If.... Blu-ray Review
‘If....’ breaks out on to American Region A locked Blu-ray as part of The Criterion Collection with a very good looking 1080p AVC/MPEG-4 transfer, framed in the widescreen 1.66:1 aspect ratio. The High Def digital transfer was created on a Spirit Datacine from an original 35mm interpositive. Dirt, debris, scratches, splices, warps, jitter and flicker were manually removed using MTI’s DRS system and Pixel Farm’s PFClean software, while DVNR was used for small dirt, grain and noise reduction.
The work that has been done has retained the original look and hasn’t made it appear glossy by any means. A thin veil of film grain remains and the image has a filmic appeal to it. The picture couldn’t be described as bitingly sharp because it never was and what we have here looks very natural. Skin tones are of the pale British kind and the black of the pupils’ jackets is a true black. Contrast is very good throughout. There is extra grain on the B/W footage but it’s not unexpected. The film looks good whether viewed on a 50 inch plasma panel or projected on a 7 foot screen.
The audio on ‘If....’ comes in a cleaned up uncompressed LPCM mono track. The original mono soundtrack was remastered at 24 bit from the magnetic tracks. Clicks, thumps, hiss and hum were manually removed using Pro-Tools HD. The result is a good, clean representation of the film with crisp, clear dialogue throughout. The music is never shrill or distorted. You really have to wind up the volume to hear any hiss at all and there’s no tinny mono effect. Thankfully, nobody tried to do a 5.1 surround remix as this would have truly ruined the feel of the piece. It sounds very good for a film of its vintage.
The Criterion Collection release of ‘If....’ on Blu-ray comes complete with a 36pp booklet which includes an essay by David Ehrenstein, extracts from writer David Sherwin’s production diary and a mock interview with Lindsay Anderson. A very good read.
Audio Commentary - The commentary is cobbled together from two sources. It features film critic and historian David Robinson, recorded in 2007, and star Malcolm McDowell from a 2002 interview. There are times when it sounds as if they are reading from a script, although Mr McD gives us his own personal recollections from making the film. David Robinson explains much of the background to the film. There are some gaps but overall the composite works well.
Cast and Crew (HD, 42 mins) - An episode of a BBC Scotland TV series from 2003 about ‘If....’ hosted by Kirsty Wark. In the studio discussion we have director’s assistant Stephen Frears, producer Michael Medwin, lighting cameraman Miroslav Ondricek, assistant editor Ian Rakoff and screenwriter David Sherwin – while star Malcolm McDowell contributes via video inserts. Interesting stuff.
Graham Crowden interview (HD, 15 mins) - Recorded in London in 2007, we have a fascinating interview with the actor who had a long working relationship with director Lindsay Anderson from his days at the Royal Court Theatre through to his film career. He’s a great raconteur and gives us his very personal insight into working on ‘If....’ and other films.
'Thursdays Children' (HD, 22 mins) - This black-and-white documentary about the Royal School for Deaf Children was directed by Lindsay Anderson and Guy Brenton – and narrated by Richard Burton. It also won the very well deserved Academy Award for best short documentary in 1955, but it also shows how political correctness has reared its head since. Watch it and prepare to have a sharp intake of breath.
That cult classic ‘If....’ comes to American Region A locked Blu-ray as part of The Criterion Collection with a very good looking 1080p AVC/MPEG-4 transfer, framed in the widescreen 1.66:1 aspect ratio. The image is clean, yet retains a filmic appeal with fine grain throughout and a very British colour palette.
The cleaned up audio comes in an LPCM mono track with no age related hiss, snap, crackle or pop to spoil the clear, crisp dialogue.
The bonus material includes an audio commentary, a fascinating TV programme about ‘If....’, an interview with actor Graham Crowden and a wonderful Academy award winning documentary directed by Lindsay Anderson about the Royal School for Deaf Children.
As a movie, ‘If....’ is full of surprises with its mixture of colour and B/W photography as well as its anarchic call for change and rebellion. Malcolm McDowell leads a cast of great British faces from the 1960’s. Once seen, never forgotten.
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