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MGM Studios DVD presents
Huckleberry Finn (1974)

"The way I see it, we just gotta stick toegether now."
- Huckleberry Finn (Jeff East)

Review By: Jeff Ulmer   
Published: January 26, 2006

Stars: Jeff East, Paul Winfield, Harvey Korman, David Wayne, Arthur O'Connell, Gary Merrill, Natalie Trundy
Director: J. Lee Thompson

MPAA Rating: G
Run Time: 01h:54m:28s
Release Date: August 09, 2005
UPC: 027616927415
Genre: adventure

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B+ B+CB+ D+

DVD Review

Following the previous year's adaptation of Mark Twain's Tom Sawyer, Reader's Digest comissioned a quasi-sequel with a musical version of the author's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn with Jeff East reprising the role from the original film.

The story starts out in Hannibal, Missouri, which is still apart of the Confederacy. After the turmultuous events in that occured in Tom Sawyer, orphan Huck now lives with the widder Douglas (Lucille Benson), who took him in. The recipient of a sizeable trust, Huckleberry gets a shock when his father, presumed dead, resurfaces, looking to cash in on the boy's good fortune. He kidnaps his son for a ransom of one thousand dollars from the widder, suggesting she sell her slave, Jim, to raise the money. Jim overhears the conversation and decides to run away to the free states, where he can make his way and eventually free his wife and child.

Holed up in a cabin on an island in the mighty Mississippi, Huckleberry manages to escape when his father returns to town to collect the ransom, feigning his own murder. Discovering the evidence when he returns to find his son missing, the blame is placed on Jim, who has also disappeared. Huckleberry's escape is nearly thwarted when he is bitten by a snake, but Jim comes to his rescue, and the two proceed down river in the hopes of reaching Cairo, Illinois.

Their journey will be filled with adventure along the way. While trying to avoid detection, and after Huckleberry dresses in drag then gets embroiled in a family feud, the pair run into a couple of hustlers (Harvey Korman and David Wayne) trying to pass themselves off as royalty. Teamed up with these two, more misadventures follow, as schemes are hatched, with Jim and Huck in the middle. Huck needs to keep his wits about him to get out of the predicaments he winds up in.

As an adventure, the film plays fairly well, although it is not as strong as the first film. It has a similar tone to the first film, and a few unsettling scenes which might make it unsuitable for younger viewers. The actors do a good job in their roles; West is charismatic as Huck, Winfield plays a sympathetic Jim, with Korman and Wayne being flamboyant and pretty over-the-top. As a musical, however, the film falls flat on its face. The numbers are mediocre, awkwardly placed, and the performances are unconvincing. Still, Huckleberry Finn is entertaining enough, harkening back to the tradition of the family film.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - P&S
Original Aspect Rationo

Image Transfer Review: The first thing to mention is that this scope film has been chopped down to 1.33:1 "to fit your TV"I wonder what the explanation is for all those who just bought 16x9 displays? Adding insult to injury is the fact that the opening and closing credits are in their correct aspect ratio, showing just how much of the image is missing. The cropping means that faces are often cut in half, or subjects are out of frame, and things feel cramped all around, without the magnificent spaciousness of the original production.

For what is left of the composition, the image quality is serviceable, however this is an overly dark transfer, with little in the way of shadow detail, which leaves many scenes as not much more than a sea of black. Colors are well saturated, the look is a little on the soft side, and there is a noticible amount of grain, and plenty of DVNR evidence as patterns wash over the screen. Print defects aren't abundant, but defects such as white dots show up on occasion.

Although this is passable, it is a far cry from the intended presentation in both framing and transfer quality.

Image Transfer Grade: C


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes

Audio Transfer Review: The stereo soundtrack is fairly clean, with no glaring defects. Dialogue is easy to understand, there is not much excess sibilance, and there is minimal distortion present. Frequency coverage is somewhat limited, which is not unexpected.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 16 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
Packaging: unmarked keepcase
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: The theatrical trailer is the only extra included. This too is cropped to 1.33:1.

Extras Grade: D+


Final Comments

Huckleberry Finn is a fun adventure film, if not up to the standards of its predecessor. I would love to be able to recommend this release, but the poor transfer quality and severe cropping just don't warrant a purchase in my opinion. I can only hope that Sony revisits this one in a proper presentation worthy of the film's older audience.


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