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Directed by Carol Reed
UK 1959

Alex Guinness stars in this sly satire of spy movies and espionage culture itself. Like The Third Man, it's directed by Carol Reed and written by Graham Greene

Having found so much success with his adaptations of Graham Greene novels The Fallen Idol (1948) and The Third Man (1949), Carol Reed revisited the author's oeuvre with this fabulous satirical spy story.

Ex-pat vacuum salesman Jim Wormold (Guinness) is roped into Britain's Cuban espionage division. Paid per item of intelligence, and desperate to send daughter Milly (Morrow) to an expensive European school, Wormold embellishes his reports with daring falsification. But the ruse has uneasy consequences, especially when his activities arouse the suspicions of police chief Captain Segura (Kovacs) suspicion.

Guinness plays his part to perfection, an Everyman paddling furiously against the tide, and excellent support comes from Ralph Richardson (as the obsessive MI6 boss), Burl Ives and Paul Rogers (as rival agent). But Coward steals the show as his patrician spymaster.

Excerpt from Channel 4 located HERE

Poster

Theatrical Release: January 1959

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DVD Comparison:

Sony Pictures Home Ent. UK - Region 2,4,5 - PAL vs. Sony Pictures - Region 1 - NTSC

(Sony Pictures Home Ent. UK - Region 2,4,5 - PAL LEFT vs. Sony Pictures - Region 1 - NTSC RIGHT)

DVD Box Cover

Distribution Sony Pictures Home Ent. UK - Region 2,4,5 - PAL Sony Pictures - Region 1 - NTSC
Runtime 1:43:04 (4% PAL speedup) 1:47:08 
Video 2.35:1 Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 5.41 mb/s
PAL 720x576 25.00 f/s
2.35:1 Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 4.78 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

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

Bitrate: 

UK

Bitrate: 

US

Audio English (Dolby Digital 2.0) DUBs: German, Italian, Spanish  (Dolby Digital 2.0) English (Dolby Digital 2.0)
Subtitles English, German, Italian, Spanish, Dutch, Arabic, Greek, Hindi, Hungarian, Portuguese, Romanian, Turkish, None English, None
Features

Release Information:
Studio: Sony Pictures Home Ent. UK

Aspect Ratio:
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1

Edition Details:

• none

DVD Release Date: December 26th, 2005

Keep Case
Chapters: 24

Release Information:
Studio: Sony Pictures Home

Aspect Ratio:
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1

Edition Details:

• Martini Minutes

DVD Release Date: February 3rd, 2009

Keep Case
Chapters: 12

 

Comments:

ADDITION: Sony NTSC - January 09': The new Sony seems to have a dimming greenish infiltration into the image. Where the PAL version may be boosted - it still shows more detail than the muddier US edition. Now though, the UK transfer looks to have vertically squished the image (faces look disproportionally fatter) and the NTSC shows more information in the frame sides (quite a bit). Sheeesh.

With all the subtitle and DUB options it appears that the PAL edition is the 'international' one for many different languages of Europe. Both have English subtitles - with the US in a large, gaudy yellow font. The new US edition has some extras - those silly, and very short, Martini Minutes (I still don't understand their purpose).

While both transfers are problematic but offered at a similar price, it seems a personal choice - basing on the preferred image quality. I prefer the UK release but won't be able to forget the squished image now that I've seen the 'green' US side-by-side. It's cheap enough and a worthy film to own, though not of masterpiece status - so probably the easiest to obtain, geographically, will be your best bet.

***


 

ON THE PAL: NOTE: At the time of this review this DVD has been marked down 54% to only 5.97.

This image looks exceptionally good which is surprising as there is a fairly large black border circumventing the frame - hence limiting horizontal resolution. If this was transferred tighter to the edges it could have looked even better. Contrast and grey-tones seem fine - detail is above average and audio and subtitles are clear and consistent. I see no signs of manipulation (perhaps some boosting) and very few artifacts. There are no extras but the DVD is region-coded to sell in other parts of the world (namely Australia and Russia) and has sub and DUB options that make is viable across Europe as well. The 2.35 has been closely maintained and the anamorphic DVD is excellent for a bare-bones offering.  

This is a typically fine Brit comedy of the time - Guinness and Ernie Kovacs are in top form and there is nothing to really dislike about this affable film. It even works partially as a suspense thriller. 

Gary W. Tooze

 


DVD Menus

 

(Sony Pictures Home Ent. UK - Region 2,4,5 - PAL LEFT vs. Sony Pictures - Region 1 - NTSC RIGHT)


 

 


Subtitle Sample - not exact frame!

 

(Sony Pictures Home Ent. UK - Region 2,4,5 - PAL TOP vs. Sony Pictures - Region 1 - NTSC BOTTOM)

 

 


 

Screen Captures

 

(Sony Pictures Home Ent. UK - Region 2,4,5 - PAL TOP vs. Sony Pictures - Region 1 - NTSC BOTTOM)

 

 


(Sony Pictures Home Ent. UK - Region 2,4,5 - PAL TOP vs. Sony Pictures - Region 1 - NTSC BOTTOM)

 

 


(Sony Pictures Home Ent. UK - Region 2,4,5 - PAL TOP vs. Sony Pictures - Region 1 - NTSC BOTTOM)

 

 


(Sony Pictures Home Ent. UK - Region 2,4,5 - PAL TOP vs. Sony Pictures - Region 1 - NTSC BOTTOM)

 

 


(Sony Pictures Home Ent. UK - Region 2,4,5 - PAL TOP vs. Sony Pictures - Region 1 - NTSC BOTTOM)
 

 


(Sony Pictures Home Ent. UK - Region 2,4,5 - PAL TOP vs. Sony Pictures - Region 1 - NTSC BOTTOM)
 

 


DVD Box Cover

Distribution Sony Pictures Home Ent. UK - Region 2,4,5 - PAL Sony Pictures - Region 1 - NTSC




 

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