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directed by Christopher Petit
UK/West Germany 1980


The DVD of "Radio On" is compared to the Blu-ray HERE


A British film about alienation, asphalt, and narrative disconnections, coproduced by Wim Wenders's German company. Director Christopher Petit, a former film critic, slips into Wenders's style—the cool, austere black-and-white images, the blank underplaying—as if he were taking it for a test drive: he wants to see what it can do, what its strengths are and where its weaknesses lie. Seizing on an archetypal Wenders situation—a car trip that becomes a metaphor for an emotional pilgrimage—Petit inspects and abstracts Wenders's ideas. The film is dull and distant, though not objectionably so—it seems to be the effect Petit has in mind. The relationships between his isolated, distracted characters are reproduced in the movie's low-key appeal to its audience.

Excerpt of review from Dave Kehr located HERE

Theatrical Release: July 4th, 1980 (West Germany)

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DVD Review: BFI - Region 2 - PAL

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Region 2 - PAL

Runtime 1:40:03

1.85:1 Original Aspect Ratio

16X9 enhanced
Average Bitrate: 6.12 mb/s
PAL 720x576 25.00 f/s

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


Audio English (Dolby Digital 2.0)
Subtitles English, None
Features Release Information:
Studio: BFI

Aspect Ratio:
Widescreen anamorphic - 1.85:1

Edition Details:
• New filmed interview with Chris Petit and producer Keith Griffiths (42:15)
• radio on (remix): a digital video essay - with radical disruption of the origal (24:15)
• Original trailer
• Illustrated 28-page booklet with contributions from Geoffrey Nowell-Smith, John Patterson, Ian Penma

DVD Release Date: May 26th, 2008
Keep Case

Chapters 12



The DVD of "Radio On" is compared to the Blu-ray HERE

Christopher Petit's 1980 film "Radio On" tells the story of Robert, a young DJ whose brother's mysterious death starts the narrative. The film focuses on both Robert's travels and his encounters with a series of oddball characters during his exploration of his brother's life and death. The evocations that the film often draws to Wim Wenders's road movies are certainly no accident, as Wenders both financed the film and lent Petit the use of his cinematographer (Martin Schäfer) and then wife, Lisa Kreuzer to play a German tourist that Robert encounters. The film, which the BFI has wisely decided to break down into chapters based upon the music that Robert (or his late brother) plays, is perhaps best when focusing on its soundtrack. Like some other films of the era, Radio On, features a panoply of the great musicians (Kraftwerk, David Bowie, and Devo to name a few) and they sound very nice on this disc. However, I have to admit not enjoying the film as much as the soundtrack. The pacing is deliberately slow, but at a hundred minutes, the film felt too slow and meandering. I can certainly appreciate Petit's intent, but the execution left me wanting. Others, particularly those that enjoy road films like "Two Lane Blacktop" or films that are heavily centered on music like "Border Radio", may get a real kick out of it.

Shot in black and white, and presented here on a dual layered disc with an anamorphic widescreen transfer, "Radio On" looks decent enough. There are some instances (particularly in the early parts of the film) of scratches and other instances of damage. That being said, the image is acceptable, if unremarkable. It lacks some sharpness, but I suspect that it was simply the result of the initial filming and no amount of restoration could have increased the clarity by leaps and bounds.

The disc uses a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack that is more than acceptable. While the choice of mono may put some off for a film that relies so heavily on its music, I found it more than serviceable. Indeed, the songs sounded pretty darn good on my system, with no discernable unwanted background noises like hisses and pops. The subtitles on the disc are a bit different from those that I've seen on their other releases (white with black boarders in this case), but are similarly unobtrusive. Sadly, the German dialogue is untranslated.

There are three extras included with this release. First off is a typically fantastic booklet, where we get multiple essays on the film, a review of it from its initial release, and a biography of Petit. Next, there's a pair of interviews presented together, starting with Petit and including Keith Griffiths, the producer of the film. At a little over forty minutes, the two do a rather thorough job discussing the making of the film and its fate after release. Finally, there's a rather odd documentary entitled "Radio On (Remix)", which is rather ineffable. Perhaps the best description would be an after the fact "making of..." documentary with continual video and auditory distortions.

While the film wasn't really my cup of tea, there are those that absolutely adore it, and I can see why. Petit has put together a thoughtful and somber meditation of a man's literal and figurative journeys that has an amazing soundtrack. Those that are interested are certainly encouraged to give this a go.

 - Brian Montgomery


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