Watership Down (1978)

Written by Martin Rosen, based on the novel by Richard Adams
Directed by Martin Rosen
Starring the Voices of John Hurt, Richard Briers, Michael Graham Cox, John Bennett, Zero Mostel


Anamorphic: No.

My Advice: Own It.

Fiver (Briers) is a young rabbit who experiences visions of the future. He simply Knows Things. One day, he suddenly Knows that the warren in which he lives is in grave danger. He sees fields full of blood, bodies of rabbits being mowed down--not a good thing. He tells this to his brother Hazel (Hurt), who goes to the head of their warren to report the vision. Not impressing their leader very much, Hazel decides to believe Fiver and flee the warren. Some other rabbits come with them, and they set off to try and find a better place of their own to live. Along the way, their trials are many, but even when they make it to the promised land--a neighboring warren wants to come over and kick the cotton tails off of them.

Seeing this film when I was younger (and having had some familiarity with the novel), I loved it a great deal. The story is a solid one, there is some high adventure, and the mature themes of Adams sat well with me back when I was a mere lad--but then again, I was a twisted child. The good news is that now, even as an over-the-hill content writer, the film loses little of its luster. The quality of animation is still quite solid and, apart from the song by Art Garfunkel and the slightly tangental music video turn the film takes during it, there's not much to negatively date it. Granted, now that I watch it, the film is less of a cohesive storyline than it is a series of episodes. Strung together incidents comprise the vast bulk of the film until you get to the conflict with Efrafa. This isn't a huge problem, but it does make it feel spotty in places--and although I normally shy away from doing book-to-film comparisons, reading the book does help fill in the gaps.

Features on the disc are relatively sparse. The Richard Adams profile is a brief bio and a list of books--two screens. The "Watership Down Today" is a one screen bit that informs you that Andrew Lloyd Webber owns the land on which Watership Down is located. The "Bunny Talk Glossary" is helpful for those unfamiliar with the lingo, although I was very surprised to see "tharn" among the missing on the list--then thinking further that I don't recall the word actually being used in the film. How odd.

Regardless, for lovers of animation or the book, the disc is a no-brainer. It's unfortunate that there's not more in the way of features. There are still plenty of actors still with us who were involved--this film, like most animation, begs at least a featurette to let us know their thoughts. Director Rosen, to my knowledge, is still around (he was even involved in a Watership Down TV series (!) back in 1999)--so a commentary would have been nice. Gallery of concept art. Something. But as it stands, if you're a fan of Adams or the film, this is probably the best we're going to get.

Buy it from Amazon!
Buy the book from Amazon!
Buy the soundtrack from Amazon!

Discuss the review in the Needcoffee.com Gabfest!

Greetings to our visitors from the IMDB, OFCS, and Rotten Tomatoes!
Stick around and have some coffee!