Superlative casting, wonderful direction, class editing, outstanding performances and a story to die for.
Simply try, for one hour, to behave like gentlemenWho hasn’t heard of The Ladykillers? Often regarded as one of Ealing Studios finest comedies, the story of a group of hapless criminals becoming undone by an old lady has been re-invented, re-imaged, re-told and reproduced; but never equalled. With an all-star cast including Alec Guinness, Cecil Parker, Peter Sellers, Herbert Lom, Danny Green and the magnificent Katie Johnson as Mrs Wilberforce - the gang’s undoing.With extensive location shooting in and around London’s Kings Cross and the surrounding landmarks, the film also serves as a time capsule for how a metropolitan city grew and developed after WWII. But it is the story that keeps bringing people back and why the film endures. Here in this 60th Anniversary release, with a host of new extras, this timeless classic can be enjoyed by a whole new audience.
Picture QualityThe disc presents a 1.37:1 aspect ratio using the AVC codec and is region locked to B.
Hailing from the same print as the 2010 re-master this image is pretty good for a Technicolor master (see the short featurette in the extras section for clean-up details) leaving everything intact as it should be. Detail is clean and clear, skin has a reasonable texture, clothing has a discernible weave (look at Mrs Wilberforce’s gowns) while the set decoration of the house (check out the wall paper, nick knacks and rugs) comes across with terrific resolution. The spherical filming process introduces its own softness but this is nothing to do with the transfer process. The location shots of Kings Cross hold defiant edges well into the screen, while the railway tracks are keen and sharp, with the steam from the locomotives never degrading into blocks.
Hailing from the same print as the 2010 re-master this image is pretty good for a Technicolor masterColour is ‘light’, again an artefact of the cinematic colouring process, thus skin tones are quite pink and primaries are somewhat thin, but it is all intentional, in fact the piece is quite a colourful affair, look, again, at the house and its garish décor, or the parrots. Only later does it become darker to reflect the gang’s motives.
Brightness and contrast are set to give reasonable blacks, there is an amount of vibrancy to the picture but there were never any true blacks to begin with, so this transfer isn’t going to build in any artificially. Depth in frame is adequate and shadow detail is non-existent, but this is in keeping with the original print and not a defect.
Digitally there are no compression problems or edge enhancement, neither is there any banding or posterization. Original print damage has largely been removed, though there are a few vestiges left behind: edge of frame damage/light bleed, occasional instability of the image as well as the odd pop or scratch that got through the restoration process. The grain is still intact, so that’s good, and the occasional bit of red fringing adds to the charm.
Sound QualityJust the one track: English LPCM 2.0 mono. A clean and clear track that has been cleaned up to reveal sharp and crisp audio that, even at reference, does not become shrill or distorted, neither is there any background hiss. Dialogue is natural sounding and dominates the track, though the score does its fair share. Bass is very limited indeed with only the climactic train passes making any impression from the sub, otherwise everything sits fairly and squarely in the mid to high range. This is no bad thing as the mix is layered well to give the correct amount or respect to each element. A functional track that gets across its information in a clear and precise way.
ExtrasMost hail from the 2010 release, but new for this 60th Anniversary Edition are a couple of nice features:
New Locations Featurette – Short feature that highlights the main location shoots of the film compared to how they look in 2015; remarkable how different or how little has changed!
New Audio Interview – With producer Tom Pevsner and runs for 90 minutes as he regales us with tales from his life related to the film; he does sound rather old.
New Audio Interview – With cinematographer David Peers and also runs for 90 minutes and follows a very similar path with his own recollection of his career and the film; he sounds like a favourite grandfather and rather sprightly.
New Stills Gallery – Selection of behind the scenes images
Remaining extras were on the 2010 release:
Audio Commentary – With film historian Philip Kemp whose effortless talk about the production is both anecdotal and technical until he runs out of steam and seems to just describe what’s happening on screen after about an hour.
Intro by Terry Gilliam – What it says on the tin, an introduction of what the former Python loves about the film.
Forever Ealing – Excellent and affectionate 50 minute documentary original screened on Channel 4 and takes us through the years of the studio, narrated by Daniel Day-Lewis. Not Ladykillers specific but is nevertheless a very entertaining watch.
Interview with Alan Scott – The screenwriter/producer discusses the acting, themes and production history of the film.
Interview with Terrence Davies – The now director was a student of Alexander Mackendrick’s, and discusses what he learned and how classic films affected his own style.
Interview with Ronald Harwood – The scriptwriter shares some of his experiences of Alexander Mackendrick and tells us what he has learned.
Cleaning up The Ladykillers – Brief featurette showing the ‘before and after’ images in a split screen effect which goes some way into explaining how well the feature has cleaned up.
Blu-ray VerdictOften regarded, and rightly so, as Ealing Studio’s greatest comedy, The Ladykillers celebrates its 60th Anniversary with this new release Blu-ray. The story of a bunch of hapless, small time crooks who unwittingly enlist the help of a sweet, but meddlesome, old lady to assist in their robbery and eventually become undone by her has been retold many times over the years. But the original is a pure classic, with superlative casting, wonderful direction, class editing, outstanding performances and a story to die for, it is little wonder that the film has endured so well.
Ealing Studio’s greatest comedy, The Ladykillers celebrates its 60th AnniversaryAs a Blu-ray set the package is pretty good; the picture and sound hail from the 2010 re-master, which is a good thing, as the clean-up was terrific – the image is bright and clean with good colouring and reasonable blacks, perfectly capturing the cinematic process, while the sound is clear and precise without any hiss or distortion. The already impressive extras package has been expanded upon with all new material just for this release, making it the definitive collector’s edition.
You can buy The Ladykillers on Blu-ray here
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