on 19 July 2012
I am just on the 4th episode (Sharpe's Enemy) after receiving this set 2 days ago and I have to say that I am very impressed so far. A minor niggle is that in typical ITV fashion, the outer box is closed so just like Lewis, Auf Wiedersehen Pet etc, it can be a pain trying to get access to the three standard blu-ray boxes without creasing the flaps. Each blu-ray contains 2 movies totaling 7 discs in all.
Anyone used to watching Sharpe in the muddied, slightly blurry previous editions are in for a real treat. The daylight footage is superb and really makes you think you are watching these episodes for the first time. The opening scene on Sharpe's Rifles for example, is so clear, the cannon in the foreground almost looks 3D. The night shots however, are a hit and a miss becoming very grainy in places with some reviewers putting it down to the 16 mm film stock. In my humble opinion, some of the night scenes in Rifles look more like digital noise than film grain. You do get used to it though and the good far outweighs the bad.
The video has been slightly cropped for 16:9, but before anyone gets out their pram, this is not Ben Hur so you are not sacrificing very much and it really adds to the fresh look in general.
Considering the source, the 5.1 upgraded sound is a real plus giving great dimension to the battles in particular. Purists can opt for the original 2.0 though.
Pretty poor really. There is a photo gallery, which is pointless as it's mostly black and white photos lifted from each episode. You can do a better job by just pausing when watching the show. There are some historical facts pertaining to each episode and 2 seen to death documentaries, Sharpe The Legend and Sharpe's Shooting.
As mentioned by previous reviewers, this is a region B locked set so international buyers must make sure their players are region free. Sharpe can be purchased in the US at an insane price of around $250 minus the 5.1 (2.0 lossless added instead), but it comes in a nice wooden ammo case, contains a map and nifty little paper knife that looks like a sword.
on 17 February 2012
I live in Brazil, so this TV series never arrived here in cable TV. So I began reading Bernard Cornwell and stumbled across a small book called Sharpe's Tiger and fell in love with this charming rogue. I bought all the books of the series and read one after the other almost without interruption. When I discovered that there was a TV series about this character I began searching in the USA Amazon but the DVDs were too expensive and they did not have subtitles or closed-captions. Well, I read english well and I understand spoken english fairly well (the Poirot and the Miss Marple series were no problem for me, even without subtitles) but the characters in Sharpe speak many languages (spanish, french, english, and many characters speak english with an accent -the irish mr.Harper,for example). So I did not buy the American collection with regret. Last year reading a review in the american Amazon I discovered that the UK collection had english subtitles and the only problem was that it was a region 2 DVD. I already had an ALL regions DVD and so I checked the prices in the Amazon UK. I was astonished to discover that the price was far lower than the americans DVDs and the collection, with four films in each DVD was compact but easy to handle. The DVDs arrived here in Brazil in less than a fortnight and I began watching the films and fell in love all over again with Sean Bean and Daragh O`Malley as Sharpe and Harper. The photography was splendid and the sound very good. They had subtitles even for the french and spanish dialogues (I understand spanish and french very well but I think that was better to transcribe the dialogues in the subtitles). In separate I bought the 2 last films of the Sharpe's series and I am enjoying very much the collection. Of course the scripts are not so faithful to the books but they are very good. And Sean Bean is very charming and gallant, as Sharpe is described, and fights very well (I have heard that he did not have a double for the sword fights because he is a very accomplished fencer). He became for me the Sharpe of the books and I am very happy with my collection. I reccomend for everyone. I only regret the lack of subtitles in other languages (french, spanish, portuguese, and others) because this is a region 2 DVD (Europe) and I think that many foreigners in Europe also appreciate Bernard Cornwell's Sharpe. It could be corrected in a next edition of this collection.
1809-1815. During the Napoleonic Wars, the British owe much to Yorkshire's rifleman Richard Sharpe, he rising rapidly through the ranks after saving Wellington's life.
Fourteen feature-length episodes here chart his progress right up to Waterloo, where (as ever) he helps turn the tide to secure victory. En route he has sustained many injuries, turned several female hearts, earned the loyalty of fellow soldiers and incurred the wrath of certain senior aristocratic officers - their blustery inadequacies and scheming exposed for all to see.
Sean Bean totally convinces as Sharpe, well partnered by Daragh O'Malley as Patrick ("God bless the Irish!") Harper - initially a bitter enemy, but very soon best mate.
All in the casts seem to relish their roles, with some gloriously colourful performances. Pete Postlethwaite genuinely scares as crazed Obadiah. Michael Cochrane provokes hisses as posturing, incompetent Sir Henry Simmerson. Feodor Atkine makes impact as creepy spy Ducos (repeatedly in need of new spectacles). Julian Fellowes clearly enjoys himself as the fat Prince Regent, a right royal twit.
Much money has clearly been poured into the production (all of it well spent), spectacular battle scenes a major feature. Army life is vividly portrayed, Sharpe adept at raising morale. There is no pulling back from the horrors of war, some of the deaths shown extremely moving.
This excellent 8 disc box contains all the 1993-7 episodes. (The two made in 2006 & 2008 may be found elsewhere.) Disc 8 contains the feature-length SHARPE THE LEGEND, one of his original team recalling exploits that made him a hero. A 30 minute bonus interestingly tells how Ep.11 was filmed. (Lots of anecdotes and interviews. Great praise for the Russian stuntmen, totally fearless as they forever hurled themselves all over the place.)
With 25 hours of viewing the box set proves a bargain indeed, the last seven evenings exhilaratingly enhanced.
on 8 December 2010
Well Sharpe itself has been reviewed at length over the years, and there is really not much I can offer that is new regarding this fantastic and iconic drama series, so this review will only compare the new Blu-ray set to the previous DVD release.
So then, my Blu-ray set arrived today and the first thing I did was some paused screen comparisons between my old 1.66:1 (letterboxed in 4:3) ratio DVD's and the new Blu-ray's with a 16:9 full screen ratio as, being a fan of sticking to original ratios, I was concerned how the new widescreen ratio had been achieved. And once again I am completely mystified by the cinematography of Sharpe, and how it has been presented on home video over the years. On some scenes in my comparisons, a portion of top/bottom screen information (mostly bottom) is lost on the Blu-rays, which is what I expected, BUT on some scenes in later episodes there is actually the same and, in a handful of scenes, SLIGHTLY MORE top/bottom screen information on the Blu-rays than on the DVD's. In both cases, obviously, more picture on the sides is gained - ranging from a little (early episodes) to a lot (later episodes). The more top/bottom info in a handful of scenes has me totally perplexed though. Perhaps they were not using all of the image when they originally transferred certain later episodes to DVD? I'm certainly no expert on such matters, and only having a layman's knowledge, it has me perplexed. Apparently production crews in the early 90's were asked to be mindful of protecting the wider frame, by not having crew and equipment in the way, even though they were then shooting mostly for 4:3 broadcast. They did this with future proofing in mind, knowing the advent of widescreen TV was upon us. So perhaps this is why later episodes display the same or even slightly more screen information and the earlier episodes do not. I should note that the scenes I saw with a little more top/bottom picture information, and a lot more side of screen information, were all from the episodes on disc 7. Until I make more comparisons, I don't know how many episodes benefit the most. The earlier episodes are certainly not pokey/cramped though. Well, maybe in a handful of scenes...but not generally. The new wider frame definitely gives the films more of a cinematic quality though. So ultimately, I have to agree with some other people's assessments, that it doesn't look cramped or claustrophobic, like some of us were fearing, and that it has been treated as sympathetically as possible. This I am very pleased about. I have seen 4:3 to 16:9 hack jobs, and this [fortunately] is not one of them. However, if I had been presented with a choice...I think I would have chose to have kept the original ratio for the Blu-ray release. I am a purist in this respect. However, if this is what the-powers-that-be intend to do with a lot of my favourite older TV shows, I guess I must get used to it.
All the grain structure has been left alone, too, which is good. However, in this they had little choice. Had they gone overboard with Digital Noise Reduction, it would have hampered the finer details. And so there is a fair bit more detail to be found. Obviously nothing like the detail improvements we would have got had they used 35mm film - but that was to be expected. However, the extra detail on offer impressed me a lot. In one comparison I made, the Irish intelligence officer, Hogan, was pointing directions out to Sharpe on a map. On the DVD, I could hardly read the larger text on the map, let alone the smaller text, but on the Blu-ray I could see large and small text and every last nuance of the map's details. In another comparison, I saw a scene with an advancing French cavalry in the distance. On the DVD, they had blank and featureless faces. On the Blu-ray, I could see their facial features clearly. There are also no longer any compression artefacts, as was on the DVD's, which is also good. One concern though is with the colour - it is an overall improvement over the DVD's, that is for sure, but it has left some indoor scenes with characters looking quite red/flushed. I think they just upped colour/contrast across the board, instead of doing it on a scene-by-scene basis, and it has brought out the sunburn that some characters must have had that was not as noticeable on the DVD's. After all, they were (mostly) English actors filming in hot countries, so sunburn must have been an issue. Maybe I noticed it more because I was doing side by side comparisons, so it might not bother others in a normal viewing situation, or bother those who do not own the DVD's. This particularly affected the dimmer indoor scenes, as did excessive grain.
So yes, a general visual improvement...definitely. However, the visual side of things is only half the story - sound is also important. Now it is a pity they never went with lossless audio, it has to be said, but my god does the new Dolby Digital 5.1 mix sound better than the old 2.0 track. Skirmish and battle scenes just seem bigger and more epic. Again, this gives the films far more of a cinematic quality. The sound is very well mixed across all the channels...with very decent rear speaker action in all the right places. I was fearing a half-hearted 5.1 mix, but this is not the case.
As regards extras, it is same as it ever was. So we have the 'Sharpe The Legend' episode once more...which is not really an episode at all, but rather a compilation look-back over all Sharpe and Harper's classic series adventures, narrated by Rifleman Cooper from a 19th century pub setting. 'Sharpe's Shooting', the documentary featurette from the DVD set is also still on offer. You also get the fact file info for each episode that was on the DVD sets, detailing what life was like for real soldiers back in the Napoleonic era, as well as the token photo galleries. The pity regarding extras is the fact there is nothing new on offer. In my opinion, Blu-ray should always offer something new over a DVD set. I particularly would have liked some audio commentaries from the lead actors, or at least from a producer or director. Alas, no such luck.
All put together, the visual *and* audio improvements are worth the upgrade for me, and probably will be for you. I do have to knock a star off though, as the box itself is far flimsier than the old DVD set...it is now thin card that will not stand up to normal use, where previously it was hard board. You might be better off storing just the internal DVD cases on your shelf and putting away the box for safe keeping. And I do have to reflect the lack of new extras when knocking off this star. So four stars it is. If I was just reviewing the films themselves, it would easily be five stars. Sharpe is a fantastic series of films - but if you have read this far, you already know that.
I should also add that I never had the dodgy 7th disc issue that others have mentioned. I play my Blu-rays on a PS3, and others have noted that PS3's, along with some standalone models, do not have a problem with the bad discs. I now have to wonder if my disc 7 will be OK should I upgrade to a standalone at a later date. Although I have to note that Amazon removed the Blu-ray sets from sale for a small while, while the issue was investigated (or so I read somewhere), so maybe they have new stock...as I ordered my set when it came back on sale. Hopefully this is an issue that has now been rectified.