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  Directed by
  Starring
  Specs
  • Widescreen 2.35:1
  • 16:9 Enhanced
  • Dual Layer ( )
  Languages
  • English: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • Spanish: Dolby Digital Stereo
  • Commentary - English: Dolby Digital Stereo
  Subtitles
    English, Spanish, Portuguese, English - Hearing Impaired, Danish, Swedish, Norwegian, Finnish
  Extras
  • Theatrical trailer
  • Audio commentary
  • 4 Featurette
  • Isolated music score
  • 6 Photo gallery
  • Animated menus
  • TV spot
  • Digitally remastered
  • Storyboards

Swiss Family Robinson

Buena Vista/Buena Vista . R4 . COLOR . 121 mins . G . PAL

  Feature
Contract

I always wanted to be shipwrecked on a deserted isle. No phone, no lights, no motorcars, not a single luxury, like Robinson Car-usoe, as primitive as can be. Or something.

The thing thatís always bugged me about shipwreck stories is the luxury of the situation. Gilliganís Island had all manner of luxuries about, even celebrities stopping by and conveniently forgetting to tell the outside world about the castaways when they returned. Swiss Family Robinson had this kickarse treehouse made with all bits of the ship crashed in the harbour, and there was running water and everything. Then the island is full of animals from all over the world. A baby elephant (without parents), zebras, anacondas, monkeys, flamingoes, ostriches; I mean, come on. As if.

About the only film where there was no luxury was Castaway and that film was pretty boring. So perhaps the adaptation of luxury into the shipwreck setting is what a story needs to make it succeed. Or to at least be interesting for the viewer.

Still, this novel was written in a glorious age when white settlers were invading all the world for fun and profit. Robinson Crusoe had a black slave in Man Friday, who was just going about his business not hurting anyone. Johann Wyssí Swiss Family Robinson still find a way to be politically incorrect as they capture many of the islandís menagerie and use them for slave labour before racing them comically on their day off. As you do.

Basically, the story here is familiar to all, but it sees us with the Robinsons sailing to New Guinea to carve out a new life in the name of progress. They become trapped inside the ship during a giant storm at sea and it runs aground on jagged rocks. When the storm abates, the Robinsons are spared, but of the crew there is no sign and so they take their stuff across to a nearby island and set up shop. However, the pirates that originally chased the ship into the storm have turned up and, using quick wits, they avoid a confrontation. Soon the whole family is living like kings in a treehouse, but it isnít long before the pirates return. Theyíve captured a captain and his cabin boy and the two eldest Robinson boys, Fritz and Ernst, rescue this boy who hides an unhideable secret. Soon the family realise they must protect themselves for the pirateís return and so set up a bunch of booby traps to defend themselves. And seemingly without killing anyone. Much.

Itís a rather watered down version here, designed for the family market and the G rating is evident throughout. Pirates arenít killed, there are no references to where babies come from (although it is hinted at) and the reasons for the boy disguise are devoid of detail. However, it is still a well made and entertaining film if you can look through some of the more cringeworthy moments (Christmas carols for example) and the entire family will no doubt enjoy it.

  Video
Contract

The print here has been wholly restored, leaving a crystal clear print with barely an artefact to be seen. There are some minor film burns in consecutive cuts around 09:51 and 09:54. These take the form of orange flares across the bottom quarter of the screen for a frame or two each time. However, they donít reappear throughout the film. The colour palette is quite beautiful, with myriad colours fighting for supremacy on screen without being too heavily saturated. Flesh tones, too, look fine, although there seem to be a lot of waxed chests going around from pirates and family both.

Shadow detail is fine, although blacks take occasion to go a deeper blue at times. The full size screen aspect ratio of 2.35:1 has been delivered with 16:9 anamorphicism and looks generally great with some cool sweeping island vistas and ocean views.

  Audio
Contract

Restored by Buena Vista into a Dolby Digital 5.1 surround deal, there still isnít much for the surrounds to do but buff up the sound coming from elsewhere. During the storm in the opening moments and the rain later on we get some nice depth, but overall this is pretty much a stereo affair. The subwoofer doesnít get much to do either, except filling in some depth of cannon fire and explosions late in the film.

Animal noises throughout seem a bit tacked on and stockish, though dialogue is all clear and easily understood. William Alwynís musical score is pretty good too, utilising orchestral theatrics and dramatics to add depth to the film, though sometimes the music holds crescendos during action scenes that seem overblown (as in the hopeless anaconda fight). Overall though, it suits the style of the time and fits the film well.

  Extras
Contract

A massive swag of goodies to keep either the kids or amateur historians fascinated for a bit. Actually, I was surprised by just how much stuff there is here.

First up comes a recent audio commentary by much of the surviving original cast. This is the usual deal, however the cast seem to hold a genuine affection for each other and they do lend some interesting memoirs to the proceedings. Worth a listen.

Pirates is a short montage featurette of various pirate moments from Disney films and cartoons spliced together under a cheery and rousing pirate drinking song Itís the Pirateís Life For Me. (The same song we hear Johnny Depp singing at the end of Pirates of the Caribbean).

Next is another featurette, shot during the opening of the recreated Swiss Family Robinson treehouse at Disneyland. This is narrated by John Millsí daughter Hayley quite recently, as Walt himself takes the stars through the treehouse back in the Ď60s. Itís all on Super 8 by the looks and is therefore silent, and is short at 3:41.

1960 Disney Studio Album is yet another montage of the films finished or in production during 1960. This isnít explained and there seem to have been a lot of films being made that year, so perhaps they only meant the 1960s studio album, rather than just 1960. This bit runs for 4:34 and is worth a look.

A production gallery of stills and promo shots runs as a short film for 2:16 next, followed by the film archives in which we find the trailer and TV spot for the film. The trailer is huge, running for around four minutes or more, and together they weigh up to 5:44. Also in the archive we have the storyboard to film comparison which shows the nicely detailed storyboard in a well weighted 2:15.

Audio archive features the song sung by Mother in the film, My Heart Was An Island, with various stills of the island paradise running atop. Then comes the sound studio toggling in which we can toggle between Final Composite, Music and Effects or Dialogue. Someone should have told them that in the music and effects bit there arenít actually any effects. While this is interesting, itís a one-off I think and would rarely be revisited.

Advertising is a gallery featuring eight lobbycards, 14 posters (which includes artworks) and 18 album and comic pages under three banners of Lobbycards, Posters and Merchandising. Pretty cool old stuff and well worth the look.

The Production Stills gallery features over 100 pics, but I actually lost count so it could well be much more than that. These are definitely interesting, but inevitably sleep-inducing.

Storyboards come next and there are plenty here of the opening sequence of the film, but they dry up around the time they get to the island. Finally there is a strange script excerpt which is entitled Bertie is a Girl. This features the scene in which the boys discover the secret, but it plays as it does in the film. There is no script, no nothing. I donít get it.

Anyhow, thatís a pretty hefty bunch for a single disc of a two hour movie in 2.35:1 and so should keep the enthusiasts busy.

  Overall  
Contract

While this film is outdated, it is still pretty well made with some cool actions sequences and beautiful shots. While the story holds its cringes instore, it is an overall portrayal of hope and making the best of a bad situation. I suppose if I were shipwrecked Iíd want to have as many mod-cons as they do here so, as to my whole luxury annoyance, I guess it doesnít bother me anymore.

While a decent bit cleaner than the reality would be, this is still a good adaptation of the original beloved book and will no doubt impress fans of either who are happy to have it on DVD at last.


  • LINK: http://www.dvd.net.au/review.cgi?review_id=3665
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      And I quote...
    "I was waiting for someone to be voted off the island here, but it just didnít happen."
    - Jules Faber
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Teac DVD-990
    • TV:
          Sony 68cm
    • Speakers:
          Teac PLS-60 Home Theatre System
    • Centre Speaker:
          Teac PLS-60 Home Theatre System
    • Surrounds:
          Teac PLS-60 Home Theatre System
    • Subwoofer:
          Akai
    • Audio Cables:
          Standard RCA
    • Video Cables:
          Standard Component RCA
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