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The Best of the Darling Buds of May
Universal/Universal . R4 . COLOR . 300 mins . PG . PAL

  Feature
Contract

Steve has this dilemma I see. When he gets the big budget movies like the recent Paramount releases, everybody scrambles for the Star Trek series or the big boom action fests.

Invariably there are a number of smaller productions that no-one seems to want to devote 500 words or less to.

I must remember to not make any snide comments because often you'll find a surprise in your review package.

I was meaning to maybe skip thru various chapters of this two disc box to get an idea of the overall quality of this set. And perhaps catch a few shots of that Welsh beauty as she was a decade ago.

But like a particularly bad car accident, it turns out to be strangely watchable. There's something about David Jason's odd overacting or the unforced ease at which this whole thing seems to blow thru your Sunday afternoons.

'The Darling Buds of May' is based on a H.E. Bates novel and it's the continuing story of a Kent based farming family.

The discs contain three 100 minute pieces which consists of the pilot and four 50 minute episodes stitched into two telemovies.

The first is self-titled and is a introduction to the Larkins; a prosperous farming family whose relative wealth seems to come from Pop Larkin's ability to dodge the Inland Revenue Service and his ability to wheel and deal in army surplus items.

The second and third seem to have a number of plots going on simultaneously however to summarise, the second is about a German soldier who arrives in their quaint Kent town and the reception he receives from post-WWII England is frosty to say the least. The third is about the Larkin twins going to a dilapitated boarding school and Pop Larkin's quest against the bank foreclosing on that school. Zeta Jones and her husband also want to buy the local brewery. Sounds like the sort of plot you'd expect from this series?

  Video
  Audio
  Extras
Contract

After viewing a slew of the best from Columbia, Warners, Universal and Dreamworks, I wondered if I had dropped a contact lens when I put these discs into the player.

This is a direct transfer of the English PAL FTA series. There is a certain murkiness that is worse in the title frames however it goes away fairly quickly when the main feature starts. Two of the 100 minutes features are on the first dual layer disc, the last is on the single layer second disc.

Overall, just what you'd expect from a circa 1991 FTA TV production. It is not very colourful nor is contrast strong. However I was pleased with the overall sharpness and the consistent quality. After a while it tends to not grate so much. This is a series set on a farm so I was able to use my famous 'blade of grass' test and this one passes quite well. This is where you're in a field of grass or some kind of consistent vegetation - a poor transfer shows a messy melange of green; a good transfer shows individual blades of grass or ears of corn etc. This one sits between those poles.

Still, you're unlikely to see ABC broadcast anything this clean until they get HDTV technology some time in 2015...

Sound is stereo Dolby 2.0 at 224k/s. It is resolutely stereo with the trusty 9000es unable to pull any rear ambience. There is however, excellent front steering and more importantly, crystal vocal intelligibility, even with David Jason's full on accent. When the visuals move into a field or busy pub you get the appropriate effects and change in vocal timbre.

There is very limited use of music. There's also no subtitles which is a detriment for the target audience I would imagine.

As for extras, there are a small selection of cast photos. That's it.


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  •   And I quote...
    "like a particularly bad car accident, it turns out to be strangely watchable"
    - Tony Lai
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Rom:
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