'The Ladykillers' breaks out on to Region free Blu-ray with an impressive 1080p AVC/MPEG-4 encoded transfer, framed in the 1.33:1 aspect ratio - as per the original 35mm source materials.
As a result of being shot using the three strip Technicolor process, there is a certain amount of visible grain in the transfer, but that's how it was and how it should be left.
Skin tones are of the pink variety and, in general, colours do not leap off the screen at you but this is in keeping with the original intention of the film. Blacks are deep enough and there's a healthy contrast range throughout. On comparing it to the previous DVD release, the Blu-ray has a much brighter image with a greater solidity of colour. Thanks to the restoration by MTI the movie looks very good indeed compared to previous releases. I did spot the very occasional bit of red fringing due to three strip alignment issues, but that's just nit picking. It would have been worse on some release prints of the era. This is the best I have ever seen this film look.
The audio on 'The Ladykillers' comes in a DTS-HD Master audio 2.0 mix which remains as faithful as possible to the original. Thankfully, nobody thought to give us a ham fisted surround mix which would have ruined it.
As the film is heavily reliant on dialogue, it's good to know that what we now have is crisp and clear with no muddiness at all. There's no scratchy, optical sound distortion and neither is there any noticeable hiss, snap, crackle or pop. The soundtrack had been treated with some respect and achieves everything we would hope for in this 55 year old classic. Phew!
It would have been great if any of the original storyboards had surfaced or indeed if any of the deleted scenes had survived, but these are believed to have been burnt when Ealing Studios were cleared to accommodate the BBC in 1955. All the same, I'm willing to bet that someone out there has them. The bonus material we do get is as follows.
- Introduction by Terry Gilliam (SD, 3 mins)
The former Python movie director tells us he loves the classic Ealing comedy without delving into too much detail. Nice to see his respect for the piece though.
- Audio Commentary
Film historian Philip Kemp fills us in with some superb anecdotes surrounding the production of 'The Ladykillers' as the movie plays. His depth of knowledge is amazing and fascinating. This is great stuff for about an hour, after which he describes what we're watching.
- 'Forever Ealing' (SD, 50 mins)
This affectionate Channel 4 documentary, narrated by Daniel Day-Lewis takes us back to the opening of Ealing Studios and continues through several owners to modern day. We hear from many who worked there but most interestingly of the Balcon era. 'The Ladykillers' also gets some coverage. A real gem for film buffs. Listen out for the Peter Sellers home made audio trailer for 'The Ladykillers' over the end credits.
- Interview with Allan Scott (SD, 10 mins)
In this 'piece to camera' writer/producer Allan Scott discusses the acting, themes and production history of 'The Ladykillers'.
- Interview with Ronald Harwood (SD, 7 mins)
Scriptwriter Ronald Harwood shares some of his experiences of Alexander Mackendrick and tells us what he learned from the director. Nice to hear from someone who knew him and to get an inkling of his character.
- Interview with Terence Davies (SD, 14 mins)
Director Terence Davies, who was a film student of Mackendrick, explains how he learned from the great man and how the classic films affected his own style.
- Cleaning up 'The Ladykillers' (HD, 6 mins)
This short item gives us the opportunity to fully appreciate the effort put in by MTI to restore 'The Ladykillers' through various 'before and after' split screen views of the film. We are given some indication of the techniques used to clean dirt, dust, scratches and stains from the image.
- Trailer (HD, 2 mins)
A very good quality trailer for 'The Ladykillers' that demonstrates the more reserved style of film promotion we're unused to nowadays.
The classic Ealing comedy 'The Ladykillers' receives a well deserved restoration and Blu-ray release with a visually pleasing 1080p AVC/MPEG-4 transfer, framed interestingly at 1.33:1. Gone is the dust, dirt and scratches that plagued previous releases and we're given a sharp, realistically coloured image for the period.
The DTS-HD MA 2.0 sound mix is free from hiss, snap, crackle and pop - so we get crisp clear dialogue throughout.
There's a fascinating audio commentary from film historian Philip Kemp, a 50 minute doco on Ealing studios and several interviews with those who worked with director Mackendrick.
The movie is superb. Dark, sinister, very funny - with great performances from Guinness and 79 year old Katie Johnson in this tale of a bungling gang of crooks who tangle with a little old lady.
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