April 20, 2006

Mrs. Henderson Presents (2005)
Genius Products

103 mins. · R
16x9 · 1.78:1

Format
DVD

Audio
English - DD 5.1

Subtitles
English, Spanish

Extras
Commentary Track, Featurettes, Photo Gallery, Trailer

Starring
Judi Dench, Bob Hoskins, Christopher Guest, Kelly Reilly

Review by
Guido Henkel


Rating



(2005)

Genius Products is the new studio created by the Weinstein brothers after they cut their ties with Disney. Their first titles are now rolling in and "Mrs. Henderson Presents" is one of those releases. Produced in the United Kingdom and directed by Stephen Frears, who is probably best know for films such as "Grifters," ,"High Fidelity" and "Hero", the film oozes a wonderful old world charm that is quite unique.

After the death of her husband, the rich widow Mrs. Henderson (Judie Dench) tries to find things to pass the time. After giving various pastimes a try she ends up buying an abandoned theater. Dreaming of having musical revues go live with big colorful lights, she hires Vivian Van Damm (Bob Hoskins) as her executive to put on the shows and bring life back to the theater.
Daring and unconventional, Van Damm quickly manages to create a name for the Windmill theater, but as other theaters copy their act, the windmill is soon out of wind, so to speak. This is when Mrs. Henderson has a splendid idea that even outranks Van Damm's usual outlandish concoctions. She wants to put on a musical revue with nudity. This being the World War II era, such a thing had been unheard of in Britain and is unthinkable in terms of its legal implications. And yet, Mrs. Henderson, rich socialite that she is, manages to get the local magistrate (Christopher Guest) to allow her to put on such a show – under the provision that none of the nude girls moves. Thinking he outsmarted Mrs. Henderson, Lord Cromer did not realize that Mrs. Henderson counted on this and already made plans for exactly such a show. Soon the search for the most beautiful nude models is one and rehearsals begin for one of London's most outrageous live shows. And then the Germans start the Blitz, turning London into a field of rubble. But Hitler had made his plans without the resilient Mrs. Henderson, who is ready to do her part for her country - offering entertainment for the young soldiers with her nude revue.

I admit that I did not expect much from this movie and was absolutely pleasantly surprised by this funny and delightful film. The movie is funny, but never too much so. The film is serious, but never too much so. The film is sad, but never too much so. It is a wonderfully spirited tale where people have character and depth that you may not expect at first. The story weaves its magic slowly and in the end leaves the viewer with an emotional smile on the face as the end credits begin to roll. I know, I was touched by the film as much as I was entertained, and the wonderful acting, the great script and the masterful direction all helped to create this enchanting film.
Judi Dench and Bob Hoskins are marvelous in their performances as they throw their hearts and souls into the parts, making every second of their presence a second to enjoy. Supported by an equally apt cast the film is incredibly detail-loving and stylish throughout.

Genius Products serves up a rock solid DVD with "Mrs. Henderson Presents." The movie is presented in a 1.78:1 widescreen transfer that is enhanced for 16x9 TV sets, of course. The transfer is absolutely clean and clear and revels in the lush production design, bringing every little bit of detail to vivid life. The level of definition is marvelous and the colors are so rich and vibrant, they seem to leap off the screen. Black levels are solid, creating an image that has lots of visual depth and deep shadows that never lose definition. Edge-enhancement or compression artifacts are nowhere to be found on this DVD, making it clearly a reference transfer.

The audio presentation is equally impressive with a full-bodied 5.1 channel Dolby Digital track that springs to life on many occasions. Sometimes surround channels are used for ambiance, sometimes it is used to create a wide lively soundstage for the musical numbers, and then it is engaged for maximum impact and effect when the hail of German bombs sets in. Interestingly, no alternate audio tracks are available, though the DVD contains optional subtitles in English and Spanish.

As extras the studio has added a commentary track to the disc, featuring director Stephen Frears. It is an insightful, entertaining and often funny track as Frears discusses the making of the film as well as his characters and story.

As another extra you will find a five-part documentary on the disc, covering various aspects of the film such as the real windmill Girls, on whose story the film is loosely based. Sadly it is running barely 5-minutes there's not too much information to be gained from it, but still it is a nice tribute to the origins of the story.

:Casting The Show," Choreography," "The Look" and "Making The movie" are other featurettes covering those various aspects of the production and allowing viewers a look behind the scenes. They are all pretty short, though, making them easy to sample, but a little light on content.

Also included is a photo gallery with 25 still images from the film and from the set, as well as the movie's trailer.

"Mrs. Henderson Presents" is a wonderful film and comes here as a great DVD. The extras may be a bit on the lighter side and could have used some more depth but the feature presentation is without any flaws or problems. It makes me look forward to more releases from Genius Products, as the guys clearly know what they are doing – and the preview reel opening up the DVD certainly makes me look forward to these upcoming films. In the meanwhile, "Mrs. Henderson Presents" comes highly recommended. For a truly stylish, whole-hearted and delightful experience, this is the film you need to look for.


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