whether you like it or not.

The DVD box says the disc is "Region 1 Coded." It goes on: "This disc is expected to play back in DVD Video 'play only' devices, and may not play in other DVD devices, including recorders and PC drives."

None of that was true for me, though. It played with no problems in both of my DVD player/recorders (one is a 10-year-old Panasonic, the other is a 2-year-old Sony). It played with no problem in my Apple computer, using Quicktime Player, and it also played with no problem in my PC laptop, using Windows Media Player (although I couldn't expand the picture to fit the entire display). The proper aspect ratio was maintained in both computers. Essentially, I guess, you'll be taking your chances. No doubt there are a number of DVD recorder/players out there the disc won't work on. Maybe I just got lucky.

The box lists the film's length as 96-minutes. It's really 92-minutes. But I think it's all there. The difference may lie in the old PAL-to-NTSC frames-per-second issue. I also heard an interview with the film's producer about this issue; he said there had been a scene that was in the early cuts (it's a picnic scene) that was later cut out before the film was released. He said he supposed it was possible that the scene made its way back into some unauthorized dubs. I love the film, and saw it a lot back in the 80s in the theatre, on cable, and on VHS tape, and I can't think of anything that might be missing. Of course, it's been 25 years, so what do I know?

The picture quality is the most problematic thing about the DVD. It's definitely not an HD picture you'll be getting. I'd call the picture quality average, looking best in in scenes where there's not a lot of contrast. In scenes where there is contrast, or where the image is busy (swaying tree limbs against the sky, farm fields, etc.) there's more noise than I'd like. Because the film isn't HD or HD quality, this was especially noticeable when I watched it on my widescreen HD TV set. The noise is less noticeable, and the image generally looks markedly better, on my computer screens.

The overall look is a little soft, as if the print used to make the DVD was a 3rd or 4th generation copy, and the credits are a little smeared.

On the plus side, it's a clean print --stable, with no glitching or noticeable scratches.

The sound is average, at best. It's perhaps a little treble-heavy. And in at least three instances I noticed that in exterior scenes, with the sound of a soft breeze in the background, the breeze would suddenly disappear. It had me wondering if what I was hearing was a soft breeze or tape hiss. In one instance I thought the audio had cut out entirely until one of the characters spoke.

None of these problems are dealbreakers. If I'd known all about this going in I would have ordered the DVD anyway. Is it worth putting down 20-25 bucks for? If you like the film, yes. And you may never get another chance to get a DVD of it. If a high quality Criterion-like version were released, would I trade up for it? Yes, I would.

Hope this helps.


I don't understand why Warner Archive hasn't done a domestic (USA) release of this on DVD as they were the original US distributors.

I ran across this film the other day resurrecting old VHS tapes I had stored in the basement and had to clear out because of a flood - had taped it off Showtime or HBO and forgot I had it. A likeable and subtle film, a subdued and nuanced performance by the late Natasha Richardson. And Firth and Branagh were young and very cute!