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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

The Birthday Party [Blu-ray]


(William Friedkin, 1968)



Review by Gary Tooze



Theatrical: American Broadcasting Company (ABC)

Video: Kino Lorber



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

Runtime: 2:04:14.447

Disc Size: 33,938,033,632 bytes

Feature Size: 27,524,984,832 bytes

Video Bitrate: 26.42 Mbps

Chapters: 9

Case: Standard Blu-ray case

Release date: September 5th, 2017



Aspect ratio: 1.78:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video



DTS-HD Master Audio English 1556 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1556 kbps / 16-bit (DTS Core: 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 16-bit)






• Interview with Director William Friedkin (25:04)
• Five Trailers from other films





Description: The Birthday Party was originally presented on stage in London in 1958 Legendary playwright Harold Pinter (The Homecoming) became an overnight sensation and is now recognized as one of the greatest talents in contemporary English literature. The Birthday Party has been described as a comedy of menace... a dramatic exposé of contemporary man s inability to cope with his fears and guilt. The story centers around a shabby seaside boarding house in England where a seemingly inane and trivial conversation suddenly transforms from humorous to terrifying. The second feature film directed by the great William Friedkin (The Exorcist, The French Connection) stars Robert Shaw (Figures in a Landscape, The Taking of Pelham One Two Three) and Patrick Magee (A Clockwork Orange, Barry Lyndon).



The Film:

The movie, like the play, forces us to accept a horror story that has no reasonable antecedents: Stanley (Robert Shaw) is the only guest at a rundown, seaside boarding house owned by Meg (Dandy Nichols) and Petey (Moultrie Kelsall). Into their lives of placid desperation come two strangers, Goldberg (Sydney Tafler), tackily urbane and garrulous, and McCann (Pattrick Magee), a faithful goon. They have been sent by someone named Monty and "the organization" to retrieve Stanley.

Just how one interprets their confrontations, alternately joshing and menacing, before, during and after a birthday party for Stanley (who swears it's not his birthday), is not particularly important, though it does have the outline of an operation by a sort of metaphysical syndicate.

Rather it is fascinating as a dramatization of a world in which language never quite matches events, and in which events are rearranged — parsed like the pieces of a sentence—so that logic and sanity never quite hold.

Excerpt from NYTimes located HERE

Film version of Pinter's first full-length play, a rather unsubtle and flashy piece of seaside gothic in which a scruffy, stay-at-home boarding-house lodger is terrorised by two sinister visitors: rather clever inversions of the stereotypic stage Jew and Irishman. Seems long and fussy, partly the fault of both play and director, but some marvellous performances (Nichols creating her Silly Moo character, Tafler superb as the anecdotal Goldberg) make it worth seeing.

Excerpt from TimeOut located HERE

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

The dual-layered Kino Lorber Blu-ray of The Birthday Party looks reasonably adept in 1080P. Aside from two exterior shots - bookending the film - it is almost entirely within the main floor of a house. The source is fairly clean with only a few speckles. It is transferred in the 1.78:1 aspect ratio. Contrast is a bit wanting but detail in the close-ups are surprising. A few instances of colors having some depth - notable red dress and purple shirt etc. but mostly the image seems improved upon SD but not in any dynamic way. There are hints of pleasing depth. This Blu-ray visuals are watchable with occasional flashes that can impress with HD quality.



















Audio :

Kino Lorber use a DTS-HD Master 2.0 channel track at 1556 kbps in the original English language - which is clear and consistent. There are no demonstrative effects in the film - being mostly dialogue-driven. There is no credited score and no background music distracting from the power of the narrative and performances. There are no subtitles offered and my Oppo has identified it as being a region 'A'-locked.


Extras :

There is a very interesting 25-minute interview with director William Friedkin who traces his career leading up to The Birthday Party and his experiences of filmmaking to that point, including the production. It's revealing and worth the indulgence. He's always intersting. There are also five trailers from other films.



I had never seen The Birthday Party nor have read Pinter's play. It's dark and filled with unusual characters with a chip-on-his-shoulder lodger and menacing, intimidating, new tenants. There is an element of stifling claustrophobia and control. Fascinating in its own way - and, of course, the strong performances. The Kino
Blu-ray seems the best way to see this gem in your home theatre. A commentary would have been a valuable addition but the Friedkin interview is appreciated. Recommended!  NOTE: At the writing of this review it is 33% OFF at Amazon.

Gary Tooze

August 15th, 2017


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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