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Directed by Lindsay Anderson
UK 1963

 

One of the finest British films ever made, this benchmark of "kitchen-sink realism" follows the self-defeating professional and romantic pursuits of a miner turned rugby player eking out an existence in drab Yorkshire. With an astonishing, raging performance by a young Richard Harris, an equally blistering turn by fellow Oscar nominee Rachel Roberts as the widow with whom he lodges, and electrifying direction by Lindsay Anderson, in his feature-film debut following years of documentary work, This Sporting Life remains a dramatic powerhouse.

***

Lindsay Anderson's adaptation of David Storey's novel of rugby, beer and crippled lives is usually held up as a prime example of the kitchen-sink school of filmmaking. But it's a very different proposition from Saturday Night And Sunday Morning.

There are moments of high symbolism and Brechtian overdetermination which take the movie into very different territory - a scene involving a spider and a hospital bed is a particularly startling deviation from naturalism.

Richard Harris is the young rugby ace who dreams of a life lived for the joy of the game. Rachel Roberts is the middle-aged landlady with whom he pursues a frosty romance. But it's 'Dr Who' star William Hartnell who gives the film's greatest performance, as the tumbledown old man who encourages Harris's game with a barely concealed erotic fervour. He's one of cinema's most unusual corrupting influences. More than anything it has to say about the prison of working-class life, Anderson's movie is a battle between an old man and a widower for a man's affections.

Excerpt from Channel 4 located HERE

Posters

Theatrical Release: my 1963 - Cannes Film Festival

Reviews                                                  More Reviews                                            DVD Reviews

Comparison:

Criterion (2-disc) - Region 1 - NTSC vs. Network - Region 'B' - Blu-ray

1) Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC - LEFT

2) Network - Region 'B' - Blu-ray RIGHT

 

Box Covers

Distribution Criterion Collection - Spine # 417 - Region 1 - NTSC Network - Region 'B' - Blu-ray
Runtime 2:14:12  2:14:10.250  
Video 1.66:1 Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 7.9 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

1080P Single-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 19,530,973,365 bytes

Feature: 19,039,985,664 bytes

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

Total Video Bitrate: 17.80 Mbps

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate:

Bitrate:  Blu-ray

Audio English (Dolby Digital 1.0)  Dolby Digital Audio English 224 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 224 kbps / DN -4dB
Subtitles English, None English, None
Features

Release Information:
Studio: Criterion Collection

Aspect Ratio:
Original Aspect Ratio 1.66:1

Edition Details:

• Audio commentary featuring Paul Ryan, editor of Never Apologise: The Collected Writings of Lindsay Anderson, and David Storey, screenwriter and author of This Sporting Life
•  Theatrical trailer
Disc 2

• Lindsay Anderson: Lucky Man? (2004), a short documentary from BBC Scotland featuring interviews with many of the director's friends and collaborators (29:00)
• New video interview with Anderson's first producer and close friend Lois Sutcliffe Smith (18:23)
 Meet the Pioneers (1948), Anderson's first film, a documentary short about a mining engineering firm (33:07)
• Wakefield Express (1952), an early documentary by Anderson about the town that later served as the setting for This Sporting Life (32:17)
• Is That All There Is? (1992), Anderson's autobiographical final film (52;12)
•  34-page liner notes booklet featuring a new essay by film scholar Neil Sinyard and an article by Anderson from 1963 with many black and white photos

DVD Release Date: January 22nd, 2007

Keep Case (overlapping disc holders)
Chapters: 24

Release Information:
Studio:
Network

1080P Single-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 19,530,973,365 bytes

Feature: 19,039,985,664 bytes

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

Total Video Bitrate: 17.80 Mbps

 

Edition Details:

• Original theatrical trailer (2:20)
• Four image galleries, including extensive promotional and behind-the-scenes shots
• Promotional material PDFs
• Commemorative Booklet PDF by Film Historian David Rolinson

Blu-ray Release Date: June 9th, 2014
Transparent
Blu-ray Case  
Chapters: 12

 

Comments:

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

ADDITION: Network - Region 'B' Blu-ray - July 2014 - I have a special fondness for this film. Richard Harris is just amazing. Positively there is an up-tick in the video quality by the 1080P transfer and grain textures are more evident. It is single-layered with a modest bitrate but detail sharpens and contrast adds layers. There are a few light scratches visible here and there but this is a definite upgrade in appearance. In-motion it looks very good and may shows a shade more information in the top and bottom of the 1.66:1 frame.

Unfortunately, only lossy, hushed, audio and hearing the audio track uncompressed may have influenced the presentation positively (hearing the infrequently used Roberto Gerhard score.) There are optional English subtitles (see sample) and the Blu-ray disc is region 'B'-locked.

Supplements can't come close to the Criterion, but Network have tried by adding an original theatrical trailer, four image galleries, including extensive promotional and behind-the-scenes shots and the disc contains 4 promotional material PDFs including a Pressbook and large 2014 re-release flyer. The package contains a 28-page program notes booklet by Film Historian David Rolinson. It has an introduction, background, essays, credits and references. It is very well done.

While I think this is the best way to see the film on digital, I might not encourage a double-dip if you already own the Criterion. For those unfamiliar with the film, or devout fans (like myself) then the Network Blu-ray would make sense. This is a film I have re-watched almost a dozen time. I consider it an integral part of my digital library.

***

 

ON THE DVD: Wow. A fabulous transfer from Criterion on this magnificent film. I'm aware that there have been other DVD editions released (ex. one in Scandinavia) but I do not own any of them to post comparative screen grabs... but I find it hard to believe that any of them could compare to Criterion's SD treatment of this Anderson masterpiece. I have little doubt of this DVDs superiority and brilliance. It has very strong detail at times with excellent grayscale and pristine contrast. Technically it is dual-layered in a 1.66 anamorphic ratio, and progressively transferred. There are some minor (often imperceptible in motion) scratches and light blemishes but the DVD image is visually very impressive indeed.

I LOVED this commentary - juxtaposing Paul Ryan's (editor of Never Apologise: The Collected Writings of Lindsay Anderson) extensive knowledge of Lindsay Anderson is aged novelist David Storey's true-life anecdotes of his experiences in the game of rugby, meeting Anderson and getting his book transformed into a film. I judge it to be the most enjoyable commentary of this short year. Disc one also offers an un-restored 2:22 theatrical trailer.

On disc two we have some featurettes - 'Lindsay Anderson: Lucky Man?' is a 29 minute documentary from BBC Scotland, made in 2004, featuring interviews with many of the director's friends and collaborators. In the category Meet the Pioneers, we are shown Anderson's first film from 1948. It is a documentary short, running 33:07, about a mining engineering firm. Also under that sub-heading is a new video interview with Anderson's first producer and close friend Lois Sutcliffe Smith. It runs 18:23. Wakefield Express is another early documentary by Anderson (made in 52') about the town that later served as the setting for This Sporting Life (32:17). Is That All There Is? (1992), Anderson's autobiographical final film running almost an hour. It was originally made or The Director's Place on the BBC. It is filled with Anderson's daily life chores infusing his caustic humor - a great tribute to this intelligent, overlooked master director. Finally a 34-page liner notes booklet featuring a new essay by film scholar Neil Sinyard and an article by Anderson from 1963 with many black and white photos.  

This may be the best DVD yet - early in the year I realize but it should get deserved mention in our next Poll. STRONGLY recommended! 

Gary W. Tooze

 

 


DVD Menus


 

Disc 2


 

Network - Region 'B' - Blu-ray

 


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Subtitle Sample

 

1) Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC - TOP

2) Network - Region 'B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

Screen Captures

 

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2) Network - Region 'B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 


1) Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC - TOP

2) Network - Region 'B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 


1) Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC - TOP

2) Network - Region 'B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 


1) Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC - TOP

2) Network - Region 'B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 


1) Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC - TOP

2) Network - Region 'B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 


1) Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC - TOP

2) Network - Region 'B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 


1) Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC - TOP

2) Network - Region 'B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 


1) Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC - TOP

2) Network - Region 'B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

More Blu-ray Captures


Box Covers

Distribution Criterion Collection - Spine # 417 - Region 1 - NTSC Network - Region 'B' - Blu-ray




 

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