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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

Mister Johnson [Blu-ray]


(Bruce Beresford, 1990)



Review by Gary Tooze



Theatrical: Avenue Pictures Productions

Video: Criterion Collection Spine #774



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

Runtime: 1:41:32.127

Disc Size: 43,068,070,089 bytes

Feature Size: 29,687,734,272 bytes

Video Bitrate: 34.88 Mbps

Chapters: 26

Case: Transparent Blu-ray case

Release date: September 22nd, 2015



Aspect ratio: 1.85:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video



LPCM Audio English 2304 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 2304 kbps / 24-bit



English (SDH), none



• New interviews with Beresford (15:32), producer Michael Fitzgerald (11:13), and actors Maynard Eziashi (12:10) and Pierce Brosnan (8:59)
Trailer (3:05)
PLUS: An essay by film scholar Neil Sinyardh






Description: A decade after he broke through with Breaker Morant, Australian director Bruce Beresford made another acclaimed film about the effects of colonialism on the individual. In a performance that earned him the Berlin Film Festival’s Silver Bear for best actor, Maynard Eziashi plays the title character, a Nigerian villager eager to work as a civil servant for the British authorities, including a sympathetic district officer (Pierce Brosnan), in the hope that it will benefit him in the future. Instead, his ambition leads to his tragic downfall. Mister Johnson, based on the 1939 novel by Joyce Cary, is a graceful, heartfelt drama about the limits of idealism, affectingly acted and handsomely shot.



The Film:

When the African clerk who is the title character of "Mister Johnson" speaks of "home," he refers not to his native Nigeria but the England that looms so large in his dreams. He sings of England to fellow villagers, who are amazed at his white suit, pith helmet and European airs; he sings to the white English colonials who preside over the region, and who consider Johnson a valuable but highly fanciful aide.

Johnson's anglophilia even extends to a love of plum pudding and a willingness to accept great abuse from English gentlemen, provided they regard him at least marginally as one of their own. Johnson's delusions contain the seeds of both humor and tragedy.

Excerpt from the NY Times located HERE

Another film about a white master and a black servant from the director of Driving Miss Daisy. Colonial West Africa, c.1920: Rudbeck (Brosnan) is a fastidious English District Officer, Johnson (Eziashi) his chief clerk, a native more English than the English. William Boyd, who adapted Joyce Cary's novel for the film, has compared Johnson to Falstaff and Candide; but a character who lived in his own right on the page picks up all kind of social baggage when projected on to the screen. Here, despite Eziashi's droll performance, Johnson comes to embody an offensive, regressive racial stereotype. A colonial sensibility runs through the film, despite the trite disavowals that pepper the script. It misfires drastically, but Beresford's anonymous direction at least apes some received notion of 'quality'. He photographs the landscape prettily, and the film is neatly turned. Eminently respectable, in fact.

Excerpt from TimeOut located HERE


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

Mister Johnson looks strong on Blu-ray from Criterion. It is advertised as a 'new, restored 4K digital transfer, supervised and approved by director Bruce Beresford'.  The image has some heaviness looking thicker than I would have anticipated but most colors appear rich and deep. This is dual-layered with a max'ed out bitrate and we can guess that it is a solid representation of the film. It is in the original 1.85:1 aspect ratio and contrast is adept. They are not many examples of depth. This Blu-ray has no discernable flaws and we can assume the 1080P presentation supplies an authentic-to-theatrical appearance of the original film.

















Burned-in English for the rarely used Nigerian language.






Audio :

Audio comes via a linear PCM 2.0 channel stereo track at 2304 kbps in the original English (and some Nigerian). It carries some depth although there isn't an abundance of aggressive effects. Georges Delerue (Jules et Jim, The Woman Next Door, The Last Metro, Day For Night) did the score and it benefits from the uncompressed rendering creating a supportive atmosphere. There are optional English subtitles and my Oppo has identified it as being a region 'A' disc.


Extras :

Criterion offers 4 new interviews. We spend 15-minutes with director Bruce Beresford recounting his experiences making Mister Johnson, 11-minutes with producer Michael Fitzgerald looking back on his journey to making a big-screen adaptation of Joyce Cary's 1939 novel Mister Johnson, a dozen minutes with actor Maynard Eziashi who plays the titular character Mister Johnson describing the whirlwind experience of his first starring role and 9-minutes with Pierce Brosnan who recounts his experiences in making the film in this 2015 Criterion interview. There is also a trailer and the package contains a liner notes booklet with an essay by film scholar Neil Sinyardh.



Mister Johnson is a strong film tackling uncomfortable cultural issues. Pierce Brosnan is in one of his most convincing roles. I though it was very impressive and enjoyed it. I found it touching... and morose. I quite enjoyed it The Criterion Blu-ray package offers a great a/v presentation with keen interview extras. Recommended! 

Gary Tooze

August 25th, 2015


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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Tannoy DC6-T (fronts) + Energy (centre, rear, subwoofer) speakers (5.1)

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Gary W. Tooze






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