THE SWEENEY - THE COMPLETE FOURTH SERIES
Region 0 [UK] Edition
Reviewed by Tim Symonds
Terry Green, Graham Baker, Tom Clegg, Douglas Camfield etc.
John Thaw, Dennis Waterman, Garfield Morgan
television series that holds a special place in the heart for those fans
of classic TV that are over a certain age. The series ran for fifty-three
episodes between 1975 and 1978, introducing viewers who were used to the
homely coppering of George Dixon to the hard-nosed style of DI Reagan and
DS Carter, two detectives in the elite Flying Squad. Theirs was a world of
blags, fags, slags and lorry drags (hijackings), with the policemen as
hard and uncompromising as the villains they were out to stop. There are
few series that have left such an impression on their particular genre,
but The Sweeney remains, almost thirty years later, the benchmark
for police drama.
series of The Sweeney is my first experience of the show on DVD.
There are guest appearances from the likes of Diana Dors, Richard Wilson,
James Cosmo and, most notably, Morecambe and Wise, in the episode
Hearts And Minds. The scripts are sharp and bristle with humour that
had me laughing aloud on more than one occasion, reflecting the talents of
the writers used on the series, such as Trevor Preston and Troy
As soon as
the menu screen appeared and the familiar theme tune blasted out of the
speakers, I knew I was going to enjoy viewing the discs. The menus are
somewhat typical of the Network releases I have in my collection,
uncluttered and functional but still good to look at. The screen is
divided into three sections, with clips from the episodes gradually
appearing in the top third, another clip playing in the middle third and
the menu options in the bottom third, with the series logo scrolling
behind them as the theme tune plays. You are given the option to Play
All, Select an Episode or access the Special Features.
The episode selection menu gives you a screen playing a looping clip from
each episode on the disc. When you select your chosen episode, you’re
taken to a text screen, which lists the chapters and an option to Play
All, along with the theme for the closing credits. This style is
typical of Network’s menus and it’s a very minor irritation for me
personally. I would prefer to play the entire episode when I select it and
have an option to go to the chapter menu, should I wish to, but this is a
minor niggle. The extras menu is also text based and has a brief music
cue, the sting for the ad-caps, to accompany it.
Picture and Sound
Due to the
age of the original material, I have to confess to thinking that, even
with Network behind the release, the quality of the episodes would leave
something to be desired. I couldn’t have been more wrong. The episodes
themselves are simply stunning to look at and are presented in their
original 4:3 aspect ratio.
shot or two where the MPEG encoding is struggling a bit, but it’s nowhere
near as prevalent as it was on the first two sets. The discs with four
episodes on them have an average bit-rate of about 4.56Mb/sec, the
three-episode discs have an average bit-rate of about 5.34Mb/sec – JK]
logo is present and the original ad-caps are intact. Network have gone
back to the original elements and re-mastered them for DVD, re-grading and
cleaning-up the prints and making the episodes look better than they ever
have. The colours are as strong and vibrant as the scripts; never has a
pea green shirt and tie, worn with a light blue suit, looked so good.
There are sections in some episodes that look a little noisy, particularly
during a scene in the flat of a villain’s wife in Messenger of the Gods,
but, to my untrained eye, instances where noise pumping is obvious are
rare. The remixed Dolby 5.1 soundtrack (at 448kbps) is also impressive,
but the original mono option (at 192kbps) is still available for purists
and I was surprised by the inclusion of a music only option. These sound
options are available from the extras menu. Sadly, there are no subtitles
provided, for those that need them.
THE BONUS MATERIAL
Disappointingly, there are no commentary tracks on any of the episodes,
(there were on some of the earlier episodes), but the extras list is still
impressive, with almost an hour of episode introductions and other
contains interviews from The Electric Theatre Show (9m) with John
Thaw, Dennis Waterman and producer Ted Childs, from 1978. This has not
been cleaned up and dirt and scratches are evident in places, but it still
looks very good. There’s also an episode introduction to Hard Men,
by supporting actor James Warrior, which runs just short of four minutes.
There’s also a photo’ gallery, which features about a hundred photo’s
drawn from all four seasons, which play silently for about eight minutes.
The gallery includes a mixture of black and white and colour photos, and a
good variety of portraits, behind-the-scenes pictures and action images. A
few are a bit ropey, but it’s better to have them than not! The gallery
also features a couple of more recent portraits of John and Dennis, shot
to promote the series’ debut on Channel Five.
“Series 4 textless titles with dual sound” feature listed on the sleeve is
not on the disc. The sleeves were printed before the line-up for the set
was finalised, and this didn’t make the final mix.
has the opening five or six minutes from two editions of This Is Your
Life, featuring each of the two stars, an out-take reel (7m) and the
trailer for the film Sweeney 2. This is inter-cut with interviews
with Ken Hutchinson and James Warrior and then shown in its entirety
has introductions by guest actors on three episodes. These are by George
Sewell for Bait, which is the shortest introduction at two minutes,
Jenny Runacre for The Bigger They Are (3m) and Nick Stringer for
One Of Your Own (4m).
has two episode introductions: Eric’s son Gary Morecambe speaks about John
Thaw, and how Morecambe and Wise became involved in Hearts and Minds
(five minutes) and Peter Wight reveals which now-famous writer
appeared in Victims (four minutes).
Series four of The Sweeney is
generally regarded as the patchiest by fans of the show, but I enjoyed
watching the episodes very much. Network have invested a lot of time and
money in the series, judging by this set of episodes, and their reputation
as a producer of classic television on DVD can only be enhanced by
releases such as this. My only problem now is working out how to fit the
other three boxed sets into my buying schedule.