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Kevin Krock, editor

DVD Review

Treasure Island
(1950) | Approx. 96 min. | Rated PG | Reviewed by Kevin Krock
Cover Art
Click to Buy
Ratings Summary
(Scored out of a maximum of five)
Audio 2 out of 5 Video 1 out of 5
Goodies   Interface 1 out of 5
Value 1 out of 5

The Movie

Based on Robert Louis Stevenson's classic tale of pirates, treasure maps, buried gold, and high seas adventure, Treasure Island was Walt Disney's first foray into live action films, and it was quite a spectacular film for its day. The movie closely follows Stevenson's original plot, albeit with a little poetic license, and its vivid “pirate-age” look and feel provides a very raw, authentic feel to it.

The story follows the young Jim Hawkins, played by Disney favorite Bobby Driscoll, and the wily, archetypal pirate, Long John Silver, wonderfully played by Robert Newton, as they search for legendary lost treasure.

Promotional image © Disney

Simply put, Walt and his crew put together what is probably one of the best family adventure films of all time, and now you can see it in its original theatrical cut, including the footage removed back in the mid-1970s. However, like just about any pirate movie ever made, it may not be the most appropriate movie for the wee ones, as there is plenty of gunplay and fighting — so be aware of the PG rating.

The Goodies

Unfortunately, with this home video edition, there are no bonus items on the disc. It is very disappointing, especially given the lavish sets, locales, and cinematography. I just wish Disney would have given this disc a bit more effort in the goodies department and at least given us a trailer, a few Walt interviews, or something.

Promotional image © Disney

The Video, Audio and Interface

The video transfer is acceptable, but the original source film shows its age throughout the movie. Oddly, though, some parts of the film look really clean, detailed, and fresh while others look like they have seen better days. It was a bit distracting since I was looking for such things for this review, but for most folks just watching the movie, the movie will just have an old-movie feel to it.

Additionally, it is hard to say whether Disney's marketing term “restored” simply means that they returned the scenes cut in the 1970s or if there was some digital restorative work done on the film print. Based on the disappointingly deteriorated opening scenes, I am guessing Disney just dropped the cut scenes back into the movie and that was it.

The audio is even more disappointing than the video. While it says “Dolby Digital 5.1” on the DVD jacket, I only very rarely heard any significant sound coming from any speaker other than my front center speaker. The opening scene is a thunderstorm with crashing waves and all kinds of environmental sounds, and even with my ear to the rear speakers, the only thing I heard was from that one front speaker. Later in the movie, some of the musical cues get sent to the surrounds, but the rears sounded uneven and exhibited a bit of warbling.

Even though the soundtrack also shows up as a fully encoded 5.1 track, for all intents and purposes, the soundtrack is a single channel. Not that a mono soundtrack alone is a terrible thing, but the over-advertising of the audio is really pushing it. The movie was mono in 1950, and it is still mono in 2003.

Promotional image © Disney

Finally, and even more disappointing than either the video or audio is the uncharacteristically boring and simplistic user interface. All you have are static, silent menus with images taken from the movie — and they are not particularly good images at that. If that was all Disney could muster, they might as well have just started the movie–playing when the disc was inserted in the player.

The Final Evaluation

Unfortunately, this classic film got the very short end of Disney's home video stick, and this DVD is nothing more than a movie-only transfer. There are no bonus items. The interface is virtually non-existent. The audio is really mono and only very rarely in the advertised “surround.” The video is spotty, and frequently moves between brief, sharp, restored footage and scenes look like they have been through a washing machine.

For the $30 suggested retail price, it is simply not worth it. When you compare what you get on this disc to the two-disc Vault Disney DVD collection for Swiss Family Robinson, which also has an SRP of $30, you begin to realize how far off the mark this disc is. The sad part is that the movie is well worth watching, but the DVD is really only worth a one-night rental at the most.

  • None
Technical Specifications
  • Region 1 encoded
  • Single-sided, single-layer
  • English (Dolby Digital 5.1)
  • Closed captions
  • Full-screen, 1.33:1

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