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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

Downhill aka When Boys Leave Home [Blu-ray]

 

(http://www.dvdbeaver.com/film/direct-chair/hitchcock.htm, 1927)

 

 

Review by Gary Tooze

 

Production:

Theatrical: Gainsborough Pictures 

Video: Divisa Home Video / Criterion Collection (extra in The Lodger Blu-ray package)

 

Disc:

Region: FREE / Region 'A' (as verified by the Oppo Blu-ray player)

Runtime: 1:45:21.833 / 1:50:59.277

Disc Size: 19,560,898,711 bytes / 48,857,785,230 bytes

Feature Size: 18,086,946,816 bytes / 13,373,534,208 bytes

Video Bitrate: 20.00 Mbps / 15.09 Mbps

Chapters: 15 / 11

Case: Standard Blu-ray case / Transparent Blu-ray case

Release date: November 7th, 2013 / June 27th, 2017

 

Video:

Aspect ratio: 1.33:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

 

Audio:

DTS-HD Master Audio English 1629 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1629 kbps / 16-bit (DTS Core: 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 16-bit)

 

Dolby Digital Audio English 192 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps

 

Subtitles:

Spanish, none

 

Intertitles in original English

 

Extras:

• A Profile of Hitchcock the Early Years (24:02)
• Text Screens in Spanish
Filmography
Photo gallery

 

• The Lodger, another 1927 feature directed by Alfred Hitchcock and starring Ivor Novello, in a 2K digital restoration and with a new piano score by Neil Brand
• New interview with film scholar William Rothman on Hitchcock’s visual signatures (32:54)
• New video essay by art historian Steven Jacobs about Hitchcock’s use of architecture (17:42)
• Excerpts from audio interviews with Hitchcock by filmmakers François Truffaut (1962 - 26:23) and Peter Bogdanovich (1963 - 19:42 and 1972 - 20:58)
• Radio adaptation of The Lodger from 1940, directed by Hitchcock (30:48)
• New interview with Brand on composing for silent film (22:37)
PLUS: Essays on
The Lodger and Downhill by critic Philip Kemp

 

Bitrates:

 

 

1) Divisa Home Video - Region FREE - Blu-ray TOP

2) Criterion (The Lodger) - Region 'A' Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

Description: Ivor Novello, public school sixth-former, loyally takes the blame when a chum impregnates Mabel, the tuck shop temptress. Cast out of the family circle, he becomes a chorus boy in the West End, inherits some money, marries a gold-digger, goes broke again and works as a taxi dancer-cum-gigolo in Paris. Finally he is (or hallucinates that he is) transported back to London and into the apologetic arms of his family. The author of the source play - 'David L'Estrange' - was a pseudonym for Novello and Constance Collier, and this adaptation abounds in Novello-esque gay motifs: brutish father, voluptuous victimhood, bloody women. It's directed by Hitchcock with imagination and, especially in the first half, much comedy. Essentially though, this should be filed under 'Novello'.

Excerpt from TimeOut located HERE

 

The Film:

Downhill, made at Gainsborough Studios in 1927, was written by its star, Ivor Novello in collaboration with Constance Collier. Released the United States as When Boys Leave Home, it was the story of a young boy accused of stealing at his school. Although completely innocent, he is expelled from school. His father, outraged at what the boy has supposedly done, rejects him, and boy leaves home. He goes to Paris, has an affair with an actress, and eventually comes home to his parents. They are remorseful after learning their son was innocent. Hitchcock experimented with some dream sequences by shooting them in super-impositions and blurred images; this was unlike the work of most other directors of that time except possibly the early work of Rene Clair (Entr’ Acte) and Abel Gance (La Folie de Docteur Tub, Napoleon).

Excerpt from BritMovie located HERE

Superlative technique from the 27-year-old Hitchcock almost – but not quite – compensates for the major script problems (see below). Camerawork is consistently imaginative and ahead-of-its-time, including some startling hand-held sequences towards the end as Roddy staggers, fever-stricken, off a boat. Most breathtakingly virtuouso touch is a complex shot pulling back from Roddy adjusting his tie – we think he's dressing up for a fancy evening out, then realise he's working as a waiter, and then realise he's playing a waiter on stage. Brilliantly done. Hitchcock is clearly not especially interested in the story (who can blame him?) but uses it as an excuse to explore the medium (much use of colour-tints to indicate the 'moods' of various scenes) and generally learn the ropes. Despite being in his early thirties during filming, Novello is surprisingly convincing as an 18-year-old schoolboy in the opening sections. Strong, naturalistic performance from Hitchcock regular Ian Hunter as West End bloke-about-town Archie – Roddy's rival for the affections of prominent actress Julia (Isabel Jeans, also quite nifty).

Excerpt from Niel Young's Film Lounge located HERE

 

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

Hitchcock's silent Downhill aka When Boys Leave Home arrives on Blu-ray from Divisa out of Spain. This appears to be the theatrical, 106-minute, version as opposed to the previously available 80-minute release - as found on most DVDs (ex. Hitchcock The British Years). It's single-layered with a modest bitrate but has some impressive moments in 1080P. There are smatterings of light damage and plenty of marks but generally I was pleased. the sepia tint dominates but there is some grey. It is in the 1.33:1 aspect ratio and contrast and detail seem to hold up well - age considered. This Blu-ray was obviously at the mercy of the 87-year old source but I enjoyed the presentation.

 

Note: It starts with the 'BFI Film Forever' logo intimating it is the restored 2012 version (as does the tinting).

 

 

 

This Criterion 1080P, part of The Lodger Blu-ray, looks like it may be from the same 2012 restoration  (same damage) but a darker sepia/brown tinting and is advertised as new and in 2K, but perhaps someone can tell us why it is over 5.5 minutes longer. The image is a bit darker and richer although less technically robust than the Divisa. I like the Criterion.

 

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

 

 

1) Divisa Home Video - Region FREE - Blu-ray TOP

2) Criterion (The Lodger) - Region 'A' Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

1) Divisa Home Video - Region FREE - Blu-ray TOP

2) Criterion (The Lodger) - Region 'A' Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

 

1) Divisa Home Video - Region FREE - Blu-ray TOP

2) Criterion (The Lodger) - Region 'A' Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

1) Divisa Home Video - Region FREE - Blu-ray TOP

2) Criterion (The Lodger) - Region 'A' Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

1) Divisa Home Video - Region FREE - Blu-ray TOP

2) Criterion (The Lodger) - Region 'A' Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Audio :

I don't know much about the score - excepting it is heavily, and exclusively, piano-based and sounds beautifully crisp and tight via the DTS-HD Master 2.0 channel at 1629 kbps. I was quite impressed with the sound quality and depth. There are optional (yes, totally removable) Spanish subtitles - used on the intertitles and credits - and my Oppo has identified it as being a region FREE playable on Blu-ray players worldwide.

 

As an extra, Criterion only use a lossy Dolby audio transfer - it is a Neil Brand composition. The English intertitles are the same on both.   

 

Extras :

Extras include plenty of Spanish text screens, a photo gallery and the 24-minute (PAL sped-up) A Profile of Hitchcock the Early Years. It seems to be from Carlton but has imposed Spanish subtitles. It focuses on his early years looking at Hitchcock's breakthrough in silent films - as well as thrillers such as The 39 Steps and the circumstances which encouraged his move to America in 1939.

 

Criterion include Downhill as an extra on their The Lodger Blu-ray (reviewed HERE), also in a 2K digital restoration and with a new piano score by Neil Brand. Criterion add more extras with a new (2017), 32-minute, interview with film scholar William Rothman on Hitchcock’s visual motifs and themes evident in The Lodger that would come to define Hitchcock's style. I enjoyed the 17-minute new video essay by art historian Steven Jacobs about Hitchcock’s use of architecture, exploring space and setting, in The Lodger. There are excerpts from audio interviews with Hitchcock by filmmakers François Truffaut (1962 - 26:23) and Peter Bogdanovich (1963 - 19:42 and 1972 - 20:58) and a 1/2 hour radio adaptation of The Lodger from 1940, directed by Hitchcock. Criterion also add a new, 22-minute, interview with Brand on the process of composing a new score for The Lodger. The package has a liner notes booklet with essays on The Lodger and Downhill by critic Philip Kemp.

 

Divisa Home Video - Region FREE - Blu-ray

 

 

Criterion  - Region 'A' - Blu-ray

 

 

BOTTOM LINE:
This was a pleasant surprise. I wasn't expecting to see the theatrical 105 minute version of Hitchcock's Downhill in full 1080P... coming out of Spain?!? It snuck by our radar.  This was not at the level of The Lodger but I was struck by the HD visuals and appreciated the Master's deft touches.  Intriguing, funny (perhaps unintentionally)... and the Blu-ray seems 'okay' for the price. There is some value to be had here for the director's fan-base. Recommended!

 

A wonderful extra on Criterion's The Lodger. The supplements, alone, in that package make it an easy recommendation. Strongly endorsed! 

Gary Tooze

February 11th, 2014

May 25th, 2017

 


 

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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