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Featured CED VideoDisc No. 25 - Summer 2002


The Riddle of the Sands


Riddle Of The Sands CED This is the first featured CED for a title released only in the PAL/UK format, although it was mistakenly listed in some catalogs as being available as Vestron Stock No. VC7018 in the US/NTSC format. This title is an appropriate one to pick for a PAL/UK feature, as it's a British adaption of a book by a British author, with a largely British cast. The movie starts out in London, although most of the plot takes place on the Frisian coast of Germany not far from England. The book of the same title was originally published in 1903 and is now freely available in the public domain. It is one of the first spy novels ever written, and some even speculate that its publication better prepared Great Britain for entry into World War I eleven years later. The author Erskine Childers published only this one piece of fiction, but he led quite an adventurous life, which ended in a controversial execution by firing squad in 1922.

The plot of the novel and the movie concerns the yatching adventures of two Englishmen circa 1901 among the Frisian Islands of Germany. Expert yatchsman Arthur Davies (Simon MacCorkindale) has invited his friend Charles Carruthers (Michael York) for a sailing vacation, but some clues Davies has already discovered and further investigation lead them both to believe a sinister plot is afoot. Davies is the nautical expert, but not very good at dealing with people, while Carruthers is just the reverse, so these two characters exemplify the notion of "the whole being greater than the sum of the parts." This is an instance where I believe the book should be read before watching the movie, as the movie with its limited length glosses over a lot of the nautical detective work covered in the novel. The published book uses some maps and charts that really need to be looked at to follow it, and since these don't appear with the Project Gutenberg etext, I've reproduced printable versions of them below.

This CED feature also concerns PAL/UK CED's in general, so I've included four tables that point out the differences between these and their NTSC counterparts. Since one PAL disc can hold 150 minutes of program material, there are no two-part PAL titles. A few PAL titles have substantially different caddy artwork than their NTSC equivalents, while some stereo PAL titles were only available in monaural format in North America. About a third of the 272 PAL titles were exclusive to the PAL format, not being released on NTSC. The four tables appear further down this page and are linked to these summaries:

A couple of common questions I've been getting since putting up the PAL Database are where to find PAL titles and how to play them in North America. The best place I've seen to find PAL titles is the CED UK Category at the eBay auction site. This is not nearly as active as the equivalent US category, but there almost always are some items listed. For playing PAL titles in the US, some extra equipment besides just a player and discs is required, so I've prepared a separate page to cover that. This information is also useful for U.K. collectors wanting to play NTSC titles in Great Britain, as the same general principles apply.


Images and Maps


Erskine Childers Riddle Of The Sands Author Erskine Childers
This is a picture of Robert Erskine Childers taken during the Boer War, about the same time as the fictional events of "The Riddle of the Sands." He was born on June 25, 1870 and was about thirty years old at the time. He owned a yacht named Vixen that served as a model for the fictional Dulcibella in the novel. While visiting the United States in 1903, Childers met and married Mollie Osgood, herself an accomplished helmsman, not unlike the fictional Clara Dollman in the novel. A few years later, Childer's visited Ireland and became devoted to Irish Home Rule, publishing a paper on the subject. In 1914, Childers used his current yacht Asgard as a gun running vessel for the Ulster Volunteers just prior to the outbreak of World War I. He volunteered for British service during the war, initially engaging in seaplane reconnaissance of the German coast. He left the service in 1919 as a major with the Distinguished Service Cross.

After the war, Childers emigrated to Ireland and became an Irish citizen. At about the same time, the British government divided the island into two parts, the six counties of Northern Ireland and the 26 counties of the Irish Free State. Childers sided with the Republicans (later known as the IRA) who wanted a contiguous Ireland, and though not involved with their violent tactics, he was hunted by Free State soldiers. He was eventually arrested and charged with unauthorized possession of an automatic pistol. He was sentenced to death at a secret court martial, despite never having fired the weapon. An appeal on this conviction was still pending when he was unexpectedly executed by firing squad on November 24, 1922. He shook hands with the nervous young members of the firing squad and ended his life with the words, "Come closer lads, it will be easier for you."



Arthur Davies Clara Dollman Arthur Davies and Clara Dollmann
This is a publicity still from the CED caddy showing Arthur Davies (Simon MacCorkindale) and Clara Dollman (Jenny Agutter). The choice of MacCorkindale for the role of Davies was an inspired one, as he's a ringer for Erskine Childers circa 1903. Although the novel and the movie are told from the perspective of Carruthers (Michael York), Childers true alter ego in both is the introspective expert yatchsman Arthur Davies.



Erskine Hamilton Childers President Of Ireland Erskine Hamilton Childers
Considering that Robert Erskine Childers was executed by the Irish government, it's an irony that his son Erskine Hamilton Childers became President of Ireland in 1973. He was 17 years old when his father was executed in 1922, and entered Irish politics himself in the 1930's. He held the office of Irish President for less than a year-and-a-half, dying suddenly of a heart attack on November 17, 1974.



Map Of Europe Area of MAP A in Europe
The red rectangle in this map of Europe shows the area covered by Map A in the book. Map A, as well as the other three images below are reproduced from the original prints in the book. Printable versions of Map A/B and Chart A/B may be opened by clicking on the image or the name of the map or chart. Use landscape orientation in your computer's Page Setup to fit the map on a single sheet of 8.5" x 11" paper.



Map A Cruise Of The Dulcibella MAP A: Dulcibella Route
This map, spanning the coasts of England, Holland, Germany, and Denmark, shows the general area where the action of "The Riddle of the Sands" takes place. The large red rectangle in this image shows the area covered by Map B, while the smaller red rectangle to its right shows the area covered by Chart A.



Chart A Stranding Of The Dulcibella CHART A: Dulcibella Stranding
This chart is an enlargement of the smaller red rectangle on Map A above, and shows the track of Davies' yacht Dulcibella including her stranding covered in Chapter 7 of the book.



East Friesland MAP B: East Friesland
This map is an enlargement of the larger red rectangle on Map A above, and shows the East Frisian Islands and the adjacent German coast where most of the action of the novel and movie takes place. The red rectangle shows the area covered by Chart B.



Chart B Juist Memmert Norderney CHART B: Dinghy Route
This map is an enlargement of the red rectangle on Map B above, and shows the course of the dinghy covered in Chapter 21 of the book.



Single-disc PAL Titles Released on Two Discs in North America
2001: A Space Odyssey*  
Boat, The**  
Close Encounters of the Third Kind*  
Lion In Winter, The  
Sophie's Choice  
West Side Story** [RCA]  
Wild Geese, The  


PAL Titles with Different Cover Art than Their NTSC Equivalents
California Dolls, The "All the Marbles" in NTSC
Dark Crystal, The**  
Death Wish II  
Ice Castles  
Lady Chatterley's Lover  
Olivia- Physical*  
Taking of Pelham One Two Three, The  
Wild Geese, The  


Stereo PAL Titles Released Only Monaurally in North America
Blow Out**  
Blue Lagoon, The*  
Champ, The*  
Clash of the Titans**  
Close Encounters of the Third Kind*  
Elvis On Tour*  
Escape From New York**  
Grateful Dead, The*  
Muppet Movie, The**  
Rocky II** [RCA]  
Seven Brides for Seven Brothers*  
Tarzan, The Ape Man**  
That's Entertainment*  
To Russia...With Elton*  
Watership Down**  


CED Titles Available Only in the PAL Format
ABBA: The Movie*  
Adam and the Ants- Ants in Japan*  
Australia Now*  
Bad Manners*  
Bad Timing  
Band Wagon, The  
Bauhaus- Shadows of Light*  
Best of Reggae Sunsplash, Vol. 1*  
Best of Reggae Sunsplash, Vol. 2*  
Billy Squier Live at the Cobo Hall, Detroit*  
Bitch, The  
Breaking Glass**  
Bugsy Malone  
California Dolls, The "All the Marbles" in NTSC
Captain Pugwash  
Cliff Richard and the Shadows: Thank You Very Much  
Cliff Richard- the Video Connection*  
Confessions of A Driving Instructor  
Confessions of A Window Cleaner  
Dinosaurs- Fun, Fact & Fantasy  
Eddie Kidd Spectacular, The*  
Elton John in Central Park*  
Elvis The Movie  
Elvis- That's the Way It Is  
Evening with Charles Aznavour, An*  
Fairy Tales  
From the Earth to the Moon  
Gary Numan's Micromusic  
Glen Campbell Live  
Great Expectations  
Happy Birthday to Me  
Hot Summer Night With Donna, A*  
Jasper Carrot Live  
Journey to the Center of the Earth  
Just A Gigolo  
Kajagoogoo- White Feathers Tour*  
Kate Bush- The Single File*  
Kid Creole and the Coconuts- Live*  
Kidnapped [1972]  
La Fille Mal Gardee*  
Lady Vanishes, The  
Last Tycoon, The  
Long Good Friday, The  
Loveless, The  
Man, Woman and Child  
Manon Lescaut*  
Maze: Happy Feelin's Live In New Orleans*  
Meatloaf Live*  
Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence**  
Moby Dick [1972]  
Modern Romance- Live In Tokyo*  
Night Out in London With Cannon & Ball, A  
Ninja Mission, The  
Nursery Rhymes*  
Oliver Twist  
Pat Benatar*  
Peter Tosh Live*  
Phil Collins Live at the Perkins Palace*  
Privates On Parade  
Rainbow- Live Between the Eyes*  
Riddle of the Sands, The  
Robin Hood [1972]  
Robinson Crusoe  
Silver Dream Racer**  
Soft Cell's Non-Stop Exotic Video Show*  
Soldier Blue  
Stud, The  
Swiss Family Robinson [1972]  
Sword and the Sorcerer, The  
Thank God It's Friday*  
That's Entertainment, Part 2*  
The Stranglers- The Video Collection 1977-1982*  
Third World- Prisoner in the Street  
Thirty-Nine Steps, The [1978]  
Thomas Dolby- Live Wireless*  
Thompson Twins- Sidekicks the Movie*  
Tina Turner- Queen of Rock 'N' Roll*  
Treasure Island [1972]  
Triumphs of a Man Called Horse  
Van Morrison in Ireland*  
Video Hits*  
Who Dares Wins  


The Riddle of the Sands on Handhelds


Riddle Sands iSilo Palm WindowsDownload for Windows host computers
Riddle Sands iSilo Palm MacOSDownload riddle.prc for MacOS host computers (control-click file name)

After download, unzip the Windows file (the Mac file is ready to install as is), and use the handheld computer install program to prepare it for transfer. During the next sync operation the riddle.prc file will be placed on your Palm OS, Pocket PC, or Windows CE handheld, and the complete 1903 Erskine Childers book may be read on the device using a reader application like iSilo.

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