A Man for All Seasons Blu-ray Review
I do none harm, I say no harm, I think no harm. If this be not enough to keep a man alive, I long not to live.
Paul Scofield's principled lawyer Sir Thomas More faces Robert Shaw's bullish Henry VIII in this expertly crafted historical drama.As Henry VIII cuts a swathe through the Church in a bid to gain a son, his friend and Lord Chancellor takes a stand and refuses to take an oath to ratify his King's newly-minted position as the 'Supreme Head of the Church of England', instead adopting silence - a silence for which he pays a heavy toll. Based on the stage play by Robert Bolt, itself founded upon the historical/biographical details surrounding this period in 16th Century history, Fred Zinneman's (High Noon) powerful sidebar on the events surrounding the clash between the King and the Church is a lasting testament to faith in the face of adversity, and remains a deeply moving effort which truly stands the test of time.Endorsed by the Vatican itself as being among the greatest movies of all time, and lauded with numerous Awards at the time - Best Film, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Screenplay, Best Cinematography and Best Costume Design - A Man for All Seasons is a tremendous piece, truly Shakespearean in terms of eloquent script, and eminently resonant in terms of moral and spiritual content. With the likes of Orson Welles, Robert Shaw and Leo McKern powerhousing their way through the piece, it's actually Scofield who stands head and shoulders above the rest as his figurative conscientious objector stands true to his beliefs - and the law - as all those around bend to the whims of a volatile monarch.
Picture QualityOver half a century on and A Man for All Seasons hits UK shores courtesy of Eureka who deliver a Region B-locked Blu-ray boasting an impressive 1080p/AVC-encoded High Definition video presentation frame in 1.66:1. Indeed, it looks to be culled from exactly the same 4K restoration that was used for the US's Region A-locked Twilight Time release (which tallies with the rest of the disc, as the originally Twilight-commissioned, Twilight exclusive commentary appears here too), although the encode may have been improved, with a higher bitrate running throughout, likely affording the image the edge.
Either way, for a fifty-plus year old movie, A Man for All Seasons looks fabulous, and whilst it may not ever be a 4K restoration worthy of using as demo material, it's likely not only immensely faithful to the look of the original film but also possibly the best that it has ever looked.
Possibly the best the film has ever looked
Unfortunately, age and production design do leave it far from traditionally demo-worthy, with the make-up alone so caked-on that it makes many of the characters look like they're wearing masks (Welles in particular). This appears inherent to the production - it seems perfectly natural and in-line with the rest of the feature, but nevertheless perhaps stands out more on such a restoration. Still, this really doesn't appear to be a fault of the presentation. Grain is suitably natural and adds a welcome layer of tangible texture throughout, whilst the colour scheme - which, coupled with the aforementioned makeup, does leave the skin tones looking a little too dirty sometimes - is rich with gorgeous browns and golds, and embellished by the lavish scenery.
Sound QualityThe accompanying DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track similarly may well be identical to its Twilight Time counterpart, or as near as, playing out as a strong 'remix' for this older classic, with more dynamic range and depth to its more traditional, LPCM 1.0 counterpart. Both provide solid representation for the dialogue, which is easily the most important part of the proceedings, reigning dominant and rising above the additional elements, largely defined across the frontal array.
Likely the best the film has ever sounded as well
Effects are reasonably well observed, again insomuch as the vintage of the piece allows for, and as the style of material - essentially an extended courtroom drama which is predominately dialogue-based - allows for, whilst the memorable, sweeping score provides a welcome backdrop to the remaining elements. It, much like the video presentation, may not lend itself towards being demo material, but it's faithful to the production nonetheless, and likely the best that the film has ever sounded.
ExtrasEureka's dual-format release boasts a nice selection of extras, including an Audio Commentary, an 18-minute The Life of Saint Thomas More looking behind the real historical character, and a half-hour Interview with Film Professor Neil Sinyard on A Man For All Seasons, who has enough detail here that he should have recorded his own Commentary. There's also the option to watch the movie with an Isolated Score and Effects Track, as well as the film's Original Theatrical Trailer.
Surpassing the Twilight Time release, Eureka's disc boasts a nice selection of extras
Surpassing the Twilight Time release, with the majority of the extras ported / licensed directly from them (the Commentary was a previous Twilight exclusive, commissioned for them with two Twilight contributors hosting the piece and accompanied by a further film historian), the additional Interview makes for a great further supplement, and, of course, Eureka round out the package with a booklet.
Blu-ray VerdictParticularly topical considering the subject of one of this year's Best Picture contenders, Hacksaw Ridge, there's no better time to revisit this classic historical drama or, indeed, discover it for the first time.
It remains a lasting testament to faith in the face of adversity
Eureka have done a tremendous job with this release, surpassing the US Region A-locked Twilight Time special edition in terms of porting all of the pre-existing extras and only adding to them, whilst also delivering similarly impressive video and audio. Fans should consider this the definitive release.
You can buy A Man for All Seasons on Blu-ray here
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £12.99
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