Rather controversially the disc presents a theatrically correct 1.85:1 1080i/50 transfer and is locked to Region B. This means that whilst the picture will be as clean and bright as a 1080p transfer, providing your system de-interlaces correctly, it will still suffer from the 4% PAL speed up and thus the sound will be of a slightly higher pitch than its cinema run and a 1080p/24 print. With that out of the way let’s take a look at what we have.
First up the detail, which is terrific; from close up’s of Firth’s mouth and stubble, to the peeling paintwork and faded couch of the therapy room, each are finite and defined. Edges are held well into the distance, the few establishing shots, such as Sandringham palace, the drive through the snow showing crisp bark on the trees as they are felled, or the CG enhanced look up the Mall at the end are clear and exceptionally defined.
Colours are a little subdued, this is not your typical Hollywood blockbuster, so colours are not bold and striking, they are, however, clean, bright and natural; look again at the therapy room whose peeling paintwork and faded couch show of a myriad of colouring. Flesh tones are of a lovely English rose tint, i.e. natural and not that hot sun tanned brown that Hollywood exudes.
Contrast and Brightness are set to give decent black, although the film rarely uses them, though the black of the various tuxes show a decent amount of definition. One exception to this is just before the sit down dinner when the King dies, here the blacks do fade a little and exhibit a little noise, there is also a small amount of lens flare. This is a small point in an otherwise impeccable print. White was wonderful, look at the scene where Lionel over steps his place outside in the winter sun, the brightness of the screen still shows the detail of the trees and skyline – fabulous stuff.
Digitally there were no compression problems, nor was there any banding or posterization, though there was the very slightest hint of edge enhancement. Grain was kept to a nice filmic sheen with only the above mentioned scene being of any crush. In all a fantastic natural looking transfer.
The disc has only the one sound track; English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, and much like the picture is wonderfully natural sounding. Once again this is no Hollywood Blockbuster, so don’t bother expecting wide surround steerage and crash, bang, wallop. What we get instead is a very understated, but clear and precise, audio track that enables you to hear each and every nuance of the dialogue, and since that is the point of the film, it succeeds at every level. But more than that, there are some wonderful ambient effects, such as the crackle of the fire, or hustle and bustle of crowds, or party atmosphere, classes clinking etc. There is little surround ‘action’ but the speakers are alight with this aforementioned ambience. The Bass is rarely asked to bring anything to the table, save a few footfalls, an aeroplane landing and, of course, during the score. In fact if it is surround action you are after, it is the score that places you in the centre of the action, otherwise it is a very frontal mix. But that is not to say it is bad, in actuality the clarity and precision of the track is exquisite, and silence, when needed is absolute – class in action.
- Audio Commentary – Is with Director Tom Hooper and for a single effort is a terrific listen. He covers pretty much everything you want to know about the film, from a near encyclopaedic knowledge of the real life events that inspired the film, to the technical camerawork that gives the film its unique look, to a thorough respect for all the actors in their respective roles. With very few pauses and a very even flow this is one of the very few single handed chat tracks that never flags and remains engaging throughout.
- An Inspirational story of an unlikely friendship: The making of The King's Speech (23.01) – For its short runtime this making of feature covers an awful lot of ground, from the cast and crew discussing their interest in the story and the friendship shared by ‘Bertie and Lionel’ to the period setting, performances, Hooper’s direction and the inspirational real life events. Inevitably some repetition from the above commentary and it does play like an extended promo for the film, but for a short one stop feature, this covers all the bases.
- An interview with Mark Logue (10.34) – Lionel Logue’s grandson talks to the camera about the diaries and notes that his family withheld from the media at the request of the Queen Mother until her death as she said the memories were too painful for her; and were only discovered again relatively recently and used as reference for the making of this film. He describes his grandfather, where he came from, his work and how he lived, as well as the relationship he had with the King from a very personal perspective. Even though it’s short it is a fascinating look.
- Speeches from the real King George VI - The pre-war speech on 3 September 1939, the one depicted in the film, is audio only and it is incredible how close Firth’s depiction and speech mannerisms matched that of the real King. The second is the post war speech on 14 May 1945 and is newsreel footage, although not seen, Lionel was behind the camera.
- Production sketches from designer Eve Stewart
- Photo galley including a look behind the scenes
Slightly differing material to the US disc, but the main points are covered.
It’s a rare film, especially nowadays, that can combine all elements (picture, sound and story) to make something truly special, The King’s Speech is one such film. On Blu-ray it is even better than on the big screen as the intimate setting combines with the intimate setting of Lionel’s room, enhancing the experience, as two men, from different sides of the world and from different social classes, a world apart, come together to form a friendship to test the ages. Watching the friendship build whilst trying to overcome an awful speech impediment, you too become their friends; feeling every pause and every stutter, willing the words forth with such emotion, so as to become part of the picture. A truly wonderful experience.
As a Blu-ray package the real letdown is the 1080i picture, which whist not bad in its own right is a ridiculous travesty considering the 1080p picture from the US, compound this by a Region locked disc, even the magnificent sound and terrific extras package can’t sway what is really a sub-par release for the UK.
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