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Artisan Home Entertainment presents
Stephen King's Golden Years (1991)

"Scientific history, gentleman. You were here in the year zero."
- Dr. Richard X. Toddhunter (Bill Rayond)

Review By: Joel Cunningham   
Published: April 12, 2002

Stars: Keith Szarabajka, Felicity Huffman
Other Stars: Frences Sternhagen, R.D. Call, Ed Lauter, Bill Raymond
Director: Alan Coulter, Kenneth Fink, Michael Gornick, Stephen Tolkin

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (violence, intense scenes)
Run Time: 03h:55m:51s
Release Date: August 21, 2001
UPC: 017153119589
Genre: television


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
C+ C-C-B- D-

DVD Review

The Stephen King miniseries has become something of a semi-annual TV event. From The Stand, to The Langoliers, to Storm of the Century and Rose Red, the programs aren't always good, but they do seem to pull in big ratings. 1991's Golden Years was the first of the bunch, and it isn't one of the best. Based on an original story by King, it ran seven episodes (the first five of which were penned by King himself), and ended ambiguously, with plans for a regular series to follow. That never came about, however, and this video version includes a hastily produced extended ending that attempts to wrap up all of the lingering plot lines. Harlan Williams (Szarabajka) is an aging low-level employee at a government research facility when he is exposed, during an accidental explosion, to a strange chemical being developed by the eccentric Dr. Toddhunter (Raymond). A government cover-up follows, while Williams finds himself getting younger, his energy level rising and his eyesight improving. Soon, though, he is ensnared in the government's attempts to bury Toddhunter's experiments, and he is forced to run, along with his wife Gina (Sternhagen), to stay ahead of dangerous federal agents.The setup is interesting but hardly original (the concept of an anti-aging drug that left one spouse growing younger as the other aged was done on Star Trek: The Next Generation four years earlier), though King does his best to dress it up with a lot of government conspiracy flourishes. Sadly, post-X-Files, this material all seems rather hokey, and aside from Harlan, his wife, and the goofy Dr. Toddhunter, there are very few examples of King's memorably eccentric characters on display. The production values are about what you'd expect for TV, which means some hokey special effects and rather mundane production design (the "high-tech government facility" looks like an empty office building). The acting is surprisingly strong, with Szarabajka in particular doing an excellent job with his progressively more youthful character. Frances Sternhagen, looking like a low-rent Jessica Tandy, is sympathetic and likeable as Gina. Felicity Huffman, looking like a low-rent Gillian Andersen (in a pre-Scully era, of course), is passable but fairly wooden as a government investigator. I remember watching Golden Years back in 1991 and enjoying it. Perhaps this type of story needs to be drawn out over a few weeks (to build suspense in the geriatric Fugitive chase), but I suspect that rather it's simply a series that has aged badly (taste the irony). Certainly the episodes written by King aren't up to his standards, and the final two, by Josef Andersen, don't provide a satisfactory conclusion, even in the extended form presented here. Better to spend your money on The Stand, or better yet, The Shining (if it ever comes out).

Rating for Style: C+
Rating for Substance: C-

 

Image Transfer

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


Image Transfer Review: All the problems with this transfer stem from the fact that four hours of data have been squeezed onto one side of a disc. Colors look strong overall, if a bit muted (typical of a production shot on video), and the source material shows few marks or lines. But compression artifacts are a major problem, with many scenes with complex backgrounds (like trees or a fence) showing a lot of blockiness and shimmer. Other than that, the transfer looks a bit soft, and blacks lack detail.

Image Transfer Grade: C-

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishno


Audio Transfer Review: This mix sounds generally good, if a bit harsh and unsupported at times. Dialogue is always understandable, though has a tendency to sound a bit muffled by sound effects. The front soundstage carries all the action and is acceptably wide, with limited directionality in the mains.

Audio Transfer Grade: B-

 

Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 51 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English CC only
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: Extras are limited to interactive menus and English closed captions (not subtitles, mind you).

Extras Grade: D-

 

Final Comments

An interesting, but ultimately disappointing, miniseries offering from Stephen King, The Golden Years starts strong but peters out by the final episodes, which were not written by the Master of Horror. The DVD, despite some problems with the transfer, is an easy recommend for fans of the series, with four hours of video for under $15.

 


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