Zastrozzi, a Romance
R2 - United Kingdom - Simply Media
Review written by and copyright: Rick Curzon (14th November 2018).
The Show

Channel 4's 1986 adaptation of Percy Bysshe Shelley's Gothic novel from David Hopkins, featuring early screen performances from Tilda Swinton and Mark McGann.England has been taken away from us by mucky profiteers. We've been sold out. England has been cashed in. Watch it, they'll have your dreams next.

A riveting and haunting four-part drama and contemporary retelling of Percy Bysshe Shelley's Gothic horror novel, considered a precursor to Mary Shelley's Frankenstein.

Characters from the original tale are transported from 19th century Germany and Italy to modern-day England in this visceral exploration into the wicked depths of human nature, and the failed frameworks of society, religion and romance.

In this tale of obsession and revenge, outlaw Zastrozzi (Geoff Francis), aided by courtesan Matlida (Hilary Trott), kidnaps his half-brother Verezzi (Mark McGann) and torments him into believing his lover Julia (Tilda Swinton) has been murdered.

He thus begins a tortuous campaign of psychological abuse against Verezzi, in this thought-provoking and timeless look at demonic manipulation and soul-sapping vulnerability.

What the Press Said:
The darker corners of the subject of desire transform[ed] into a scathing commentary on contemporary England. New York Times


These three productions typify UK television production around the late '80s early '90s. All three were shot on 16mm film in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1. Consequently the images are quite soft as they're obviously presented in standard definition for Simply Media's DVD releases.

All have florid, strong colours, warm palettes that generally favour a naturalistic tone. Zastrozzi is more moodily lit as befits the time in which the original book was written and feels more nourish. The two Gravy Train productions are more flatly lit as befits modern drama.

Blacks are deep and rich but do show signs of crush but this is down to the nature of 16mm shoot fast and quick TV production rather than any fault of the DVD transfer. I'm guessing, but these masters seem to be off the shelf with no restoration. Contrast is boosted ever so slightly, which is a standard practice with some DVD transfers to make up for the lack of detail and I also suspect a small amount of DNR has been applied; I could detect no signs of edge enhancement.

Despite all this, detail is generally pretty good for a standard definition DVD with close-ups fairing the best. At the beginning of Zastrozzi, there is some small white text that is hard to read unless you're very close to the screen; I was scrutinizing on a 58" 4K Hisense monitor calibrated using a Joe Kane setup disc.

It's very p[possible that a newer 2K transfer from the OCNs would yield better results. Overall, these are decent unrestored SD transfer.

All three series are sourced from PAL broadcast masters which were in turn taken from the original 16mm A&B roll negatives. All three are in the original TV aspect ratio of 1.33:1.

Zastrozzi, A Romance (1986) 205:21


English Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono
Subtitles: None

All three mini series feature very satisfying 2.0 mono tracks that have a good balance between dialogue, music and sound effects. There's no distortions that I could detect beyond a mild low-level hiss but that's par for the course with a soundtrack of this kind for the era. Nicam stereo was tentatively being used during the 1988-92 period, but these programmes were obviously not beneficiaries of the format. In any case, these are fine as is; plenty of base, lots of depth in the scores and dialogue is always clear.

The lack of subtitles is a real shame for such dialogue-driven programmes as these.


None. Very disappointing as I'm sure there was plenty of promotional material that could've been sourced and commentaries from TV historians like Andrew Pixley or Dick Fiddy would've been welcome.


Decent, off the shelf unrestored masters of these well remembered but rarely revived television drama series. All have been shot on 16mm film for 1.33:1 exhibition and they look decent considering they're dated transfers. With TV rarities like these, it's somewhat pointless to carp. They obviously could be handled much better on DVD by creating brand new transfers, but being all on film they could be stunning in HD and 1080/50i (the original UK format).

The Show: A Video: B Audio: B Extras: F Overall: B-


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