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Category:    Home > Reviews > Adventure > British TV > Horatio Hornblower - The A&E Boxed Sets

Horatio Hornblower - Complete Series and New Adventures

(Two Complete Boxed Sets)


Picture: C+†††† Sound: C+†††† Extras: B†††† Film: B+



The first Horatio Hornblower was launched in 1998 on British television, which offered two-hour episodes.The first four were The Duel, The Fire Ships, The Duchess and the Devil, and The Wrong War.These four ran from 1998-1999.Then again in 2001, two more episodes surfaced: The Mutiny and Retribution, which would be followed again in 2003 by Loyalty and Duty.The first six programs are now packaged together in a set from A&E Home Video, with the two episodes from 2003 sold separately in a two-pack entitled The New Adventures.Andrew Grieve who comes from an all-TV background doing episodes earlier in his career of Poirot directed all eight of these episodes.He brings to life the C.S. Forester stories and puts together a decent production where a lot of the money is on the screen.


Rather than try to cover the synopsis of each segment it would be much easier to give an overall idea of the program and give an impression on the series as a whole.First thing that should be noted is the fact that this is a program designed for the appetites of those who favor history, ships, and anything of historical significance even though these shows are not trying to retell any part of history.With the recent release of Master and Commander from director Peter Weir and starring Russell Crowe, there might be a sudden boost in the popularity of these shows.Not only that, but with the success of summer 2003ís Pirates of the Caribbean, there is a bigger market for movies about ships.


What works particular well for these shows is the authenticity of using real ships and making all the battles and drama quite believable.Add to that the worthy cast led by Ioan Gruffudd as Midshipman Horatio Hornblower.The production value seems to boost as the series progresses due to its popularity.It is not necessary to see the earlier shows in order to understand some of the later in the series either, although it can be helpful for making a more complete overall story.This set makes that all the more easy by putting together the shows with some extras as well.


The episodes have been letterboxed with a 1.85 X 1 transfer, which was a good choice to make the video look more like a film presentation.There are certain scenes that look more like video while others maintain a better film-like quality.For those unfamiliar with this, it would be like comparing a TV Soap Opera to an actual film drama.The quality here is somewhat consistent across the years from 98-03 while the later episodes do appear to be shot with better video mostly due to the fact that the industry has come a far way in just those short years.Colors look semi-drab, which was mostly on intent.The shows have a darkened look to give it a more authentic reproduction of the time period.The biggest drawback is the softness that is inherent on all of the shows as well as poor detail reproduction.Other than that it works fine.The 2.0 Dolby Digital soundtrack is nothing overly impressive, but gets the job done.Since the show was never intended for more than a mere TV viewing anything over beyond a stereo mix seemed feasible.


The extras for these shows are sporadic and do not make a lot of coherent sense.Each disc contains something different, so there is little continuity.There is a commentary track for the Loyalty and Duty episodes with director Andrew Grieve as well as photo galleries.The Duel contains information about C.S. Forester, The Fire Ships contains nautical terms and definitions, The Duchess contains behind the scenes making of, and The Wrong War contains bonus feature about Englandís Royal Warships hosted by Edward Winsor.


If anything can be said about Horatio Hornblower is the simple fact that once you get into the show, you are hooked.This set makes for a long evening of entertainment that provides enough action and drama all in one.It can be enjoyed by a vast demographic of people, which might be increasing with the recent interest on the big-screen with historical ships and sea battles.A&E serves up the goods with a fair reproduction on the DVD format.Given the already limited capabilities of using video versus film, there is nothing wrong with the transfers, just the format that was used.



-†† Nate Goss


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