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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Horatio Hornblower
Horatio Hornblower
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Review by Chris Hughes | posted January 25, 2000 | E-mail the Author
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C O N T E N T
V I D E O
A U D I O
E X T R A S
R E P L A Y
A D V I C E
Highly Recommended
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Features: Full Screen (Standard) - 1.33:1 Audio: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo). Subtitles: English. The Making of Horatio Hornblower, including cast interviews. England's Royal Warships, with Edward Windsor, an extraordinary 50-minute tour of Lord Nelson's legendary flagship, The HMS Victory, and the vessels that will carry the navy into the future. Glossary of nautical terms & definitions. C.S. Forester biography. Number of discs: 4.

The Movie:
I read C.S. Forester's Horatio Hornblower books in my teens so I was a little apprehensive about the A&E miniseries based on them. Could this production live up to my fond memories? The answer is a resounding 'yes.'

A&E spared no expense on this amazing series. Two years in the making, the program includes a half dozen locations, countless period costumes, fantastic performances by the 20 plus principal actors and an entire replica wooden British Frigate (the first of its kind built in over 140 years.) The miniseries is really a collection of four stand-alone films each of which can be watched independently of the others. All four are filled with drama, intrigue, adventure and more action than you can shake a stick at. I found each of the four films very engaging and was longing for more even after watching all eight hours.

Most importantly the series is faithful, if not to the exact C.S. Forester story lines, to the basic spirit of the novels. The costumes and language are historically accurate, the sets and locations are incredibly detailed and the pacing of the productions is right on the money.

The Picture:
The full screen transfer matches the original broadcast ratio and the transfer itself is very well done. Colors are rich, backgrounds are detailed and no mastering artifacts can be seen. The only flaw is the fact that some of the interior scenes are a touch dark but not so much as to be a problem.

The Sound:
The Dolby 2.0 soundtrack presents the dialogue and music in a very balanced mix that's never distorted. This is an action film so the dialogue could have been lost under explosions and gunfire but care has been taken to assure that every word spoken is crisp and clear. Horatio Hornblower could have benefited from a 5.1 soundtrack but the 2.0 version is so well done that you probably won't have any major complaints.

The Extras:
Each of the four discs has its own extra content. Disc one has a short three-screen biography of C.S. Forester. Disc two features a fun dictionary of nautical terms. Disc three includes an hour-long featurette on the production of the series (really more of an extended advertisement for the program but interesting none the less) and disc four has a show called England's Royal Warships. This last feature was my personal favorite. Hosted by Prince Edward, the program offers a detailed look at both the Napoleonic era British navy and its modern counterpart.

Conclusion:
The bottom line is that you can't go wrong with the Horatio Hornblower series. This is how television should be made. Hornblower is engaging and entertaining throughout and has something to offer every member of the family.

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