Search DVDBeaver

S E A R C H    D V D B e a v e r

directed by Zoltan Korda
UK 1939

 

This Technicolor spectacular, directed by Zoltán Korda, is considered the finest of the many adaptations of A. E. W. Mason’s classic 1902 adventure novel about the British empire’s exploits in Africa, and a crowning achievement of Alexander Korda’s legendary production company, London Films. Set at the end of the nineteenth century, The Four Feathers follows the travails of a young officer (John Clements) accused of cowardice after he resigns his post on the eve of a major deployment to Khartoum; he must then fight to redeem himself in the eyes of his fellow officers (including Ralph Richardson) and fiancée (June Duprez). Featuring music by Miklós Rózsa and Oscar-nominated cinematography by Georges Périnal and Osmond Borradaile, The Four Feathers is a thrilling, thunderous epic.

***

Perhaps the brothers Korda had their finest UK achievement in 1939 with their Technicolor production of The Four Feathers. It combined thrilling action scenes, breathtaking cinematography and a heartfelt story of war, its interpretations and effects.

The plot rings faithful to the original story - A British army officer who resigns his commission on the eve of his unit's embarkation to a mission against Egyptian rebels seeks to redeem his cowardice by secretly aiding his former comrades disguised as an Arab. When his unit is overwhelmed and captured by the rebels, the hero finds an opportunity to return the 'feathers' of cowardice sent to him by his former comrades by freeing them.

The stirring action and combo-drama of The Four Feathers have it held in high regard for cinema buffs for over 60 years. It is quite a remarkable achievement that tends you to believe it was made in the 50's rather than the 30's. Ralph Richardson is top notch and helps catapult this film to its lofty status. We strongly recommend it even with its UK-Empire-centric leanings. It's probably the best adaptation of the story ever put to film.  out of  

Gary W. Tooze

 

  Posters

Theatrical Release: April 20th, 1939

Reviews        More Reviews          DVD Reviews

Comparison:

MGM - Region 1 - NTSC vs. Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray

 

1) MGM - Region 1 - NTSC - LEFT

2) Criterion Region 'A' - Blu-ray RIGHT

 

DVD Box Cover

   

Distribution MGM Home Video - Region 1 - NTSC Criterion Region 'A' - Blu-ray  Spine # 583
Runtime 1:55:00  1:55:15.325
Video 1.33:1 Original Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 4.88 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

1080P Dual-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 44,746,461,852 bytes

Feature: 34,003,218,432 bytes

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

Total Video Bitrate: 34.99 Mbps

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate:

Bitrate: Blu-ray

Audio English (Dolby Digital mono)  LPCM Audio English 1152 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 1152 kbps / 24-bit
Commentary: Dolby Digital Audio English 192 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps
Subtitles English, French, Spanish, None English, None
Features

Release Information:
Studio: MGM Home Video

Aspect Ratio:
Original aspect Ratio 1.33:1

Edition Details:

• Theatrical Trailer (2:43)

DVD Release Date: April 19th, 2005

Keep Case
Chapters: 20

Release Information:
Studio: Criterion

1080P Dual-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 44,746,461,852 bytes

Feature: 34,003,218,432 bytes

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

Total Video Bitrate: 34.99 Mbps

Edition Details:

• Audio commentary by film historian Charles Drazin
• New video interview with David Korda, son of director Zoltán Korda (23:14)
• A Day at Denham, a short film from 1939 featuring footage of Zoltán Korda on the set
of The Four Feathers (10:21)
• Theatrical trailer (2:52)
• PLUS: An essay by film critic Michael Sragow

Blu-ray Release Date: October 11th, 2011
Transparent
Blu-ray Case
Chapters:
16

 

Comments:

NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.

ADDITION: Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - September 11': Predictably the Criterion 1080P 1:37:1 image is visually superior to the interlaced, single-layered, MGM SD transfer. Notable differences are that some colors have taken shifts from dull brown to bluish grey hues. Detail marginally advances and more textured grain is evident. The DVD looks flatter with some contrast flaring and the hi-def decreases those deficiencies. There is some more information that the bottom of the DVD frame than on the Criterion but the Blu-ray gains data on top and both side frames. Certainly the Criterion is far more film-like. The Technicolor reds - via the uniforms - appear more intense and rich. There were only a very few instances of frame specific speckles but otherwise the image is, reasonably, clean.

Criterion have transferred the audio in a linear PCM mono track at 1152 kbps. It is is unremarkable but consistent with the associated weaknesses coming from a film of over 70-years ago. The Miklos Rosza score's strings can 'screech' a bit. I did some toggling testing with the DVD and there is a notable improvement - even in the depth - that barely exists. There are optional English subtitles on the Region 'A'-locked Blu-ray disc.

Criterion's extras include an audio commentary featuring British film historian Charles Drazin - author of Korda: Britain's Only Movie Mogul and In Search of "The Third Man" . We get a 20-minute video interview with David Korda, the eldest son of The Four Feathers director, Zoltan Korda, recorded in London in 2011. In it he discusses his family and his father's career.  'A Day at Denham' is a, 10-minute, 1939 promotional film that takes viewers on a brief tour of London Film Productions' studios, operated from 1936 to 1952 and founded by Alexander Korda at that city and includes rare footage of Zoltan Korda at work on The Four Feathers. There is also a theatrical trailer (2:52) and a liner notes booklet with an essay by film critic Michael Sragow.

The Drazin commentary further boosted my, already lofty, appreciation of this incredible film. Despite renditions afterward this was the fourth version of A.E.W. Mason's magnificent story. The Four Feathers had already been filmed in 1915, 1921 and 1929! It's a classic tale of war adventure and heroic gestures - crafted together brilliantly by Korda. For many it doesn't get much better than this and we expect Criterion's transfer to be the definitive one for decades to come. Our absolute highest recommendation. This is an essential part of every digital collection.

***

ON THE DVD: Most who read my reviews know I am not a big fan of MGM's DVD productions. I feel they are always trying to slide weak transfers by us with little or no effort to the extra features. There are never any significant liner notes and occasionally the transfer is not progressive or even High Definition. This is no exception - poor scene frame shifts and combing are evident (see last capture) indicating, again, that this is not a progressive transfer (each frame transferred individually). Aside from that the image looks very nice, with minor damage. The mono audio track is consistent, but nothing spectacular. Subtitles are clear and bright. Again there are no extras - save a very poor quality theatrical trailer. I certainly don't want to detract from this fine film and it's possible that the majority of tube owners won't notice the transfer weakness, but I wager this DVD lasts longer in peoples collections than their current viewing set-up. This is supposed to be the beauty of DVD - its versatility and potential. Well, there is a UK and Aussie DVD of the film that we hope to compare to this one day. Typically old-technology MGM transfer with no extras, but to see this grand film in its early Technicolor beauty is reason for some small joy.   out of  

Gary W. Tooze

 


Menus

1) MGM - Region 1 - NTSC - LEFT

2) Criterion Region 'A' - Blu-ray RIGHT

 

 
 

 


CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION

 

1) MGM - Region 1 - NTSC - TOP

2) Criterion Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 


1) MGM - Region 1 - NTSC - TOP

2) Criterion Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 


1) MGM - Region 1 - NTSC - TOP

2) Criterion Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 


1) MGM - Region 1 - NTSC - TOP

2) Criterion Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 


1) MGM - Region 1 - NTSC - TOP

2) Criterion Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 


1) MGM - Region 1 - NTSC - TOP

2) Criterion Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 


Combing on MGM

 

1) MGM - Region 1 - NTSC - TOP

2) Criterion Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

More Blu-ray Captures

 

 

DVD Box Cover

   

Distribution MGM Home Video - Region 1 - NTSC Criterion Region 'A' - Blu-ray  Spine # 583

 





 

Hit Counter

 

DONATIONS Keep DVDBeaver alive:

CLICK PayPal logo to donate!

Gary Tooze

Thank You!