Hats off to Judge Dan Mancini!
Our reviews of The Madeline Movie: Lost In Paris (published March 24th, 2010), Madeline On The Town (published April 3rd, 2011), Madeline's Christmas And Other Wintry Tales (published October 27th, 2010), and Madeline's Great Adventures (published July 18th, 2010) are also available.
Hats off to Madeline!
"In an old house in Paris that was covered with vines, lived 12 little girls in two straight lines. They left the house at half past nine, in two straight lines, in rain or shine. The smallest one was Madeline." So begin Louis Bemelmens' six rhyming children's books about Madeline, a little girl who lives in Paris with 11 other girls and is cared for by a nun named Miss Clavel. The gentle little tales—published from the late 1930s to the 1950s—have inspired a number of animated television productions, as well as a live-action feature film starring Frances MacDormand (Fargo). The longest running of the television productions was Madeline, which ran for 20 episodes on The Family Channel, beginning in 1993. Narrated by Christopher Plummer, the 22-minute episodes feature adventures in which Madeline and her friends often travel the world, experiencing different cultures. In 1995, the series moved to ABC for an additional 13 episodes and was renamed The New Adventures of Madeline.
Madeline's Halloween and Other Spooky Tales includes four episodes of The New Adventures of Madeline and one episode of Madeline:
• "Madeline's Halloween"
• "Madeline and the Spider Lady"
• "Madeline and the Mummy"
• "Madeline and the Haunted Castle"
• "Madeline and the Mean, Nasty, Horrible Hats"
At best, Madeline's Halloween and Other Spooky Tales is marginal as a Halloween-themed release. Three of the episodes from The New Adventures of Madeline—"Madeline's Halloween," "Madeline and the Spider Lady," and "Madeline and the Haunted Castle"—touch on the holiday and its foreignness to the little French girls, but none is really a proper Halloween special like, say, It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. "Madeline and the Mummy" has no direct connection to Halloween, though it does involve the idea of a mummy's curse. The lone episode from Madeline, "Madeline and the Mean, Nasty, Horrible Hats" is included to pad out the disc (and, hey, a disc with five episodes is a better value than a disc with four episodes, even if one is a bit of an oddball, so who am I to complain?). Even though none of the episodes on the disc dives full-bore into the spirit of Halloween, it doesn't diminish their gentle charm. Young children (especially young girls) are sure to enjoy Madeline's adventures, which manage to be educational without the aggressive and pathologically cheerful force-feeding of information that characterizes the many, many modern children's shows produced by child development experts instead of honest-to-goodness storytellers.
As far as the DVD presentation goes, the episodes definitely show their age. Detail is soft throughout, colors are a bit muted, and there's a fair amount of minor source damage (nothing all that distracting, though). On the plus side, digital artifacts are non-existent. Audio is a flat and lifeless stereo mix in keeping with the original broadcast presentations. The episodes from The New Adventures of Madeline fare slightly better than the lone episode of Madeline (mostly because the quality of the animation is superior), but only slightly. The audio/video limitations won't bother young fans of the show.
The disc is the very definition of barebones. The main menu provides an option to play all of the episodes or to jump to a menu where you can select an individual episode. There are no scene selections, no subtitle options, no extras, and only the single audio option. If your child is a fan of the series, none of that is likely to matter. The bottom line is that Madeline's Halloween and Other Spooky Tales is a decent budget release of five episodes from the show that should get young ones in the mood for Halloween festivities.
That's all there is; there isn't any more.
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