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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Hallelujah! The Complete Collection
Hallelujah! The Complete Collection
Acorn Media // Unrated // April 28, 2009
List Price: $39.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Jeffrey Kauffman | posted April 21, 2009 | 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
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R E P L A Y
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P R I N T
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The Movie:
Hallelujah! is one of those middling television series that has occasionally sweet and humorous moments, but is probably best seen as a pleasant time killer, not as any kind of classic comedy. Starring the redoubtable Dame Thora Hird as an aging, if still feisty, Salvation Army Captain named Emily Ridley who is "put out to pasture" in a couple of small English villages, the show is equally small, not very ambitious, but inerrantly gentle and at least occasionally laugh out loud funny.

The Salvation Army is probably ripe for some sort of major satiric expose, but it's really been underutilized in modern media, despite a couple of notable exceptions like Frank Loesser's Guys and Dolls. The British Army seems to be a much more familiar affair than the stateside version, with "Citadels" dotting the provinces from which the faithful attempt to convert the unwashed masses to lives of purity and conscience. Hird's Ridley is a woman only too aware that not only is she past her prime, she's living in a time where she has become an anachronism, a brimstone and fire spewing evangelist without an audience. When she's asked to retire quietly, she instead finagles a transfer to the first of two small towns she'll work in (one for each season, known as "series" in British parlance).

The first series sees Ridley in the working class Yorkshire town of Brigthorpe. With her somewhat dimwitted, "backsliding" niece Alice (Patsy Rowland) on hand to help her, she quickly makes her first convert, first season supporting regular Rosamund Greenwood as Dorothy, a senior who's on the make for any man able to do more than sit and watch television. Evidently there's more happening at the local Salvation Army Citadel than first meets the eye.

The comedy of the first series, and the second as well, is simply the interplay of the uptight and bombastic Ridley attempting to knock some sense both into her coworkers and the frankly idiotic townspeople (the second series features a ne'er-do-well family featuring a drunk husband, fake invalid mother, prostitute daughter and bright red Mohawked punk rock son). There are some cute moments, some of them in Tevye-esque asides to the Deity, when Ridley looks Heavenward and attempts to divine the Divine. "What have you gotten me into this time?" she asks at one point, after realizing she's been taken for a wad of cash by the supposedly infirm mother.

While there's nothing overtly hilarious at any point here, Hallelujah! does have its heart in the right place, and it finally finds it in abundance at the end of the second season, when Emily's long ago beau enters the picture in what would be the last regular episode of the series. There is actually some poignancy throughout this episode as Emily has to decide whether her lifelong "marriage" to the Salvation Army is worth giving up a man she forsook so many years ago. Unfortunately the cliffhanging ending was never to be resolved as Hallelujah!, despite what is listed on some online sites, never made it a third season.

Hird is a firecracker in the show and is the main reason to watch it. A staple of British film and television (and former mother-in-law to Mel Torme), Hird may not have entered the public consciousness in the same way that, say, Judi Dench or Helen Mirren have, but she brings the goods to every episode, with just the right amount of spunk and moral outrage to make Emily both annoying and lovable. Rowlands does some good work in a thankless role (one episode has her "converting" a man because she looks like his long dead dog), providing a Hardy to Hird's Laurel. The supporting cast and guest stars are all competent, if cartoonish, and provide a guffaw or two along the way.

My hunch is this release is going to be a lot bigger across the pond than it will be here. For those of us fond of such less than stellar yet still fondly remembered shows like I'm Dickens, He's Fenster or Car 54, Where Are You?, I think it's understandable. Certainly the British must be allowed their own foibles when they have favorites from the run of the mill sitcom factories over there. Hallelujah! may not have you praising the Almighty for its comedic gold, but it's pleasant enough and provides Hird a good opportunity to strut her stuff.

The DVD

Video:
The good news is that despite this being filmed British television (at least in its location footage), it's mid-80s vintage, which means the 1.33:1 image is actually pretty decent for its age. The hideous quality of a lot of British television (which you regular readers know I complain about pretty dependably) is pretty much nonexistent here. While overall colors and sharpness are above average, if not exceptional, strangely the more recent second season has the worse image quality, with a slightly blanched palette. The first episode of the second season also has a momentary, but very weird "short circuit" moment when there's a loud audio pop and there's visual distortion for a moment. Not sure what that's about, but it's the only moment like that on the set. There's a discaimer about the audio and visual quality of the source material on the box, but given the usual image problems of British television from this era (or slightly earlier), you may actually be pleasantly surprised.

Sound:
The DD 2.0 soundtrack is nothing to write home about, but it does just fine for this series. The dialogue is easy to hear (though some of the thick accents are a bit hard to decipher), and the source cues of Salvation Army brass bands are fun and well reproduced.

Extras:
A text history of the Salvation Army is offered on the first disc, and a bonus Christmas episode, with a sort of "Fractured Fairy Tale" retelling of Dickens' Christmas Carol, are included.

Final Thoughts:
Hallelujah! is your typical middle of the road sitcom featuring a strong lead performance by Thora Hird and some fun supporting work by Patsy Rowlands. There's nothing innovative or stupendously well done here; it's a workaday sitcom that's completely professional on all levels, and maintains an adequate degree of amusement mixed with some sweet sentiment. This will probably play better in the UK than the US, so I'm recommending you Rent It.

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"G-d made stars galore" & "Hey, what kind of a crappy fortune is this?" ZMK, modern prophet

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