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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

Murder in the Cathedral [Blu-ray]

 

(George Hoellering, 1951)

 

 

Review by Gary Tooze

 

Production:

Theatrical: Film Traders Ltd.

Video: BFI

 

Disc:

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

Theatrical Runtime: 1:53:56.830 / Festive Cut Runtime: 2:18:14.494

Disc Size: 49,407,101,870 bytes

Theatrical Feature Size: 18,756,738,432 bytes

Festive Cut Feature Size: 23,677,467,264 bytes

Video Bitrate: 18.48 Mbps / 20.00 Mbps

Chapters: 10 / 10

Case: Standard Blu-ray case

Release date: November 23rd, 2015

 

Video:

Aspect ratio: 1.37:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

 

Audio:

Theatrical Cut:

LPCM Audio English 1152 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 1152 kbps / 24-bit

Festive Cut:

LPCM Audio English 768 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 768 kbps / 16-bit

 

Subtitles:

English (SDH), none

 

Extras:

Alternative festival cut (139 mins, black and white, Blu-ray exclusive): longer version of Murder in the Cathedral
Alternative and deleted sequences (50 mins, black and white, DVD only): footage from the longer festival cut
Message from Canterbury (George Hoellering, 1944, 23:49): documentary short in which the Archbishop Dr. William Temple delivers his sermon
Shapes and Forms (George Hoellering, 1950, 20:57): striking and expressive film in which examples of primitive and modern art are juxtaposed to reveal correspondences
Glasgow Orpheus Choir (George Hoellering, 1951, 13:07): charming short made after the announcement of the retirement of the choir's conductor, Sir Hugh Roberton
Illustrated booklet with essays by Andrew Hoellering and András Szekfü, and full film credits

 

Bitrate:

 

 

Festive Cut

 

 

Description: This astonishing adaptation of T S Eliot's classic verse drama recounts the love-hate relationship between twelfth-century British monarch Henry II and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Beckett. Featuring a cast of mainly non-professional actors, the voice of Eliot himself, and music by the internationally renowned composer Lŕszló Lajtha, Hoellering's exquisitely realised film tells the story of Beckett's temptations before his murder in Canterbury Cathedral in II70. Released for the first time on Blu-ray and DVD, this rarely seen film is presented in a newly remastered version, accompanied by a selection of fascinating extras, including three of Hoellering's richly evocative short films, all made in the years before Murder in the Cathedral.

 

 

The Film:

Whatever literary merits T. S. Eliot's Murder in the Cathedral may have and whatever strange dramatic virtues it may possess in performance on a stage, it is obvious that this stylized verse drama is not felicitous material for the screen. ... There are flashes of stark pictorial beauty in some of the somber scenes of prelates and noblemen and worshippers gathered in the Archbishop's Hall of Canterbury Cathedral, where the entire action of the play takes place. And some nods toward cinema dynamics are more or less effectively made in not too imaginative cutting for dramatic emphasis and flow. But, for the most part, Mr. Eliot's cold recounting of Becket's defiance of the King and his murder by helmeted assassins for insisting upon the Church's authority is conveyed in lengthy orations by individuals and choral groups, photographed in static poses and solemnly massed attitudes." Crowther continued: "Fortunately, the spoken words have richness as they flow off the cultivated tongues of handsomely costumed performers who, at least, look their medieval roles. Father John Groser, an English cleric, is grandly dignified and benign as the conscientious Archbishop who coolly calculates his martyrdom and Alexander Gauge is forceful as King Henry in a scene especially written for the film.

Excerpt from the NY Times located HERE

Murder in the Cathedral is a 1951 British drama film directed by George Hoellering and starring John Groser. It tells the story of archbishop Thomas Becket and his temptations before he was murdered in the Canterbury Cathedral in 1170. The film is based on T. S. Eliot's verse drama with the same title. Eliot himself participates as the voice of the fourth tempter.

The film competed at the 12th Venice International Film Festival and received the award for best production design, given to Peter Pendrey. It was released in the United Kingdom in 1952.

Excerpt from Wikipedia located HERE

 

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

Murder in the Cathedral gets a new, 2K, transfer to Blu-ray from BFI. It is solidly in dual-layered territory filling more than 49 Gig of the lone BD disc. The two versions ('theatrical' and 'festive cut') are both 1080P but not seamlessly-branched and the bitrates are a shade more modest taking up so much more space. The theatrical is actually slightly less technically robust with the lower bitrate and the longer 'Festive Cut' has a, marginally, higher bitrate and contrast is negligibly different from lighter to darker, dependant on the scene, as we have shown in the compared captures below. Essentially they are almost identical. Both look strong in-motion in the original 1.37:1 frame and have supportive textured grain.  They are pristinely clean showcasing some hi-def detail and there are really no flaws with the rendering looking fairly flat with little depth. This Blu-ray provides a pleasing video presentation.

 

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

 

1) BFI "Theatrical Cut" - Region 'B' - Blu-ray - TOP

2) BFI "Festive Cut" - Region 'B' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

 

1) BFI "Theatrical Cut" - Region 'B' - Blu-ray - TOP

2) BFI "Festive Cut" - Region 'B' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

 

1) BFI "Theatrical Cut" - Region 'B' - Blu-ray - TOP

2) BFI "Festive Cut" - Region 'B' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

 

1) BFI "Theatrical Cut" - Region 'B' - Blu-ray - TOP

2) BFI "Festive Cut" - Region 'B' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

 

1) BFI "Theatrical Cut" - Region 'B' - Blu-ray - TOP

2) BFI "Festive Cut" - Region 'B' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

 

More Theatrical Cut screen captures

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Audio :

BFI use a linear PCM track for both the theatrical and 'festive cut' although the former is 24-bit while the latter is only 16-bit. The score is notable by Laszlo Lajtha and rises nobly to support the film sounding occasionally majestic in the uncompressed transfer. Nothing but positives here for the audio transfer. There are optional English subtitles on both versions and my Oppo has identified the Blu-ray disc as being a region 'B'-locked.

 

Extras :

There are some good supplements in the dual-format package. On the Blu-ray we get the alternative, longer, 'festival cut' of Murder in the Cathedral (as discussed above). The DVD, inplace of the entire Festive Cut, has 50-minutes worth of alternative and deleted sequences taken from footage of the festival cut. There are also "three of Hoellering's richly evocative short films"; Message from Canterbury is 24-minutes and made in 1924. It is a documentary short in which the Archbishop Dr. William Temple delivers his sermon, Shapes and Forms was made by Hoellering in 1950 and runs 21-minutes. It is a striking and expressive film in which examples of primitive and modern art are juxtaposed to reveal correspondences. The 1951 short Glasgow Orpheus Choir was made after the announcement of the retirement of the choir's conductor, Sir Hugh Roberton. This Limited Edition Dual Format package also has an illustrated booklet with essays by Andrew Hoellering and András Szekfü, and full film credits.

 

BOTTOM LINE:
Murder in the Cathedral is an unusually 'stayed' and poetic film. I had never seen it before and didn't have any expectations. It seems steeped in a 'historical context' some 800 years hence and with its period religious and power-machinations backdrop - almost on the scale of a documentary - it's hard not to imagine you are seeing real history. I was very keen as the film advanced, but less-so when viewing the 'Festive Cut' although I found the differences (pacing, positioning of scenes, opening etc.), at least, interesting. The BFI Blu-ray provides a good 1080P presentation with appreciated supplements although I might have made it two Blu-rays which each cut have it's own disc. I was thankful just to see it - as it was 'unavailable' for so long, and I think it is something I will revisit. Yes, recommended! 

Gary Tooze

November 9th, 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
Marantz SA8001 Super Audio CD Player
Marantz SR7002 THX Select2 Surround Receiver
Tannoy DC6-T (fronts) + Energy (centre, rear, subwoofer) speakers (5.1)

APC AV 1.5 kVA H Type Power Conditioner 120V

Gary W. Tooze

 

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