HTS Moderator , Reviewer
Title: The Sword in the Stone
HTS Overall Score:59.5
This has been a surprising month for Disney. Putting out 6 of its classic titles in one month is certainly groundbreaking for them. Now we only have a handful of other titles to be released before ALL of the Disney animated film are on Blu-ray. This last batch has been a bit hit or miss. “Robin Hood” turned out to be quite solid, while “Oliver and Company” ended up being a very mediocre release. “The Sword in the Stone” is one of my absolute favorite of the lesser known Disney titles, and I was ecstatic to see it finally hit blu and replace the worn out old DVD that they released a few years. While the film is just as fun as it ever was, the lackluster audio and painful video on this release led to some serious disappointment.
We all know the basic plotline of “The Sword in the Stone”. Uther Pendragon, benevolent King that he was, set a sword in a magical anvil and decreed that his successor would be the man who could pull that sword from the stone. For years, many a young hero tried and tried to pull that sword from the anvil, but the sword was waiting for JUST the right person.
Our hero, Arthur, is a young boy who was adopted by a Knight, Sir Ector by name. Sir Ector (Sebastian Cabot) himself was a kind hearted, but gruff man, giving young Arthur a home, and allowed Arthur to aspire to the role of squire to his own son, Kay (Norman Alden), a sniveling bully of a man. However, it looks like Arthur was destined for much more than being a simple squire. Merlin (Karl Swenson), the most powerful wizard in the land has taken a shine to young Arthur and takes it upon himself to teach the young boy a solid education in preparation for the future. As one can guess, Sir Ector doesn’t like the idea, but begrudgingly acquiesces when he realizes that a ticked off wizard is not someone to make an enemy of.
Here Merlin takes it upon himself to teach Arthur as much as about life as possible, in some rather unorthodox ways. Whether it be teaching math and history (and the future), or teaching him about life through someone else’s (or some THING) eyes, Merlin coaches to the boy to prepare himself for being greater than his own aspirations. All of this comes to a close when Arthur forgets Sir Kay’s sword at a tournament and he comes face to face with the anvil and the sword embedded therein. Here destiny takes over and Arthur is catapulted out of simplicity and into the throne of England.
“The Sword in the Stone” is a fun romp through memory lane, but it tends to be a bit hit or miss sometimes. The first act is great and the ending act is the conclusion that everyone is waiting for, but the middle of the film really feels like a filler act, with scene after scene of Arthur and Merlin going about as animals and having Arthur learn a lesson from the experience. The only real highlight of the second act is the introduction of the Madame Mim, the evil sorceress who has a bone to pick with Merlin. That section of the film is actually the best part of the whole movie. The contrast between Merlin and the gleefully psychotic Madame Mim creates one of the best action scenes of the whole film.
It’s a fun, goofy romp, and one that doesn’t take itself too seriously either. Covered in fantastic watercolor art it literally is alive with colors and hues blue, purples and red adorning the screen. I have some seriously fond memories of this film, despite it being rather simplistic, and I loved the film this time, every bit as much as I did in my youth, despite some of the serious technical flaws and choppy storytelling. This one is also one of Disney’s more “kid only” films, with very little depth for the adult to get into as with many of their other, greater films. “The Sword in the Stone” briefly touches on the Arthurian legends, but only in a superficial way and as a result the film feels just a bit flat at times. Through these flaws, it is still a wonderfully ENTERTAINING film and the scenes of wizardry and battle are probably some of the best in a Disney film.
Rated G for General Audiences
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=12450[/img]Oh…my…goodness. Disney has put out some questionable transfers (Fox and the Hound, Oliver and Company), but NEVER have I seen one look this bad. DNR has always been a staple of the Mouse House, but they’ve gone so overboard trying to scrub out film grain that it’s turned into a giant MESS. I popped in my old DVD of “The Sword and the Stone” to compare from back in the day and it’s night and day difference. The DVD is abounding in film grain and the Blu-ray is scrubbed as clean as “Predator Ultimate Hunter edition”. The textures and detail is all smeared out of existence. It’s especially noticeable when looking at the lines. Instead of the infamous “jaggies”, we’re subjected to whole lines being scrubbed out and long lines looking like the separated lines in the middle of the road, whole pieces vanishing and appearing at well. To make matters worse the DNR has given rise to some NASTY halos, ringing round just about everything. In some scenes it’s only so-so, but in other’s it’s just ABYSMAL. Now there ARE some good sides. Color representation is good, and contrasts seem to be a bit better than the DVD, but none of this can balance out just utterly poor the Blu-ray looks overall.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=12451[/img]The 5.1 DTS-HD MA audio track is definitely an improvement over the video quality, that’s for sure. While it’s definitely an upgrade to the DVD, it’s just obvious that it’s a mono track re-mixed for 5.1 Very much front heavy and with a narrow range it’s fairly simplistic mix is pleasant to the ears, but lacks any real “stand out” features. LFE is mild to the point of being non-existent and Surrounds are used extremely sparingly. The dialogue is nice and clean though, giving us a solid front sound stage that is balanced well against the ambient and musical backgrounds. Overall, it’s a good track, just nothing to get wildly excited about. It would have been nice if they had included the original monorail sound track as well for us purists, but the 5.1 track is purely satisfactory and gets the job done.
• Alternate Opening
• Music Magic: The Sherman Brothers
• All About Magic Excerpt
• Classic Animated Shorts
• Disney Sing-Along
A fun romp through memory lane, “The Sword in the Stone” will always remain one of my favorite of the lesser known classics. Adventurous and silly, it appeals to all of those who’ve ever been picked on and thought at one time or another that they wouldn’t amount to anything. A goofy re-telling of the famed King Arthur legend its simplicity is its strength. If only this release hadn’t been plagued with one of the worst Disney transfers I’ve ever seen I would recommend at least a watch… this is so flawed that I would hesitate to say anything but “rent” this one. Hardcore Disney fans will want to add it to their collections, but I would SERIOUSLY consider a rental before shelling out the dough for this one.
Starring: Karl Swensen, Rickie Sorensen, Junias Matthews, Richard Reitherman, Robert Reitherman
Directed by: Wolfgang Reitherman
Written by: Bill Peet
Aspect Ratio: 1.75:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 5.1, French DTS-HR 5.1, Spanish DD 5.1, Portuguese, Russian, English DD 2.0
Studio: Disney/Buena Vista
Runtime: 80 minutes
Blu-Ray Release Date: August 6th, 2013
Buy The Sword in the Stone Blu-ray on Amazon
Recommendation: Rent it
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