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As best as I can remember it, Walt Disney's 101 DALMATIANS ($40) was the first movie that I saw in a movie theater as a very young child. I was far too young to remember any thing about the plot, other than there were a lot of dogs in the movie. However, from that experience, I do have vivid memories of the colors, the sounds and a very nasty lady named Cruella De Vil who did a whole lot of shouting. I have since seen the animated 101 DALMATIANS quite a few times and have certainly taken pleasure from finally being able to understand what I experienced during that early childhood experience.

Set in London, the plot of 101 DALMATIANS centers on two Dalmatians named Pongo and Perdita who conveniently arrange a courtship between their human "pets" Roger and Anita. The four soon find themselves "married" and living together in a small London home, with Perdita expecting a litter of puppies. Unfortunately, Anita's fur loving friend Cruella De Vil expresses an interest in purchasing the puppies. The idea doesn't sit well with anyone, and her offer is flatly rejected. When the joyous day finally arrives, Pongo and Perdita find themselves with a brood of 15 puppies. After a few weeks, the Dalmatian puppies mature to the point where they begin showing their spots and pick up the bad habit of watching television. One evening, while everyone is off for a walk in the park, Cruella's two bumbling henchmen make off Pongo and Perdita's offspring- as well as every other Dalmatian puppy in the city of London. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out what Cruella plans to do with the 99 Dalmatian puppies that she has hidden away in her country home. With the humans unable to pick up the scent, it falls to Pongo and Perdita to rescue the puppies from Cruella's clutches. 101 DALMATIANS is filled with wonderful canine characters, as well as a funny feline and an equine that packs a real kick. The human characters take a back seat in the story, except for Cruella De Vil and two numbskull henchmen Horace and Jasper, who are the butt of many jokes. 101 DALMATIANS features the vocal talents of Rod Taylor, Betty Lou Gerson, Cate Bauer, Lisa Daniels, Ben Wright, Frederick Worlock, Lisa Davis, Martha Wentworth, J. Pat O'Malley, Tudor Owen, Tom Conway, George Pelling, Thurl Ravenscroft, David Frankham and Ramsay Hill.

Walt Disney Home Video has made 101 DALMATIANS available in a full screen presentation that is reportedly the film's proper aspect ratio. I can't imagine a 1961 film being made in the 1.33:1 aspect ratio, but after having viewed this presentation, nothing appears to be missing from the sides of the frame. Then again, judging from the simplistic animation style deployed in 101 DALMATIANS, maybe the folks at Disney went for that 1.33:1 aspect ratio for its simplicity. The THX certified transfer is first rate, delivering a sharp and clean image that makes the animation pop right off the screen. Colors are very strong and very stable. There are no instances of chroma noise or bleeding, even within the hottest reds. This is as good as 101 DALMATIANS can look under NTSC. Digital compression artifacts are well concealed, with no adverse effects to image quality.

The Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack does decode to standard surround, but being a 1961 monaural film, 101 DALMATIANS isn't a title one would use to show off their sound system. Pleasant and undistorted are about the best ways to describe the sound. The music has some bounce in Dolby Surround, but the rest of the track is pretty much limited by the original recordings. Dialogue is always clear and intelligible. However, too much amplification has a tendency to reveal a mild hiss in places, so be judicious. French and Spanish language tracks are also encoded onto the DVD, as are English subtitles. The interactive menus are very basic, providing the requisite scene selection and set up features. A re-release trailer is the DVD's only supplement.

I am a fan of 101 DALMATIANS and this DVD offers the best looking presentation of the film one will ever see under the NTSC format. As for the $39.98 price tag, I have to side with everyone else and say that it is excessive for a nearly featureless DVD.


101 Dalmatians (1961)


DVD reviews are Copyright 1999 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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