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The Pumpkin Eater [Blu-ray]
(Jack Clayton, 1964)
Review by Gary Tooze
Theatrical: Columbia Pictures Corporation
Region: FREE (as verified by the Oppo Blu-ray player)
Disc Size: 43,521,847,312 bytes
Feature Size: 32,340,637,248 bytes
Video Bitrate: 34.92 Mbps
Case: Transparent Blu-ray case
Release date: December 4th, 2017
Aspect ratio: 1.85:1
Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps
Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video
LPCM Audio English 1152 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 1152 kbps / 24-bit
Dolby Digital Audio English 192 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps
English (SDH), none
• Audio commentary with author and film historian Neil Sinyard
• Brian West on 'The Pumpkin
Eater' (2017, 3:20): the film's camera operator recalls his
time working with Jack Clayton and celebrated director of
photography Oswald Morris
Description: Anne Bancroft delivers a towering performance as a deeply troubled and tormented wife in this sharply observed portrait of a woman – and a marriage – in crisis. Directed by Jack Clayton (Room at the Top, The Innocents), with a screenplay by Harold Pinter (The Birthday Party) based on the acclaimed novel by Penelope Mortimer, this spellbinding film boasts sublime cinematography by the great Oswald Morris (Look Back in Anger, Fragment of Fear), a wonderful score by Georges Delerue (Le Mépris) and outstanding supporting performances from James Mason (The Deadly Affair), Maggie Smith (California Suite) and Yootha Joyce (Fanatic, Fragment of Fear).
Jo (Anne Bancroft) leaves the banality of her marriage to second husband Giles (Richard Johnson) to wed her screenwriter lover, Jake Armitage (Peter Finch), but insists her new husband adhere to her strict marital ideals. Though their relationship is passionate, Jo, now a mother of six, begins to feel stifled in her role as a doting homemaker -- and increasingly isolated from Peter, who is filming on location in Morocco. Jo's sanity is shaken when it seems Peter is not being faithful.
Peter Finch and James Mason were "the two best screen actors of
the English 1960s, even when they work in rubbish," according to the gifted Alan
Bates, who appeared in films with both of them. There's much support for that
statement in The Pumpkin Eater, a spellbinding 1964 drama that's the opposite of
rubbish, thanks to Jack Clayton's remarkably creative directing and Harold
Pinter's boldly intelligent screenplay. And as marvelous as Finch and Mason are,
Anne Bancroft, who scored an Oscar® nomination for the film, outshines them both
as the central character, an emotionally troubled woman caught in psychological
traps set by herself as well as the highly unsatisfactory men in her life.
It is rare to see a film that readily and insightfully enters in to the psyche of so inward (not to mention, neurotic) a personality. But The Pumpkin Eater does so successfully. What is more, it balances this deep, interior world with occasional glimpses of a world outside. Perhaps the most memorable of all these sojourns is Jo’s visit to the hairdresser’s. While Jo is getting her hair done, there sits beside her a nameless young woman, played by the great Yootha Joyce. At first, Joyce’s character is terribly starstruck by Jo, whom she recognises from the glamorous magazines. Admiration and flattery turn into misery though as imagining Mrs Armitage’s perfect existence calls her back to her own sad little life, which she describes as only “an empty place”. Things take an even nastier turn as misery morphs into anger and psychosis; the camera draws closer and close to the two women, and the nameless lady directs her rage at the only other left in the frame: Jo Armitage. We go in for a close-up of Jo, and rest awhile on her sad, empty eyes. At that moment, she and the audience share in the same realisation: beyond her existence is only another — a world just as sad, just as full of suffering.
Image : NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.
The Pumpkin Eater arrives on Blu-ray from Indicator out of the UK. The image quality is immensely impressive with consistently strong contrast and a pleasing, and consistent, layer of grain. As usual, this is dual-layered with a max'ed out bitrate. It is neither glossy nor soft and shows beautiful black and white visuals with notable depth. There is some impressive detail in the film's close-ups. I would guess the 1.85:1 image is top-shelf in terms of video quality. It is pristinely clean, and essentially perfect. This Blu-ray has Indicator's usual impressively competent HD transfer.
CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION
The audio is transferred via a linear PCM authentically mono at 1152 kbps (24-bit). There are no aggressive effects - being almost fully dialogue-driven. The film's music is notable for the emotionally impacting score by the great Georges Delerue (The High Commissioner, Silkwood, Mister Johnson, Jules et Jim, The Woman Next Door, The Last Metro, Day For Night) and it, like the video, is without flaw - sounding brilliant in supporting the film via the uncompressed. There are optional English (SDH) subtitles and my Oppo has identified it as being a region FREE - playable world-wide.
Indicator offer a new selected scene audio commentary with author (A Wonderful Heart: The Films of William Wyler) and film historian Neil Sinyard. It runs about 50-minutes and is excellent but it is not mixed into the film's audio - which is silent (except the music of the end credits.) I enjoyed the deep analysis - the film as a ghost story, comparisons to Bunuel, descriptions of deviations from Pinter's screenplay and stories of Bancroft, Clayton and Sinyard extol the film and gives a solid argument for its, less-recognized, excellence. We get, a new, 1/2 hour of Jeremy Mortimer on Penelope Mortimer - a personal remembrance by the author's son that has some revealing moments. Brian West on 'The Pumpkin Eater' is also new but a brief 3.5 minutes by the film's camera operator recalls his time working with Jack Clayton and celebrated director of photography Oswald Morris. Dinah and Fergus is a new interview with actors Frances White and Fergus McClelland remembering playing their roles as children in The Pumpkin Eater. It lasts a dozen minutes. There is an original theatrical trailer and image gallery of on-set and promotional photography plus the package is a limited edition of 3,000 copies with an exclusive booklet with a new essay by British-film expert Melanie Williams, an overview of contemporary critical responses, and historic articles.
December 1st, 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 3500 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.
Oppo Digital BDP-83 Universal Region FREE Blu-ray/SACD
Gary W. Tooze
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