The Great Muppet Caper

The Great Muppet Caper (1993)
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Cast: Diana Rigg, John Cleese, Robert Morley, Peter Ustinov, Jack Warden
Extras: Muppetisms, Bonus Trailers

Another Muppet movie has finally made its DVD debut through Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment, adding to the growing library of great Muppet feature films. ’The Great Muppet Caper’ is the latest entry, colorful, fun-filled and exciting as ever. It is the story of Kermit, Fozzie and Gonzo playing investigative journalists, traveling to London in order to crack the case of Lady Holiday’s stolen diamond necklace. Much happens along the way, as you would expect.

Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment is presenting the film in its original 1.85:1 widescreen aspect ratio on this disc, and also offers a heavily cropped pan & scan transfer on the disc’s flip-side. (Check out chapter 3 to see the result of that, a scene in which you’re not even able to tell that Gonzo is in the room, because he never fits into the frame and is constantly cropped!)
The transfer used for this DVD is mostly free of blemishes and defects, but sadly, it is fairly soft and the level of grain evident throughout the films is bordering on the distracting. The grain is heavy and sadly permeates every frame, no matter what the lighting conditions of these scenes are. I am not sure, why the film shows so much grain, but it would have been noise if it had been toned done by some noise reduction means. Colors are vibrant and lively, although the entire film has a bit of a dull, grayish sheen to it that visibly dates the movie. Once again, with a fully cleaned-up transfer I am sure the film could have boasted colors richer than anything we have seen. The compression is good without introducing noticeable compression artifacts.

The DVD contains Dolby Surround audio tracks in English, French and Spanish, all of which are adequate but exhibit signs of sibilance and distortion. However, the disc also boasts a newly remixed 5.1 channel Dolby Digital mix, which corrects most of the deficiencies found in these other audio tracks – although sadly, the disc does not default to this clearly improved audio track. This is clearly a case where Columbia’s studio policy – not to default to the 5.1 mix as a common practice – gets in the way of the quality, since suddenly a great portion of viewers will watch the inferior Dolby Surround track when the Dolby Digital track would offer them a much richer experience, even in a stereo down-mix.

Along with various trailers, the disc also contains three Muppetisms, entertaining little snippets, basically introducing the character presented within. Interestingly the quality of these short clips by far outshines the feature presentation on the disc with their perfectly clean and stable image.

The DVD comes as a bit of a disappointment, and a cleaned up transfer that brings back the full colors of the movie and also reduces the hefty grain, would have made ’The Great Muppet Movie’ a much better release. Nonetheless, fans of the movie and the Muppets will certainly dig this disc, if only to finally own the movie on their format of choice.