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Category:    Home > Reviews > Drama > Action > British TV > Mini-Series > PIrates > Comedy > Satire > Western > Heist > Australia > Far Pavilions (Acorn DVD reissue)/Ferry To Hong Kong (1959)/Penny Princess (1952)/Robbery Under Arms (1957/VCI DVDs)

Far Pavilions (Acorn DVD reissue)/Ferry To Hong Kong (1959)/Penny Princess (1952)/Robbery Under Arms (1957/VCI DVDs)


Picture: C     Sound: C+ (Penny: C)     Extras: C-/D/D/C-     Main Programs: C+



Now for more British releases on DVD…


The Far Pavilions is a reissue DVD set from Acorn Media we covered a while ago at this link:





It is the same exact set and we guess it either needed a reissue and the older one was just too old or the rights were at issue at one point.  It is interesting at least and some will be interested to see this Mini-Series.  We have included an image of the new cover for you too see.


Turning to feature films, we have three more Rank Catalog titles from VCI Entertainment starting with Lewis Gilbert’s Ferry To Hong Kong (1959) which features a young Curt Jurgens forced to be on the ship of an unhappy captain played by Orson Welles at a time when many thought he could be making great films on his own had he not been cast out of Hollywood.  The relationship’s resentments only get more intense when out of nowhere, the ship is nabbed by killer pirates.


This offers some epic moments shot in CinemaScope by the great Otto Heller, B.S.C., and Gilbert moved onto more big films including the original Alfie and three James Bond films (You Only Live Twice, The Spy Who Loved Me, Moonraker) and you can see how well he could make big screen films here.  Compare this to his Bonds and you can see some great similarities visually.  This is not bad and though it is a little dated and politically incorrect, it is worth a look.  Sylvia Sims, Jeremy Spencer, Noel Purcell and Margaret Withers also star.


The letterboxed 2.35 X 1 frame in EastmanColor by Rank is a little weak and an older transfer, but some shots still manage to somehow look good while the Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono fares better.  There are sadly no extras.


The enduring journeyman filmmaker Val Guest made an atypical film with Penny Princess (1952), a comedy that pairs Dirk Bogarde and Yolonde Donlan (who is hilarious and charming all the way here; she was also married to Guest) as two different people who are heirs to an entire small country in the middle of nowhere that is broke.  Lindy Smith (Donlan) is trying to sell potato peelers at the NYC Macy’s when she gets news she is to meet with some lawyers and lands up in this old-styled European country as royalty.  She is going to inherit a fortune that can save them but Tony (Bogarde) has plans of his own, until he finds out they make a rare cheese that could be an international hit.  Very entertaining and is one of Guest’s most underrated works.  I can get corny, but who cares when it is this much fun.


The 1.33 X 1 image is also soft, but was originally a three-strip, dye-transfer Technicolor film release (such prints are very valuable now) and that color sometimes comes through.  Some of the better shots show off how good this originally looked and I hope we see a Blu-ray down the line, while the Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono is as weak and shows its age.  There are sadly no extras here either.


Finally we have Jack Lee’s Robbery Under Arms (1957) is a Western, except that it takes place in Australia and is not exactly a work exclusive to that genre.  In the Australian version, the outdoors remain untamed as it is a way of life they have decided not to change and only modernize parts of Down Under, so that changes the whole dynamic of these films at a time few films were made there and the country had yet to establish a cinematic identity.  This was shot on location for the most part.


David McCallum (Man From U.N.C.L.E., NCIS) was in his early prime when he signed on to tell this 19th Century tale of the then-biggest cattle heist ever.  A good drama with some interesting moments, it is amazing the Hollywood Western never tried to adapt the qualities or dynamics of such stories (including those made in the 1970s and modern times, whether set in the past or present), but the result is less predictability and some good twists.


Peter Finch, Ronald Lewis, Jill Ireland, Lawrence Naismith and a really solid cast make the film stand up better than its age should, though some of the screenplay gets uneven.  It never becomes phony or melodramatic and is definitely worth a good look, especially for fans of Westerns and Australia.


The 1.33 X 1 image is also soft (shot in EastmanColor by Harry Waxman) and VCI did what they could to restore the film, but some work is still needed, while the Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono fares better and the location recording is not bad for its age.  A comparison of the footage before and after restoration is the only extra.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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