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DOCTOR DOLITTLE

One of my earliest childhood memories is that of going to the movies to see DOCTOR DOLITTLE ($30). As a wee lad of three, I was immediately taken with the notion of being able to "talk to the animals" and the film always remained a childhood favorite. Revisiting DOCTOR DOLITTLE as an adult, my fondness for the film remained and I have newfound appreciation for the film’s superior production qualities as well. Based upon the tales by Hugh Lofting, DOCTOR DOLITTLE tells the story of the title character, a Victorian era physician who finds he has more in common with animals than his human patients. With the aid of a two hundred year old parrot named Polynesia, Dr. Dolittle (Rex Harrison) learns how to converse with the various animal species and thus changes his practice to that veterinary medicine.

While the doctor’s ministrations have earned him the admiration of every local animal, the doctor has greater aspirations than that of being just a local vet, so he decides to go in search of the legendary giant pink sea snail. Rex Harrison gives a fine performance as Dr. Dolittle, although some may find the role a little too similar to that of Professor Henry Higgins to give Harrison credit for his characterization. DOCTOR DOLITTLE also features Samantha Eggar as Emma Fairfax, a beautiful and independent young woman, who has a mild romantic interest in Dolittle. Anthony Newley portrays the doctor’s only human friend Matthew Mugg and William Dix is the young Tommy Stubbins, who is immediately fascinated by Dolittle’s ability to talk to the animals. Richard Attenborough practically steal the movie with his brief turn as Albert Blossom, the circus proprietor, with whom the doctor partners to raise the funds for his expedition. Geoffrey Holder is in fine form as Willie Shakespeare, the leader of a very sophisticated island society and Peter Bull provides the right level of bluster to the role of General Bellowes, the film’s only real antagonist. DOCTOR DOLITTLE also features delightful songs by Leslie Bricusse, including the Academy Award winning Talk To The Animals.

20th Century Fox Home Entertainment has done an absolutely wonderful job of transcribing DOCTOR DOLITTLE to DVD. The stunning wide screen transfer presents DOCTOR DOLITTLE in its proper 2.35:1 aspect ratio and the presentation has been enhanced for playback on 16:9 displays. Signs of age are virtually non-existent, which left me amazed by the cleanness and clarity of the transfer. The image is also quite sharp and displays a marvelous level of detail. Rich, vibrant hues make me question if the film’s colors have ever looked as good as they do on this DVD. Lush greens and earthen hues truly stand out; as do the film’s reds and even some of the pastels look quite very impressive. Flesh tones have a healthy glow and don’t appear overly made up. Blacks are very accurate and the picture displays good shadow detail for a film of this vintage. Although the movie runs 151 minutes, there are no sings of compression artifacts on this smoothly authored dual layer DVD.

The Dolby Digital 4.0 channel soundtrack decidedly favors the film’s music. Surround information is decidedly absent, except for a tiny bit of musical fill. The forward soundstage is lively during musical numbers and the fidelity is rather good for recordings that are over thirty years old. Of course, the bottom end is somewhat abbreviated, but the music is never harsh or distorted. Dialogue reproduction is very good, with the actor’s voices maintaining full intelligibility. English stereo surround and French monaural soundtracks have also been encoded onto the DVD, as have English and Spanish subtitles.

A bit of music has been added to the basic interactive menus, which provide access to the standard scene selection and set up feature, plus a theatrical trailer.

20th Century Fox Home Entertainment has done a truly fine job with their presentation of DOCTOR DOLITTLE. If you had a fondness for this movie, as I do, you can’t possibly go wrong with the DVD.

 
DOCTOR DOLITTLE 


Doctor Dolittle

ENHANCED FOR 16:9 TELEVISIONS 

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DVD reviews are Copyright © 2000 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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