• Watership Down (Umbrella Entertainment) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Umbrella Entertainment
    Released on: March 6th, 2019.
    Director: Martin Rosen
    Cast: Denholm Elliott, John Hurt, Nigel Hawthorne, Richard Briers
    Year: 1978
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    Watership Down – Movie Review:

    Adapted from the novel of the same name by author Richard Adams, Martin Rosen’s Watership Down has remained a cult favorite since it was released in 1978. While it tends to be eclipsed by bigger animated fare (read: Disney and Pixar) in recent years, the movie holds up remarkably well and remains a surprisingly adult movie – which is surprising in that it’s a film geared towards younger audiences that revolves around a bunch of rabbits.

    The movie takes place in the Sandleford Warren where a young male rabbit named Fiver experiences a terrifying premonition of what will happen to his beloved home. He, along with his brother Hazel, try to convince the chief of their community that everyone needs to get out of the area as quickly as possible but their pleas fall on deaf ears and no one will listen to them.

    Knowing better than the rest, Fiver and Hazel decide to head out on their own. They manage to gather up a small, rag-tag group of rabbits to go with them but the majority of their clan stays back and fall victim to military destruction. Now completely on their own, the small group of rabbits have to figure out what to do with themselves while trying to evade larger animals who would eat them and humans who could care less if they live or die. Eventually they find a new home called Watership Down and all seems to be well at first until they find out that their new neighbors, the Efrafa who are led by the evil General Woundwart, would much rather get rid of them than throw a housewarming party for the new arrivals.

    As epic as they come, Watership Down is pretty heavy stuff. The film sets up its own interesting mythology before getting into the story proper and it’s interesting to see how this all plays together towards the end of the film. At times almost surreal, the picture uses animation wisely, allowing us to see things that would be very difficult, if not impossible, to actually film and we’re all the better for it. You might think it odd that a story that seems so simple on the surface can have such an impact so long after it was made but the cult following that has grown up around the film is there for a reason. This is a very smart, character driven story that is as interesting to absorb as it is beautiful to look at.

    One of those rare pictures where it all ‘comes together,’ Watership Down is an excellent blend of gorgeous animated visuals, talent performances from the cast of voice actors assembled to breathe life into the characters, and a genuinely interesting story. As mentioned, the film doesn’t get talked about as often today as it probably should and as such it’s an easy picture to forget about in many ways but once you’ve seen it, it’s certain to stick with you regardless of your age – anyone with an interest in genuinely good films will find much to appreciate here.
    Watership Down – Blu-ray Review:

    Umbrella Entertainment bring Watership Down to region free Blu-ray in an AVC encode 1080p high definition transfer that is framed at 1.78.1 widescreen on a 25GB disc. The transfer, which appears to be pretty much identical to the North American Blu-ray release from The Criterion Collection, is excellent. Detail is as strong as the original cell animation will allow for and the color reproduction is beautiful. Black levels look great and the transfer looks very much like film, showing a bit of natural grain but no real print damage to discuss.

    The only audio option offered on the disc is an English language DTS-HD 2.0 Mono mix. There are no alternate language or subtitle options of any kind provided. Audio quality is solid, with clean, clear dialogue and properly balanced levels. The track is free of any noticeable hiss or distortion.

    There are no extras on the disc at all.

    Watership Down – The Final Word:

    Watership Down holds up remarkably well thirty years since it was made. The animation still looks great and the story never fails to hold our interest or keep us emotionally involved. Umbrella Entertainment’s Blu-ray release is barebones, but it does look and sound very good indeed and the movie is excellent.

    Click on the images below for full sized Watership Down Blu-ray screen caps!