Watership Down (Blu-ray) (1978)
|Year Of Production||1978|
|RSDL / Flipper||No/No||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||2,4||Directed By||Martin Rosen|
Michael Graham Cox
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||English DTS HD Master Audio 2.0 mono|
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||1.78:1|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.85:1||Miscellaneous|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
A passion project for writer-director Martin Rosen, 1978's Watership Down is an adaptation of the treasured novel of the same name by Richard Adams, compressing the 413-page source into a streamlined 92-minute animated movie. At its core, this is a survivalist adventure picture with political undertones, and it's a genre classic that is most remembered for not being suitable for little kids. Indeed, do not let the cutesy rabbit characters or the PG rating fool you, as Watership Down is brutal and harrowing, the furthest thing imaginable from a classic Disney movie. It's a confident and remarkably realised anthropomorphic vision, bolstered by sumptuous animation and a roster of sublime actors who deliver the material with astute sincerity.
In a crowded, regimental warren near Sandleford in the United Kingdom, rabbit Fiver (Richard Briers) has an apocalyptic vision which convinces him that the entire burrow is in grave danger. Fiver and his brother Hazel (John Hurt) attempt to convince the chief rabbit (Ralph Richardson) to evacuate, but are fiercely ignored, with the chief announcing that nobody can leave the warren. Following a conflict, Fiver and Hazel, along with several other rabbits - including Bigwig (Michael Graham Cox) and Blackberry (Simon Cadell) - manage to escape, setting out in search of a new home. A perilous, uncertain road lies ahead of them, with the threat of death lurking around every corner in the form of rats, birds of prey, dogs, as well as humans, who wield firearms and set snare traps. The group is also in need of mates, while soldierly rabbits in another dictatorial warren represent further danger.
Beginning with a mythological prologue which outlines the rabbit species' genesis, a rich world buttresses Watership Down, with the animals living in constant fear of predators, as the fragility of their lives is continually underscored. The warren communities, meanwhile, are patriarchal and oppressive, enforced by de facto policemen and military types. The rabbits of this story are hard-bitten as a result of their difficult living conditions, and were not designed for maximum cuteness. In Rosen's hands, Watership Down is uncompromising and hard-edged, with a sense of danger permeating the story. No matter how cute the rabbits, they are killed off without sentimentality, reflecting the cruelty of nature in the real world. This is a violent movie despite its PG rating - there's Fiver's initial vision of a field running with blood, one of the rabbits almost dying in a snare, a fierce dog killing several rabbits, as well as a bloody final showdown - and some of the images here may even haunt adults, let alone children. Nevertheless, there is tact to the brutality, while a feeling of hope is tangible amid the film's confronting grimness. Additionally, humour does break up the callousness, particularly in the form of a black-headed seagull named Kehaar, voiced by the late great Zero Mostel in his final big screen performance.
Vividly brought to life with hand-drawn animation against stylised watercolour backgrounds, Watership Down carries a striking sense of picturesque beauty. The animation admittedly lacks immaculate fluidity, and the drawings may appear somewhat crude to 21st century moviegoers, however genuine love and care is evident in every frame of this animated gem. The rabbits, for instance, burst with personality, with the tiniest behavioural nuances enhancing the illusion. A superb original score (credited to Angela Morley and Malcolm Williamson) augments the sense of danger and tension, and the film additionally features the touching song "Bright Eyes" which was sung by Art Garfunkel. Watership Down further benefits from a cast of esteemed British actors, including Hurt as well as Denholm Elliott and Nigel Hawthorne, who infuse the material with honest-to-goodness gravitas. At times you might have trouble distinguishing the rabbits from one another, and the film is occasionally lethargic even though it was edited by the superlative Terry Rawlings (Alien, Blade Runner), but these are minor shortcomings.
Produced on a meagre budget, Watership Down is a timeless classic which still packs a punch in the 21st century, representing a rare type of animated film that is geared more towards adults than children. Involving and breathtaking, this is animation at a deeper level, tackling complex subject matter that lingers in the mind after viewing. In spite of the movie's violence, it is still a rewarding watch, even if it is easier to admire than conventionally enjoy. The novel was later adapted into both a television show and an animated miniseries.
|Surround Channel Use|
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
Compared to Criterion's Region A-locked Blu-ray, Umbrella's disc misses out on
|DVD||Sony UBP-X700 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Player, using HDMI output|
|Display||LG OLED65E6T. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 2160p.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.|
|Amplification||Samsung Series 7 HT-J7750W|
|Speakers||Samsung Tall Boy speakers, 7.1 set-up|