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S E A R C H    D V D B e a v e r

directed by Lindsay Anderson
UK 1982

 

Whilst it may lack the iconic vitality of 'If….' (1968) or the cinematic daring of 'O Lucky Man!' (1973), Lindsay Anderson’s 'Britannia Hospital' (1982) should nonetheless be regarded as highly as its well-received predecessors in the 'Mick Travis' trilogy. However, from its première at Cannes – which witnessed a walk-out by British critics – to the present day, opinion has generally been slanted against this sideswipe at Thatcherite Britain. Does this opinion fail to notice the powerful moral questions that lie beneath 'Britannia Hospital''s caustic exterior? Or does it choose to ignore them?

It is likely that people have been swayed by the surface qualities of the film; many of which seem designed to ostracize the casual viewer. Not only is the popular Mick Travis (Malcolm McDowall) a peripheral figure (in comparison to his central roles in 'If....' and '
O Lucky Man!'), but also 'Britannia Hospital' eschews the subtle humour of its forerunners in favour of lurid silliness and near-slapstick. Further, the ultra-gory experiments conducted by the hospital's resident Frankenstein, Professor Millar (Graham Crowden), are fodder only for the midnight movie crowd.

However, perhaps the feature of the film which most alienates the crowds is its seemingly cynical and unforgiving portrayal of humankind as a whole. 'Britannia Hospital''s overarching plot – which sees the titular establishment (acting as a microcosm for all of Thatcherite Britain) descend into conflict and madness, as 'haves' and 'have-nots' clash over healthcare – enables Anderson and his screenwriter, David Sherwin, to attack groups from across all of the political and social spectra. Both hospital workers and public figures, alike, are portrayed as being capable of cruelty, and thus almost no-one is spared Anderson's wrath.

But, at the same time – and this is crucial – almost no-one is spared Anderson's compassion. It is this fact that prevents 'Britannia Hospital' from being the exercise in rampant cynicism that many believe it to be. The film recognizes that just as anyone, from any background, can be cruel, so too can anyone be a victim of cruelty. Accordingly, then, there are numerous scenes in which Anderson elicits our sympathy for his subjects, regardless of their place on the social ladder – for example, when left-wing demonstrators are brutally clubbed, or when the hospital's wealthy patients are refused treatment. These scenes are distinguished by emotive, Fordian close-ups of the victimized; close-ups which – as well as recalling the tenderness of earlier Anderson films such as 'Thursday’s Children' (1954) and 'Every Day Except Christmas' (1957) – serve to individualize the crowds. The message is almost Biblical: people persecute as groups but suffer as individuals. And so Anderson's true target becomes apparent: all organizations, classes, groupings and institutions which stand as a barrier to true human fellowship and understanding. Individuals deserve sympathy and forgiveness, whilst organizations do not; and herein lies the film's anarchism.

However, there is perhaps one individual who is beyond forgiveness: Professor Millar, a latter-day Hitler who cloaks his plans for genocide – the replacement of brains with silicon chips; of humans with machines – in the language of science and progress. When his mysterious 'Genesis' project is unveiled at the film's astonishing climax, its mechanistic rendition of the “What a piece of work is man...” speech from Hamlet belies a single truth: no machine can ever truly replicate human soul or human artistry. In comparison to such monsters, humans are of almost limitless potential; yet – as the film's previous scenes have made clear – humankind needs to refine its methods of interaction in order for such potential to flourish. Rarely has cinema achieved so pure a humanism or made so momentous a statement.

With its more considered world-view, 'Britannia Hospital' actually surpasses 'If....' and '
O Lucky Man!' in many respects, and represents the culmination of a near-lifetime’s worth of critical and intellectual engagement with the world on the part of Lindsay Anderson. Given this, the negative popular response to the film may well have been shattering for him as well as for his career (Derek Jarman predicted that Britannia Hospitalwould finish Lindsay in the British film industry”). And indeed, soon after the film's short-lived release, Anderson was to scribe these despondent words in a letter to Malcolm McDowall:

I've been back in London – how long? - about three or four weeks ... Time is rather featureless at the moment. I'm sure you'll understand when I say it's a dispiriting place to return to. The dark waters have closed over 'Britannia Hospital'”

Thankfully, 'Britannia Hospital''s ready availability on DVD means that the “dark waters” can finally recede: the time has come for revaluation.

Pete Hoskin

Posters

Theatrical Release: October 21st, 1994

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Comparison:

Cinema Club/Studio Canal - Region 2 - PAL vs. Indicator - Region 'B' - Blu-ray

Box Cover

or buy directly from Indicator:

Coming out on Blu-ray from Kino in September 2020:

Distribution

Cinema Club/Studio Canal

Region 2 - PAL

Indicator - Region 'B' - Blu-ray
Runtime 1:51:32 (4% PAL Speedup)      1:56:25.895      
Video

1.85:1 Original Aspect Ratio

16X9 enhanced
Average Bitrate: 5.5 mb/s
PAL 720x576 25.00 f/s

1.85:1 1080P Single-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 24,220,331,705 bytes

Feature: 21,510,061,440 bytes

Video Bitrate: 21.49 Mbps

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

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

Bitrate DVD

Bitrate Blu-ray:

Audio English (Dolby Digital 2.0)

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

Dolby Digital Audio English 192 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps / DN -31dB

Subtitles None English (SDH), None
Features Release Information:
Studio: Cinema Club/Studio Canal

Aspect Ratio:
Widescreen anamorphic - 1.85:1

Edition Details:
• theatrical trailer

DVD Release Date: July 19th, 2004
Keep Case

Chapters 18

Release Information:
Studio:
Indicator

 

1.85:1 1080P Single-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 24,220,331,705 bytes

Feature: 21,510,061,440 bytes

Video Bitrate: 21.49 Mbps

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

 

Edition Details:

• The BEHP Interview with Lindsay Anderson (1991, 1:56 hours): archival audio recording, made as part of the British Entertainment History Project, featuring the celebrated director in conversation with Alan Lawson and Norman Swallow
Healthy Reputation (2020, 20:34 mins): actor Robin Askwith fondly reflects on his films and friendship with Anderson
• Biles Apart (2020, 08:27 mins): actor Brian Pettifer recalls his close working relationship with Anderson
• A Cut Above (2020, 11:01 mins): editor Michael Ellis discusses the film’s production
Image gallery: publicity and promotional material
• Original theatrical trailer (02:55)
• Original teaser trailer (01:39)
• Limited edition exclusive 40-page booklet with a new essay by Peter Cowie, an archival interview with Lindsay Anderson, extracts from the diaries of Anderson and screenwriter David Sherwin recounting the production, an overview of contemporary critical responses, and film credits


Blu-ray Release Date:
June 29th, 2020
Transparent Blu-ray Case

Chapters 12

 

 

Comments:

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

ADDITION: Indicator Blu-ray (July 2020): Lindsay Anderson's farcical satire of Thatcher's Britain makes a world premiere on Blu-ray thanks to the fine folks at Indicator. The 1 hour and 56-minute film is housed on a single-layered Blu-ray and features a supportive bitrate. The expected bump in detail over the older DVD release is plainly obvious to the naked eye, most noticeable in close-up shots, or wide shots of protestors (you can actually read some of their signs now). While some shots featuring the sky or windows tend to be overexposed to the point of losing detail, the shots are few and far between. Darker moments show a reasonable amount of depth, though sometimes blacks can be shaded a tad gray. Fans can relax and certainly purchase this release from Indicator, especially given the raise in quality, not to mention a handful of extras.

Indicator's release of "Britannia Hospital" carries a linear PCM mono audio track (in 16-bit). While the dialogue is intelligible, and various sound effects and music come through strong, this is by no means a reference disc. The music is thanks to Alan Price, best known as a member of "The Animals" ('House of the Rising Sun') as well as for composing the music for Anderson's "O Lucky Man!". There are optional English (SDH) subtitles on this Region 'B' Blu-ray.

The first bonus feature on the disc is a BEHP Interview with Lindsay Anderson. This archival audio recording was made as part of the British Entertainment History Project, featuring the celebrated director in conversation with Alan Lawson and Norman Swallow. The audio plays over the film and ends just as the credits cease to roll, coming in just shy of 2 hours! Most fascinating to my ears, was to hear Anderson's thoughts of the "American Cinema" and its influence across the pond, which sadly lead to a dearth of interest in British productions. Up next is "Healthy Reputation", a 20-minute piece with actor Robin Askwith looking back on his films and friendship with Anderson, from high-school Shakespeare (with Anderson in the audience, no less) to "Britannia Hospital" and beyond. "Biles Apart" has actor Brian Pettifer also recalling his close working relationship with Anderson for 8.5-minutes. "A Cut Above" spends 11-minutes with editor Michael Ellis discussing the film's production and assembly. The film's original theatrical and teaser trailers are also included on the
Blu-ray disc, as is an image gallery featuring some production stills, press release material and some posters. Included with Indicator's Blu-ray release is also a limited edition exclusive 40-page booklet with a new essay by Peter Cowie, an archival interview with Lindsay Anderson, extracts from the diaries of Anderson and screenwriter David Sherwin recounting the production, an overview of contemporary critical responses, and film credits

Not being well received at the time of its release in 1982, Anderson's "Britannia Hospital" seems a very timely release for 2020, with its depictions of angry protestors decrying capitalism and health care for the rich. The farcical aspects still seem a little too much for my tastes, but the film is worth a watch. Fair warning though, as the final film in the "Mick Travis" trilogy, viewers be warned that Travis is only a peripheral character among many, though he certainly gets the film's best scene (which I'm sure influenced Re-animator a few years later). Indicator's
Blu-ray is a worthy upgrade for fans holding onto their old DVD copies. While a commentary would have been nice, the accompanying audio interview with Anderson is worth a listen. Recommended to fans.

Colin Zavitz

ON THE DVD (2004): This Region 2 Cinema Club release features a clean, anamorphic transfer – with no obvious digital artifacts or print damage – which enables 'Britannia Hospital''s Hammeresque colour-scheme to fizz off the screen. If there is one problem with the transfer, it is a general lack of detail, but this in no way detracts from a viewing of the film.

Also commendable is the disc's vibrant Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack.

However, all is not positive: the DVD inexplicably comes without any subtitles, and the extras have been limited to a single theatrical trailer.

Given that hopes for a more extras-laden disc may be overly optimistic, this Region 2 release of 'Britannia Hospital' – with its more-than-adequate picture and sound quality – comes recommended. Indeed, with DVD releases of 'If….' and 'O Lucky Man!' on the horizon, this disc is a great way for collectors to “complete the trilogy”.

 - Pete Hoskin

 


Menus / Extras

 

Cinema Club/Studio Canal - Region 2 - PAL

 

 

Indicator - Region 'B' - Blu-ray

 


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

 

Subtitles sample - Indicator - Region 'B' - Blu-ray

 

 


1) Cinema Club/Studio Canal - Region 2 - PAL TOP

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

 

 


1) Cinema Club/Studio Canal - Region 2 - PAL TOP

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

 


1) Cinema Club/Studio Canal - Region 2 - PAL TOP

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

 


1) Cinema Club/Studio Canal - Region 2 - PAL TOP

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

 


1) Cinema Club/Studio Canal - Region 2 - PAL TOP

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

 


1) Cinema Club/Studio Canal - Region 2 - PAL TOP

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

 

 


More Blu-ray Captures
 

 


 

 


 

 


 

 


 

 


 

 


 

 


 

 


 

 


 

 


 

 


 

 


 

 


  

Box Cover

or buy directly from Indicator:

Coming out on Blu-ray from Kino in September 2020:

Distribution

Cinema Club/Studio Canal

Region 2 - PAL

Indicator - Region 'B' - Blu-ray


 


 

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