directed by Bruce Robinson
UK 1987

Bruce Robinson's semi-autobiographical account of his early years as an actor has become a cult hit of massive proportions, inspiring countless numbers of young men and women to quote stars Paul McGann and Richard E. Grant and their booze-soaked dialogue. The story follows these two unemployed actors in 1969 London, as they take a holiday in the country. Trapped inside a dank, empty cabin with each other, an endless downpour of heavy rain battering their roof, the two men form a complicated bond fuelled by booze, disaster, and nihilism. Though not much happens in terms of plot, WITHNAIL AND I is one of the most subtly hilarious films to come out of 1980s.

***

London. The 60s. Two unemployed actors-acerbic, elegantly wasted Withnail (Richard E. Grant) and the anxiety-ridden "I" (Paul McGann)-drown their frustrations in booze, pills, and lighter fluid. When Withnail's Uncle Monty (Richard Griffiths) offers his cottage, they escape the squalor of their flat for a week in the country. They soon realize they've gone on holiday by mistake when their wits-and friendship-are sorely tested by violent downpours, less-than-hospitable locals, and empty cupboards. An intelligent, superbly acted, and hilarious film, The Criterion Collection is proud to present Bruce Robinson's semi-autobiographical cult favorite in its complete and uncut version.

Posters

Theatrical Release: March 27th, 1987 - (New York New Directors and New Films Festival)

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Comparison:

Criterion - Region 0 - NTSC vs. Starz Home Entertainment - Region FREE - Blu-ray vs. Image Entertainment - Region A - Blu-ray

1) Criterion - Region 0 - NTSC LEFT

2) Starz Home Entertainment - Region FREE - Blu-ray - MIDDLE

3) Image Ent. - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - RIGHT

 

DVD Box Cover

 

Distribution Criterion Collection - Spine #119 - Region 0 - NTSC Starz Home Entertainment - Region FREE - Blu-ray Image Entertainment
Region 'A'  -
Blu-ray
Runtime 1:47:28 1:47:25.063 1:47:25.439
Video 1.80:1 Original Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 6.31 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

1080P / 23.976 fps Dual-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 35,329,519,356 bytes

Feature: 30,353,359,296 bytes

Video Bitrate: 27.99 Mbps

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

1080P Single-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 17,042,671,060 bytes

Feature: 16,737,164,352 bytes

Video Bitrate: 18.01 Mbps

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

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

Bitrate:  DVD

Bitrate:  Starz Blu-ray

Bitrate:  Image Entertainment Blu-ray

Audio English (Dolby Digital 1.0)  DTS-HD Master Audio English 2010 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 2010 kbps / 16-bit (DTS Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 768 kbps / 16-bit)
LPCM Audio English 2304 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 2304 kbps / 24-bit
LPCM Audio English 1536 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1536 kbps / 16-bit
LPCM Audio English 1536 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1536 kbps / 16-bit
LPCM Audio English 1536 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1536 kbps / 16-bit
Subtitles English, None None English, None
Features

Release Information:
Studio: Criterion

Aspect Ratio:
Letterboxed Widescreen 1.80:1

Edition Details:

• Withnail & Us, a 1999 documentary on the film (24:51)
• Rare preproduction photos by Ralph Steadman
• Original theatrical trailer
• Limited-edition collectible poster of the original film art by Ralph Steadman

• 6-page liner notes
 
DVD Release Date: July 10th, 2001

Keep Case
Chapters: 9

Release Information:
Studio:
Starz

1080P / 23.976 fps Dual-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 35,329,519,356 bytes

Feature: 30,353,359,296 bytes

Video Bitrate: 27.99 Mbps

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

Edition Details:

•  Withnail & Us, a 1999 documentary on the film (24:47 in PAL)

• Postcards from Penrith (20:52 in PAL)
• The Drinking Game - (14:55 in PAL)
• Handmade Films and I - Bruce Robinson Interview (14:18 in PAL)
• Behind the Scenes Stills Gallery
• Swear-A-Thon

• Theatrical Trailer (1:24)
 
Blu-ray Release Date: August 31st, 2009
Standard
Blu-ray Case
Chapters: 22

Release Information:
Studio:
Image Entertainment

 

1080P Single-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 17,042,671,060 bytes

Feature: 16,737,164,352 bytes

Video Bitrate: 18.01 Mbps

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

 

Edition Details:
Trailer

Blu-ray Release Date: August 24th, 2010
Standard Blu-ray Case

Chapters 12  

 

Comments:

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

ADDITION: (August 2010) Image Entertainment Region 'A' - Blu-ray: Technically the Starz region FREE UK Blu-ray image transfer is superior but because of the way Withnail and I was shot - I don't think it is such an important factor. My software indicates the Image Entertainment is about 1/2 the size on the single-layered disc and has about 2/3's the bitrate. There aren't strong examples of differences and they tend to support each other's color scheme although the US edition is less vibrant and has less of a greenish tinge - I really prefer that but have no evidence that this is an accurate theatrical look. Unlike Time Bandits, Image Entertainment have given this Blu-ray rendering a progressive transfer.  

The audio is almost identical to my ears in regards to the Linear PCM 2.0 channel track that both have but the Starz does offer the, basically unutilized, 5.1 surround option in HD as well. This has optional English subtitles while the UK Blu-ray does not - and my Momitsu has identified it as being a region 'A'-locked.

No extras save a trailer but the Starz has over an hour's worth of video supplements including the documentary... but they are in PAL.

It seems obvious that the UK region FREE edition is the way to go for most important aspects of the package - and it is also 65% OFF at the writing of this review. That is the way we suggest to achieve the best dollar value. My only bugaboo if the greenish-ness of the Starz but, as I say, maybe it is supposed to look this way. The film continues to grow on me... kind of a counter-cultural slice served on white toast with beans - big circle of HP.

***

 

Okay - this is pretty easy to sort out - Criterion spine #119 was one of their worst ever DVD transfers. It was non-anamorphic (widescreen letterboxed) and it was interlaced (see combing last large capture) - unfortunately advertised as 'Exclusive uncut widescreen version, supervised by director of photography Peter Hannan'. <eyebrows raise>

Starz have released the film, over 8 years later, on, a reasonably weak, and certainly not stellar, Blu-ray. Both editions come close to the original aspect ratio of 1.85:1. The Criterion is about 1.80:1 and the Blu-ray is 1.78. The DVD seemed heavy in earthy browns and the Blu-ray is bathed in an off-putting green. It's hard to think that either release are representing the film colors totally accurately but I have no way of identifying which may be more correct. The 1080P transfer remains somewhat hazy but is still a far superior image than the Criterion letterboxed DVD. I suspect the same transfer was used as in Starz 2006 DVD 3-disc 20th Anniversary Edition. There may have been some DNR usage explaining the softness and lack of grain. 

For audio Criterion have stuck with a flat mono track and the new dual-layered Blu-ray offers two options - an uncompressed linear PCM 2.0 channel and a superfluous DTS-HD Master 5.1 at 2010 kbps. The film is heavily dialogue-driven (BTW, with some of the great quotes in modern cinema) but the more robust LCPM is probably the way to go. It sounds cleaner and less tinny. The Criterion offer English subtitles but the Starz have none - which is a shame for those less comfortable with the UK accents in Withnail and I. Good news for North Americans is that my Momitsu has identified it as being a region FREE disc playable on Blu-ray machines worldwide.

The Blu-ray has more supplements although they are all in PAL. Duplicated are the 25-minute 1999 documentary Withnail & Us, a trailer and Ralph Steadman gallery of images. Additional on the Starz are humorous featurettes including Postcards from Penrith, The Drinking Game, a 2-minute Swear-A-Thon with more 'baser' expressions used in the film and, finally, an interesting and frank Handmade Films and I - Bruce Robinson interview running 15-minutes. Ohhh, the Criterion do add a full, folded, poster and 6-pages of liner notes.

A brilliant script produces an instant and enduring classic - if mostly solidified within a niche. The Criterion DVD was soon 'Dunsel' and is bested in all areas by the new Blu-ray - which, however, is not on totally solid ground with the image which could definitely look better. It seems though an enticing purchase as such a film won't be coming out in the higher resolution by another distributor anytime soon. Withnail and I is still endlessly amusing and as this seems the best, at present, way to see, and appreciate, the film in your home theater - we encourage those willing to accept the less-stellar aspects to indulge.       

Gary W. Tooze

 


DVD Menus


Starz Blu-ray Extras

Image Ent. - Region 'A' - Blu-ray

 


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

 

Screen Captures

 

1) Criterion - Region 0 - NTSC TOP

2) Starz Home Entertainment - Region FREE - Blu-ray - MIDDLE

3) Image Ent. - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

 


 

Screen Captures

 

1) Criterion - Region 0 - NTSC TOP

2) Starz Home Entertainment - Region FREE - Blu-ray - MIDDLE

3) Image Ent. - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

 


1) Criterion - Region 0 - NTSC TOP

2) Starz Home Entertainment - Region FREE - Blu-ray - MIDDLE

3) Image Ent. - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

 


1) Criterion - Region 0 - NTSC TOP

2) Starz Home Entertainment - Region FREE - Blu-ray - MIDDLE

3) Image Ent. - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

 


1) Criterion - Region 0 - NTSC TOP

2) Starz Home Entertainment - Region FREE - Blu-ray - MIDDLE

3) Image Ent. - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

 


1) Criterion - Region 0 - NTSC TOP

2) Starz Home Entertainment - Region FREE - Blu-ray - MIDDLE

3) Image Ent. - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

 


1) Criterion - Region 0 - NTSC TOP

2) Starz Home Entertainment - Region FREE - Blu-ray - MIDDLE

3) Image Ent. - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

 


1) Criterion - Region 0 - NTSC TOP

2) Starz Home Entertainment - Region FREE - Blu-ray - MIDDLE

3) Image Ent. - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

 


1) Criterion - Region 0 - NTSC TOP

2) Starz Home Entertainment - Region FREE - Blu-ray - MIDDLE

3) Image Ent. - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

 


1) Criterion - Region 0 - NTSC TOP

2) Starz Home Entertainment - Region FREE - Blu-ray - MIDDLE

3) Image Ent. - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

 


1) Criterion - Region 0 - NTSC TOP

2) Starz Home Entertainment - Region FREE - Blu-ray - MIDDLE

3) Image Ent. - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

 


 

DVD Box Cover

 

Distribution Criterion Collection - Spine #119 - Region 0 - NTSC Starz Home Entertainment - Region FREE - Blu-ray Image Entertainment
Region 'A'  -
Blu-ray

 





 

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