‘The Lavender Hill Mob’ comes to UK Region free Blu-ray with a very good looking 1080p AVC/MPEG-4 transfer framed in the 1.37:1 aspect ratio. The original 35mm finegrain elements were scanned in 2k definition on a Spirit 4K Film Scanner with restoration done using HD-DVNR and MTI tools to remove dirt, scratches, warping and replacement of torn or missing frames as well as to improve overall image stability. The result is quite impressive and what we have here is the best looking version of the movie I have seen to date. This is proper black-and-white with very good contrast, unlike the washed out prints that have been used for TV screenings. After the Rank gong and main titles, the image is generally clean with only the tiniest of sparklies and a couple of very fine intermittent neg scratches running down the far right hand side of the picture area to catch the eye. Grain is unobtrusive and the picture is pleasingly sharp while retaining a nice filmic feel. It looks good on either a 50 inch plasma panel or projected on a 7 foot screen – and is like having your own film print (complete with the UK Censor’s certificate intact) without the inconvenience of hearing a Bell & Howell projector clacking away behind you. While not totally perfect, considering the film’s 60 year old vintage, it looks splendid.
The audio on ‘The Lavender Hill Mob’ comes in a faithful representation of the original mono soundtrack, replicated on the left and right tracks of the LPCM 2.0 mix.
The sound was transferred from a preservation 35mm print and was further improved by removing or minimising pops, clicks, hiss and distortion in the digital domain.
The sound is very good, with no optical soundtrack boom and you really have to wind up the wick to hear any hiss. It causes no offence to the ears, although audiophiles with the hearing of a cat will no doubt claim otherwise. Dialogue is crisp and clean throughout so we can all benefit from T.E.B. Clarke’s writing. There was one scene that stood out where our two masterminds are atop the Eiffel Tower and the music exhibited a significant amount of ‘wow’. If I was projecting an optical sound print of the film, I’d have said there was a problem with the flywheel of the projector. There are other places where the music exhibits the same issue but to a lesser degree although overall we have a perfectly serviceable soundtrack taking into account its age and available source material.
Introduction by Martin Scorsese (SD, 4 mins) - The Hollywood director summarises the story and mentions Tibby Clarke’s research which involved asking the Bank of England how to rob a bank as well as Charles Crichton’s editing background.
Excerpt from BECTU History Project interview with Charles Crichton (Audio only, 13 mins) - This audio only interview is quite muffled, sounding like someone wrapped a thick towel around the mic. I’m surprised that nobody tried to improve it in ProTools. Maybe they did and this is the result. You never know what the original recording was like. The important thing here though is the content and Charles Crichton tells interviewer Sidney Cole of his experiences working in the Film business, rising from a lowly tea boy to the pinnacle of his career as a director at Ealing. It’s fascinating, but you really have to tune in your ears.
Restored trailer (HD, 2 mins 30s) - When they say restored, they mean as good as they could get it – bearing in mind that the quality of trailers in the 50’s was never too good in the first place. There are a few shots missing and it runs out without a proper ending – but it’s interesting to see how the movie was sold to cinema going audiences back in 1951.
Good Afternoon: Mavis interviews T.E.B. Clarke (SD, 25 mins) - Nice to see the modest writer Tibby Clarke being interviewed here for Mavis Nicholson’s afternoon TV slot that coincided with the release of his autobiography and he reveals some anecdotes from his career of writing for movies. Mavis takes a bit of time getting to the stuff we want to hear about, but it’s worth the wait. Who cares if he was rubbish at Chemistry at School.
Restoration comparison (HD, 4 mins) - As it says on the tin, we get to see just how much of a difference was made to the transfer for the Blu-ray release compared to the original contrastless grey footage. It’s always good to see the significant side by side improvement made by a restoration, whether digital or photo chemical.
Stills gallery - Some nice B/W behind the scenes stills here.
The classic Ealing comedy ‘The Lavender Hill Mob’ breaks out on to UK Region free Blu-ray with a very good looking, digitally restored 1080p AVC/MPEG-4 transfer framed in the movie’s original 1.37:1 aspect ratio. The black-and-white image has excellent contrast and sharpness throughout while retaining a filmic feel. Only a couple of persistent tiny neg scratches on the far right of screen catch the eye along with the odd miniscule sparkly but the overall visual impression is very pleasing to watch. The LPCM 2.0 audio carries the cleaned up original mono mix nicely with crisp clear dialogue throughout, only marred with some noticeable ‘wow’ on the music in places. There’s no ‘Making of’ doco in the Extras but we do get a somewhat muffled audio interview with director Charles Crichton, a 25 minute TV interview with writer Tibby Clarke and a Restoration comparison that speaks volumes of the work undertaken to improve the High Def transfer.
The movie itself has immense charm as we see a lovable bunch of rogues carry out an audacious gold bullion robbery that we really hope will work. Alec Guiness, Stanley Holloway, Sid James and Alfie Bass together with a host of British post-war faces make this one to add to every movie buff’s collection.
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