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Anchor Bay presents

Ring Of Bright Water (1969)

"In that moment I realized for the first time how deeply I was involved. I hadn't just bought an otter, I'd taken a step that would change the whole course of my life."- Graham Merrill (Bill Travers)

Stars: Bill Travers, Virginia McKenna, Mij the Otter, Johnny the Dog
Other Stars: Peter Jeffrey, Jameson Clark, Helena Gloag, W.D. Joss, Roddy McMillan, Jean Taylor Smith
Director: Jack Couffer

Manufacturer: Crest National
MPAA Rating: GRun Time: 01h:46m:41s
Release Date: 2000-11-14
Genre: family

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
A- AA-A- D+


DVD Review

Released in 1969, Jack Couffer's Ring Of Bright Water reunited the stars that had led the 1966 hit film, Born Free. Based on the novel by Gavin Maxwell, with the screenplay written by Couffer and star Bill Travers, Ring Of Bright Water is a funny yet sentimental film about a man whose life is completely changed when he takes in an otter as a pet.

Graham Merrill (Bill Travers) is an office worker in London, who finds his job mundane and unrewarding. After winning a fish in a pub raffle, he accidentally drops it in front of a pet store, where a lone Otter is displayed in the window. As the days go by, Merrill forms a bond with the creature, and when he overhears two circus people planning to use the otter in their show, he buys the animal and brings him home to his London flat, and names him Mij, after an Arab he had known. Mij proceeds to create chaos in the apartment, climbing up on everything, and generally causing mayhem, including forcing some new sleeping arrangements for the owner and his pet. Although restructuring the apartment to be more otter-friendly works as a temporary measure, the landlady insists the animal must go, and when Merrill can't resign himself to giving the creature to the zoo, he instead quits his job and buys a cottage in the Scottish highlands, sight unseen, packs up his furry friend and heads for the hills, aspiring to become an author. While the cottage is not exactly as advertised, its seaside location affords an ideal location for the pair, and Mij soon adjusts to life here, swimming in the local burm pool, and playing with Merrill on the beaches. On a trip into town, Merrill meets Mary MacKenzie (Virginia McKenna), the town physician, and a fellow animal lover. Soon, Mary and Graham are spending time together, as are Mij and Mary's Springier Spaniel, Johnny. Life with the otter has its ups and downs, as food becomes scarce, Graham and Mary have to find innovative means to support the otter. The adventures continue as Graham also inherits a flock of swans, but when Mij goes missing one day, Graham has to question the new life he has chosen.

Ring Of Bright Water was the follow up to Couffer's 1961 directorial debut, Nikki, Wild Dog Of The North, and he would be no stranger to animal films during his career, going on to work as cinematographer on The Legend Of Lobo, and the screen adaptation of Richard Bach's Jonathan Livingston Seagull, plus acting as cinematographer and director on the Born Free sequel Living Free. While not a comedy, Ring Of Bright Water is full of hilarious moments as we see the otter up to its shenanigans. The interplay between Travers, MacKenzie and Mij is wonderful, as is the relationship between the dog Johnny and the otter, who are supposed to be natural enemies. The film also has its serious moments as well, as the life cycle and consequences of having such an odd pet become clearer. The addition of some Gaelic dialogue sequences add authenticity to the location. The story is heartwarming, and sentimental types should keep a hanky handy. A little slower than some similar, later films, but still a good film suitable for the whole family.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: A


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.66:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Presented in windowboxed 1.66:1 in an anamorphic transfer, the image for the most part is very good. A few scenes show minor print defects and excess grain, but the remainder is very well rendered, with visible though realistic fine grain apparent. Colors are vibrant, yet do have the earthy tone of films of this vintage. The image is sharp, yet does have visible edge enhancement in parts that I could have done without.

Image Transfer Grade: A-

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access

Audio Transfer Review: Audio is two-channel mono, which for the most part is clear and distortion free. Only a couple of heavily scored areas exhibit any shortcomings.

Audio Transfer Grade: A- 

Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 21 cues and remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
Packaging: Alpha
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: The film's theatrical trailer is the only on disc extra, and its quality shows how much work was done on the feature image to get it to where it is. The enclosed booklet has a short essay on the film's two animal stars.

Extras Grade: D+

Final Comments

A fun, yet moving film. The antics of Mij the otter will entertain all, and the escapades of a man sharing accomodation with the creature and all its ups and downs is certainly worth seeing. Parents may want to prescreen chapter 12 which features the carving of a basking shark, before presenting the film to their children. Other than that, I'd recommend Ring Of Bright Water as a slightly more serious animal film than Disney would present.

Jeff Ulmer 2000-11-18