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With their works being over a century old and in a style of musical theater that really isnít geared towards todayís masses, is it any wonder many people are unfamiliar with the works of Gilbert and Sullivan. While Iíve always wanted to see at least one Gilbert and Sullivan opera, my personal experience with their works has been limited to the songs that have crept their way into television shows like THE SIMPSONS, FRASIER and STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION. Well, this brings me to TOPSY-TURVY ($25), an enchanting film that takes a slice out of the careers of Gilbert and Sullivan and brings it to cinematic life. TOPSY-TURVY tells the story of the creation of THE MIKADO, one of Gilbert and Sullivan greatest works, which came at a point in their careers when the musical duo was on the verge of ending their partnership.

As TOPSY-TURVY opens, Sir Arthur Sullivan (Allan Corduner) has grown tired of the writing music for William Gilbertís (Jim Broadbent) whimsical "topsy-turvy" librettos, which he feels have become repetitive. Wanting to compose a grand opera, Sullivan rejects the latest libretto sent to him by Gilbert, citing that it is too similar to their previous works. Insulted, Gilbert is unwilling to write another book for the new opera, which the team has been contracted to create for the Savoy Theater. The situation results in a stalemate that would appear to be the end of Gilbert and Sullivanís musical collaborations, that is, until Gilbert attends a Japanese cultural festival that inspires him to write the story of THE MIKADO. Sullivan is intrigued by Gilbertís original story, which also presents him with the opportunity to broaden his musical horizons. While TOPSY-TURVY is primarily concerned with the production of THE MIKADO, the film isnít solely centered on Gilbert and Sullivanís collaborative efforts. TOPSY-TURVY also spends the rehearsal period with many of the other personalities engaged at the Savoy Theater. In addition to the marvelous performances of Corduner and Broadbent, TOPSY-TURVY also features fine support from Timothy Spall, Lesley Manville, Ron Cook, Wendy Nottingham, Kevin McKidd, Shirley Henderson, Dorothy Atkinson, Martin Savage and Eleanor David.

USA Home Entertainment has done a splendid job with their DVD edition of TOPSY-TURVY. TOPSY-TURVY is framed at 1.85:1 and the DVD has been enhanced for playback on 16:9 displays. This is a truly beautiful looking movie and the DVD presentation does full justice to the superb cinematography and production design. The period settings and costumes look spectacular, thanks to the crisp detailed image that the DVD provides. Flesh tones appear healthy, plus the rest of the warm, glowing hues of the filmís pallet are produced with maximum fidelity. Neither chroma noise nor smearing affected color reproduction in any way. Blacks are nicely reproduced and the picture delivers a fine level of shadow detail. TOPSY-TURVY runs 161 minutes and the film has been very cleanly authored across two layers with no traces of digital compression artifacts.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 channel soundtrack has a very nice mix that maintains the period atmosphere with its subtlety. Surround information never overwhelms, which keeps everything quite natural sounding. Sound effects are deployed modestly, even in the forward soundstage. Dialogue reproduction is always crisp and accurate. Of course, the highlights of the soundtrack are the Gilbert and Sullivan musical numbers, which sound absolutely marvelous. The music is quite lush sounding, taking advantage of the full frequency range. Bass reproduction is limited to enhancing the music, but that is all that the track requires. An English Dolby Surround soundtrack is also encoded onto the DVD, as are English, French and Spanish subtitles.

The interactive menus have a nice interface that includes full motion video, animation and music. Through the menus one has access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as a few extras. As supplement the DVD includes a making-of featurette, a theatrical trailer, TV spots, notes about Gilbert and Sullivan, plus cast biographies/filmographies.

TOPSY-TURVY is quite an enjoyable film, that serves as a good introduction to music of Gilbert and Sullivan. The taste of Gilbert and Sullivan that the movie provides made this reviewer wish that full productions of their operas were available on DVD in full 5.1 channel sound. However, until then, Iíll be revisiting TOPSY-TURVY.




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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