Anchor Bay // 1974 // 91 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Norman Short (Retired) // December 11th, 2000
Small town, new vet.
Renown storyteller and author James Herriot wrote a memoir of his young life as a veterinarian in Yorkshire in the 1930s. The book has been turned into film at least twice; but the best was the 1974 version starring Simon Ward and Anthony Hopkins. This quaint little tale of a man gaining the trust of people of a small rural area is a nice diversion from the cares of the modern day. Anchor Bay has hardly done the film justice, however, with a pan & scan transfer and only a trailer for extras.
Authentic is the word that comes to mind most when I see this film. The people seem as real as any you have met, particularly if you've ever lived in a rural area or a small town. The people take time to trust a new person, especially one who handles the health of their livestock and pets. Anthony Hopkins plays the odd Dr. Farnon, who hires young Herriot as an assistant. He becomes part of the family and the town, though not without a lot of trouble from those who would rather Farnon confirm any decision the new vet makes about their animals. He also meets and falls for Helen Alderson, a young lady in town who seems a bit too sophisticated for the setting, but isn't afraid to get her hands dirty.
The film isn't really about anything; it just meanders along. But the series of moments that make up the film are charming and real. It is easy to feel for the young Herriot, and to put yourself into his shoes. Ward portrays the earnest young man wonderfully, and Anthony Hopkins needs no fanfare touting his acting ability. His performance as the eccentric but caring veterinarian is moving. He is a bit of a curmudgeon who changes his mind all the time, but he is still likable.
There is nothing to complain about with the film. It doesn't try to be more than a small slice of life, but it accomplishes its modest goals admirably. Unfortunately the same cannot be said for the treatment on DVD from Anchor Bay. This studio is known for giving anamorphic transfers to small films nobody has ever heard of, but here we get a pan & scan transfer. It is a shame that so much of the lovely Yorkshire countryside had to be chopped out. For a chopped picture the quality is fine, with well saturated colors and a decent level of detail. The sound is nothing to write home about, since the Dolby surround acts much more like the original mono, but is clear and you can understand the dialogue. Only a trailer is offered for extras, and again no subtitles for the hard of hearing community, which is a terrible lack Anchor Bay still has not fixed.
Spend an evening enjoying a quiet, quaint little film and you will probably have a smile on your face when you're done. If not at least you'll have forgotten your cares for awhile. This would make a good rental but I wouldn't recommend purchase of a barebones disc done in pan & scan.
This film makes for a nice diversion and is fine for the entire family. It is acquitted without a seconds hesitation. Anchor Bay is fined for the lack of subtitles, extras, and for sticking us with a pan & scan transfer.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Anchor Bay
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
Running Time: 91 Minutes
Release Year: 1974
MPAA Rating: Not Rated