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Blu-Ray : For Fans Only
Release Date: November 12th, 2007 Movie Release Year: 2005

Twenty Thousand Streets Under the Sky (UK Import)

Overview -
For Fans Only
Rating Breakdown
Tech Specs & Release Details
Technical Specs:
Blu-ray 25GB Single-Layer
Video Resolution/Codec:
Aspect Ratio(s):
Audio Formats:
English LPCM Stereo
English SDH
Special Features:
Photo Gallery
Release Date:
November 12th, 2007

Storyline: Our Reviewer's Take


Many readers carry the misconception that disc importers are impatient rich-kids obsessed with getting their mitts on a high-def copy of ‘The Island’ before anyone else. In reality, importers are more interested in tracking down titles that have little chance of receiving a domestic release. Take for example ‘Twenty Thousand Streets Under the Sky,’ a BBC mini-series and romantic period tragedy based on a trilogy of semi-autobiographical books from acclaimed English playwright and novelist, Patrick Hamilton. Without any billable stars or international word-of-mouth, ‘Twenty Thousand Streets Under the Sky’ doesn’t have a good shot of making its way across the Atlantic on standard DVD, much less Blu-ray disc.

Set in a drab pub in 1930s London, the three-part story follows a trio of lovelorn victims of hard times -- Bob (Bryan Dick), a young barman; Jenny (Zoe Tapper), a prostitute who captures his heart, and Ella (Sally Hawkins), a bartender who secretly longs for Bob's affections. In the first vignette, Bob is so determined to lure Jenny out of her lifestyle that he showers her with every penny he can spare. Growing more desperate and despondent each time she rejects his proposals, Bob soon finds himself risking everything to be with her. The second vignette abruptly flashes to Jenny’s dark past and explores how she became a streetwalker. As her tale unravels, Bob’s future love suddenly seems warranted -- all at once, it seems as if he’s sensed the true soul lying dormant within her. In the third vignette, Ella finds her love is for naught as an older suitor appears on the scene and tries to win her hand. Torn between true love and a sure deal, Ella has to decide whether she has any strength left to pursue Bob.

I have to admit I was caught off-guard midway through ‘Twenty Thousand Streets Under the Sky.’ While I expected to encounter a slow-burning romantic drama, I didn’t think I would uncover such nuanced plot development, achingly poetic dialogue, or dreadful foreshadowing. Don’t get me wrong, the tragedy isn’t necessarily Shakespearean, but rather feels lifted directly from the pages of Jane Austen. Love is realistically assigned and denied at Hamilton’s whim -- Bob has no end to his desire, just as Jenny has no hold on her life, and Ella has no control of her feelings. As it is in life, Hamilton presents love as a seemingly random force that strikes at will with no regard for the pain or suffering it sometimes leaves in its wake. The best thing about ‘Twenty Thousand Streets’ is the familiar inner-conflicts of its characters and their inability to bring their dreams in line with reality.

It’s the mini-series’ setting that puts everything into perspective. The financial woes of lower middle-class Londoners in the early 20th century provide the perfect parallel for the main characters’ plights. Their love seems to have been born out of the hope that there is obtainable happiness in their world, despite the chaotic socioeconomic and geopolitical upheaval of their continent. It’s in this capacity that ‘Twenty Thousand Streets’ transcends other romantic period pieces and becomes a legitimate commentary on the most fundamental defense mechanism people hold onto in times of trouble -- the dream of love. In a time of world wars and European conflict, a simple story of human emotions may seem inconsequential, but it actually echoes the decades-long struggle of the entire nation.

Even so, ‘Twenty Thousand Streets’ is still a slow-paced romantic tragedy that won’t appeal to action junkies or anyone who doesn’t enjoy a solid character drama. I didn’t even really get into the 180-minute mini-series until the one hour mark, so I know quite a few people won’t have the patience or the taste for its style and pacing. Even after I did sink into the story, I only felt remotely moved by the end while my wife finished the series in tears. I’m not suggesting it was a chick flick in any way, but I do want to point out the likelihood that it will catch the hearts of the ladies more than the gents.

In the end, I’m glad I took the time to dig into ‘Twenty Thousand Streets Under the Sky.’ Defying my expectations and delivering a robust character study, the BBC mini-series was a heart-aching look into a difficult period in British history. I won’t go so far as to say everyone will enjoy it as much as my wife and I did, but I will say anyone with access to this title should take the opportunity to watch it.

Video Review


’Twenty Thousand Streets Under the Sky’ features a competent 1080i/VC-1 transfer that brings the television mini-series to high-definition without any major hitches. While the heavily-grained video is nearly devoid of color, the drab palette remains consistently strong throughout the mini-series. These dull primaries often lend to the tone and setting, only undermining the initial impact of the picture quality. However, once I got my bearings in the filmmakers’ bleak vision of early 20th century London, the washed out skintones and weak colors seemed more acceptable. Balanced contrast levels also help to increase the depth of the image, offering viewers deep blacks, bright whites, and clean delineation. Detail is quite good as well, rendering the fine edges of hair and the crisp patterns of wallpaper with a proficient grace that doesn’t suffer from errant softness.

Unfortunately, I ran into a few technical blunders that kept the video from looking its best. First and foremost, the high definition presentation sharpens the rampant on-screen grain, occasionally obscuring fine detail, marring facial textures, and flattening the image. Cluttering the screen even further are a few instances of light artifacting and a more frequent deluge of source noise. At times, this noise-gumbo becomes so frenzied that I had a hard time concentrating on the merits of the actual image. To top it all off, the low-budget mini-series shows its television roots and often looks as if it’s been shot on theatrical sets -- better cameras would’ve given the image a filmic quality more suitable to the story’s tone.

Audio Review


’Twenty Thousand Streets Under the Sky’ is presented with a fairly standard LPCM Stereo track that doesn’t pack a lot of sonic punch. While I can’t offer a direct comparison since I haven’t seen the BBC broadcast or the UK DVD, I can’t imagine either audio mix sounds much different than this Blu-ray import. Dialogue is decidedly crisp, prioritization is spot on, and sound effects have a decent low-end presence. I was slightly annoyed by the shallow pitch of treble tones and the uneven quality of the original source (set noise and air hiss pops up from time to time), but it’s par for the course when it comes to this sort of production.

Obviously, there isn’t much else to say. The LPCM track handles everything it’s given with ease and doesn’t suffer from any significant issues that would distract from the mini-series. Again, I do wish the filmmakers had somehow managed to drum up more money for higher production values, but I understand the technical limitations of their efforts.

Special Features


Aside from a standard photo gallery, this BD import includes no supplemental features.

Final Thoughts

Let’s cut to the chase. This Blu-ray import struggles with a noisy video transfer, an underwhelming stereo track, and an anemic supplemental package, but it offers a compelling BBC mini-series that probably won’t be released in the States. For what it’s worth, most of the complaints I have about the video/audio presentation can be traced back to the technical quality of the original television broadcast. I can confidently say that fans of ‘Twenty Thousand Streets Under the Sky’ won’t be disappointed with the results. Unfortunately, I can’t give this one a recommendation on the merit of the story alone.

Thanks to RandellG for sending us this import disc to review!