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Australian DVD Box Set Review (courtesy of Cathy S - 7th December 2004)


Best known internationally for his role as the roguish Hagrid in the Harry Potter movies, Robbie Coltrane is beloved by the British for his role of Eddie Fitzgerald, (or Fitz as he is better known), in Cracker, (1993 - 1996). Living proof that life imitates art, Fitz is a man at odds with himself. A compulsive gambler and alcoholic, Fitz is unable to overcome his demons, even though it has cost him his wife and family. A brilliant analytical psychologist, Fitz chooses not to abide by the rules of social niceties, and often appears rude to those around him. Whilst my characterisation may have you thinking that Fitzie sounds like a pretty obnoxious person - don't be fooled. There is something deep within him that is deeply appealing, perhaps it's the twinkle in his eye, his razor sharp wit, or maybe it's just a simple case of rooting for the underdog. 


Drawn into an enduring close liaison with the police, after one of his students is brutally murdered, Fitz soon becomes a valuable part of the Manchester Police detective team. Working most closely with Jane Penhaligan, (Geraldine Somerville), Fitz manages, with the aid of his abrasive personality to alienate most of his colleagues. This is not your standard, run of the mill cop show. Not everything has a warm and happy ending, and perhaps it is this that adds to the appeal of Cracker. After all real life doesn't always have a happy ending. Without wishing to destroy your enjoyment of this series, at least one major character will die, in what can be easily proclaimed the best episode of the series.  
A key element of the success of Cracker is the complicated relationship that develops between Fitz, Jane Penhaligon, and Judith, (Fitz's wife played by Barbara Flynn). Judith is frustrated with Fitz's continual gambling, and leaves him physically once, and emotionally several times. In these circumstances and working closely with Penhaligan, (or Panhandle as he affectionately dubs her), it is not surprising that Fitz cannot help be flattered when Jane makes her attraction clear to him. During Judith's brief absence from the marriage, an affair ensues, one that is ended abruptly when Judith returns, but that continues to make it's presence felt during the entire series. Whilst at no point is it said that Fitz stays with Judith from a misplaced sense of loyalty and duty, this is the obvious conclusion. It has to be said that I didn't feel any sympathy for Judith's predicament. At all times I was hoping that Fitz would realise his true feelings and choose to make a life with Penhaligan, thus overcoming the demons that so clearly haunt him.  

Presented in Dolby Digital 2.0, the soundtrack for Cracker is basic but extremely functional. Rear speakers are utilised for ambient sounds, but this is a soundtrack that is dominated by dialogue and in this regard performs quite well. The subwoofer had a lazy time of it with no noticeable usage. Accents may prove a minor challenge for those not native to the UK - Northern England and Scottish accents tend to be amongst the hardest to understand. This could be compounded by the lack of subtitles. Music is fairly eclectic, but mostly relegated to the background.  


The video unfortunately is not as serviceable as the Audio. Peculiarly presented in a mixture of 1.33:1 and 1.45:1, the fairly soft transfer is fraught with faults. The print is often dark and grainy, with shadow detail less than clear. There were also at least two occasions when pixelisation is appallingly noticeable. If you add occasional aliasing, and positive artefacts to the mix, you will understand that this is not something that Universal can write home about. On the positive side skin tones are natural and lip sync never a problem. There are no subtitles available.


Overall, this is a fabulous opportunity to see the complete Cracker, but a criminal lack of extras.  

Verdict : It may not grab your attention immediately in the way that modern series such as Spooks and the Shield do, but Cracker can definitely hold it's own in terms of characterisation and plot development. 


The Unofficial Guide To Cracker 1999-2006