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HORATIO HORNBLOWER
The New Adventures

Review by Chastity Campbell

Starring: Ioan Gruffudd, Robert Lindsay, Paul McGann
Director: Andrew Grieve
Audio: Dolby Digital Stereo
Video: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen Format
Studio: A&E
Features: See Review
Length: 200 Minutes
Release Date: December 11, 2003

“Yes, today has been everything I had hoped for…and I believe even your mother is enjoying herself.”

“Our mother, Horatio…”

“Umm, yes…yes, of course…our ehhmm...”

Film ****

The New Adventures of C.S. Forester’s Horatio Hornblower on DVD is one of the best box sets I’ve seen all year.  From stand out performances by Ioan Gruffudd, to beautiful photography, the continuation of this mans story is definitely a must see for everyone. 

Our new high seas journey begins with disk one of the box set titled Loyalty.  The year is 1803 and we find the dashing Captain Horatio is finding it hard to makes ends meet and takes to the gambling tables to provide for himself.  The tides are low, money is tight, and peacetime is not all it’s cracked up to be for the sailors in the British Royal Navy. 

Old acquaintances bring forth some new opportunities for romance, when the landlady’s daughter gets bitten by cupid’s arrow and sets her sights on Captain Hornblower. 

Love waits for no man, except when duty calls.  Horatio sets sail to do a little reconnaissance work in the French quarter, and ends up shanghaied at the hands of one of his crew.

Our hero’s not down for the count yet, and in true swashbuckling form, manages to free himself and his men, to help battle back the ruthless Frenchmen.

Disk two titled Duty, finds Horatio fulfilling his, by marrying the girl who loves him.  Her ship has come in according to her mother, and its Captain is a fine catch indeed.

The honeymoon has barely begun as Horatio’s orders arrive, and he’s on the road again.  Well, on the boat again, I should say!  

While on a mission to find a ship captained by an old friend, Horatio comes across two people caught in a storm.  Helping them turns out to be more than he bargained for as a power struggle begins that puts he and his ship right in the middle of troubled waters.

C.S. Forester’s writing is among some of the best ever in my opinion.  You can’t help but fall in love with each and every one of his characters.  You hurt when they hurt, you laugh when they laugh, and you cry when they do. 

Gruffudd’s performance as the shy yet capable Horatio is perfection.  He brings so much life to the character that it’s hard to believe his only reality up and until now was in the pages of a book. Which is a testament to the wonderful writing style of Forester and the obvious acting skills of Gruffudd.

What I like the most about these stories is you are given an in-depth look at the political interplay of being an Officer in the Royal Navy.  It’s fascinating to see just how much of a role politics play in the military.  It is true even in this modern era that politics plays a vital role in determining the way individual situations are handled during times of war and peace.

These DVDs are beautiful to watch.  Wide sweeping angles and amazing camera work put you right into the thick of the action.  The special effects are realistic and easy to lose yourself in.  A & E typically puts a lot of effort into anything they produce, but I must say they have outdone themselves this time around.

I highly recommend setting sail with Horatio on his new adventures, by grabbing your copy and letting it drop anchor in your DVD player’s port of call! 

Video ***

This two-disk set was from beginning to end, crisp and clean with very little dirt or graininess visible.

The reds, whites, and greens were vivid and fairly bursting off the screen.  The muted royal blues, and grays were still very much visible and not at all in contrast with the other colors throughout these two discs. 

You can see the attention to detail in the lighting and use of natural settings for each shot and camera angle.  Each individual scene stands out in its own way visually yet manages to fill the gap so that everything appears to flow seamlessly.

Audio ***

The Dolby Digital Stereo for these two DVDs is a shining example of where A&E excels with their projects.

The dialogue and sound effects blended seamlessly together to give these discs a realistic feel to them.   You feel like you are in the thick of the action as the cannons go off and rifles are fired!

There were only a few instances where the sound effects overwhelmed dialogue, but they’re slight and easily forgivable. 

Features **

A DVD with extra features…it’s a miracle!!  

The commentary with Director Andrew Grieve, Producer Andrew Benson, and Costume Designer John Mallo was refreshing to listen to.  You can learn so much more about a film than simply the story it tells by listening to the people behind it talk.

A section of cast and crew biographies, as well as a photo gallery and interactive menus, help to round out the features on these disks. 

Summary:

I don’t mean to be a Hornblower but someone needs to toot A&E’s horn for them.  They did a spectacular job with the continuation of this series on DVD.  Not only do you get another nice box set, you get movies worth watching over and over again.  If you’ve got the first box set then this is a must have.  If you haven’t discovered the wonderful world of Horatio, now’s your chance!