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Inn of the Sixth Happiness [Blu-ray]
(Mark Robson, 1958)
Review by Gary Tooze
Theatrical: Twentieth Century Fox
Video: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
Region: FREE (as verified by the Oppo Blu-ray player)
Disc Size: 43,254,792,924 bytes
Feature Size: 41,710,995,456 bytes
Video Bitrate: 29.34 Mbps
Case: Standard Blu-ray case
Release date: February 4th, 2014
Aspect ratio: 2.35:1
Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps
Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video
DTS-HD Master Audio English 2417 kbps 4.0 / 48 kHz / 2417 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 4.0 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)
Dolby Digital Audio Spanish 192 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps
Dolby Digital Audio French 192 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps
DTS Audio Italian 768 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 768 kbps / 24-bit
Commentary: Dolby Digital Audio English 224 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 224 kbps
English (SDH), French, Spanish, Italian, Japanese, none
• Commentary by Nick Redman, Aubrey Solomon and Donald Spoto
• Fox Movietone News (2:09)
• Trailers (6:17)
Description: Alan Burgess' novel The Small Woman was the source for the British/American co-production Inn of the Sixth Happiness. Set in the China of the 1930s, the film stars Ingrid Bergman as real-life missionary Gladys Aylward. Against the advice of practically everyone, Gladys heads into the war-ravaged interior to spread the Christian gospel. She finds a powerful ally in the form of an elderly Mandarin (Robert Donat) who, despite his early efforts to rid himself of the troublesome Gladys, eventually converts to Christianity. Gladys' burgeoning romance with Chinese army officer Lin Nan (Curt Jurgens) is interrupted when she is obliged to guide a group of Chinese children to safety over some of the most treacherous of Northern China's mountain regions. Inn of the Sixth Happiness retains its entertainment value some four decades after its production, even allowing for the preponderance of Occidental actors in Oriental roles. The film also served to breathe new life into the old children's nonsense song "This Old Man" (aka "Knick, Knack, Paddywhack")
Although the film was produced by 20th Century-Fox, The Inn of the Sixth Happiness was actually shot in Cinemascope at the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios in Boreham Wood, Elstree, England and Snowdonia in Wales from March to July 1958. The Hollywood Reporter announced that the film was going to be shot in Formosa, but had to be moved to Wales when relations with the Chinese government broke down and they refused permission. The children in the film were from the Chinese community in Liverpool, which is one of the largest in Europe. Perry Lee was one of the children who had worked on the film. "It was amazing, it was really great and I have extremely fond memories of the experience. Once they had decided to film in Snowdonia, the Chinese community in Liverpool was the obvious place to come to find the children to play the parts of the orphans. I was just turned six and my brother William was four and a half. We got paid £12.50 a week which was a lot of money in those days so I got a bike out of it and he got a little scooter. For a six year old it was tremendously exciting but it wasn't all glamour. We weren't allowed to wear shoes. If you were lucky you were allowed to wear pumps and if you were very unlucky you had to have rags tied around your feet - painted red to simulate blood. And we had to dive in the cow pats whenever the Japanese planes came over. You were never conscious of the cameras being trained on you but my big scene was the river crossing when Ingrid Bergman grabbed me." Burt Kwouk, who starred as the schoolteacher who sacrifices his life for the children, remembered that they "were a lively bunch but very well behaved, they had chaperones and they were very well taken care of." Kwouk's career was launched by this film and he would later become famous as Peter Sellers' assistant Cato in the Pink Panther films.Excerpt from TCM located HERE
Isobel Lennart, in writing the screen play from the biography of Gladys
Aylward, entitled "The Small Woman," provided no clarification as
to what makes the heroine tick.
Image : NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.
The Inn of the Sixth Happiness appears quite thick and rich on Blu-ray from 20th Century Fox. The image quality shows some blue leaning but this may be how the film looked originally for all I am aware. It is certainly a major step up from the old DVD with significantly more grain textures. This is dual-layered with a high bitrate and seems to be a strong replication of the film. Reds and blues have a pleasing boldness. Skin tones seem true and contrast exhibits healthy, rich black levels. There is no gloss and most of the film looks flat. Daylight scenes are more impressive but nothing is overly dark and I see no noise. There may be a touch of Cinemascope mumps - but it was not distracting to me. This Blu-ray has an impressive film-like appearance and the 1080P provides an excellent presentation.
CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION
Audio is in the DTS-HD Master at 2417 kbps in original 4.0 channel - known as the 4-Track Stereo Westrex Recording System. It sounds super - tight and rich - especially the, now iconic, score composed by Malcolm Arnold (The Bridge On the River Kwai, Island in the Sun, Stolen Face, Hobson's Choice) assigns Gladys character one theme for strength and the other compassion and both are repeated throughout the film. From All Music HERE (as described by Chris Morrison): "Arnold's music for this film has become one of the best known of his hundred-or-so movie scores, largely on the basis of his use of the famous children's song "This Old Man," which subsequently became a popular hit and was published in several different arrangements. It appears in the climax of the film, when Japan invades China and Gladys leads a group of children away from the village and the fighting and over the mountains to safety. Arnold's music for this extended scene begins with Gladys' "strong" theme, with the heavy tread of a march rhythm underneath it. Dissonances add a note of anxiety. Over a distant snare drum, the "This Old Man" melody is heard piping away. The tune repeats several times, gradually gaining strength as Gladys and the children continue their march. Then Gladys' "love" theme is heard in one last, lush statement, leading into a grand, very cinematic coda to the film."
There are optional subtitles and my Oppo has identified it as being a region FREE disc playable on Blu-ray machines worldwide.
Aside from some FoxTone Movie news reels and a couple of trailers the only real supplement is the excellent commentary by Nick Redman, Aubrey Solomon and Donald Spoto who share a deep knowledge of the production with details of the book, the locations, the filmmakers and the performers for the full 2.5 hours. Quite the clinic in details of The Inn of the Sixth Happiness. We lose the screen tests that, I *think*, were on the DVD.
January 30th, 2014
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.
Oppo Digital BDP-83 Universal Region FREE Blu-ray/SACD
Gary W. Tooze
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