Svengali tells the tale of Dixie, aka Paul Dean (Jonny Owen), who dreams of coming to London and following in the footsteps of the likes of Brian Epstein and Alan McGee to manage a very successful band. Of course, not every band can be massively successful, which you can imagine he’s about to find out.
The band in question is The Premature Congratulations, fronted by Jake (Pramface‘s Dylan Edwards), and Dixie begins to dish out promos for the band on cassette, primarily for cost reasons, but he tells everyone it’s actually down to retro charm, thus giving the band some much-needed cachet.
Svengali is an enjoyable British comedy, but after watching the trailer, the finished film wasn’t as laugh-out-loud as I was hoping for. However, it is still worth a watch.
There is, however, too many characters packed into the 90-or-so-minute running time and they don’t all get a chance to make their mark, but there is a great cast including Martin Freeman, as Don the record shop owner, Line of Duty’s Vicky McClure as Dixie’s girlfriend Shell, Matt Berry as South African (I think!) record company boss Jeremy Braines, Morwenna Banks as competing record company boss Francine Hardy, there’s Alan McGee himself and the ever-reliable Michael Smiley as Irish Pierre, one of two heavies in the film. Yes, “Irish Pierre”. I would like to say it makes sense when you see the film, but it doesn’t really. But who cares, it’s Michael Smiley, one of the UK’s best actors who’s in everything but isn’t a household name everywhere.
There’s also a final performance from The Flying Pickets frontman Brian Hibbard as Dixie’s father, who sadly passed away in June 2012.
As an aside, when Dixie is getting on the train to go back to London from Wales, the time can clearly be seen on the electronic board as 11.02am. As the train pulls out, a different board shows a partially obscured time, but one which is clearly just after 10am.
The film is presented in its original 1.85:1 theatrical ratio and is crisp and sharp, looking at its best when filming bring sunny scenes on the streets of London, such as when Dixie arrives and is trying to convince Horsey that his new band at the best thing since sliced bread, as well as the scenes at Loch Lomand. For the record, I’m watching on a Panasonic 50″ Plasma screen with a Samsung BDP1500 player.
Audio-wise, this is mostly a dialogue-driven piece with music, so nothing special effects-like. There’s no issues with the audio, however, so all is good there.
There’s only one extra on this disc: The Making of Svengali (36:05), with chat from all the key crew, plus most cast members, and a look at how this film started off as a series of short scenes, or ‘virals’, which were shot and placed online to give a feeling of what they wanted to achieve if they were to turn it into a complete film.
There’s a look at the band, the set and the tertiary characters, so it’s a decent extra, it’s just a shame it’s the only one on the disc. For some interview snippets, the audio is a lot better in some of them than most, so I’m not quite sure why it’s so poor on the latter.
There are subtitles in oodles of languages (see below) but unfortunately a low 12 chapters, which a lot of distributors tend to go with.
Running time: 93 minutes
Studio: Universal Pictures
Released: April 7th 2014
Picture: 1080p High Definition
Sound: DTS HD Master Audio 5.1, DTS 5.1, Dolby Digital 5.1
Languages: English, French, German, Brazillian Portuguese, Latin American Spanish, Polish
Subtitles: English, French, German, Arabic, Brazillian Portuguese, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Greek, Icelandic, Latin American Spanish, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Swedish and Turkish
Disc Format: BD50
Director: John Hardwick
Producers: Jonny Owen, Martin Root, Rob Small and Victoria Wood
Screenplay: Jonny Owen
Music: Tristin Norwell
Dixie: Jonny Owen
Shell: Vicky McClure
Don: Martin Freeman
Jake: Dylan Edwards
Tommy: Michael Socha
Macca: Joel Fry
Jeremy Braines: Matt Berry
Angie: Maxine Peake
Pub Girl: Leila Wong
Francine Hardy: Morwenna Banks
Irish Pierre: Michael Smiley
Teddy: Eddie Webber
Natasha: Natasha O’Keeffe
Alice: Jessica Ellerby
Katya: Katy Brand
Dixie’s Dad: Brian Hibbard
Dixie’s Mum: Sharon Morgan
Foh Girl: Pearl Mackie
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.