Caprino's Anniversary Box

6 out of 6

Without a doubt the best and most important DVD Xmas gift.

Generations of Norwegians have been spellbound by Ivo Caprino films such as Karius and Baktus, The Fox's Widow and Ashlad and his Good Helpers. I saw them in the late 1970s, and even then the film copies were old and worn. These highlights of Caprino's film production have finally been compiled in remastered versions on four DVDs, available to purchase individually or as a boxed set entitled Caprino's Anniversary Box. The result is nothing short of brilliant!

Caprino's puppet films are firmly rooted in the Norwegian fairytale tradition and are steeped in national romanticism of the feel-good variety. I have already mentioned three great titles. The compilation also contains classics such as The Seventh Master of the House, The Ashlad and the Hungry Troll, and not least, the crowning work, Pinchcliffe Grand Prix. The films are full of legendary characters, all of whom are an important part of Norwegian cinematic folklore. All four DVDs feature an extra disk containing a wealth of bonus material, including fascinating archival footage from the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation, and many of Caprino's publicity films.

It is a pure pleasure to see the films contained in Caprino's Anniversary Box restored to a quality I wouldn't have imagined possible. Having watched them for years with lines, blotches, washed-out colour and rather fuzzy focus, it is almost absurdly delightful to view them in perfect condition, with excellent colour depth, focus and a level of detail I have never seen before. Karius and Baktus, for example, looks like it was shot yesterday. Well, the day before yesterday anyway!

All the films are presented in 16:9 format. Purists may well take umbrage at that, since the originals were shot in 4:3 format. But I would say this was definitely the right decision. 16:9 is the future. These films would probably be less appealing to future generations in the old-fashioned 4:3 format. Besides which, the adaptation of the films for widescreen format has been done very discerningly. Only occasionally did I spot that the top or bottom had been cut, or that the camera was sweeping up or down like it perhaps didn't before. But against that, although some scenes have been widened digitally, even my well-trained eye was incapable of spotting these.

The sound has also been Dolby 5.1-remastered in Norwegian, Swedish, Danish, Finnish and English language versions. And they didn't just make do with adding the odd boom here and there. They've done nothing less than remix the soundtrack to provide a more effective surround sound experience. The purists can select the original monotrack if they prefer, but I'll go for 5.1 instead of mono any day! Just have a listen to the amazingly cool soundtrack on Pinchcliffe Grand Prix! The car race "amazingly enough" is still one of the best in movie-making history. And it now sounds that way too!

It is pretty rare that I don't find some drawback to a new DVD release. But in this case all the details look like they were designed with superior quality in mind, including the packaging and the menu system. The films are beautifully remastered, and preserved for posterity. And my three-year-old son is proof that the magic lives on. He sat bolt upright through several of the films, just as I once did. Caprino's Anniversary Box is without a doubt this year's best and most important DVD Xmas gift.

By Birger Vestmo, Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation, P3
Published on the Web by Karen Moe Møllerop, P3's Web Editors
Published 24.11.2005 15:14