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directed by Ken Loach
UK 1979

When honest young Tolly is forced on the run with 'Black Jack', a villainous ruffian, adventure and mishap are never far away. As the two enter a world of body-snatchers, private lunatic asylums and travelling fairs they find friendship in the most unlikely places. Based on Leon Garfield's popular novel, Ken Loach's Black Jack is a children's adventure film set in the 18th Century. With Chris Menges' beautiful photography, enchanting performances by its charismatic young cast and Loach's gentle, observational style - seen in his earlier feature Kes (1969) - Black Jack received the Critics' award at the 1979 Cannes Film Festival.

Excerpt of review from BFI located HERE


Theatrical Release: January 22nd, 1982 (Finland)

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DVD Review: BFI - Region 0 - PAL

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Region 0 - PAL

Runtime 1:37:36

1.66 Original Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 7.45 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 letterboxed - 1.66

Edition Details:
• Deleted Scenes (4:41)
• Theatrical Trailer
• Director's Commentary
• Fully Illustrated Booklet

DVD Release Date: June 21st, 2010
Keep Case

Chapters 13





Well, the BFI has done it again. Following their recent business model, they've plucked a relatively obscure British film from the wayside and given it the attention that it so richly deserves. This time they've picked Ken Loach's "Black Jack", a late 70s period drama that had gotten lost amongst his most famous works. Hopefully this new edition, a slightly revised director's cut no less, will earn the film the audience that it lacked in its initial release. Although the film is primarily seen through the eyes of a child, it is in no way a children's film. The themes of murder, love and insanity are dealt with the complexity that they require and easy answers are never just around the corner for Loach's characters. However, I would recommend the film slightly older viewers, say a mature pre-teen, like the film's main characters. While the slow, picaresque narrative main seem foreign given the hyper kinetic fare that is usually marketed to them, the story is ultimately one that they can learn a great deal from. As a youth who does his best to preserve both his own humanity and the lives of those around him in oftentimes violent situations that he neither asked for nor controls. Although Tolly doesn't always make the right choice, he's a good and caring human being, which in itself makes his journey valuable to a younger audience.

Although the film has gone through a full restoration, the image is still not as strong as one might have hoped for, but this is largely because of choices made by Loach himself. As he reveals in his commentary track, while the indoor scenes were filmed in 35 mm, the outdoor shots were recorded on 16 mm. The end result is rather on the grainy side, but is as Loach intended. There are some instances of damage that still crop up every now and then, but on the whole, the film probably looks as good as it ever will now. What's more, given Loach's involvement with the disc's production, we're guaranteed that this is the film was meant to look.

There is very little room for complaint on the audio. Mastered in Dolby Digital 2.0, the film's lovely orchestral score comes off strong. However, the character's speech can be a bit of a problem, not because of any mastering issues, but because like Altman, Loach chose to use overlapping dialogue with frequent improvisation. When you combine this with the character's thick accents, then you have dialogue that is not at all easy to understand. Fortunately, the disc comes with some excellent English subtitles for the hearing impaired which fixed all of the aforementioned difficulties. All in all, I was quite satisfied with the track and found no unwanted background noises.

Aside from a trailer we're treated to a handful of extras here. The most valuable, of course, is the feature commentary by Loach where he discusses the film's production, his unique stylistic choices, and the changes that he made for this release. I've never listened to a commentary track by Loach before, but I found this one informative and entertaining, and would gladly listen to another. In addition to the commentary, there's also a series of deleted scenes that while entertaining, probably didn't belong in the final cut. Finally, there's another one of the BFI's tremendous booklets with essays on the film and its participants.

All in all, this is another great release and one that I can give high recommendations to without any reservations. You should check this one out.

  - Brian Montgomery


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