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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

Schalcken the Painter [Blu-ray]


(Leslie Megahey, 1979)



Review by Gary Tooze



Theatrical: British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC)

Video: BFI



Region: 'B' (as verified by the Oppo Blu-ray player)

Runtime: 1:29:36.006

Disc Size: 41,138,228,949 bytes

Feature Size: 20,173,682,688 bytes

Video Bitrate: 26.93 Mbps

Chapters: 16

Case: Standard Blu-ray case

Release date: November 18th, 2012



Aspect ratio: 1.33:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video



LPCM Audio English 1536 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1536 kbps / 16-bit



English, None



The Pit (1962, Edward Abraham, 25 mins): experimental film based on the classic Poe tale The Pit and the Pendulum
The Pledge (Digby Rumsey, 1981, 22 mins): a dark tale of death and friendship, featuring a score by Michael Nyman
Interview with Leslie Magahey (2013, 40 mins): the director of Schalcken the Painter discusses his career and influences
Fully illustrated booklet with original essays and complete film credits





Description: World premiere of this highly sought-after ghost story from the BBC, released in the BFI's acclaimed Flipside series.

Based on a short story by Sheridan Le Fanu, Schalcken the Painter was originally shown in the Omnibus strand on BBC 2 during Christmas 1979. The story follows a young seventeenth century Flemish painter Godfried Schalcken, who forsakes love for ambition, but discovers that there is still a terrible price to pay for his choice.

One of the most frequently requested programmes in the BBC archive, .Schalcken the Painter is an exquisitely shot, atmospheric horror film which explores the uneasy, dark relationship between art, commerce and erotic desire.

The superb cast includes Jeremy Clyde, Maurice Denman and Cheryl Kennedy.



The Film:

If you feel moved by the paintings of Vermeer, Gerrit Dou, De Hooch, Frans Hals etc, you cannot fail to be moved by this story of the artist Schalken, a contemporary of the painters above. Directed with artistic delicacy and care, the film is shot almost entirely in what appears to be candle light, and the effect therefore, is both romantic and chilling at the same time. The story revolves around a series of actual paintings by Schalken - the originals of which are approximately 10 inches square - and we are taken through a story of love and ambition and downfall, with several scenes culminating in tableaux reminiscent of the paintings themselves.

Excerpt from IMDb located HERE

Ah! the golden age of cultural television programming! The time when you could turn on a programme about the arts and be treated to luminous camerawork, a script that helped you to your own conclusions and repaid consideration, strong performances, a good dose of fear and, of course, a hefty sampling of female nudity!
Schalcken the Painter is an edition of the BBC arts programme Omnibus from 1979 that successfully uses a J Sheridan LeFanu short story (A Strange Event in the Life of Schalken the Painter) to illuminate the work of the real artist Godfried Schalcken.
Which is rather clever of them.

Excerpt from Derek Johnston at British Horror Television located HERE

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

Schalcken the Painter, a 1979 TV production, comes to BFI's 'Flip-side' label on Blu-ray.  It is on a dual-layered disc and I see no boosting manipulation in the image quality. I have no idea what this looked like on TV almost 35-years ago but I suspect these visuals are not far off this rough, thick, softish look. Whether an intentional appearance, or not, - with the 1080P it further brings out the Gothic style in the 1.33:1 frame. Perhaps natural lighting was also a factor in the style - but regardless it worked. This Blu-ray does what it can to bring out the grain and textures. The image is consistent in this regard. I see no damage and only a few minor speckles. It doesn't exhibit noise - and there is plenty o darkness. Everything seemed to suit the film extremely well as I don't believe a glossy, pristine appearance would garner the same reaction.






















Audio :

Authentic audio from the TV production - via a linear PCM 2.0 channel track at 1536 kbps. Nothing but positives here for the audio transfer in regards to an authentic flat sound with some nice deep effects. There are English subtitles and my Oppo has identified it as being a region 'B'-locked.


Extras :

BFI add quite a lot of value with their supplements, We get the an Edward Abraham short - The Pit - an experimental film based on the classic Poe tale The Pit and the Pendulum. It has some great atmosphere. Also included is Digby Rumsey's 1981 short The Pledge - a dark tale of death and friendship, featuring a score by the great Michael Nyman. I found both interesting actually preferring them to run longer. We get a new 40-minute interview with Leslie Magahey, the director of Schalcken the Painter and he discusses his career and influences. In the package is a liner notes, fully illustrated booklet with original essays and complete film credits.



I think we are quite fortunate to be able to see this now as Schalcken the Painter was essentially buried (strict UK censorship didn't help.) It is fabulous on many fronts from the artistic level to the style and the evolution of the horror aspects.  The BFI have chosen well to bring this gem to Blu-ray. It's a real creepy experience and nice to see it in the best possible transfer. Along with the enjoyable extras - fans of the 'ghost' genre will be thrilled. Recommended! 

Gary Tooze

October 23rd, 2013


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.

Gary's Home Theatre:

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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APC AV 1.5 kVA H Type Power Conditioner 120V

Gary W. Tooze






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