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The navigator: A Medievel Odyssey (1988) - Blu-ray Review

4 beersBecause dreamers can also be healers.

Otherworldy.  That is one word that best describes the stark black-and-white opening of The Navigator: A Medieval Odyssey.  In it, we are thrust into a world that is both disturbing and deadly.  The plague is everywhere and it is wiping out everyone and everything in its path. There can be no survivors.  But that doesn’t stop one boy,  Griffin (Hamish McFarlane), from dreaming about better days.

"The babies in the room might not completely understand it, but the adults will leave with tears in their eyes."

That’s where this time traveling flick, a truly poetic fantasy film, begins.  It’s brutal and bleak.  Yet, there is hope – and it arrives with a color palette - but where this narrative takes us – straight into the 1980s as a traveling band of voyagers battle subways, crossing highways, and surviving the dump on their way to hang a cross on a church – is on an unforgettable journey where faith becomes everything.  The Navigator is a very special film.

Never heard of it?  Well, you try selling 14th century Cumbria (north of England) to the masses with a straight face.  It’s not going to be easy which is why its New Zealand setting makes it a very interesting fantasy film.  The is a voyage into fantasy-like elements that is way before Peter Jackson brought Lord of the Rings to life.  And, certainly, it operates like a precursor to Jackson’s work in showing what could be accomplished when you let the camera be visually rich, moody, and comical.{googleads}

But writer/director Vincent Ward knows his film, now on blu-ray thanks to Arrow Video, deserves an audience and now, with this release, his time travelling tale has that chance to inspire a whole new audience.  And truly it should do exactly that.  This is an amazing journey; both frightening and comical, it tells the fish out of water narrative of what happens when the medieval meets the modern day. 

Inspired by Ward’s inability to cross a big German highway, this film brings a group of men - Bruce Lyons as Connor, Chris Haywood as Arno, Marshall Napier as Searle, and Noel Appleby as Ulf – together as they follow Griffin, who is receiving visions of how they can save their world from the Black Death, down a smooth tunnel and out onto the other side: modern day New Zealand. 

They follow because they believe.  What they sacrifice is more than they realize, yet they question nothing as Griffin continues to receive visions of their quest and the journey ahead of them.  The modern world is not prepared for the likes of these men and vice versa.  This is dangerous territory where even crossing the highway can be life threatening; everything is new to them but they don’t back down from the mission at hand.  They must hoist the cross up to the church in the center of the town.  God needs to hear from them.

And so they risk it all.  From television sets to subways, this is a wild and richly poetic film where the color, coming into play as soon as they enter into the modern world, works to effectively communicate the journey into the future they are on.

While an obvious nod to the AIDS epidemic, this is a story that will appeal to young and old.  The babies in the room might not completely understand it, but the adults will leave with tears in their eyes.  That’s how powerfully moving this film is.

And Arrow Video knows it.  Nominated for the Palme d’Or at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival, The Navigator: A Medieval Odyssey is fantasy fusion for the believers in us all.


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The navigator: A Medievel Odyssey (1988) - Blu-ray Review

MPAA Rating: Unrated.
92 mins
: Vincent Ward
Geoff Chapple, Kely Lyons
Bruce Lyons, Chris Haywood, Hamish Gough
: Action | Adventure | Fantasy
Time-Travel Adventure of the Year!
Memorable Movie Quote: "We'll pray. We'll pray. We'll pray for the last time. We'll pray."
Theatrical Distributor:
United Artists
Official Site:
Release Date:
November 16, 1976
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
July 24, 2018
Synopsis: Cumbria, 1348 – the year of the Black Death. Griffin, a young boy, is plagued by apocalyptic visions which he believes could save his village. Encouraging a small band of men to tunnel into the earth, they surface in 1980s New Zealand and a future beyond their comprehension but must complete their quest.


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The navigator: A Medievel Odyssey (1988) - Blu-ray Review


Blu-ray Details:

Home Video Distributor: Arrow Video
Available on Blu-ray
- July 24, 2018
Screen Formats: 1.85:1
: English SDH
English: LPCM 2.0
Discs: Blu-ray Disc; single disc
Region Encoding: Locked to Region A

Presented in a AVC encoded 1080p transfer in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 by Arrow Video, the 4K restoration of The Navigator is the strongest-looking the film will ever be. The scan was approved by the film’s director and does not disappoint. It shines with a nice pop to some of the colors. Edges are strong and flesh tones accurate. Black levels are deep and grain levels are of a good quality. The original 2.0 audio (uncompressed PCM on the Blu-Ray) fires with each and every modern day setting.  Black levels go deep and so too do the details in the costumes.  Overall, this is a strong restoration.



  • None

Special Features:

Fans of this flick get a newly recorded interview by film critic Nick Roddick, a 1989 documentary about Mr. Ward, and a theatrical trailer.  The first pressing of this release also contains an  illustrated collector’s booklet with new writing by Kim Newman and an introduction by Vincent Ward.

  • Nick Roddick Comments
  • Kaleidoscope: Vincent Ward – Film Maker
  • Theatrical Trailer


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The navigator: A Medievel Odyssey (1988) - Blu-ray Review