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S E A R C H    D V D B e a v e r


Directed by Lindsay Anderson
UK 1968

 

British cinema – and particularly that of the 1940s, 50s and 60s – tugs violently at itself from within. On the one hand, there is the social realist impulse, as exemplified by such films as ‘Saturday Night and Sunday Morning’ (1960) and ‘The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner’ (1962). And on the other, there are the flighty excursions into the fantastic and the dreamlike, such as the work of both Powell & Pressburger and the Hammer studio. Lindsay Anderson’s masterful ‘If….’ (1968) at once drags these polar traditions together; expands on their possibilities; and, from their tense juxtaposition, derives a rare poetry and force.

We might identify ‘If….’’s social realism not only in its authentic portrayal of public school life, but also in the way it exploits its setting as a microcosm for all British society. As soon as the realisation come that the school’s distinct groupings – from the Juniors to the Seniors, and from the Crusaders to the Staff – represent the panoply of that nation’s social classes, then many subsequent parallels become deliciously subversive:

The school’s code of conduct precludes camaraderie and encourages snobbery (a Senior to a Junior: “You don’t speak to us. You’re a scum”). Those higher in the school’s hierarchy maintain their dominance through nothing more than – to use Max Weber’s dictum – “a monopoly of the legitimate use of physical force”. And the institution’s emphasis upon tradition reveals it as a pre-democratic hinterland, bypassed by the social revolution of the 1960s.

All of which, so far, points to a single, overwhelming message: Change Britain! Interestingly, this completes a development in British cinema which had begun with Humphrey Jennings’ ‘Listen to Britain’ in 1942; and which was continued by Anderson himself when he named the second Free Cinema programme ‘Look at Britain’ in 1957. A triumvirate is necessary as listening and looking were no longer enough: class antagonisms and stifling Victorian values should be to the sword, and a bright, new way introduced.

We should be thankful, then, that – just as the failings of Britain fostered Lindsay Anderson the iconoclastic filmmaker – so too do those of the school create a disgruntled underclass of would-be revolutionaries. Yet whilst these ‘Crusaders’ – led by the irrepressible Mick Travis (Malcolm McDowall) – promise to be the harbingers of a new social order, there is one crucial respect in which they do not stand apart from the old one. That is, both oppressed and oppressor understand the electric power of violence in achieving ends. But whatever the morality of this method – and regardless of whether the viewer prefers the term “terrorist” or “freedom fighter” in this case – it is clear that ultimate blame lies with the school oligarchy, for maintaining an environment in which the “Yell of Hate” is “the only yell that counts”. After all, it is only after his beating at the hands of one of the school “Whips”, Rowntree (Rovert Swann), that Mick uncovers the bullets he has hidden in his room and utters the ominous line, “One man can change the world with a bullet in the right place…”.

However, for Anderson, a stark fault-line exists between calling for change and expecting change to occur; a fault-line exposed by ‘If….’’s fantasy sequences. Alongside the film’s hazily dreamlike shifts between colour and black-and-white film stock, there are several scenes which - being surreal in content and free from any later consequences – recommend themselves as Mick’s dreams. Among these scenes should be numbered the film’s seemingly shocking denouement, and thus we can conclude that the revolution – being nothing more than the projection of a fevered imagination – doesn’t happen at all.

So, whilst ‘If….’ would surely agree with Samuel Johnson’s edict that “patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel,” it would add a further motto: “Dreams are the last refuge of the unpatriotic”! Yet even in dreams, the unpatriotic realize the almost impossible odds that they face: ‘If….’’s final scene depicts the forces of oligarchy rallying against - and almost certainly about to overpower - the iconoclast. And thus, whilst the final image of Mick grinning through a veil of smoke is one of iconic strength, it is also a portrait of futility – the system may be too entrenched to be changed.

In the end, ‘If….’ discovers that at the boundary between realism and fantasy lies pragmatism: that is, recognition of the world’s truths, process and its all-to-sad limitations. However, this pragmatism needn’t be defeating: after all there is something heroic – almost Messianic – in the struggle itself. And, whatever its outcome, we still have our minds; we still have our dreams; and we still have ‘If….’.

Peter Hoskin

 

  Posters

Theatrical Release: December 19th, 1968

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Comparison:

Criterion Collection (2-disc) - Region 1 - NTSC vs. Paramount Pictures - Region 2 - PAL vs. Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray vs. Masters of Cinema - Region 'B' - Blu-ray

Big thanks to Pete Hoskin for the Paramount DVD Screen Caps!

1) Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC - LEFT

2) Paramount Pictures - Region 2 - PAL - SECOND

3) Criterion Region 'A' - Blu-ray THIRD

4) Masters of Cinema Region 'B' - Blu-ray RIGHT

 

Box Covers

Distribution Criterion Collection - Spine #391 - Region 1 - NTSC Paramount - Region 2 - PAL Criterion Collection - Spine #391 - Region 'A' - Blu-ray

Masters of Cinema - Spine #84

Region 'B' - Blu-ray

Runtime 1:51:32  01:46:56 (4% PAL speedup) 1:51:45.365 1:51:37.982

Video

1.66:1 Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 8.34 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

1.66:1 Original Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 5.85 mb/s
PAL 720x576 25.00 f/s

1080P Dual-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 46,333,738,488 bytes

Feature: 32,961,564,672 bytes

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

Total Video Bitrate: 34.99 Mbps

1080P Dual-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 49,505,265,177 bytes

Feature: 32,919,776,832 bytes

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

Total Video Bitrate: 35.00 Mbps

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

Bitrate:

Criterion

Bitrate:

Paramount

Bitrate: Criterion

Blu-ray

Bitrate: Msters of Cienma:

Blu-ray

Audio English (Dolby Digital 1.0)  English (Dolby Digital 1.0) LPCM Audio English 1152 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 1152 kbps / 24-bit
Dolby Digital Audio English 192 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps
LPCM Audio English 1152 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 1152 kbps / 24-bit
Commentary: Dolby Digital Audio English 192 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps
Subtitles English, None English, English for the hearing impaired, none English (SDH), None English (SDH), None
Features

Release Information:
Studio: Criterion Collection

Aspect Ratio:
Original Aspect Ratio 1.66:1

Edition Details:

• Commentary by: film critic and historian David Robinson and actor Malcolm McDowell
• Cast and Crew (2003), an episode from the Scottish TV series featuring interviews with McDowell, Ondricek, Rakoff, director’s assistant Stephen Frears, producer Michael Medwin, and screenwriter David Sherwin (42:02)
•  Video interview with actor Graham Crowden (14:36)
• Thursday’s Children (1954), Academy Award–winning documentary about a school for deaf children, directed by Anderson and Guy Brenton and narrated by Richard Burton (22:07)
• Original theatrical trailers
• Liner notes booklet featuring pieces by critic David Ehrenstein, screenwriter David Sherwin, and director Lindsay Anderson

DVD Release Date: June 19th, 2007

Double standard overlapping spindle keep case
Chapters: 10

Release Information:
Studio: Paramount Pictures

Aspect Ratio:
Widescreen anamorphic - 1.66:1

Edition Details:
• Commentary by film critic and historian David Robinson and actor Malcolm McDowell
• Cast and Crew (2003), an episode from the Scottish TV series featuring interviews with McDowell, Ondricek, Rakoff, director’s assistant Stephen Frears, producer Michael Medwin, and screenwriter David
• Video interview with actor Graham Crowden (14:36)
• Thursday’s Children (1954), Academy Award–winning documentary about a school for deaf children,
directed by Anderson and Guy Brenton and narrated by Richard Burton (22:07)
 

DVD Release Date: July 23rd, 2007
Keep case

Chapters 8

Release Information:
Studio: Criterion Collection

Aspect Ratio:
Original Aspect Ratio 1.66:1

1080P Dual-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 46,333,738,488 bytes

Feature: 32,961,564,672 bytes

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

Total Video Bitrate: 34.99 Mbps

Edition Details:

• Commentary by: film critic and historian David Robinson and actor Malcolm McDowell
• Cast and Crew (2003), an episode from the Scottish TV series featuring interviews with McDowell, Ondricek, Rakoff, director’s assistant Stephen Frears, producer Michael Medwin, and screenwriter David Sherwin (42:07 in 1080i)
•  Video interview with actor Graham Crowden (14:37 in 1080i)
• Thursday’s Children (1954), Academy Award–winning documentary about a school for deaf children, directed by Anderson and Guy Brenton and narrated by Richard Burton (22:09 in 1080P)
• Liner notes booklet featuring pieces by critic David Ehrenstein, screenwriter David Sherwin, and director Lindsay Anderson

Blu-ray Release Date: August 30th
Transparent
Blu-ray case
Chapters: 9

Release Information:
Studio: Eureka MoC

Aspect Ratio:
Aspect Ratio 1.66:1

 

1080P Dual-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 49,505,265,177 bytes

Feature: 32,919,776,832 bytes

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

Total Video Bitrate: 35.00 Mbps

 

Edition Details:

• Audio commentary with film critic and historian David Robinson and actor Malcolm McDowell
• New video interviews with producer Michael Medwin (4:17), writers David Sherwin (4:46) and John Howlett (16:55), editor David Gladwell (13:20), production manager Gavrik Losey (5:25), camera operator Brian Harris (2:23), and actors David Wood (46:04), Hugh Thomas (4:32), Geoffrey Chater (7:53), Philip Bagenal (9:01), and Sean Bury (4:14)
• Three short films by Anderson: Three Installations [23:12 - 1952], Thursday’s Children [22:08 co-directed with Guy Brenton, 1954], and Henry [5:31 - 1955]
• Two U.S. trailers for the feature (3:00 + 3:39)
• 56-PAGE FULL-COLOUR BOOKLET containing new writing by David Cairns; a new interview with actor Brian Pettifer; a self-conducted interview with Lindsay Anderson; notes on the three short films; and rare and archival imagery

Blu-ray Release Date: June 9th, 2014
Transparent
Blu-ray Case
Chapters: 8

 

Comments:

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

ADDITION: Masters of Cinema - Region 'B' - Blu-ray (May 2014): The 1080P image quality is a solid match with the Criterion Blu-ray (hence we have only compared three screen captures below.) My software, or eyes, can't distinguish any differences. Both are transferred to dual-layered discs with a max'ed out bitrate. Ditto for the linear PCM, mono, audio. It sounds the exact same to my ears and also offers English subtitles.

So it boils down to the supplements - and MoC advance over Criterion's extras. It starts with the same 2007 audio commentary with film critic and historian David Robinson and actor Malcolm McDowell (inserted from a 2002 interview) as found on the Criterion. Masters of Cinema add 11 new interviews (almost 2 hours worth!) with producer Michael Medwin (4:17), writers David Sherwin (4:46) and John Howlett (16:55), editor David Gladwell (13:20), production manager Gavrik Losey (5:25), camera operator Brian Harris (2:23), and actors David Wood (46:04), Hugh Thomas (4:32), Geoffrey Chater (7:53), Philip Bagenal (9:01), and Sean Bury (4:14). And they still have room to add three short films by Anderson: Three Installations [23:12 - 1952], Thursday’s Children [22:08 co-directed with Guy Brenton, 1954 - and also available on the Criterion], and Henry [5:31 - 1955]. There are two U.S. trailers for the feature (3:00 + 3:39) and the package contains a 56-page liner notes booklet in color, containing new writing by David Cairns; a new interview with actor Brian Pettifer; a self-conducted interview with Lindsay Anderson; notes on the three short films; and rare and archival imagery.

Both incredible Blu-ray packages but Masters of Cinema go the extra mile and region 'B' audiences (or those 'free') should be appreciative. Great job MoC!

***

 

ADDITION: Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - August 11': The Blu-ray transfer is from the same source as the 2007 DVD that is 'approved by cinematographer Miroslav Ondricek and assistant editor Ian Rakoff'. It looks quite significantly better in-motion than shown by the static screen captures. As compared to the SD editions, the 1080P Criterion is much more film-like and less exporting a video-appearance. Grain is at high visibility and the resulting textures are very pleasing. Depth exists and even at subtle levels it can produce very positive results in the viewing presentation. We don't get pristine sharpness as this is not inherent in the original source. If.... looks solid in hi-def from Criterion. Actually - excellent!

NOTE: I notice that some of DVD captures are not exact matches to each other, but I have done my best to match one or the other with the Blu-ray.

The linear PCM has some crisper moments but not overwhelming noticeable as an improvement. In general I trust it is the best and most accurate that this can sound in original mono. Criterion, have optional English subtitles (not able to obtain via a Blu-ray capture yet) and the disc is, predictably, region 'A'-locked.

We get the exact same extras as noted below with the strong commentary and about 1.5 hours of video supplements including the documentary etc. but now in 1080P. I don't see any trailers though.     

An unforgettable film experience that was a true pleasure to see in such a close-proximity to its theatrical roots. It made it more impacting than ever. Fabulous to have this title in the Blu-ray format. 

Gary W. Tooze

***

ADDITION - Paramount August 07': The Region 2 Paramount DVD of 'If....' is practically identical to the Criterion release. However, some very subtle differences swing the balance slightly in favour of the Criterion overall.

The Paramount edition shares exactly the same extras as the Criterion, but it squeezes them with the film onto one disc (whereas the Criterion spread them over two discs). Unsurprisingly, this means that the main feature runs at a lower bit-rate on the Paramount disc. The knock-on effect of this is that the Paramount transfer is a bit less detailed than its Criterion counterpart (see the freckles on Jute's (Sean Bury's) face in capture 2 below).

In all other audio-visual respects, the Paramount matches the Criterion.

So minor are the differences – and so impressive are both releases - that the best advice might be for 'If....' enthusiasts to buy the version which is the cheapest/most easily-attainable in their locale.

 - Pete Hoskin

NOTE (From Michael in email): 'Nice review for this film, but you should mention this is NOT the original version of the film. This is in fact the censored version. I was very disappointed that Criterion did not label it as such. I have seen the DVD and was disappointed that so many years after its original release Criterion has chosen to release a censored version and claims it is the original. Some of the reviews on Amazon.com provide more detail. I think the people who read your website deserve to know.'

***

The Criterion looks very strong - as good as one might expect. If it can be considered a flaw it only looks even better as the film progresses. It has some minor artifacts that more closely resemble film grain. It is approved by cinematographer Miroslav Ondricek and assistant editor Ian Rakoff. In short the image is most probably as perfect as we will ever see of this film on digital. It is anamorphic in the correct 1.66 aspect ratio, progressively transferred in the NTSC standard - coded for region 1. Audio is consistent and there are optional English subtitles.

The supplements include a commentary by film critic/historian David Robinson and actor Malcolm McDowell. They make a nice combination as Robinson is fully professional and prepared, instilling some appreciation of the film, while McDowell adds in some of his ad-hock memories of the production - his impressions of his role and Anderson in general. At times Robinson does sound like he is reading a prepared piece and there are some gaps but overall it is very good and worth listening to. I've heard McDowell on other commentaries and he is very refreshing to listen to. On disc 2 there are three featurettes - Cast and Crew (2003), an episode from the Scottish TV series featuring interviews with McDowell, Ondricek, Rakoff, director’s assistant Stephen Frears, producer Michael Medwin, and screenwriter David Sherwin. This runs almost 45 minutes. Next is a newly recorded 15 minute video interview with actor Graham Crowden. Lastly included is Thursday’s Children (1954), an Academy Award–winning 45 minute long documentary about a school for deaf children. It was directed by Anderson and Guy Brenton and is narrated by Richard Burton. There is also a 30-page liner notes booklet, with photos, featuring pieces by critic David Ehrenstein, screenwriter David Sherwin, and director Lindsay Anderson.

Another complete DVD package project by Criterion. Although I've never been overly fond of Kitchen-sink cinema - this might be counted as my favorite. It subtly articulates an oppressive education system with brilliantly explored feeling and intent.  

Gary W. Tooze

 


DVD Menus

 

(Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC - LEFT vs. Paramount Pictures - Region 2 - PAL - RIGHT)


Criterion - Disc 2

 

 

Criterion Region 'A' - Blu-ray

 

 

 Masters of Cinema - Region 'B' - Blu-ray

 


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

 

Subtitle Sample

 

1) Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC - TOP

2) Paramount Pictures - Region 2 - PAL - SECOND

3) Criterion Region 'A' - Blu-ray THIRD

4) Masters of Cinema Region 'B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

Screen Captures

 

1) Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC - TOP

2) Paramount Pictures - Region 2 - PAL - SECOND

3) Criterion Region 'A' - Blu-ray THIRD

4) Masters of Cinema Region 'B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 


1) Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC - TOP

2) Paramount Pictures - Region 2 - PAL - SECOND

3) Criterion Region 'A' - Blu-ray THIRD

4) Masters of Cinema Region 'B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 


 

1) Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC - TOP

2) Paramount Pictures - Region 2 - PAL - MIDDLE

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

 


 

1) Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC - TOP

2) Paramount Pictures - Region 2 - PAL - MIDDLE

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

 


 

1) Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC - TOP

2) Paramount Pictures - Region 2 - PAL - MIDDLE

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

 


1) Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC - TOP

2) Paramount Pictures - Region 2 - PAL - MIDDLE

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

 


1) Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC - TOP

2) Paramount Pictures - Region 2 - PAL - MIDDLE

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

 

More Blu-ray Captures


Report Card:

 

Image:

Blu-rays

Sound:

Blu-rays

Extras: Masters of Cinema Blu-ray

 

 

Box Covers

Distribution Criterion Collection - Spine #391 - Region 1 - NTSC Paramount - Region 2 - PAL Criterion Collection - Spine #391 - Region 'A' - Blu-ray

Masters of Cinema - Spine #84

Region 'B' - Blu-ray




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