Pride & Prejudice & Cask Wine – bliss!

26 July, 2007

I’ve begun watching my DVD of Pride & Prejudice (1980s version) and I must say it’s a relief. The placidly beautiful music, the dull BBC television-style production, and the acceptable acting – all delightful. And four-and-a-half hours worth!

I should add here, in case of confusion, that I have been in dire need of relaxation of late. Neighbour noise and late nights (the two not unrelated) have made me exhausted and edgy. I no longer cook at home, but instead buy a (relatively) healthy takeaway and try to quickly numb myself with cask wine (Coolabah!).

This 1980s flashback turns out to be exactly what I need. The cultured language, Austen’s wit, and the slow pace are all so much at odds with current TV and film production. Don’t get me started on the recent, popular productions of Pride & Prejudice, with their visual dazzle, star power, and “knowing” attitude. Emma Thompson’s Sense & Sensibility, on the other hand, was a surprising delight, and I hope she is writing further screenplays in the same vein. (She did Nanny McPhee, apparently, but that’s not really something I’m interested in.)

I first watched this P&P in the early 1990s – being at Macquarie University at the time, I was able to select from their video library and watch movies during my lunch hour or free time. I recall the image quality being better at that time (although it was VHS), and particularly remember stronger greens.

The current DVD is an NTSC format release from the USA, which is the only version available. The picture is surprisingly clean, given its age, so it must have been taken from a well-preserved but unwatched videotape copy. NTSC, unfortunately, has a much lower resolution than PAL (the British format, in which this show was originally made).

Also, significant colour change has taken place with aging of the source material, and no effort has been made to correct this, although with such a clean source the job would be comparatively simple. The colours are generally faded, with red predominating. I can correct this to some extent by increasing the “colour” setting on my TV and adjusting “tint” to reduce the redness. (For some reason the “tint” option only presents itself for NTSC, perhaps to accomodate NTSC’s notorious colour difficulties – a shame, as it would be quite handy for some of my PAL DVDs.)

My aged TV can only adjust the image so far, however. I’m hoping that eventually a PAL-native version will be released, but the BBC can be weirdly obtruse about these things.


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