Dom Robinson reviews

Wilde“We are all in the gutter,
but some of us are looking at the stars.”
Distributed by


    • Cat.no: 056 432 2
    • Cert: 15
    • Running time: 112 minutes
    • Year: 1997
    • Pressing: 1999
    • Region(s): 2 (UK PAL)
    • Chapters: 18 plus extras
    • Sound: Dolby Digital 5.1
    • Languages: English
    • Subtitles: English
    • Widescreen: 2.35:1
    • 16:9-enhanced: No
    • Macrovision: Yes
    • Disc Format: DVD 5
    • Price: £17.99
    • Extras : Scene index, Featurette: “Simply Wilde”.


      Brian Gilbert

    (Tom and Viv)


    Marc and Peter Samuelson


    Julian Mitchell

(based on “Oscar Wilde” written by Richard Ellmann)


    Debbie Wiseman

(The Clampers – yes, the docusoap !)


    Oscar Wilde: Stephen Fry (A Civil Action, Peter’s Friends, Spiceworld: The Movie, TV: Black Adder, A Bit of Fry and Laurie, Jeeves and Wooster, The Thin Blue Line)
    Lord Alfred (Bosie) Douglas: Jude Law (The Final Cut, Gattaca, Midnight In The Garden Of Good And Evil, Shopping, The Wisdom Of Crocodiles, TV: “Children’s Ward”)
    Speranza, Wilde’s Mother: Vanessa Redgrave (Camelot, Deep Impact, The Devils, Howard’s End)
    Constance Lloyd: Jennifer Ehle (Bedrooms and Hallways, Paradise Road, This Year’s Love, TV: The Camomile Lawn, Melissa, Pride and Prejudice, Young Indiana Jones Chronicles)
    Ada: Zoe Wanamaker (TV: Dance to the Music of Time, Inspector Morse, Love Hurts, Othello, Prime Suspect)
    Marquess of Queensberry: Tom Wilkinson (The Full Monty, Priest, Rush Hour, Sense and Sensibility, TV: Martin Chuzzlewit, Prime Suspect)
    John Gray: Ioan Gruffudd (TV: Great Expectations, Hornblower)

Wildeplaces Stephen Fry in the title role as the man who in 1883 returned to Londonfrom America full of talent, passion and himself. A master of wit and repartee he isrespected by all in society. His professional and personal life is expected to soar ashe mixes in all the right circles, marries Constance Lloyd (Jennifer Ehle) andhas two sons.

If Oscar Wilde has a failing though, it’s his tendancy to have affairs – with men;relationships that are more acceptable in today’s society but were definitely frownedupon in the Victoria era. Having confronted his homosexual feelings which began from whenhe was at private school, particularly when he takes up with a young man affectionatelyknown to his friends as “Bosie” (Jude Law), it seeks to have serious repercussionson everything in life he’s built so far and threatens to destroy himself and his family.

This is the sort of part that Stephen Fry excels in. Apart from making himself sound poshto play an upper-class Irishman (albeit not sounding in the least bit Irish), he toois clever when it comes to word-play so it often looks like Fry’s just being himself.Jude Law is a versatile actor who takes to his part well, playing on his boyish looksin a bid to melt Wilde’s heart.

Have Universal stopped releasing anamorphic DVDs ? While many early Universal releaseswere brought out with an anamorphic widescreen picture, during the times when they werestill known as Polygram, this one is not, so the brilliant set-design and locationslose their sheen after zooming in on a widescreen TV and sacrificing picture resolution.No artifacts make themselves known though so that’s one plus.

The average bitrate is a fairly low 4.33Mb/s, briefly peaking just over 8Mb/s andthe film is presented in its original widescreen ratio of 2.35:1. According to the backcover it indicates a “full frame” 4:3 version is also included on the disc but it isn’t.Such claims made by Columbia TriStar’s Stepmom led to that disc being recalled as itwas emblazoned on the front, so how come the VPRC (Video Packaging Review Committee) missedit ?

The sound is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 and English only. The score is fine but typicalof that made for a period film and I have no complaints with the ambience, butthe dialogue sounds a little stilted in a couple of parts – when Wilde chatswith Bosie’s father (Tom Wilkinson) and later on after Wilde has appearedin court for the first time. None of the sound will have the neighbours beatingdown your door whatever the volume its played at though.

Extras : Chapters :18 chapters – the usual amount for Universal DVDs, from a company previously known asPolygram, but a few more wouldn’t go amiss. There is no theatrical trailer. Languages & Subtitles :English in Dolby Digital 5.1 and subtitles in the same language for the deaf and hard of hearingare the only such options on this disc. Featurette :“Simply Wilde” is a 24-minute featurette about the film including chat from cast andcrew including, of course, the film’s lead actor Stephen Fry. It is also subtitled and hasfour chapters breaking the running time up, unlike
12 Monkeyswhich is chapterless even though it runs for nearly 90 minutes. Menu :A simple, static shot of Stephen Fry from the DVD’s front cover with options tostart the film, select a scene, toggle the subtitles on/off or watch the featurette.

Overall :When it comes down to it, not everyone is a fan of period dramas where all the females weartight-fitting corsets and children call their Dad “Pa-paaaaa”. Add to this apredominantly gay storyline and it reduces the audience further, but those who buy into”Wilde’s World” may well enjoy it.

As far as I know, there isn’t a Region 1 release out yet, so if you want to see this filmwith the best picture possible and a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack, this disc is for you.FILM : **PICTURE QUALITY : ****SOUND QUALITY: ***EXTRAS: *——————————-OVERALL: **½

Review copyright © Dominic Robinson, 1999.

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