Rifles Collection Set (Television series)
Sound: C+ Extras: D Film: B
Sharpe’s Rifles, based on a large series of successful
novels by Bernard Cornwell, originally aired on British television in the early
1990s. Set during the Napoleonic Wars
in the early 19th century the series follows the adventures of Richard Sharpe
(actor Sean Bean, best known here as Boromir in the Lord of the Rings), and the
ragtag band of sharpshooters under his command.
Cornwell’s success as an author of historical fiction is
not only his attention to accurate detail, but also his ability to capture the
different mindsets of people from diverse cultures and eras. This is reflected in the series. British officers were chosen from the
aristocracy. The belief was that they
were ordained to lead. Sharpe is a
commoner who, through a battlefield commission, is given a command. His men, all commoners, do not respect
him. Unlike our modern era, they do not
see him as successful, someone who has achieved due to ability. They see him as someone acting above his
station; they have trouble following his orders because he is no better than
they. Likewise, the aristocratic officers
afford him little respect as well. The
class struggle of Richard Sharpe reflects the class struggle of the era that
eventually redefined the modern world.
The pacing of the series is a little slow, but that seems
typical of British TV to American audiences.
The series suffers more from lack of budget than anything else. The money was spent on costuming and props
(all of which are fairly accurate for the time period), leaving little left
over for anything else. As a result
there aren't a lot of extras, a lack noticeable primarily in the battle
scenes. Battles that should include
hundreds of people look like about twenty actors making a lot of noise in a
bunch of smoke. The scope and majesty
of warfare is missing, as is its gravity.
Another minor complaint is with the packaging. In our press copy, none of the discs in this
five-disc set were labeled. Other than
serial numbers, they all look alike making it nearly impossible to tell what
episode you’re watching until the disc is in the player.
The 1.33 x 1 full frame, color image is not too good on
most of the transfers, though Enemy
has color fidelity and slight definition improvements over the earlier
installments. That still is not a
significant enough to garner it a higher rating. The picture is a disappointment and atypical of what we have come
to expect form BFS DVDs. The Dolby
Digital 2.0 is simple Stereo with no real surrounds.
You can find out more about the series in reviews
elsewhere on this site, while a giant megaset has been issued by BFS if you
want to just get the whole series.
- Wayne Wise
Wayne Wise is a history buff who has read nearly
everything Bernard Cornwell was written except the Sharpe’s novels. They’re on