H D - S E N S E I

A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze


Winstanley [Blu-ray]


(Kevin Brownlow, 1975)



Review by Gary Tooze



Theatrical: BFI Production

Video: BFI Video



Region: FREE (as verified by the Momitsu region FREE Blu-ray player)

Runtime: 1:36:23.706

Disc Size: 41,537,765,144 bytes

Feature Size: 20,558,608,512 bytes

Video Bitrate: 23.89 Mbps

Chapters: 15

Case: Standard Blu-ray case

Release date: August 3rd, 2009



Aspect ratio: 1.33:1

Resolution: 1080p

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video



LPCM Audio English 1536 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1536 kbps / 16-bit


English, none



New filmed interview with Kevin Brownlow and Andrew Mollo (39:41 in HD!)
It Happened Here Again (Eric Mival, 1976, 49:14 in HD!) the Making Of Winstanley
9 Dalmuir West (Kevin Brownlow, 1962, 12:49 in HD!)

Restoration Comparison (1:43 in HD!)
Fully Illustrated 32-page booklet with contributions by Marina Lewycka (author of A Short History of tractors in Ukrainian), Eric Mival, Jonathan Rosenbaum, Tom Milne, and David Robinson; plus biographies and credits.





Description: 1649. With poverty and unrest sweeping England, a group of impoverished men and women, known as the diggers, form a settlement on St George's Hill, Surrey. Inspired by the visionary leadership of Gerrard Winstanley, the commune's tireless, yet peaceful, attempts to assert their right to cultivate and share the wealth of the common land, are met with crushing hostility from local landowners and government troops.

With Winstanley, filmmakers Brownlow and Mollo (the creators of It Happened Here) have produced an astonishingly authentic historical film, and a powerful, moving story of one extraordinary man's vision.



The Film:

'A Led by the Christian radical Gerard Winstanley, an amiably wild-eyed enthusiast, a group of impoverished peasants sets up a commune on public lands. These Diggers, as they were contemptuously called, are attacked both for trespassing and occupying land used to graze cattle. It's a class confrontation that establishes an ongoing rhythm of persecution and defense. As a study of primitive, rural communism, the movie makes a fascinating precursor to Stefan Ruzowitzky's The Inheritorsand, as in It Happened Here, Brownlow filled his cast with actual ideologues; the anti-clerical Ranter who challenges Winstanley was the head of a contemporary commune that called themselves the New Diggers.

Although modest enough to make even the cheapest Hollywood movie seem grandiose, Winstanley suggests the antiauthoritarian westerns of the early '70s. The greater its period fidelity, the more it suggests a gaggle of hippie radicals somehow transported out of time.

Excerpt from J. Hoberman at the Village Voice located HERE



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

Aside from some exceptionally grainy sequences at the beginning of the film (which may actually be intentional for all I know or derived from the 16mm elements - see first capture below) and some very light scratches - this Blu-ray image is magnificent with some of the best defined contrast I've seen in a long while. Winstanley was restored (Producer James White) in 2K using the original 16mm and 35mm negative and finegrain elements held at the BFI Archive and the Blu-ray disc was made directly from that 2K master.  Winstanley cover 20 Gig of the dual-layered disc  with a video bitrate of 23.89 Mbps. This looks just beautiful at times with the film's varying textures jumping to life and occasionally showing some depth. This is really marvelous to watch.
















Audio :

BFI continues to stick with the original audio avoiding artificial bumps. The linear PCM 2.0 track at 1536 kbps is of clean and straightforward quality - representing the film's dialogue accurately and consistently. It is the only audio option on this disc. There are optional subtitles in English only and my Momitsu has identified this as being region FREE!



Extras :

We get a newly filmed interview with Kevin Brownlow and Andrew Mollo running just shy of 40-minutes, a 1962 Brownlow short; 9 Dalmuir West ... a record of the last weekend of the Glasgow trams but perhaps the best supplement is Eric Mival's 1976 'making of' Winstanley entitled It Happened Here Again narrated by John Rowe. There is also a fully illustrated 32-page liner notes booklet with contributions by Marina Lewycka (author of A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian), Eric Mival, Jonathan Rosenbaum, Tom Milne, and David Robinson; plus biographies and credits.



To quote Jonathan Rosenbaum from the liner notes: "There's really not much to be said for 'Winstanley', except that it's the most mysteriously beautiful English film since the best of Michael Powell (which it resembles in no other respect) and the best pre-twentieth century historical film I can recall since 'The Rise of Louis XIV' (Rossellini) or Straub's 'Bach' film ('The Chronicles of Anna Magdalena Bach')."  The Blu-ray is distinguished as another in the growing line of immaculate hi-def transfers by the BFI. Strongly recommended as a seemingly accurate and detailed depiction of the commune established by the 17th Century 'Diggers' and the revolutionary declaration to reclaim 'commoners land' for those suffering in post-Cromwell England. Magnificent!


Gary Tooze

July 22nd, 2009





About the Reviewer: Hello, fellow Beavers! I have been interested in film since I viewed a Chaplin festival on PBS when I was around 9 years old. I credit DVD with expanding my horizons to fill an almost ravenous desire to seek out new film experiences. I currently own approximately 7500 DVDs and have reviewed over 3000 myself. I appreciate my discussion Listserv for furthering my film education and inspiring me to continue running DVDBeaver. Plus a healthy thanks to those who donate and use our Amazon links.

Although I never wanted to become one of those guys who focused 'too much' on image and sound quality - I find HD is swiftly pushing me in that direction. So be it, but film will always be my first love and I list my favorites on the old YMdb site now accessible HERE.  

Gary's Home Theatre:

Samsung HPR4272 42" Plasma HDTV
Momitsu - BDP-899 Region FREE Blu-ray player
Marantz SA8001 Super Audio CD Player
Marantz SR7002 THX Select2 Surround Receiver
Tannoy DC6-T (fronts) + Energy (centre, rear, subwoofer) speakers (5.1)

Gary W. Tooze








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