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A cinematic retelling of the fabled British political satire comic opera set in exotic Japan.
For more about The Mikado and the The Mikado Blu-ray release, see the The Mikado Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on February 27, 2011 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Kenny Baker, John Barclay, Jean Colin
Director: Victor Schertzinger
» See full cast & crew
The Mikado Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, February 27, 2011
Nominated for Oscar for Best Cinematography, Victor Schertzinger's "The Mikado" (1939) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Criterion. The supplemental features on the disc include an exclusive video interview with award-winning director Mike Leigh; 1926 D'Oyly Carte Promo; discussion with professors Josephine Lee and Palph MacPhail Jr.; deleted scenes; and audio excerpts from "The Swing Mikado" and "The Hot Mikado". The disc also arrives with a an illustrated booklet containing an essay by critic Geoffrey O'Brien. In English, with optional English SDH subtitles for the main feature. Region-A "locked".
Victor Schertzinger's adaption of W. S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan's beloved The Mikado has a slightly more universal tone, but at its core remains a terrific piece of satire aiming at various British social and political practices. Technically, the film preserves various elements from the classic early D'Oyly Carte productions, but it also treats some of the original material differently.
Many years ago, Japan. Nanki-Poo (Kenny Baker, Hit Parade of 1941), son of the Mikado, has fled his father to avoid marrying Katisha (Constance Willis), a much older than him and not terribly attractive lady. Disguised as a minstrel, he arrives in the town of Titipu, where Ko-ko (Martyn Green, A Lovely Way to Die), a cheap tailor recently appointed Lord High Executioner, has received a letter from the Mikado urging him to execute someone as soon as possible if he wishes to retain his lucrative post.
Nanki-Poo has fallen in love with the beautiful Yum-Yum (Jean Colin, Laugh It Off), but Ko-ko also wants her for himself. Realizing how miserable his existence would be without Yum-Yum, Nanki-Poo decides to end his life. But Ko-ko meets Nanki-Poo and proposes a deal that would work for both of them: He would let Nanki-Poo marry Yum-Yum for a month if, at the end of it, when the Mikado arrives, he agrees to let him have his head.
Though set in Japan, The Mikado is a strictly British affair. The various expressions and mannerisms in the film, for example, are next to impossible to link to Japanese culture and social etiquette. More importantly, within the context of the story the main characters' strengths and weaknesses are determined from a strictly British point of view.
For the most part Schertzinger's film recreates the charm of Gilbert and Sullivan's opera quite well. The satirical overtones remain lighthearted and humorous and the majority of the hilarious gags are successfully redone. However, selected solos and group numbers have been omitted, and their absence is certainly felt.
The set decors and period costumes is where Schertzinger's film breaks free and effectively distinguishes itself as a film. As director Mike Leigh mentions in one of the supplemental features on this Blu-ray disc, its updated style tends to offset the classic darker subthemes in The Mikado, which have to do with suicide, torture, and death. Naturally, the overall tone of this new Mikado is a lot lighter and more optimistic.
With the exception of American actor Kenny Baker, who played Nanki-Poo, the cast is entirely British, with most of the principal actors also being D'Oyly Carte regulars. This rather unique mix is often cited as the film's greatest weakness, as admittedly the cast's interpretations of various relationships and even characters (Katisha) are not well synchronized.
Ultimately, however, this is a stylish, spirited, and genuinely entertaining adaptation of Gilbert and Sullivan's The Mikado that should appeal to a wide variety of viewers.
Note: In 1940, The Mikado was nominated for Oscar for Best Cinematography (William V. Skall).
The Mikado Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.34:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, Victor Schertzinger's The Mikado arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Criterion.
The following text appears inside the booklet provided with this Blu-ray disc:
"This new high-definition digital transfer was created on a Spirit Datacine from a 35mm interpositive. Thousands of instances of dirt, debris, scratches, splices, warps, jitter, and flicker were manually removed using MTI's DRS system and Pixel Farm's PFClean system, while Digital Vision's DVNR system was used for small dirt, grain, and noise reduction.
Telecine supervisor: Lee Kline.
Telecine colorist: Martin Southworth/Rushes, London."
Time has left its mark on The Mikado. While this newly remastered digital transfer brings back to life a lot of the film's natural depth and colors, some limitations remain. Generally speaking, detail is pleasing - now the elaborate costumes and rich decors are a lot easier to appreciate. Clarity is also dramatically improved, particularly during close-ups. Some of the wider shots, however, convey softness around the edges. Additionally, I saw traces of minor noise corrections. Light grain, however, is present throughout the entire film. The color reproduction is also the best I have ever seen. There are various minor color pulsations, as well as subtle color shifting (occasionally the light Technicolor reds and greens overlap), but overall the color-scheme is indeed very pleasing. Finally, a thorough cleanup has obviously been performed, as there are absolutely no large debris, scratches, or damage marks to report in this review. (Note: This is a Region-A "locked" Blu-ray disc. Therefore, you must have a native Region-A or Region-Free PS3 or SA in order to access its content).
The Mikado Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There is only one audio track on this Blu-ray disc: English LPCM 1.0. For the record, Criterion have provided optional English SDH subtitles for the main feature.
The following text appears inside the booklet provided with this Blu-ray disc:
"The monaural soundtrack was remastered at 24-bit from the original optical tracks. Clicks, thumps, hiss, and hum were manually removed using Pro Tools HD. Crackle was attenuated using AudioCube's integrated workstation.".
There are various improvements in the audio department as well. The overwhelming majority of them have to do with stability and density - the sound is fuller and stronger, and there are no disturbing distortions. Generally speaking, the dialog is crisp and very easy to follow. I also did not detect any disturbing pops, cracks, or heavy background hiss to report in this review.
The Mikado Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The Mikado Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Though looking slightly dated these days, Victor Schertzinger's The Mikado is still a remarkably witty and genuinely entertaining film. I actually prefer it over various stage productions of Gilbert and Sullivan's opera that I have seen during the years. As expected, Criterion's treatment of the film is very good. Their Blu-ray release also contains a particularly good new video interview with award-winning director Mike Leigh. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
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The Mikado Blu-ray Screenshots
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