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  Directed by
  • Widescreen 2.35:1
  • 16:9 Enhanced
  • Dual Layer ( )
  • English: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
    English, Arabic, English - Hearing Impaired
  • 19 Deleted scenes
  • Theatrical trailer
  • Cast/crew biographies
  • Featurette
  • Photo gallery
  • Animated menus
  • DVD-ROM features
  • Interviews
  • Interactive game

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Warner Bros./Warner Home Video . R4 . COLOR . 154 mins . PG . PAL


It’s downright disgusting, all the fuss about this young Harold Potter fellow and his despicable exploits. Honestly, all that sorcery, the insubordination – kids’ books weren’t full of such wicked things when I was young! We had good, wholesome tales like The Magic Faraway Tree and The Naughtiest Girl in the School and... oh.

Sadly, if you give a certain element of society a success story then they’ll find something about it to have a whinge about. While to the best of my knowledge it hasn’t got to the stage of book burnings, the ridiculous quests for attention from loonies raving about the supposed inherent wickedness of the Harry Potter series of books is sad, but predictable. J.K. Rowling may not be the most literate dumper of prose onto a piece of paper to have ever graced the world, but she has come up with a series of entertaining books which have struck a chord with both children and adults alike – they’re pure escapism, and as learned from personal experience, very hard to put down once you get sucked into the world of young Harry and all in his orbit.

Yes, with such success comes attention, and with such attention comes the inevitable issue of film rights. So when the time came for the films to be made, a wave of fear went through fans of the books – after all, we’d all used our imaginations to picture this marvellous, enchanting world, so how could some old screenwriter hack ever do justice to it all? Remarkably, however, the debut of the first film, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, allayed the fears of all but the most fusspotty fans, with a simply remarkable job done on every aspect of production design, effects, casting and of possibly the most importance, transferring the book into a filmic vision.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, the second episode in the ongoing series, manages to improve upon its predecessor in ever so many ways. The book it’s based on was better to start with, offering a slightly darker and less vignette-styled progression for more of an all encompassing, coherent story – perfect for the film medium. Also, having got all that boring - but necessary - background story stuff out of the way in the first film, the path was cleared to just get down to the action here. Even then the film clocks in at over two and a half hours...

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Ooh, it's E.T.! Or is it Yoda? Umm, Gandhi?

As we catch up with Harry Potter for the second time, he’s back suffering the many indignities of life with his Uncle Vernon, Aunt Petunia and their pet pig Dudley (What? Really?! Oops, sorry...) Banned from doing anything even vaguely magical, Harry is startled by the appearance in his bedroom of one Dobby, a mysterious, self-flagellating house elf, warning him of great danger and terrible things should he return for his second year at Hogwarts. Needless to say the thought of not escaping his current prison doesn’t exactly appeal, so when the Weasleys come to the rescue he’s off without a second thought. The usual visit to Diagon Alley for supplies ensues, and then it’s time to jump on the Hogwarts Express – but for some reason he and Ron can’t access platform 9 3/4 in the usual manner. No problem though, they’ll just fly there in the good old family Ford Anglia...

"Amazing! This is just like magic!"

Soon after arrival at the school, strange things begin to happen. Harry starts hearing peculiar, serpentine whispers which remain inaudible to others, then the messages in blood start showing up, followed by quite a number of petrified students - some may say they’re scared stiff in fact. It seems the unthinkable has happened, the Chamber of Secrets – created by the original Mr Slytherin himself – has been opened. As things unfold, Harry learns some truths about himself and some of the dark mysteries of Hogwarts’ history, in an escalating race to save both the school from closing, and somebody from something (hey, I can’t go spoiling things too much!)

All the original characters are back – including the fabulous giant Hagrid (Robbie Coltrane), the sagely Professor Dumbledore (Richard Harris, sadly in one of his last film roles) and the delightfully slimy Professor Snape (the genius that is Alan Rickman) – plus a few new people are introduced to add even more to the mix, including the hilarious self-loving Gilderoy Lockhart (played with great gusto and glee by Kenneth Branagh). The three whose job it is to carry the film, Daniel Radcliffe (Harry), Rupert Grint (Ron) and Emma Watson (Hermione), have all returned with an air of confidence in their characters which is vital to the slightly heavier story, and despite the extended running time – unusual for what is essentially a film aimed at kids – things are all paced pretty well, with the odd bout of Quidditch, spell showdowns or other action sequences spaced nicely throughout to keep everybody on their toes.


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A little light reading...
After the brouhaha involving the Australian release of the first film, with Warner stubbornly refusing to make available anything other than a 4:3 transfer, then only bowing to a later correct ratio release but including it in a package so expensive that few would buy it – a nice way to fudge the sales figures in favour of their original dumb decision - it’s refreshing to report that no such shenanigans have gone down this time around. We get a good, solid 16:9-enhanced 2.35:1 transfer, and when you see it stretching out luxuriously in a ratio such as this you can really understand why people were so upset at the bloody-mindedness of that first decision by some very stupid marketing people. I believe one of them had the name Voldemort.

The transfer here is very good, without that little bit extra to push it into the realms of superbness. Colour is lovely, blacks are as perfect as they get and forays into shadows present no indistinct, blobby masses to contend with, while specks and their like are as rare as owl’s teeth. All over the image just appears a little bit on the soft and squishy side, avoiding anything worth commenting on in the alias and shimmer departments, but just not coming across quite as detailed as you might expect from such a recent cinematic creation. Most should find it all quite fabulous though, even if the placement of the layer change in the midst of dialogue seems rather unnecessary and is extremely annoying. They should have used the cloak of invisibility on it...


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Eat your heart out George Jetson!
The Dobby Digital – erm, Dolby Digital – 5.1 mix afforded Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets will keep anybody who likes rattling the windows very, very happy indeed. With some incredibly deep bass outbreaks at times the subwoofwoof gets to out-bark even Hagrid’s pet Fang, whilst some fabulous surround effects envelope the viewer nicely, helping greatly in immersing us in the wild and wonderful world of Harry and his friends – and indeed enemies. The front soundstage doesn’t miss out either, with all manner of bits and pieces shooming left and right at will. Meanwhile, the dialogue is resolutely clear at all times, and is beautifully synched. Perhaps the only slight criticism able to be levelled at this sonic presentation is its dynamic range – some scenes seem inordinately quiet when compared with sudden LOUD outbreaks which can have you nervously leaping for the volume control or remote. Mind you, that may just be my living-in-a-flat paranoia...

Once again Mr John Williams was given the task of coming up with the film’s score, and once again he has delivered a solid, very John Williams-esque collection of instrumentals. If you like his past works you’ll certainly have no complaints with what’s on offer here.


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Harry Potter and the Menu of Secrets
Another two-disc set in a big foldy-outty cardboard packaging thingy, naturally enough the extras are thick on the ground here. Mercifully this time around a degree in magic isn't required to find them all, as with the first release. There’s a massive animated intro before the main menu eventually deigns to appear, and transitions between most every choice, which are neat, but can get annoying when you sit through them for the nth time.

Disc One
Only a few bonus bits grace this first disc – after all, the film’s rather long. We get a rudimentary cast and crew section which just lists actors and roles and the main bods behind the scenes of the film, what is pretty much a trailer for the first film masquerading under the tile Year One at Hogwarts (1:57) and a trailer for the second film (2:08), which gives a nicely potted idea of what’s in store. Both trailers are presented in anamorphic 2.35:1 with DD 2.0 sound.

Disc Two
From a handy study desk portal and with the aid of a quite excitable voiceover we can make our way into all manner of things both fun and informative, although not necessarily always both at the same time...

Game Preview
This simply offers up six brief scenes from the EA game of the film, which looks like yet another of those roam-about-the-3D landscapes-collecting-things affairs which seem to be so common nowadays. Bring back Ms Pacman I say!

Additional Scenes
Well, if you can’t guess... 19 deletions are here in all, varying in length from around 20 seconds to just over three minutes. Most give a good idea where they were originally placed in the film, and it’s easy to see that these were shaved because the film was just too long – they would have added about another 17 minutes to things in all. They all come with decent quality 2.35:1, 16:9 enhanced vision and DD2.0 sound.

Lockhart’s Classroom
About as deep as the man himself, pop in here to be enthralled by a Photo Gallery featuring 12 snaps of the “great” man, complete with voiceover; check out his many awards under Certificates and finally discover what is Required Reading for any Lockhart fan with a guide to his written works.

Extra Credit
A 35 second preview of the disc’s DVD-ROM content – but more on that later.

Behind Hogwarts
The most substantial of the bonus sections, first up is a Conversation with J.K. Rowling and Steve Kloves (16:12). This offers an interesting insight into the collaborative process between author and screenwriter, the care needed when losing bits of the books as they may be important later, character development and J.K.’s fears of Americans “ripping apart her baby”. One question comes to mind, however. With all that money, why oh why can’t she afford a decent hairstylist?

Next we can pop into Dumbledore’s Office, whereby two options open up. Build a Scene isn’t actually interactive as its title may suggest, rather it’s a featurette (16:41) looking at the production design of the film. Covering everything such as the amazing sets, props etc with many interviews interspersed throughout, it’s quite a fun little watch. The second option, Tour Dumbledore’s Office, is decidedly more interactive. Basically after saying the magic words “sherbet lemon” you can move about using the arrow buttons on the remote, checking out all manner of portraits of great wizards.

Diving into Interviews with Students, Professors and More presents what you would think it would – brief interview snippets with many of the cast, mercifully with a ‘play all’ function. This is all interspersed with portions from the film and a bit of behind the scenes footage as well.

Rounding out this section is a Gallery of Production Sketches, featuring the development of many of the characters, locations and props presented in a nice paintings-on-the-wall style.

Those without a DVD-ROM drive still get to play some rudimentary games, with four featuring in this section. The Chamber Challenge doesn’t exactly live up to its name, for you can just keep guessing answers to the trivia questions until you get it right. Basically it’s a memory test you undergo in order to get to the girls’ bathroom - believe me, you wouldn’t want to be busting... The Forbidden Forest sees you ploughing through trees and shrubbery in the flying Ford Anglia, with chances to select left or right at various junctures. Select wrongly and you’ll crash and have to start over. I gave up trying to get through it, so your guess is as good as mine as to what waits at the end. Next up is Colin’s Darkroom, which is simply an interactive photo gallery, and rounding things out is Tour Diagon Alley, whereby using the arrow keys you can tromp about checking out the many wondrous shops on offer.

Spellcaster Knowledge
Strangely not included in the previous section, this is another memory/trivia type game asking you to answer what certain spells used in the film do, and rating you on your number of successful answers.

DVD-ROM Extras
With the aid of the dreaded Interactual player, a number of further interactive experiences are on offer. As the packaging rather over-hypes you can “control your computer with your voice”, there’s also a Hogwarts animated timeline and a number of simple puzzles, screensavers and those ever important magical trading cards. In all there’s a wealth of stuff for younger fans of Harry and the gang to occupy themselves with, although many of them require a connection to the 'net.


It was always going to be a challenge bringing the world of Harry Potter to the screen without shattering those vivid imaginings fans had conjured up in their minds from immersing themselves in the books, however the makers have succeeded admirably – in fact they’ve managed it more so with Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets than its predecessor. With a more assured story that’s free of all the setting up and left to just get on with things, this is definitely darker than the first film, in fact some smaller kiddies may be completely freaked by a few of the scarier scenes – so some parental guidance really would be advisable (hence the PG rating, I guess!)

Any fan should relish the chance to get their hands on this two-disc set, with decent vision in the correct cinematic ratio, quite awesome sound and collection of extras which, while obviously aimed at children, also has enough worthwhile stuff for adults to find entertaining.

But anyway, dweezle, dwazzle, dwuzzle, dwome, it’s time for this one to go home...

  • LINK: http://www.dvd.net.au/review.cgi?review_id=2563
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      And I quote...
    "It was always going to be a challenge bringing the world of Harry Potter to the screen, however the makers have succeeded admirably, in fact even more so with this second instalment..."
    - Amy Flower
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Pioneer DV-535
    • TV:
          Sony 68cm
    • Receiver:
          Onkyo TX-DS494
    • Speakers:
          DB Dynamics Eclipse RBS662
    • Centre Speaker:
          DB Dynamics Eclipse ECC442
    • Surrounds:
          DB Dynamics Eclipse ECR042
    • Subwoofer:
          DTX Digital 4.8
    • Audio Cables:
          Standard RCA
    • Video Cables:
          Standard Component RCA
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