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A&E Home Video presents
The Jewel In The Crown (1984)

"The jewel is India. It's an allegory. The jewel is India...a promise unfulfilled."
- Edwina Crane (Janet Henfrey)

Review By: Dan Lopez   
Published: March 21, 2001

Stars: Art Malik, Susan Wooldridge, Tim Pigott-Smith, Zohra Sehgal
Other Stars: Dame Peggy Ashcroft, Charles Dance, Geraldine James, Nicholas Farrell
Director: Christopher Morahan, Jim O'Brien

Manufacturer: DVDL
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (some violence, nudity, and language)
Run Time: 12h:30m:00s
Release Date: March 27, 2001
UPC: 733961701845
Genre: drama


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A- BC-C+ D

DVD Review

Over a period from 1966 to 1975, British author Paul Scott published his 'Raj Quartet' novels; a series consisting of The Jewel In The Crown, The Day Of The Scorpion, The Towers of Silence, and A Division of Spoils. The books were a sprawling epic about the lives of both British and Indian people during the last years of colonial rule over India. The television mini-series, presented in this set from A&E Home Video, is an ambitious attempt to take these novels and transform them into a single, comprehensive experience. The end result is an intriguing and absorbing story that spans many lives and two distinct cultures.

As Jewel In The Crown opens, it is the year 1942. Set in Mayapour, India, we are introduced to a variety of characters. Standing in the forefront is Daphne Manners (Susan Wooldridge), a prim and proper English woman who, like most British in India at this time, seems to have a certain naïveté about what's going on around her. Daphne is wealthy and is friends with very influential people in the area; this, of course, distances her from the political turmoil. Not possessing any ill will towards the Indians, Daphne has a rather unrealistic view of the rampant racism going on, and she begins to isolate herself from her normal friends by immersing herself in Indian culture. Most notably, she develops a tension-filled friendship with a local Indian journalist Hari Kumar (Art Malik). Her association with Indians inflames the local police chief, Ronald Merrick (Tim Pigott-Smith), because he desires Daphne to be his wife.

Amongst the turbulence of Mohandas Gandhi's movement to remove British rule from India, these people all find themselves victims of various levels of politics and racism. Though Daphne tries hard to seem enthusiastic about being English and about her government's control of India, she soon tires of the ridiculous social boundaries that the British Raj imposes. She develops a romance with Kumar, which causes quite a secretive scandal. Between the tensions in society and the tensions within these people's families, epic events are set in motion.

Although it may sound as if I've described something like the contents of a movie, this is only the beginning of a much larger story: this is only the first chapter of Jewel In The Crown. The entire, hefty, 13-hour experience is a massive story about how the relationship between Daphne, Hari, and Ronald Merrick sends ripples through distant family members, neighbors, and even people with no direct relation. We follow the remaining story over the years; with some unexpected twists and a few amazing revelations. Though this may sound like a soap opera, the material is handled with a certain absence of melodrama. Instead, the story is told with a sense of style and seriousness that fits its subject well.

Obviously, the length and depth of this series requires a certain dedication. I don't think, however, most viewers will find that hard to accept as, more than likely, you'll be gripped by the story after the first hour or so. I will say I think the series is a bit too long; a few hours could have been chopped off and certain events could have been tightened up. The thing that stands out is that you really feel like you're in the books, thanks to the amount of character development and the outstanding cast that really feels like they've simply been these characters for years. The series also blends the story of not only the British people, but Indians as well. Jewel In The Crown is not just some pro-British "we're sorry we lost the empire" type of show (which the BBC was once infamous for), but rather it balances the material to show that both sides can love, hate, and everything in-between.

Ultimately, this a rewarding, brilliantly structured drama that has me eating crow about how stiff and lifeless I thought it would be. The final years of British control of India undoubtedly caused much commotion and many complications with people of all ages and races. The Jewel In The Crown is an examination of what might have happened if a naïve English girl had a controversial affair with an Indian, thus dropping a pebble in a very, very large ocean.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: B

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicno


Image Transfer Review: Obviously aged, Jewel In The Crown shows distinct transfer problems; primarily, a sort of grainy haze over the entire presentation. This seems to have originated with the show itself, and probably has been made worse with time. This haze washes out the black level, as well as the color and aggravates noticable compression artifacts. There is obvious movement and shimmer in any dark or murky shades. Colors look rather good, though, and come across fairly well despite the heavy grain. Overall, nothing here will turn you away from the discs, but simply do not expect something radiant. These look about equal to what they might look on VHS or cable.

Image Transfer Grade: C-

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
MonoEnglishyes


Audio Transfer Review: Presented in a Pro-Logic encoded Mono format, Jewel sounds pretty good for it's age and the fact that most of the dialogue was never improved with dubbing. For the most part, the soundtrack is clean and crisp, with everything being perfectly understandable. At times, it gets a bit muddy, but this is really only during 'loud' scenes where there's a lot of sound effects being used. Unfortunately, some portions of the disc are effected with the same, weird 'flanging' audio effect that seems to plague other random A&E releases (most noteworthy, the second set of The Prisoner series, which has caused a partial recall). However, the effect here is not as severe as it is on the other releases it's popped up on. It also seems to come and go, rather than effecting entire episodes.

Audio Transfer Grade: C+

 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 98 cues and remote access
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
4 Discs
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: There are no extra features in this set, which will probably be most distressing to big fans of the books and the series. The presentation is nothing special, with only a single-sided advertisement for other A&E releases as inserts. Unfortunately, there are no external chapter listings.

Extras Grade: D

 

Final Comments

Jewel In The Crown is a wonderful story, worthy of much praise. It sets an amazing standard for television drama that simply hasn't been touched. Although very long, the length seems to allow the players room to breathe, rather than trying to compress the intricacies of a much-read series of novels into a small frame. Though this new set is a little on the awkward, bare-bones side, you at least get the entire series without having to purchase the episodes piece by piece. If you didn't watch it in 1984 (like me), now's your chance to digest the whole thing. It's a shame that Paul Scott did not live to see this grand spectacle. Highly recommended.

 


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