Posts Tagged ‘Blu-ray review’

Spine # 870

Blu-ray Cover

Distributor: Criterion Collection (USA)

Release Date: October 10, 2017

Region: Region A

Length:

European – 01:33:31

US/UK – 01:30:59

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4, AVC)

Main Audio: English Mono Linear PCM Audio (48 kHz, 1152 kbps, 24-bit)

Subtitles: English (SDH)

Ratio: 1.37:1

Bitrate:

European – 30.51 Mbps

US/UK – 30.51 Mbps

Title

“I could never better stead thee than now. Put money in thy purse. Follow thou the wars, defeat thy favor with an usurped beard. I say, put money in thy purse.” -Iago (Othello, Act 1, Scene 3)

Orson Welles’s Othello is probably known more for its legendary production history than it is for its cinematic merits—and it does have merit that goes well beyond what anyone should expect from a film made under the conditions in which it was created. Understand before we go any further that this shouldn’t suggest that it is perfect or even the “flawed masterpiece” that some scholars have labeled it. What’s more, the film wouldn’t hold up if one examined it as a proper adaptation of Shakespeare’s tragedy. In fact, one would wager that purists will probably hate it without even giving a second thought to the film’s strengths. When examined as a mood piece or a small thriller quite separate from the original work, it holds up much better.

However, one shouldn’t be led into believing that the final film hasn’t been scarred by its production limitations. In fact, there is a blemish for every serious challenge that Welles faced throughout the four year production (1948-1951). Why did the production last four years? Well, the director didn’t have any money to put in his purse. The director would shoot scenes when money was available and stop when these resources dried up so that he could go find or earn more funds. In fact, he performed in The Third Man during one of these extended breaks in the production schedule.

There is a famous anecdote about a scene in the film depicting the murder of Cassio—a scene that Welles has set in a Turkish bath house for the simple reason that there weren’t any costumes available for the scene. Various participants give a contradictory accounting as to the reasons for this: some say that there wasn’t enough money to pay for them yet, while others claim that they simply hadn’t been finished. Either way, Welles couldn’t afford to shut down production until the costumes were available. The result is one of the film’s most striking and cinematic sequences.

Such issues were frequent throughout the shoot, and Suzanne Cloutier once claimed that “no one connected with the picture knew what would be happening from one day to the next.” It isn’t any wonder considering that the film seems to have been created with nothing but an incredible amount of tenacity—and the talent of Welles and his faithful collaborators. Unfortunately, tenacity couldn’t provide the resources necessary to provide adequate production sound, and nearly the entire soundtrack was created in post-production. The result is an out-of-synch soundtrack that is incredibly distracting to the viewer.

Other issues are the result of the aforementioned extended piecemeal production that spanned not only years, but also a variety of locations (including Morocco, Perugia, Venice, Rome, Paris, and Italy). There are times throughout the film when Welles will cut from an actor in one country to a different angle of the same actor in another country that was shot either years later or years earlier. It works better than one might expect, but it would be misleading to imply that the seams aren’t at times all too evident.

Orson Welles once stated that a director is a man “who presides over accidents.” This seems to paint a much better picture of the filmmaker than the decidedly erroneous notion of the “infant terrible” perfectionist that the history books seem intent on selling to the universe. In fact—in the case of Orson Welles—it might be said that the director is a man who presides over chaos.

Fortunately, all of the soul-crushing production headaches resulted in a kind of triumph for Welles. The film was lauded a triumph by European critics and it took home the Golden Palm award for best film at the Cannes Film Festival in 1952. However, the suits in Hollywood didn’t care about such success—a film is only successful if it sets the box-office on fire. Since the American public didn’t have much interest in a black-and-white Shakespearean art film, and it only pulled in around forty-thousand dollars when it was finally released in America in 1955 by United Artists. It was quickly pulled from distribution and went largely unseen until 1992 when it saw a somewhat questionable restoration by Michael Dawson, Julian Schlossberg, and Beatrice Welles. When the controversy of that release died down, it again descended into relative obscurity… until now.

SS01

The Presentation:

4.5 of 5 Stars

Criterion has once again given cinephiles a beautiful Blu-ray package. The special 2-disc set looks like most of their standard single disc releases. Both discs are housed in their standard clear case with a cover sleeve featuring a new cover taken from one of the film’s frames (which was credited to Sarah Habibi). Inside the case, there is a leaflet featuring an essay by Geoffrey O’Brien and the usual technical credits.

Both disc menus make use of stills from the film coupled with the film’s music, and they are up to Criterion’s usual high standards. Those who own other Criterion discs will know exactly what to expect.

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Picture Quality:

5 of 5 Stars

Criterion provides not one but two 4K restoration transfers on two separate discs:

The 1952 European Version was scanned in 4K resolution from a 35mm fine-grain master positive, and the resulting image is absolutely gorgeous. The film has never looked better on home video—although this isn’t saying nearly enough considering that it never really looked terribly good on home video until this release. Fine detail impresses here as does depth, clarity, contrast, and shadow detail. Any flaws are obviously inherent in the original source and never become problematic. The restoration work ensures that distracting anomalies such as dirt, scratches, damage, and other unfortunate issues never become problematic (even if the occasional speck of dirt remains).

The 1955 US/UK Version doesn’t look quite as good as the European transfer—especially in terms of density (which has some unfortunate fluctuation issues) and detail. The gradients between the various shades of gray aren’t as balanced as they appear in the other version either. However, these issues are source related and it would be a mistake to imply that the overall image quality isn’t remarkably better than anyone would’ve previously had reason to expect. It’s probably safe to say that this is the definitive transfer of the 1955 version of the film. On a positive note, there is slightly more information in the frame.

Interestingly, Criterion has chosen not to include the highly controversial 1992 restoration cut and its stereo sound mix. The reasons for this are probably obvious to Criterion enthusiasts.

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Sound Quality:

4 of 5 Stars

The restoration team has also cleaned the monaural soundtrack (which was taken from composite fine-grain prints) so that listeners will not be bothered by such annoying issues as hiss, hum, crackle, clicks, thumps, or any other unfortunate audial blemishes. The LPCM transfer of this restored track is therefore the best anyone can really expect from this particular film’s original elements. Unfortunately, there are plenty of source related issues resulting from the troubled productions. Perhaps most distressing is the slightly uneven and not always entirely discernable dialogue (which can also be poorly synched).

Purists were infuriated when the team behind the 1992 restoration built the track from scratch and tweaked the edit to put the track in slightly better synch, because it wasn’t representative of Orson Welles’s original film. Criterion is devoted to presenting films as they were shown during their original release, and this track accomplishes this. The fact is that in this particular case, one cannot have it both ways.

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Special Features:

5 of 5 Stars

Feature Length Audio Commentary featuring Peter Bogdanovich and Myron Meisel

The 1955 cut of the film includes this archival commentary track with Peter Bogdanovich and Myron Meisel—two scholars who are well versed in Welles history. The track was recorded in 1994 and finds both Bogdanovich and Meisel in good form as they spend the duration of the track discussing its troubled production history and telling amusing anecdotes about the director. It is surprisingly informative and engaging for what is essentially a third-party track, and it adds an enormous amount of value to the package.

Filming Othello – (01:23:02)

Filming Othello

Criterion generously includes a nice 2K scan of Filming Othello taken from the film’s original elements. It is often cited as Orson Welles’s final competed film—although one has difficulty considering it as an official part of his official canon of work any more than one would place the Quentin Tarantino-directed episode of “ER” in the list of that director’s primary works. It belongs somewhere else—perhaps under the heading of “other projects.”

It’s certainly an instructive viewing experience, and one feels that the director relished the opportunity to dabble in his favorite medium once again—even if it is essentially a retrospective essay film produced for West German television that never approaches the creative brilliance of F for Fake. However, there is a certain poetry to the fact that this 16mm production was also produced over a period of four years (1974-1978).

The heart of the film is an extended conversation between Micheál MacLiammóir, Hilton Edwards, and Orson Welles that was shot in Paris, France, in 1974—but this conversation isn’t the only reason to see this film, which begins with an introduction by Welles himself as he sits somewhat stoically behind a moviola (an image that probably won’t surprise anyone who has already seen F for Fake.

“This is to be a conversation, certainly not anything so formal as a lecture, and what we’re going to talk about is Othello, Shakespeare’s play and the film I made of it,” he announces before he leads into the events that led to the troubled production and indeed some of the challenges that plagued him throughout the experience. This portion of the film isn’t terribly different from most interview footage, but he soon introduces the aforementioned conversation with MacLiammoir (Othello’s Iago) and Edwards (Brabantio) which he has brought upon his moviola for our benefit. The footage plays on this machine before we cut into the actual footage. The three gentlemen discuss the themes inherent in the original play and possible character motivations—including those added to Iago’s character by Welles for the film’s production. It’s an interesting conversation that should appeal to anyone who admires either the film or the Bard’s original play. When the footage of this conversation comes to an end, we return to Orson Welles as he announces that he ran out of footage well before they ran out of conversation.

Another interesting aspect of the program is the brief footage from a post-screening question and answer session held in 1977. It is much too brief, but one is grateful that it has been included in any case. Shortly after this portion of the film, Welles gives the viewer his closing statement. It is a perfect statement that probably says everything that the director felt about the film:

“…There are too many regrets, there are too many things I wish I could have done over again. If it wasn’t a memory—if it was a project for the future, talking about Othello would have been nothing but delight. After all, promises are more fun than explanations. In all my heart, I wish that I wasn’t looking back on Othello, but looking forward to it. That Othello would be one hell of a picture.”

Apparently, the film enjoyed a screening at the 1978 Berlin Film Festival, but it had fallen into obscurity until very recently (much like Othello itself).

Return to Glennascaul (1953) – (28:06)

Return to Glennascaul

Hilton Edwards directed this short film starring Orson Welles as himself and was made during a lull in the production of Othello. It tells a rather simple but diverting story: While driving in rural Ireland during a break in the shooting of Othello, Welles offers a ride to a man having car trouble. The man ends up telling him a strange story about a pair of women who once flagged the man down. It turns out that the women were ghosts. Other details are best experienced by the viewer as it is a charming diversion that should satisfy viewers. The short was nominated for an Academy Award and adds value to an already amazing collection of supplements.

The film includes a short introduction by Peter Bogdanovich.

Souvenirs d’Othello – (48:46)

Criterion also includes a French-Canadian television documentary entitled Souvenirs d’Othello about Suzanne Cloutier (Desdemona) directed by François Girard. The program centers on a few interviews with the actress as she remembers the production of Othello (which she claims was the highlight of her life). Her memories of Orson Welles and his drive to complete the film in the face of numerous impediments are of enormous value. There are a number of revelations to be found here, and they should all please those who—like Cloutier—admire the film work of Orson Welles.

Interview with Simon Callow – (21:55)

Simon Callow (author of Orson Welles: Road to Xandu, Orson Welles: Hello Americans, and Orson Welles: One Man Band) discusses the production of Othello in some detail. The discussion covers a variety of topics, including the changing cast decisions, the trials of the lengthy shoot, and the director’s relationship with actors. There is the occasional erroneous claim, and a few of these will be obvious to even casual fans (such as his claim that Filming Othello was produced in the late 1960s). One imagines that the producers of the interview chose to exercise diplomacy and not correct these false statements.

Interview with François Thomas – (18:12)

François Thomas (co-author of Orson Welles at Work) discusses the two different cuts of the film and the differences between them from the obvious differences between the spoken and written credits to the small subtle alterations made to the later version of the film. His observations are interesting and useful to viewers and should clarify a great deal for those who don’t wish to dissect such things for themselves. This should also add to one’s appreciation of the film.

Interview with Ayanna Thompson – (21:12)

Ayanna Thompson is the author of Passing Strange: Shakespeare, Race, and Contemporary America and a number of other Shakespeare-related texts. Her discussion here is an interesting addition to the disc that covers territory that isn’t really touched upon in any significant way in the other supplements. Thompson reflects on the history of the portrayal of Othello by white actors and Welles’s historical voodoo production of Macbeth that utilized black actors. One actually wonders why the director didn’t cast Canada Lee in the role of Othello (since the director had worked with the actor on the stage). He would’ve been amazing.

Joseph McBride on Orson Welles – (32:44)

Finally, Criterion includes a 2014 ‘Fiction Factory’ interview with Joseph McBride (author of a number of film related books, including What Ever Happened to Orson Welles? – A Portrait of an Independent Career). A number of pertinent topics are covered here and they range from those specific to Othello to more personal subjects like the Hollywood blacklist, and Welles’s move to Europe. It’s another very solid addition to Criterion’s rich supplemental package.

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Final Words:

This is an essential package for Orson Welles fans! The prospect of owning incredible transfers of two different cuts of Othello would be incredibly exciting all on its own, but Criterion has seen fit to include a 2K scan of Welles’s feature-length film essay entitled Filming Othello in this package as well! In addition to this, they include an Oscar-nominated short film made by Micheál MacLiammóir and Hilton Edwards during one of the many lulls in Othello’s piecemeal production, over an hour and a half of scholarly interviews about the film, and an informative commentary track by Peter Bogdanovich and Myron Meisel. Those who aren’t impressed will want to check their pulse and seek immediate medical assistance.

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Blu-ray Cover

Distributor: Lionsgate Films

Release Date: October 03, 2017

Region: Region A

Length: 01:32:07

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4, AVC)

Main Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio

Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish

Ratio: 1.37:1

Note: This Blu-ray comes with an Ultraviolet copy of the film.

Title

[WARNING! The following text contains spoilers.]

There is a tendency amongst filmgoers to criticize or discount a film simply because it isn’t what they want it to be, and it seems that this tendency is more frequent when the film isn’t intended to be experienced in the usual manner. It’s impossible to explain this phenomenon without making a comparison: One doesn’t read a poem in the same manner that they would read a novel. Doing so would eradicate the poem’s power and perhaps it’s very meaning. It is necessary to be attentive to the manner in which a poem is written. We pay careful attention to every syllable and make sure that we read the stanzas with the proper emphasis. Even punctuation becomes important. We must question these choices because the style is very often informed by content—and the content is informed by the style. We read the typical novel in a much different manner. The novel requires less from the reader, but only a philistine would complain that a poem is an inferior form of expression.

Just as literary expression takes a variety of forms, there are also various forms of cinematic expression. In fact, one might say that there are films that are more like novels or short stories and others that have more in common with poetry. The trouble is that many viewers will treat every single film they watch as if it were a novel or a short story and become listless when it turns out that the film is in actuality a poem. People tend to say such films are boring, slow, or even pointless—but the reality is that these individuals aren’t doing their part. In these cases, the film doesn’t let the viewer down; the viewer lets the film down.

The Ghost Story is one of these challenging poetic films. It moves languidly but with purpose. The deliberate pace is directly connected to the themes inherent in the narrative, and if viewed properly this will pull the audience into that universe. Unfortunately, those who don’t engage properly with the images on the screen are doomed for a rather excruciating ninety minutes.

Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara

Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara in A Ghost Story

There are moments while writing certain reviews for this kind of film that I am reminded of something that Elvis Costello once said in an interview: “Writing about music is like dancing about architecture—it’s a really stupid thing to want to do.” The same can be said about writing about the cinema. How can one articulate something that needed to be expressed in images? A Ghost Story is a thematically rich visual experience that touches on such things as the intangible (but very real) quality of love and grief, the abstract nature of both time and existence, and a number of other moving subjects that are impossible to express here.

Those with an affection for the films of Terrence Malick should be able to appreciate A Ghost Story, but it is necessary to warn viewers that—like other poetic films—this film is deliberately paced. In fact, there are a number of static shots that last nearly five minutes. Nothing much seems to be happening if you choose to view the film without participating, but those who lean in to examine the frame and make an effort to understand its place in the overall design should find themselves rewarded. In order to illustrate this more clearly, we will examine two extreme examples:

There is a scene near the beginning of the film that finds Rooney Mara’s character looking upon her dead lover’s corpse in a hospital. After a certain amount of time, she covers the body back up with a sheet and exits the room. The camera lingers upon the image of her lover’s covered body for what seems like an inordinate amount of time. We lean in slightly in order to examine the frame. Did we see movement? No. The frame is empty. There is no life at all in this image. It is heartbreakingly final… Then, after a few more moments, we think perhaps we saw some slight movement. Then it happens: the ghost is born before our eyes. It is a remarkable moment.

Birth of a Ghost

The Birth of a Ghost: One of a number of lengthy static shots in A Ghost Story.

This is the perfect example of how David Lowery allows the style to inform and convey the meaning of a moment in this film. The emptiness of the frame coupled with the fact that the narrative stops completely for several minutes conveys the loss and death experienced by the main character, but in this instance, there is a payoff in the birth of the film’s ghost.

Another perhaps even more audacious example of this strategy occurs a bit later while the Rooney Mara character is left alone to grieve in the same house that she shared with her lover. A pie has been brought over as a condolence, and we see the distraught woman eat nearly the entire pie in a single unbroken take as the ghost watches her in the background. The ghost (her deceased lover) is forced to be a passive observer and this sort of shot places the audience in that same position. This particular shot is around five minutes long. This stretch of time feels incredibly empty as it does to both the ghost and to the grieving woman he is observing. The difference between this shot and the earlier shot in the hospital is that the payoff here isn’t forthcoming (unless one considers watching a character running into a restroom in the background to vomit a proper payoff). Lowery isn’t setting us up for anything here. He is merely putting the viewer through the moment.

The Pie Sequence

Eating Pie: Another lengthy static shot featured in A Ghost Story.

SELRES_f3da06dd-9266-4eae-ac1d-4535569ed829These examples are offered here in order to illustrate the unusual manner in which this film’s story is told, but it is lamentable that anyone reading this has been robbed of discovering and interpreting these two moments for themselves SELRES_f3da06dd-9266-4eae-ac1d-4535569ed829(in a manner that would have been much more personal to them). So much more than this could certainly be said about the film, but it seems best to let the viewer discover the film’s virtues on their own terms.

SS01

The Presentation:

4 of 5 Stars

The disc is protected in a standard Blu-ray case with film-related artwork that is similar to but not the same as the artwork featured on the film’s American one sheet. The case is further protected by a slip sleeve that features this same design. It is a reasonably attractive if standard package. However, it is too bad that they didn’t use exactly the same art because it was a bit more eloquent.

One Sheet

The Official One-Sheet Artwork

The animated menus employ footage of the film’s iconic ghost accompanied by Daniel Hart’s music for the film.

SS02

Picture Quality:

4 of 5 Stars

A Ghost Story announces itself as an aesthetically unique film right away with the use of the 1.37:1 “Academy” aspect ratio (complete with rounded corners). The film was captured using the Arri Alexa line of cameras (which likely means a 2K source image). The overall color palette is decidedly muted and the contrast appears to be a bit flat. This was obviously the filmmaker’s intended aesthetic. There is a cloudy quality to the image but this is appropriate for the material. The trouble with this is that the resulting image doesn’t make the most of the high definition format—but the viewer should remember that the format should serve the needs of the material and not the other way around. However, some of the murkiness inherent in the image is lamentable. Clarity is decent throughout most of the film despite the soft quality inherent in the visuals.

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Sound Quality:

4 of 5 Stars

Obviously, any film that is nearly entirely lacking in traditional dialogue is going to lean heavily towards sound design and music. This is good news for audiophiles, but be warned that the immersive dynamics of the mix could only be described as subtle. Daniel Hart’s incredibly effective score is nearly as impressive as the film’s visuals and it is these musical flourishes that benefit most from the 5.1 surround mix—although the atmospherics are certainly helped as well. Again, this isn’t a track that will impress when it comes to its dynamic range but this is beside the point. It is an accurate representation of the filmmaker’s original intentions, and people shouldn’t care about anything else. Frankly, the film’s quiet scenes pack the most punch anyway.

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Special Features:

3.5 of 5 Stars

Feature Length Audio Commentary with David Lowery (Director), Andrew Droz Palermo (Cinematographer), Jade Healy (Production Designer), and Daniel Hart (Composer)

This casual but informative screen-specific filmmaker’s conversation about the film is both engaging and informative as it covers various aspects of the production. We learn how collaboration led to a slightly altered beginning for the film, aesthetic choices made by the filmmakers—including the decision to shoot in the academy ratio, technical revelations, the film’s sound and music design, invisible special effects (such as the digital removal of Casey Affleck’s tattoos), elements in the film that weren’t in the script or were almost deleted, and more. (An example of a scene that Lowery considered deleting is the lengthy monologue scene. Frankly, this reviewer wishes that he had decided to do this because it is a tonal hiccup in a film that is otherwise impressively even.) Those who admire the film will appreciate having this available.

Deleted Scene – (HD) – (05:56)

A lengthy scene entitled “C Makes Coffee” finds Casey Affleck’s character making coffee on the morning he is killed. It doesn’t add much and the following scene revealing his death is better because of its omission from the film. There is a disclaimer at the beginning of the film that warns viewers that the footage is raw and hasn’t been color corrected or mixed for sound. However, it looks and sounds good enough.

‘A Ghost Story’ and the Inevitable Passing of Time – (HD) – (20:20)

This is an unusual roundtable discussion that finds David Lowery (Writer/Director), Casey Affleck (Actor), Andrew Droz Palermo (Cinematographer), Toby Halbrooks (Producer), James Johnston (Producer), and Annell Brodeur (Costume Designer) as they look back on the production. What makes this so unusual is that it is held in a haunted building in complete darkness and seems to have been shot using infrared technology. A wide variety of topics are discussed and interesting information is divulged, but one actually wishes that it was presented in a more traditional manner—or even as a standard talking head documentary built around various interviews. Much of the information here is featured in the commentary track, although new information can be found here.

A Composer’s Story – (HD) – (04:37)

Some might actually find this short interview with Daniel Hart more to their liking. It is certainly much more informative than one probably expects at four and a half minutes—although some of the information here was revealed in the film’s commentary track. He discussed how the film’s score grew organically out of a song recorded by his band Dark Rooms entitled “I Get Overwhelmed.” The details I should probably leave to be discovered by those interested in this aspect of the film.

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Final Words:

Written and directed by critically acclaimed filmmaker David Lowery (Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, Pete’s Dragon) and boasting a top-notch cast including Academy Award® winner Casey Affleck (Manchester by the Sea) and two-time Academy Award® nominee Rooney Mara (Carol, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), A Ghost Story offers a singular viewing experience to anyone willing to put forth the proper effort. However, it probably isn’t for everyone.

Review by: Devon Powell

SS06

Blu-ray Cover

Distributor: Arrow Video

Release Date: October 03, 2017

Region: Region Free

Length: 92 min

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4, AVC)

Main Audio:

5.1 English DTS-HD Master Audio

2.0 English Linear PCM

Subtitles: English SDH

Ratio: 1.85:1

Bitrate: 30.92 Mbps

Note: This title has seen a number of Blu-ray releases, but this Arrow Video package is by far the best available.

Title

It wouldn’t be right to offer this review of Children of the Corn without admitting to a rather embarrassing prejudice. While I have always enjoyed adaptations of Stephen King’s more grounded stories (The Shawshank Redemption, Stand by Me, Hearts in Atlantis, Misery, and even The Green Mile immediately spring to mind.), the film adaptations of his more fantastic horror stories usually don’t appeal to me. Understand that this is coming from someone who adores the horror genre. It’s difficult to determine the reason for my dissatisfaction except to say that “realistic” stories tend to appeal to me more than the fantastic. However, even this is an oversimplification. After all, I enjoy such films as The Exorcist, Let the Right One In, A Nightmare on Elm Street, and a number of other sensational stories. Children of the Corn is probably more believable than some of those films, but it doesn’t at all appeal to my tastes. Nothing I could possibly say about this film would be at all fair because it’s impossible to experience it objectively.

The story follows a young couple traveling cross-country only to find themselves stranded in the small town of Gatlin—home of a mysterious religious cult of children. With no adults in sight, the terror brews as the new arrivals find the secrets of the prospering corn fields and the children who inhabit them. The blood-curdling secrets of the children of Gatlin are soon revealed to their new “Outlander” guests.

Children of the Corn isn’t a great horror film by any stretch of the imagination, but those who enjoy horror fantasy should probably give the film a chance. My own prejudices certainly shouldn’t dissuade others from enjoying the film.

SS01

The Presentation:

4.5 of 5 Stars

Arrow Video houses the Blu-ray disc in a sturdy clear case with a reversible sleeve featuring the choice of newly commissioned artwork by Gary Pullin and the film’s original one sheet. The case is protected by an attractive slipcover featuring the new artwork, and it must be said that this adds something to the presentation.

One Sheet

The film’s original one-sheet artwork.

An attractive collector’s booklet that features an article about the film’s production history entitled “Behind the Rows” by John Sullivan, and an essay by Lee Gambin entitled “Praise God! Praise the Lord!” The second text is more theory than the first and examines the influence of the child preacher in reference to Children of the Corn. The booklet is illustrated with production stills from the production and original artwork.

Interestingly, there is also a small reversible poster featuring the film’s original one-sheet artwork and newly commissioned artwork (which is different from the Blu-ray cover design) included inside the case.

[Note: The aforementioned slipcover and booklet and slipcover is only included with the first pressing of this particular release.]

The animated menus utilize footage and music from the film and are reasonably attractive and easy to navigate.

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Picture Quality:

4 of 5 Stars

This release was given restoration by Arrow Video which has been detailed in the collector’s booklet.

Children of the Corn was exclusively restored by Arrow Films and is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1… The original 35mm camera negative was scanned in 4K resolution at EFilm, Burbank. The film was graded and restored on the Nucoda grading system at R3store Studios, London. Thousands of instances of dirt, debris, scratches, and other instances of film wear were repaired or removed through a combination of digital restoration tools and techniques. There are many instances of optical and animated special effects which could only be restored to an extent without creating unwanted digital artifacts… The original film and audio elements for Children of the Corn were made available for this restoration by Lakeshore Entertainment.” -Collector’s Booklet

The mention of a 4K restoration is somewhat confusing because Arrow’s packaging indicates a 2K restoration (as do their promotional materials for this release). Whatever the case may be, this new transfer is an improvement over the film’s earlier Blu-ray editions as it exhibits an impressive increase in fine detail and a considerable decrease in age-related anomalies. The overall image might be a shade darker than the earlier releases and the grain is slightly more evident here. Whether this is a good thing or a bad thing will depend on the individual, but this is likely closer to the theatrical presentation. There is also more information on the sides of the frame, which should be a welcome discovery for those looking to upgrade.

SS03

Sound Quality:

4 of 5 Stars

The original 4-track stereo mix was transferred from the original Dolby mag reels and was re-mastered to 5.1 by Lakeshore at Deluxe Audio Services, Burbank, and the resulting mix is included here along with a more faithful 2.0 LPCM track. The 5.1 isn’t as dynamic as one might hope for, but there is some good spacing when it comes to the film’s music and atmospherics. The dialogue is clear and well prioritized in the front speakers, and there is little to no discernible distortion evident. Purists may prefer the LPCM track as it seems to be a good representation of the original.

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Special Features:

5 of 5 Stars

Feature Length Audio Commentary with Fritz Kiersch (Director), Terrence Kirby (Producer), John Franklin (Actor), and Courtney Gains (Actor)

It’s nice that Arrow has carried over this commentary featuring Fritz Kiersch, Terrence Kirby, John Franklin, and Courtney Gains. The participants discuss a number of topics and share stories about the film’s production, location shooting, issues with the field of corn, the film’s reception, thematic elements, and much more. It should certainly be of interest to fans of the film.

Feature Length Audio Commentary with John Sullivan and Justin Beahm

John Sullivan (childrenofthecornmovie.com) and Justin Beahm (horror journalist) discuss a rather wide variety of topics throughout the duration of the track. They seem to be well versed in the film’s production history and impart all sorts of trivia. We learn about the cast and crew, a deleted segment involving the death of one of the characters, the impact that the film had upon popular culture, and other pertinent information. It’s an enjoyable track that should engage fans of the film.

Harvesting Horror: The Making of ‘Children of the Corn’ – (36:15)

Harvesting Horror is an interesting retrospective documentary about the making of the film that features interviews with several key participants including Fritz Kiersch. Courtney Gains, and John Franklin. It’s all pretty standard and isn’t terribly comprehensive, but the general information available here will interest most viewers.

It Was the Eighties! – (14:07)

Linda Hamilton doesn’t seem to be terribly fond of the film but discusses her experiences anyway. The most interesting aspect of the entire interview is her somewhat apathetic attitude.

Return to Gatlin – (16:29)

John Sullivan gives viewers a video tour of the original locations used during the production of Children of the Corn. As a bonus, various residents share their recollections and thoughts about having a horror film being produced on their turf. There is more specific information here than in many other “location tour” featurettes.

Stephen King on a Shoestring – (11:18)

Donald Borchers discusses the low budget nature of the production.

Cut from the Cornfield – (05:30)

Rich Kleinberg goes into detail about a scene that was cut from the film. The actor apparently appeared throughout the scene and was stabbed to death. Fans should certainly enjoy hearing about the scene since it couldn’t be included here.

“…And a Child Shall Lead Them” – (50:52)

Julie Maddalena and John Philbin go into some depth about their experiences during the film’s production, and their recollections cover quite a bit of territory. This is certainly one of the better supplements included here.

“Field of Nightmares” – (17:19)

George Goldsmith discusses his writing origins and how his career progressed before coming around to Children of the Corn. It is interesting to learn about the script’s development and how he approached his adaptation of Stephen King’s original short story.

Welcome to Gatlin: The Sights and Sounds of ‘Children of the Corn’ – (15:29)

Craig Stearns (production designer) and Jonathan Elias (composer) discuss their work on the film.

Disciples of the Crow (1983) – (18:56)

This short 16mm film was the original film adaptation of King’s original short story, and it has been given a new HD transfer. This is probably the most interesting supplement on the entire disc, and it adds an incredible amount of value to the overall package. It should thrill fans of the feature.

Theatrical Trailer – (01:28)

The trailer for Children of the Corn is cut in an interesting way. It is reminiscent of some of the old grindhouse trailers from the seventies. Fans should be happy to have it included here.

Storyboard Gallery – (05:31)

Anyone interested in the pre-visualization of a film should be happy to have this storyboard gallery.

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Final Words:

Children of the Corn has been given the royal treatment by Arrow Video. Those who enjoy the film should certainly be very happy to own this edition of the film.

Blu-ray Cover

Distributor: Mill Creek Entertainment

Release Date: October 03, 2017

Region: Region A

Length: 01:35:34

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4, AVC)

Main Audio: English Mono Linear PCM Audio

Subtitles: English

Ratio: 1.37:1

Note: This is the film’s Blu-ray debut in North America.

Title

“Well, the question of race was the furthest thing from my mind. When I was writing that character, I was thinking about the disintegration of family, the whole idea that people can’t cooperate, even when faced with a disastrous situation they just stick to their own agendas, arguing about whether to go upstairs or downstairs instead of facing the problem. When John Russo and I wrote the screenplay, [the character] was a white guy… So when Dwayne [Jones] agreed to play the role, we all had a conversation and decided that it was a bold move to not change the script. That was it. The same things happened to him when he was white. The redneck posse came and shot him, because they thought he was a zombie, not because they knew he was black. It was an accident really, in the end a happy accident. The night we drove the first print to New York we heard on the radio that King had been assassinated, so of course the film immediately took on a completely different slant.” –George A. Romero (Little White Lies)

The above quote (and many others like it) might be absolutely true. George A. Romero and John Russo probably didn’t write an allegorical social document about race relations in the 1960s, but it is impossible to believe that the filmmakers didn’t know what casting Dwayne Jones in the pivotal leading role would do for the material.

The most interesting aspect of the entire film has nothing to do with zombies. The characters could be protecting themselves from anything in the world: zombies, a homicidal cult, aliens from outer space, or any other threat. To be honest, the zombie sub-genre is one of my least favorite kinds of horror. The entire concept strikes me as rather ridiculous and not even remotely scary. Night of the Living Dead manages to rise above this personal prejudice against zombie films—and this is because we spend much more time with another kind of threat: paranoid human beings. It ratchets up a good deal of suspense, because the zombies gathering outside can represent anything at all. They are abstractions. The social commentary is always on point (whether it was intended or not), and this only adds to the viewer’s sense of dread. The overall effect is simply chilling, and the devastation that we feel has nothing at all to do with flesh eating zombies.

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The Presentation:

3.5 of 5 Stars

Mill Creek Entertainment’s Blu-ray disc is protected by the standard case with a sleeve featuring film related cover art. The artwork is reasonably attractive but no better than the artwork utilized for the 40th Anniversary DVD—which is a better release in every respect (more about this below).

The disc’s static menu is more attractive than one might expect, but only two menu options are available: the “play movie” option and an off and on switch for the subtitles.

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Picture Quality:

2 of 5 Stars

This is quite simply one of the worst Blu-ray releases in recent memory. One would think that an important classic of the genre like Night of the Living Dead would warrant a decent Blu-ray transfer—especially since this release marks the film’s official Blu-ray debut in North America. We much prefer the 40th Anniversary DVD that arrived in 2008. There’s no reason that this shouldn’t at the very least equal that release. After all, the added resolution should at least result in marginal improvement… SHOULD. It doesn’t.

The transfer fails in nearly every possible way. Damage and dirt are prevalent throughout the duration of the film, fine detail and depth is non-existent, contrast is horrendous with crushed blacks and blown out highlights, and the grain pattern aren’t at all consistent. Nothing about this transfer really suggests that it is a high definition picture. None of this should really surprise anyone. The film is in the public domain and terrible transfers seem to go with the territory.

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Sound Quality:

2.5 of 5 Stars

The LPCM track isn’t much better than the image. Anomalies (hiss, hum, crackle, pop, etc.) overpower the soundscape and there is little to no dynamic range. To be honest, listening to the track gave this reviewer a headache. However, it should be said that dialogue is relatively clear and understandable.

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Special Features:

0 of 5 Stars

There aren’t any supplemental features included on the disc.

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Final Words:

We hope that the rumors about a forthcoming restoration release from the Criterion Collection are true, because Night of the Living Dead still hasn’t seen a proper release on Blu-ray. Those who can wait to own that edition probably should.

One Sheet

Blu-ray Cover

Distributor: Cohen Media Group

Release Date: October 03, 2017

Region: Region Free

Length: 105 min

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4, AVC)

Main Audio: 5.1 English DTS-HD Master Audio

Alternate Audio: 5.1 English Dolby Digital

Subtitles: English SDH

Ratio: 2.39:1

Notes: A DVD edition of this title is also available.

In June 1944, the Allied Forces stand on the brink of the greatest invasion in history: D-Day and the landing on the beaches of Normandy, France—the first step in the campaign to free Europe from the tyranny of Nazi Germany.

But even as close to one million Allied soldiers are secretly assembled on the south coast of England preparing to invade Nazi-occupied Europe, Great Britain’s iconic Prime Minister Winston Churchill (Brian Cox) struggles with the decision to embark on the operation. Fearful of repeating, on his disastrous command, the mass slaughter of more than 500,000 soldiers during World War I’s Battle of Gallipoli in 1915, he is terrified that if the D-Day landings fail, he will be remembered as the architect of the war’s greatest carnage.

As D-Day approaches, Churchill—exhausted by years of war, plagued by depression and obsessed with fulfilling historical greatness—finds himself at odds with his fellow Allied military leaders-turned-political opponents: U.S. General Dwight D. Eisenhower (John Slattery) and British Field Marshal Bernard Law Montgomery (Julian Wadham). Meeting with Churchill in the days preceding the planned invasion, the two grow increasingly frustrated by the fearful and fatigued Churchill’s reluctance to invade and attempts to stop the operation. It is only with the intervention of King George VI that Churchill agrees to move forward with the invasion, with the two discussing the possibility of observing the D-Day landings aboard an operational cruiser.

It is Churchill’s brilliant and unflappable wife Clementine Churchill (Miranda Richardson) who keeps him strong during those dark and possibly dire days. By injecting into her husband ever more confidence, courage, and conviction—and acting as both an emotional blanket and a personal sounding board—‘Clemmie’ halts the exceedingly unwell Winston’s physical and mental collapse, inspiring him to become a true hero of his age and Britain’s most celebrated leader.

The film is directed by Jonathan Teplitzky (The Railway Man, Marcella) from an original screenplay by British historian Alex von Tunzelmann (Medici: Masters of Florence) in her feature debut. The film isn’t a critic’s favorite and has received venomous reviews from those who prefer to measure a film against historical accuracy rather than its dramatic aptitude. Andrew Roberts—a noted Churchill biographer—was especially agitated with the film’s inaccuracies and wrote a diatribe against the film that cited a laundry list of inaccuracies:

“The only problem with the movie—written by the historian Alex von Tunzelmann—is that it gets absolutely everything wrong. Never in the course of movie-making have so many specious errors been made in so long a film by so few writers.

The major error of fact, of course, is that although Churchill did indeed oppose an over-hasty return of Allied forces to north-west France in 1942 and 1943, by the time of D-Day in 1944 he was completely committed to the operation. Indeed in the final briefing for senior officers on 15 May, General John Kennedy noted in his diary how Churchill spoke ‘in a robust and even humorous style, and concluded with a moving expression of his hopes and good wishes. He looked much better than at the last conference, and spoke with great vigor, urging offensive leadership, and stressing the ardor for battle which he believed the men felt.’

In this movie, however, Cox’s Churchill is instead shown shouting at his generals, his wife and secretaries, sweeping food, plates and cutlery off the breakfast table onto the floor, and even praying to God on his knees, all because he wants to stop Operation Overlord but had been overruled by a cabal composed of Generals Dwight Eisenhower, Bernard Montgomery, and Alan Brooke, who despise him. The scene where he prays for bad weather for D-Day (‘Please, please, please let it pour tomorrow. Let the heavens open and a deluge burst forth such as has never been seen in the English Channel. Let the sea churn into peaks and troughs and tidal waves!’) is particularly puerile, considering the hopes that Churchill really had for the success of the operation at the time.

If Ms. von Tunzelmannn had more than a passing understanding of British military-civilian relations or indeed the British constitution she would know that as both prime minister and minister of defense Churchill had the ultimate power over deciding whether Operation Overlord should go ahead, unless this film is attempting to claim that there was a military coup in Britain in 1944. The movie is easily incoherent enough to be claiming that, though without the viewer realizing as much. The anti-American statements von Tunzelmann puts into Churchill’s mouth were also precisely the opposite of his warm views about the special relationship in June 1944.

Brian Cox presents Churchill as a petulant, ill-tempered, sarcastic, unpleasant, decrepit, oafish drunken has-been who was trying to disrupt the war effort and was violently opposed the campaign that was ultimately to liberate Europe, and so, therefore, was totally wrong on almost the single most important military decision of the war. It is a depiction that Dr. Goebbels would have been delighted with, but it flies full in the face of every single account left by those around Churchill at that transcendental time in world history. He is shown shouting at his secretary on 3 June 1944, for example, the very day that his actual secretary wrote in her diary: ‘He looked anxious, but he was amiable.’

In this film, Clementine slaps Churchill in the face and abuses him—even packing her bags with the intention of leaving him—whereas even the most cursory knowledge of their very happy marriage makes that a monstrously unfair and completely untrue depiction. In real life—as opposed to in Ms. von Tunzelmann’s perverse fantasy—on 5 June Clementine wrote her husband a note saying, ‘I feel so much for you at this agonizing moment—so full of suspense.’ Hardly the note of an unsupportive wife contemplating divorce.

In this movie Churchill asks Clementine about their relationship: ‘Is this about the war or is this about you and me?’ and talks about their sex life: ‘I know I haven’t been fully a companion to you. I haven’t made you happy, have I?’ Modern clichés infest the screenplay, most of them cringe-making and profoundly unhistorical. Sadly for such a funny man as Churchill, there is no hint of humor in the entire film, unless you count the absurdity of his remark to Clementine: ‘I would understand if you left me. I’d leave me if I could.’

In this sad and pathetic caricature of the great events of June 1944 we see General Montgomery calling Churchill a ‘bastard’ to his face and accusing him of ‘doubt, dithering, and treachery’; the prime minister isn’t even shown the detailed plans for D-Day until 3 June 1944, whereas in fact, he had known them for months beforehand; Churchill is then depicted as attempting to change the plans at the last minute to include attacks on Bordeaux and in Italy; he is depicted as being sarcastic and dismissive towards Field Marshal Jan Christian Smuts, a man he greatly admired and saying ‘We shall never surrender’ in 1944 (when there was no question of Britain surrendering) rather than in 1940 (when there was).

King George VI (played by James Purefoy) leaves a meeting of the Combined Chiefs of Staff because the argument was getting too heated; Churchill works lying on his back on the floor, then sits quietly at the rear of meetings that in real life he chaired loquaciously. On at least twenty occasions Churchill is shown lamenting the bloodshed involved in the 1915 Gallipoli amphibious operation, as though the World War II operations of Dakar, Salerno, Anzio and Dieppe—of which I doubt Ms. von Tunzelmann has ever heard—had never taken place.

It doesn’t stop there; Churchill credits General Alexander for taking Rome when in fact he was famously beaten to it by the American General Mark Clark. Eisenhower shouts at Churchill ‘You, sir, must be stopped!’ which would have led to an international incident if it had ever happened. Absolutely not one of these things I’ve listed ever took place. There was a moment when I wondered whether the whole movie wasn’t, in fact, a sophisticated comedy satirizing bad war films, rather than in fact being by far the worst war film I have ever seen.

When bad movies get large things wrong they tend to get the small things wrong too. In this farrago, Cox/Churchill wears white tie and tailcoat in the afternoon; Montgomery is given a field-marshal’s uniform when he was at the time a general; Eisenhower wears British campaign medals; Churchill wears workmen’s overalls rather than his velvet siren-suits; Combined Chiefs of Staff top-secret planning meetings are held in the open air on the lawns of country houses; the great Field Marshal Smuts, prime minister of South Africa and member of the War Cabinet, is presented as little more than a butler; the King salutes the man who opens his car door; Churchill shouts bad-humoredly at an American servicewoman; Montgomery addresses him as ‘Churchill,’ and Churchill says of Montgomery ‘That puffed-up little shit; the men won’t follow him.’

The film is so low-budget that the American Joint Chiefs of Staff are portrayed as not including an airman, and the RAF chief meteorologist Group Captain James Stagg is also asked to take the group photographs of the Chiefs of Staff, as though he wouldn’t have been rather busy doing other things the day before D-Day. Furthermore, Ms. von Tunzelmannn seems to labor under the impression that Churchill listened to battles being broadcast in real time over the radio; that Royal Navy Midshipmen were put ashore in the first wave of attacks on Juno beach and were able to send messages back to their sweethearts that same day saying they loved them; that King George VI flew aeroplanes in the Great War (‘Bloody hell, that was exciting,’ he tells Churchill); that Churchill drank whisky because ‘This is the only thing that brings me peace,’ and most extraordinarily of all that Churchill was against the reinforcing of the Gallipoli expedition in 1915—‘I tried to stop the Gallipoli campaign. God knows I tried’—whereas, in fact, he tried hard to execute it.

The speeches Brian Cox is made to say are cod-Churchillian at best. ‘Hitler is trying to menace us with fire….This is not a war for glory, it is a war for freedom….The most important thing in a war is for people to feel truly united,”’ and so on, and so predictably on.

As a Churchill biographer, I never thought I would be bored by a movie about him, but this one achieved that with its interminable periods of longeur. At one point he puts his hat on a stick and waves it at the waves on a beach. It was meant to be poignant but was only farcical. Even when he drinks a glass of water he is made to say: ‘Oh, how I wish it was scotch. Oh well.’

Ms. von Tunzelmannn has written some good history books, though not about the First or Second World Wars. She also wrote one called “Reel History: The World According to the Movies.” Here she wrote: ‘From ancient Egypt to the Tudors to the Nazis, the film industry has often defined how we think of the past. But how much of what you see on the screen is true? And does it really matter if filmmakers just make it all up?’ She clearly thinks it doesn’t matter, but in fact the power of Hollywood to mould public perception of important moments of the past means that it is a disgrace that the public’s money through Creative Scotland, The National Lottery, and the British Film Institute should have been spent denigrating the greatest of civilization’s heroes in this way.

Of course, all films have to take liberties with the truth, especially low-budget ones with a cast of about a dozen, like this one. But Ms. von Tunzelmann—who once had a column in The Guardian that attacked movies for their historical errors—has twisted the truth about Churchill and D-Day in a truly repulsive way, without ever hinting to the viewer that this is a totally untrue account. Indeed in the opening and closing credits, it attempts to present the drama as factual. It is not; it is fraudulent. The film doesn’t seem to have had a historical consultant. Never has a movie needed one more.

One is prompted to ask why Ms. von Tunzelmann did not just tell the true story about a man and a military operation that was packed with genuine drama, excitement, and courage of such an extraordinary order that it would command universal attention, instead of producing this tripe that can only bring universal derision. When this film states of Churchill at the end: ‘He is often acclaimed as the greatest Briton of all time,’ it seems clear that its makers want the audience’s reaction to be: “But he can’t be great because he got D-Day so badly wrong, the moronic old drunk.” It’s a foul slander, of course, and I suspect they know it.

There is a sense of profound decadence in any society that dishonors its greatest heroes; if this movie is anything but a terrible flop, ours will fully deserve its decline and fall.” –Andrew Roberts (The Churchill Project, May 01 2017)

One can understand why Roberts is angered about the film’s inaccuracies, but his rant seems to villainize its writer much more than is necessary. One doubts if most of the changes were made due to lazy ignorance or poor research. In fact, the film’s publicity materials feature a short essay which was written by Tunselmann about the film’s deviations from what had actually occurred—and this essay (which was written long before Andrew Roberts had even seen the film) addresses several of the inaccuracies mentioned in the Roberts review.

“…I was intrigued by the opportunity to approach him not as the colossus of history, but as a human being. The concept of the film was to look at Churchill’s well-documented yet little-known opposition to D-Day and to use that as a window into his character. As the historian behind The Guardian’s Reel History column, assessing the historical veracity of movies, I was extremely conscious of the compromises and choices that must be made whenever history is brought to the screen. I felt slightly like a gamekeeper turned poacher! I knew we would have to make some changes to the timeline to put Churchill under the pressure he needed to be under to give the film its structure. My priority was to get to the character of a man who acknowledged his lifelong struggle with depression and yet who could inspire a nation; who lived with the guilt of his failures and yet could push through that to victory.

Many historians, including Duncan Anderson, Joseph Persico, and Richard Holmes, have linked Churchill’s fears about D-Day to his traumatic memories of the Gallipoli operation in World War I – something which I, as a New Zealander, and director Jonathan Teplitzky, as an Australian, found particularly striking. In real life, Churchill described his reservations about the invasion of France to Eisenhower in graphic terms: ‘When I think of the beaches of Normandy choked with the flower of American and British youth, and when in my mind’s eye I see the tides running red with their blood, I have my doubts—I have my doubts, Ike, I have my doubts.’ I wanted to focus specifically on this profound concern Churchill had for the men he would send to war; how a leader deals with that responsibility and guilt, especially when in the past it has gone badly wrong.

In real life, Churchill was opposed to D-Day some weeks before it happened in June 1944 but was reconciled to it by the time it occurred. In the film, this timeline has been shortened to increase the tension. For instance, the briefing scene in the film where Churchill objects to the D-Day plans in front of Eisenhower and the king is based extremely loosely on the D-Day briefing of 15 May 1944, which took place at St Paul’s School in London; Montgomery’s angry showdown with Churchill over the D-Day arrangements took place on 19 May at Monty’s headquarters. In the film, the timeline has been telescoped so that these events occur just before the operation itself.

It is true, as in the film that Churchill had the idea very late on of going on the D-Day fleet himself: he wanted to sail to Normandy on HMS Belfast along with the king. The real letter that the king wrote to Churchill on 2 June has been dramatized so that the king comes to Churchill personally and tells him he cannot go. The two early-morning meetings of 4 and 5 June that are featured in the film, are presented more or less as they happened, except in real life Churchill did not attend them. For that reason, he is shown as listening but not speaking at these meetings: a way of bringing out his emotional reaction without interfering with the history too much.

There is some historical evidence that Churchill still felt uneasy about the enormous gamble of D-Day on the very eve of the operation. The night it went off, he said to his wife Clemmie: ‘Do you realize that by the time you wake up in the morning 20,000 men may have been killed?’

The best source I found for the personal difficulties Churchill was going through on the run-up to D-Day were the candid diaries of Lord Alanbrooke—‘Brookie’ in the film. While Alanbrooke was fond of Churchill, he was sharply critical of his behavior in those weeks and months beforehand, commenting on his undue interference, his excessive drinking, and his failing energy levels. Churchill’s secretary in the film, ‘Helen’, is a composite of several real secretaries. Their memoirs show him as a man of mercurial temper: one minute raging at them for not knowing that in his private language ‘klop’ meant ‘hole punch’ (an incident recreated in the film), and the next minute capable of extraordinary tenderness.

And then there is Churchill’s relationship with his wife Clementine. I have used some creative sleight of hand here: the most turbulent period of problems in Churchill’s marriage was between the wars. Clementine is thought to have considered divorce in the 1930s and is rumored to have had an affair. While taking care to avoid that allegation directly, the film does explore the strains that Churchill put on his marriage—and Clemmie, as in real life, is no silent ‘angel in the house’ but a woman of remarkable character—holding strong opinions which were quite independent of her husband’s.

Churchill lived at a time when there was little understanding of mental illness and no medication for it: his self-medication with impressive quantities of alcohol is well documented. For me, the most moving parts of all Churchill’s extensive and revealing writing are about his family and his struggles with mental health. I hope we are now at a stage as a society where we understand better that these struggles are not shameful, and that to explore them is not disrespectful. If anything, the fact Churchill achieved everything he did despite his ‘Black Dog’ only makes him more extraordinary. Though he is a polarizing figure, my hope is that the small snapshot of his character shown in this film intrigues audiences enough to find out more about the real life of this fascinating and complicated man.” -Alex von Tunzelmann (Churchill: The Film and the History)

The debate about how strictly films should follow the real-life events that they are sometimes based upon isn’t new, and one expects these debates to continue as long as films are made. This is certainly a valid issue, but this reviewer has always felt any film that has been “based on a true story” should be judged by the same standards as a work of pure fiction. Does the story work on its own terms? Is it well told? Does it stir the emotions and reveal truths about humanity? Is it entertaining? Does it meet the filmmaker’s supposed intentions? In the case of Churchill, one must admit that the film is a diverting character study that manages to entertain the viewer. It is far from a masterpiece, but it isn’t nearly as terrible as many of the film’s critics have indicated.

One Sheet 2

The Presentation:

3 of 5 Stars

The Blu-ray disc is protected by the standard Blu-ray case with the film’s American one sheet artwork slightly altered and framed by the Cohen Media Group’s “C” logo. It’s really a rather standard presentation.

The animated menus utilize footage from the film with music from the film’s score.

Picture Quality:

4.5 of 5 Stars

The digital cinematography was captured in 2K resolution with a variety of Arri Alexa cameras by David Higgs, and it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise to discover that the resulting image is gorgeous. Detail is impressive throughout the film (especially in close to mid-range shots) and colors are representative of the filmmaker’s original intentions. The image is only limited by the original source elements, and the result should please discerning viewers.

Sound Quality:

4.5 of 5 Stars

The sound transfer is equally representative of the film’s original elements. The sound design tends to penetrate Churchill’s subconscious mind in interesting ways. Dialogue is consistently clean and clear, but not particularly dynamic. However, the track makes the most of music, effects, and ambience throughout the film’s duration. It’s a strong but subtle track.

Special Features:

2.5 of 5 Stars

Churchill: Behind the Scenes – (22:38)

This “making of” featurette is surprisingly engaging considering that it is built from standard EPK interviews. The program isn’t especially comprehensive, but it is more informative than one expects. It’s really a nice little addition to the disc.

Theatrical Trailer – (02:22)

The film’s theatrical trailer is also included here. It isn’t especially unique, but it certainly does its job.

One Sheet

Final Words:

Churchill might not be a strictly accurate representation of history, but it works as a character study depicting a man’s internal struggle. Cohen Media Groups Blu-ray release offers an excellent transfer and is the best way to experience the film on home video.

Blu-ray Cover

Distributor: Arrow Video

Release Date: October 03, 2017

Region: Region Free

Length: 01:48:03

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4, AVC)

Main Audio:

5.1 English DTS-HD Master Audio (48 kHz, 3495 kbps, 24-bit)

English Mono Linear PCM Audio 1152 kbps (48 kHz, 1152 kbps, 24-bit)

Subtitles: English (SDH)

Ratio: 1.85:1

Bitrate: 35.01 Mbps

Notes: This edition also includes a DVD copy of the film.

Title

“This is not a profound film, let’s be quite clear about it: the only purpose of this film is to give people a very happy hour and forty-five minutes.” –John Cleese (Time Out, September 07, 1988)

The above quote says everything that needs to be said about A Fish Called Wanda. Monty Python fans need no introduction to the talents of John Cleese, who penned the script for this crazy comedy with director Charles Crichton (The Lavender Hill Mob). The film’s all-star cast includes Cleese, fellow Python Michael Palin, Jamie Lee Curtis, and Kevin Kline (who won an Academy Award for his performance in the supporting actor category). Anyone looking for an irreverent comedy that will actually make them laugh should see this 1980s classic!

Cleese plays Archie Leach, a weak-willed barrister who finds himself embroiled with a quartet of ill-matched jewel thieves—two American con artists played by Jamie Lee Curtis and Kevin Kline, Michael Palin’s animal-loving hitman, and London gangster Tom Georgeson. Only he and Palin know the whereabouts of the diamonds, prompting plenty of farce and in-fighting as well as some embarrassing nudity and the unfortunate demise of some innocent pooches. In short, the entire film is a ridiculous load of nonsense and a lot of fun.

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The Presentation:

4 of 5 Stars

Arrow Academy houses the Blu-ray disc in a sturdy clear case with a reversible sleeve featuring the choice of newly commissioned artwork by Jacey and the film’s original poster art. The case is protected by an attractive slipcover featuring the new artwork, and it must be said that this adds something to the presentation. An attractive collector’s booklet that features an essay entitled “Laughing and Not Laughing at a Fish Called Wanda” by Sophie Monks Kaufman, and an archival article entitled “Wanda Lust” by John Morrish that originally appeared in the September 07, 1988 issue of ‘Time Out.’ Kaufman’s essay is a sort of appreciation and criticism of the film that spends a good amount of space lamenting the film’s unfortunate homophobic gags, and the Morrish article is based upon an exclusive interview with John Cleese. It compares the comedian’s work in the film with his previous projects. These texts are illustrated by production stills from the production, and the usual credits and transfer information can be found here as well.

[Note: The aforementioned slipcover and booklet and slipcover is only included with the first pressing of this particular release.]

Menu

The animated menus utilize footage and music from the film and are reasonably attractive and easy to navigate.

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Picture Quality:

4.5 of 5 Stars

It was clear after reading the transfer information in the collector’s booklet that Arrow’s new image transfer for this film would be incredibly strong.

A Fish Called Wanda has been exclusively restored for this release by Arrow Films. The film is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1… The original 35mm camera negative was scanned in 4K resolution on a pin-registered Northlight Scanner at Pinewood Studios. Picture grading was completed on a DaVinci Resolve. Picture restoration was performed using PFClean software. Thousands of instances of dirt, debris, scratches, and other instances of film wear were repaired or removed through a combination of digital restoration tools and techniques. Image stability was also improved…” –Collector’s Booklet

The result looks better than the film ever has on home video. Fine detail is impressive as it exhibits textures that haven’t been seen since the film’s original theatrical exhibition. Grain is evident but natural and never unwieldy, and compression is kept in check by the high bitrate. Colors are not only accurate but are also bold and attractive with skin tones always appearing natural. Contrast is remarkable with accurate black levels, and depth is equally impressive. The restoration work has resulted in an incredibly clean image with only the occasional blemish—all of which are likely to go unnoticed by most viewers as none of these are even remotely distracting.

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Sound Quality:

4 of 5 Stars

Fans are given the choice between a faithful mono track in the LPCM audio format or a bump up to a 5.1 English DTS-HD mix that shows occasional depth despite the dialogue-heavy nature of the film—the dialogue in question always being clean and clear. Effects and music create any existing depth and are always well prioritized. In short, both options are solid representations of the film’s original sound with the 5.1 being the more dynamic option and the LPCM being more faithful to the original.

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Special Features:

4.5 of 5 Stars

Feature Length Commentary by John Cleese

John Cleese is surprisingly informative as he discusses his work on the film as well as his collaborators. Fans of the film and those who admire Cleese should find this track instructive and well worth their time.

Trivia Track

Viewers can choose to watch the film with a trivia track with textual information about the film and those who made it that pops up throughout the duration.

24 Deleted/Alternate Scenes (with Introductions by John Cleese) – (29:38)

This reviewer has a fondness for deleted material, because it gives viewers a look into the editing of the film. It’s always interesting to see what was originally written but not needed or wanted. 26 deleted scenes are included here in standard definition with contextual introductions by John Cleese.

They following material can be played either together or individually: Rendezvous, Pop Quiz, Pop Quiz Part 2, Court Victory, Truly Sorry, Truly Sorry Part 2, The Witness, Nice Shootin’, Nice Shootin’ Part 2, Archie’s Plan, Spill the Beans, Triple Cross, Boarding Pass, Brief Encounter, Third Time Lucky, Wanda’s Bag, Blood and Guts, Blood and Guts Part 2, Inquires, Tractions, See You Duckie, Good News, and an Alternate Ending.

John Cleese’s Final Farewell Performance – (48:03)

John Cleese’s Final Farewell Performance is essentially a promotional documentary from 1988 about the making of A Fish Called Wanda. It was obviously shot during the production of the film and this adds interest to the material. Interviews with John Cleese, Kevin Kline, Jamie Lee Curtis, Michael Palin, and Charles Crichton make up a good portion of the program, but there is also a bit of “fly-on-the-wall” footage. It is better than the standard EPK fluff that studios insist on producing today, but it might be too much to claim that it is comprehensive.

Something Fishy – (30:32)

Something Fishy is a retrospective documentary produced on the film’s 15th Anniversary. It includes interviews with John Cleese, Jamie Lee Curtis, Kevin Kline, Michael Palin, Alan Hume (Director of Photography), Michael Shamburg (Producer), and Steve Abbott (Executive Producer). These participants remember the production of the film and discuss the film’s surprise success. The interview footage is intercut with footage from the film itself. It’s a fairly standard retrospective but is both entertaining and informative. It’s a nice follow-up to the 1988 documentary.

Fish You Were Here – (16:32)

Robert Powell as he takes the viewer on a tour of the film’s set locations as a history of the film is given. It’s interesting to see the locations utilized by the production. It isn’t one of the disc’s better supplements, but it manages to be informative enough to warrant a viewing.

An Appreciation by Vic Pratt – (16:55)

One of Arrow’s new additions to the disc’s collection of supplementary material is this “appreciation by Vic Pratt of the BFI National Archive. Pratt’s admiration for the film is evident in his enthusiastic and informative discussion about the film—but it should be said that the information given isn’t incredibly new to fans of the film.

Interview with Roger Murray-Leach – (07:31)

The film’s production designer discusses his work on the film and tells an entertaining anecdote about the fish named Wanda (who was apparently dying to be in a movie). One only wishes that this interview could’ve been longer than 7 and ½ minutes.

A Message from John Cleese – (04:56)

This is a silly introduction to the film that won’t surprise anyone familiar with Cleese’s work as a member of the Monty Python troupe. It isn’t at all informative but it will probably entertain fans of the film.

Theatrical Trailer – (01:28)

This trailer is a product of the eighties and is, therefore, a fun marketing artifact.

Image Gallery

The image gallery included here offers a few photographs utilized to market the film and is rather standard. However, it’s a great way to wind down going through the disc’s other supplements.

SS05

Final Words:

A Fish Called Wanda is a box of giggles in a world of pursed lips. Laughter is essential to your health, and this disc should supply a good dose. The film has never looked this good on home video.

SS06

hitchcockmaster

Spine #135

Blu-ray Cover (No Sticker)

Distributor: Criterion Collection (USA)

Release Date: September 05, 2017

Region: Region A

Length: 02:10:40

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4, AVC)

Main Audio: English Mono Linear PCM Audio (48 kHz, 1152 kbps, 24-bit)

Subtitles: English SDH

Ratio: 1.33:1

Bitrate: 35.69 Mbps

Notes:This title is also available both individually and as part of The Premiere Collection boxed set (both with different cover art) in the DVD format and was given an incredible release in the same format by The Criterion Collection several years before that release.

The film was later given a lackluster Blu-ray release by MGM Home Entertainment both as part of a three-film set entitled, The Classic Collection and as an individual release.

Title

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