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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

In Which We Serve [Blu-ray]

 

(David Lean, 1942)

 

Sold as a package Criterion are releasing; David Lean Directs Noel Coward
In the 1940s, the wit of playwright NoŽl Coward and the craft of filmmaker David Lean melded harmoniously in one of cinema’s greatest writer-director collaborations. With the wartime military drama sensation In Which We Serve, Coward and Lean (along with producing partners Ronald Neame and Anthony Havelock-Allan) embarked on a series of literate, socially engaged, and enormously entertaining pictures that ranged from domestic epic (This Happy Breed) to whimsical comedy (Blithe Spirit) to poignant romance (Brief Encounter). These films created a lasting testament to Coward’s artistic legacy and introduced Lean’s visionary talents to the world.

 

 

Review by Gary Tooze

 

Production:

Theatrical: Two Cities Films

Video: Criterion Collection # 604

 

Disc:

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

Runtime: 1:55:04.939

Disc Size: 47,487,074,699 bytes

Feature Size: 33,752,236,032 bytes

Video Bitrate: 34.99 Mbps

Chapters: 15

Case: Transparent Blu-ray case

Release date: March 27th, 2012

 

Video:

Aspect ratio: 1.33:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

 

Audio:

LPCM Audio English 1152 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 1152 kbps / 24-bit

 

Subtitles:

English (SDH), none

 

Extras:

• Barry Day (16:09)

• A Profile of 'In Which We Serve' (24:27)

• Coward and Attenborough at the NFT (1:05:02)

 Trailer (1:18)

 

Bitrate:

 

 

Description: In the midst of World War II, the renowned playwright NoŽl Coward engaged a young film editor named David Lean to help him realize his vision for an action drama about a group of Royal Navy sailors (roles that would be filled by Coward himself, Bernard Miles, and John Mills, among others) fighting the Germans in the Mediterranean. Coward and Lean ended up co-directing the large-scale project—an impressive undertaking, especially considering that neither of them had directed for the big screen before (this would be Coward’s only such credit). Cutting between a major naval battle and flashbacks to the men’s lives before they left home, In Which We Serve (an Oscar nominee for best picture) was a major breakthrough for both filmmakers and a sensitive and stirring piece of propaganda.

 

 

The Film:

Few morale-boosting wartime films have retained their power and entertainment value as emphatically as NoŽl Coward's... In Which We Serve. To witness Coward's sober, no-nonsense direction (in collaboration with his co-director/editor, David Lean) and to watch his straightforward portrayal of navy captain Kinross, one would never suspect that he'd built his theatrical reputation upon sophisticated drawing-room comedies and brittle, witty song lyrics. The real star of In Which We Serve is the British destroyer Torrin. Torpedoed in battle, the Torrin miraculously survives, and is brought back to English shores to be repaired. The paint is barely dry and the nuts and bolts barely in place before the Torrin is pressed into duty during the Dunkirk evacuation. The noble vessel is finally sunk after being dive-bombed in Crete, but many of the crew members survive. As they cling to the wreckage awaiting rescue, Coward and his men flash back to their homes and loved ones, and, in so doing, recall anew just why they're fighting and for whom they're fighting. Next to Coward, the single most important of the film's characters is Shorty Blake, played by John Mills. (Trivia note: Mills' infant daughter Juliet Mills appears as Shorty's baby.) Even so, the emphasis in the film is on teamwork; here as elsewhere, there can be no stars in wartime. For many years, the only prints available to television were from the bowdlerized American version, which crudely cut out all "hells" and "damns." Fortunately, this eviscerated American release has since been shelved in favor of the full, glorious 115-minute version.

***

Perhaps the most honored propaganda film of World War II, in which the survivors of a torpedoed British battleship recall their reasons for fighting through individual flashbacks (1942). David Lean directed, but the show is largely Noel Coward's: he wrote, produced, scored, and starred. With John Mills, Richard Attenborough, Celia Johnson, Bernard Miles, Kay Walsh, and Michael Wilding.

Excerpt from Dave Kehr at the Chicago Reader located HERE

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

The Criterion Blu-ray of In Which We Serve is advertised like the other 3 films in the David Lean Directs Noel Coward package - from 'BFI National Archive’s 2008 restorations'. It looks extremely impressive. Clean, impeccable contrast and pleasing grain. There is no noise and black levels are inky and rich. This may look even superior, contrast-wise, to 2005's Good Night and Good Luck - which we used to use as one of the benchmarks. This must be incredibly faithful to the original source - as it looks so damn good. It produces a magnificent presentation - the beauty almost distracts from the film value... almost. Top marks. 70-year old film? Unreal.

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Audio :

Linear PCM mono at 1152 kbps. We can only presume that this exports the film's audio as well as can be technically expected. It is clean and easily audible. No flaw issues at all. There are optional subtitles and my Momitsu has identified it as being a region 'A'-locked.

 

Extras :

We get another piece with Barry Day who did work for The Noel Coward Reader and is author of Coward on Film: The Cinema of Noel Coward. In this October 2011, 16-minute, interview he discusses In Which We Serve and Coward's contributions. A Profile of 'In Which We Serve' is a 24-minute documentary on the making of 'In Which We Serve' produced in London in 2000 for Carlton International Media. It features interviews with cinematographer Ronald Neame, actor John Mills and associate producer Anthony Havelock-Allan, among others.
• Coward and Attenborough at the NFT is an hour-long audio piece of the December 14th, 1969 onstage (at London's National Film Theater) discussing Coward's career, including their work together on In Which We Serve (Attenborough's first screen appearance) and takes questions from the audience. There is also an HD trailer included and the package contains a liner notes booklet in the package featuring essays by Ian Christie, Terrence Rafferty, Farran Smith Nehme, Geoffrey O’Brien, and Kevin Brownlow.

 

 

BOTTOM LINE:
Another fabulous reason to indulge in the Criterion's David Lean Directs Noel Coward package - if you required one. I love these war propaganda films - like Powell and Pressburger's 49th Parallel. For master-storytellers like Lean with Coward have created a timeless gem that has a totally different value now than when originally produced. This Blu-ray transfer does the film a great service and this is one disc I will be revisiting multiple times in my life. Strongly recommended! 

Gary Tooze

March 20th, 2012

 

Sold as a package Criterion are releasing; David Lean Directs Noel Coward
In the 1940s, the wit of playwright NoŽl Coward and the craft of filmmaker David Lean melded harmoniously in one of cinema’s greatest writer-director collaborations. With the wartime military drama sensation In Which We Serve, Coward and Lean (along with producing partners Ronald Neame and Anthony Havelock-Allan) embarked on a series of literate, socially engaged, and enormously entertaining pictures that ranged from domestic epic (This Happy Breed) to whimsical comedy (Blithe Spirit) to poignant romance (Brief Encounter). These films created a lasting testament to Coward’s artistic legacy and introduced Lean’s visionary talents to the world.

 

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 9500 DVDs and have reviewed over 5000 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.

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Gary W. Tooze

 

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