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Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (TV Mini-series) Blu-ray Edition
U
K 1979

 

Since both the series and the earlier DVD editions have been extensively reviewed elsewhere may I refer you to Graham Nelson superb review of the program and the BBC Classic Drama DVD set issued in 2003.  This excerpt is where he speaks of Guinness performance:

 

Sir Alec Guinness (1914-2000) is hypnotic as Smiley, giving what may well be the best television performance of the age, and certainly his most important work between Star Wars (1977) and A Passage To India (1984). Increasingly used for grandiose roles -- Sigmund Freud, Adolf Hitler, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Pope Innocent III -- he was now, in his fifth decade in show-business, called on to play an iconic figure who was at the same time a quiet, unassuming man without ambition and with no public face. Not a spy, but a spymaster, and not even that but a retired one. . .  Guinness is surrounded by the finest small-screen actors of the day -- Joss Ackland, Beryl Reid, Patrick Stewart, Ian Richardson, Bernard Hepton, Michael Jayston, Si-Phillips, Hywel Bennett, Nigel Stock and a dozen others, all putting in flawless turns - but, and it is hard to say quite how, he towers over them. He has mastery where they are merely expert. Some of it, admittedly, is what Le Carré could call tradecraft. Guinness has absolute confidence in the smallness of the gesture needed, given direction which is close-up to the faces. He develops any number of Smiley mannerisms: sideways glances, minute flashes of cynical appraisal done fleetingly with the eyes. His most formidable tic is to look away, wipe his glasses on a scarf and put them back on to look hard at his interviewee.

 (Excerpt from The DigitalFix HERE)
 

On the other hand, Holly Ordway, writing for DVD Talk, hated everything about it:
Anyone who comes to Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy without some background in Le Carr
setting will be sadly adrift. The story is awash with characters, many of whom are never introduced and others who are glimpsed early on and don't reappear until much later. One of the advantages a novel has over the screen in handling a large cast is that in written text, a character can be introduced by name and information can be provided about him even if he or she is alone, whereas in film, a character by himself is a cipher; we only find out who he is from other people talking about him. There's an awful lot of this going on in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy: we see various unnamed characters going about mysterious business, and we witness various other characters talking about other people, but we have no way to associate names and identities with the proper people. If you know ahead of time who the characters are, you'll have half a chance at keeping them straight; otherwise, there's just not enough context provided to follow what's going on.

(Except HERE)
 

LensView:
The Series: 8
Having the read the novel only relatively recently, there were times when I wasn't entirely sure when I last saw this film, so much does it evoke the book.  TTSS is a very talky movie.  Very.  You need to be prepared for this if you've been feeding on a diet of fast paced Bourne-like thrillers lately.  The movie does have its moments of action but they feel more like release than the tension producing thrillers of today.  Character, dialogue, reaction, what is not said as much as what is said this is the substance of Tinker Tailor.  I rather liked what Graham Nelson reported of Guinness observation about Sir Maurice Oldfield, head of British counter-intelligence 1973-78, whom he observed habitually drinking as if "looking for the dregs of poison in his glass".  Tinker Tailor is a lot like that.  You can easily feel every characters unspoken critique of every other characters report, creating various scenarios if this sentence were true and that sentence were false.

Leonard Norwitz

Television Premiere: September 10th, 1979

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DVD Review: Acorn Media - Region 'A' - Blu-ray

Box Cover

   

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Distribution Acorn Media - Region 'A' - Blu-ray
Runtime Runtime: 659 minutes 
Video Aspect ratio: 1.38:1
Resolution: 1080p
Codec: AVC
Disc Size: 2 x 50 GB
Average Episode Size: 14.6 GB
Average Bit Rate: High (mid-30s Mbps)
Region 1
Total Runtime: 322 minutes
Average Episode Runtime: (53:40)
Typical chapters per episode: 8
Audio English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono) 
Subtitles English (SDH), None
Features

Release Information:
Studio: Acorn Media

Aspect Ratio:
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1

Edition Details:
• Interview with Director John Irvin - in HD (29:56)
• Interview with John le Carr頭 in SD (19:33)
• 12 Deleted/Missing Scenes - in SD (11:26)
• Production Notes
• Glossary of Characters & Terms


Presentation:
2 discs in Amaray Blu-ray case w/ slipcover
Street Date: April 24th, 2012

 

Comments:

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

 

Introduction:
Six months ago Acorn Media repackaged their 2004 DVD set of the classic television series starring Alec Guinness to coincide with the theatrical release of the new Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy starring Gary Oldman as George Smiley in the role that Guinness made iconic.  The video of that film hit the streets only this week, a month before Acorns
Blu-ray version of the 1979 television series.  Lets see what we get for our money with the new Blu-ray.
 
Comparison Overview:
The image and audio on Acorns
Blu-ray appears to be much the same as the DVD, only bigger, clearer and better, but not by much.  The audio is clearer, richer, fuller and more dynamic.  Dialogue is more robust, easier to decipher.  The Blu-ray adds a couple of new Bonus Features: some deleted and/or missing scenes and a half-hour interview with Director John Irvin in high-def.
 

Image: DVD: 3 / BRD: 5
As with Acorn’s Blu-ray  of Brideshead Revisited the audio is not upgraded to a lossless format but instead lives on in Dolby Digital. Yet, as with Brideshead Revisited, though not nearly to the same degree, the audio is clearer, richer, fuller and more dynamic. Dialogue is more robust, easier to decipher. Subtle background sounds like rain and traffic noise is a little more apparent, and the disproportional discrepancies between effects and dialogue found of Acorn’s DVD are less in evidence on the Blu-ray . There is no PAL speed-up despite the image anomalies noted above.

 

 
The
Blu-ray: It would seem that the Blu-ray is derived from the same source as their DVD with little or no additional upgrades in scanning resolution or revisions to color, contrast and the occasional blemish. Deep colors are bolder, but TTSS isn’t exactly big on popping greens, blues and reds. With the exception of some wonderful isolated outdoor shots like those around the safe house in Episode 2, the color palette remains compressed as does the tonal scale, shadows often contain only more shadows. Blacks are passable and noise is only moderately subdued as compared to the DVD. Subtitle clarity is improved in high-definition, but movement across the frame can be compromised at times. Note the subtly jagged progress of the cars in the background as they travel from right to left 4:10 minutes into the opening episode. . . which brings up the subject of interlacing. The back cover states “1080p” but my VLC software screams otherwise: if not interlaced, then some sort of PAL-to-NTSC conversion mix-up - some of it pretty frightening (see cap). Once again, a dodgy source trumps high bit rate.

Despite what Acorn Media’s own description of their Blu-ray indicates regarding the episode breakdown (seven episodes instead of six, for example) HERE we can see that their Blu-ray is the same edition as was edited for American Television and Great Performances. Each of its six episodes ends with the Paramount Television logo as if to seal the matter.

 
Audio:
DVD: 3 / BRD: 5
DVD:
As for the audio, though cleaner and clearer on the BBC set, you will incur the usual 4% PAL speedup when played on those North American machines that can read discs from other regions.  (Damn!)  This is not as disconcerting as you might expect, but everyones voice is delivered from high in chest rather than low, where it is supposed to begin.  So, once again, the Acorn wins on points for American players. Some of the effects: tire screeching, traffic noises, footfalls, explosions are grossly disproportional to the dialogue.  Ditto for the music.  These difficulties are not the fault of the transfer, however.
 
Blu-ray: As with Acorns Blu-ray of Brideshead Revisited the audio is not upgraded to a lossless format but instead continues on in Dolby Digital.  Yet, as with Brideshead Revisited, though not nearly to the same degree, the audio is clearer, richer, fuller and more dynamic.  Dialogue is more robust, easier to decipher.  Subtle background sounds like rain and traffic noise is a little more apparent, and the discrepancies between effects noted on the DVD between dialogue and everything else is much less in evidence on the Blu-ray.
 
Extras:
DVD: 3 / BRD: 4
DVD:
As previously mentioned, the Acorn release includes a nice interview with le Carré that starts with his assessment of the Guinness interpretation and moves on to other aspects of the film, his novel and writing about the Cold War.  This is a much better piece than the seven-minute featurette on the BBC DVD if for no other reason than the centerpiece there is on le Carré earlier novel The Constant Gardener and not TTSS.
 
Blu-ray: In addition to the twenty-minute interview with John le Carré
and the Production Notes and Glossary found on Acorns DVD, the Blu-ray adds a couple of new Bonus Features: a scattering of brief deleted and/or missing scenes there seems to be nothing that further tells which, not that it matters and a half-hour interview with Director John Irvin in high-def.  Irvin, now a handsome man of 72, reminisces about how he came to direct Tinker Tailor, the project for which he would become most well known, his meetings with and professional tugs of war with Guinness, le Carré involvement with the movie, the novel choice of shooting on film instead of video, and production challenges in light of a looming strike.  An engaging bonus feature.
 
Recommendation: 6
Whether or not you have seen the Oldman Tinker Tailor, you owe it to yourself to watch Guinness in the role. Apart form the length of the two movies, there is considerable difference in rendering, not entirely a function of the obvious enrichment of production values in the new movie.  Of the two existing DVDs, the re-issued Acorn Region 1 and the BBC Region 2, the Acorn wins on points.  But neither is satisfactory simply because the image quality is compromised.  The image on the Blu-ray is a little better, the audio more so, but it seems to me that the movie needs restoration.  The new Acorn is clearly the best we have for this classic for the time being.

Leonard Norwitz
LensViews
April 9th, 2012

 


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

 

Screen Captures

 

UK PAL DVD TOP

US NTSC DVD MIDDLE

Acorn Media - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

 


UK PAL DVD TOP

US NTSC DVD MIDDLE

Acorn Media - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

 

 


UK PAL DVD TOP

US NTSC DVD MIDDLE

Acorn Media - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

 


UK PAL DVD TOP

US NTSC DVD MIDDLE

Acorn Media - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

 


More Acorn Blu-ray Captures

 

 


Interlaced appearance (BOTTOM)

 

 


 



 

 



 

 

Box Cover

   

CLICK to order from:

Distribution Acorn Media - Region 'A' - Blu-ray



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