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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

This Happy Breed [Blu-ray]

 

(David Lean, 1944)

 

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 # 605

 

Disc:

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

Runtime: 1:51:12.290

Disc Size: 46,303,276,721 bytes

Feature Size: 32,621,985,792 bytes

Video Bitrate: 34.97 Mbps

Chapters: 12

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 (15:00)

The Golden Age (44:06)

Trailer (2:35)

Re-Release Trailer (2:18)

 

Bitrate:

 

 

Description: David Lean brings to vivid emotional life NoŽl Coward’s epic chronicle of a working-class family in the London suburbs over the course of two decades. Robert Newton and Celia Johnson are surpassingly affecting as Frank and Ethel Gibbons, a couple with three children whose modest household is touched by joy and tragedy from the tail end of the First World War to the beginning of the Second. With its mix of politics and melodrama, This Happy Breed is a quintessential British domestic drama, featuring subtly expressive Technicolor cinematography by Ronald Neame and a remarkable supporting cast including John Mills, Stanley Holloway, and Kay Walsh.

 

 

The Film:

With This Happy Breed, playwright Noel Coward hoped to glorify the British working class in the same manner that he'd... celebrated the "higher orders" in Cavalcade. The film begins just after World War I. Middle-class Londoner Robert Newton hopes to improve his family's lot by moving them into a comparatively posh house in the suburbs. The house is large enough for each family member to claim a corner or room as his or her own, allowing Coward to spotlight the characters' highly individual strengths, shortcomings and emotions. Twenty years go by, filled with the sorts of triumphs and tragedies with which British audiences of the 1940s could readily identify. Finally, left alone after their children and relatives have moved on, Newton and his wife (Celia Johnson) leave the house behind for a smaller, more practical apartment. This was the second of four collaborations between author Noel Coward and director David Lean. While Coward can't completely disguise his patronizing attitude towards "regular folks," Lean is successful in conveying the essential warmth, humanity and value of the film's characters.

***

One can imagine a master director like David Lean having a full command of cinema from the very beginning of his career. But Lean, who handled the technical aspects of the job as brilliantly as any director who ever lived, was a little bit intimidated by the thought of directing actors while filming This Happy Breed (1944), one of his several memorable collaborations with playwright-songwriter-actor-raconteur, Noel Coward. Lean's first effort behind the camera, In Which We Serve (1942), was actually co-directed by Coward, who mainly put the performers through their paces while Lean took care of the camerawork and editing. Despite Lean's misgivings, however, This Happy Breed became the most successful British picture of 1944, and finally launched the director on a trajectory that would bring us a handful of the most exhilarating films ever made.

Excerpt from TMN located HERE

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

The Criterion Blu-ray of Lean's This Happy Breed looks marvelous. Another impressive BFI restoration in the David Lean Directs Noel Coward package. The Technicolor representation has brisk hues with vibrant reds and blues and passive earthy browns. The contrast layering is exquisite and the overall image is another Blu-ray triumph. Fans will appreciate both the grain existence and the occasional depth. This is dual-layered with a very high bitrate and gets full-marks for the visual representation.

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Audio :

The, now standard, linear PCM mono track at 1152 kbps is as flawless as the source and represents the film as adeptly as could be expected. There is nothing demonstrative to report although there may have been some healthier-than-expected bass in the marching parade sequence. It is clean and all dialogue audible with 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, 15-minute, interview he discusses This Happy Breed and Coward's contributions. The Golden Age; Ronald Neame was one of three partners in Cineguild Productions, along with director David Lean and producer Anthony Havelokc-Allan. The company was formed following the success of Lean and playwright Noel Coward's In Which We Serve. Neame contributed as cinematographer, producer, and screenwriter of many Cineguild projects before moving on to become a director himself. In this 45-minute interview, conducted by the Criterion Collection in 2010, the then ninety-nine-year-old Neame reminisced about Coward, Cineguild and their films. There is a trailer and re-release trailer 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:
Each subsequent review of the 4 films in the David Lean Directs Noel Coward package just piles on more value. This Happy Breed is brilliantly British cinema at its finest. The class structure is such a strong element - not dissimilar to the TV series Coronation Street. These Blu-rays are true gems making this a heavy front-runner for our Year-end poll. Very highly recommended! 

Gary Tooze

March 24th, 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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60-Inch Class (59.58” Diagonal) 1080p Pioneer KURO Plasma Flat Panel HDTV PDP6020-FD

Oppo Digital BDP-83 Universal Region FREE Blu-ray/SACD Player
Momitsu - BDP-899 Region FREE Blu-ray player
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Marantz SR7002 THX Select2 Surround Receiver
Tannoy DC6-T (fronts) + Energy (centre, rear, subwoofer) speakers (5.1)

APC AV 1.5 kVA H Type Power Conditioner 120V

Gary W. Tooze

 

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