'The Railway Children' arrives at Platform B (Region B locked) with a gorgeous looking 1080p AVC/MPEG-4 encoded transfer framed in the theatrically correct widescreen 1.66:1 aspect ratio.
I've never seen this film look so good and a fair bit of TLC has been applied to the transfer. The print is free from blemishes, scratches and sparklies so we have a generally pristine looking image. Any grain is minimal in well lit scenes. The critical focus on eyes reveals good sharpness and in many of the daylight scenes there is such depth that you feel you could simply step right into the picture. The shots of the countryside are a real pleasure to behold and they make a wonderful travelogue for tourists. Absolutely beautiful.
The only problem with the transfer comes with night shots when there seems to be a lack of shadow detail. To try to pull out all the detail available, it looks as though the brightness has been wound as far as dared, resulting in grey blacks and noticeable grain. Maybe there was a problem with the original neg from which the new print was struck, but it just looks a bit 'base fogged'. I recall that cameramen used to pre-fog film if they thought that they were going to end up with a contrasty or reddish image - as a way of avoiding it. Maybe this is the reason, but who knows for sure.
For about 85% of its run time 'The Railway Children' looks amazing. Don't let the opening couple of minutes fool you. The 'matted' titles rob the overall image of picture quality, but once they're over the eye candy is worth watching.
'The Railway Children' was originally released with a mono soundtrack, so what we have on the Blu-ray is an LPCM 2.0 track which had had a fair amount of clean up applied to it. There's no hiss, snap, crackle or pop to offend the ears here. Johnny Douglas' delicate score is reproduced with a bit more room filling depth than I've heard before and the main theme will play in a mind loop inside your head for some time. The dialogue is crisp and clear throughout, while your attention is firmly focused on the screen due to the front weighted soundstage. I'm sure a good dubbing mixer would have made more of the sound of the steam trains in a surround mix, but it would probably have spoiled the overall sonic image. As it is, the soundtrack remains faithful to the director's original intention.
We're spared an audio commentary track, but we do get a couple of nice features which I can't help feeling would have been better if they'd been edited together into a proper 'Making of' documentary. Most of the elements are there, but they exist as separate items on the disc. It's a shame that a 40th re-union wasn't filmed and used to link the whole thing.
- Now and Then: A Retrospective Documentary on 'The Railway Children' (SD, 20 mins)
This recently produced doco introduces us to many people who were Extras on the film and lived locally, including Ann Cryer, MP. It's great to hear them reminisce about something that was a big event in their lives and they take us to some of the locations used in the picture.. They produce their own snaps of the shoot and we begin to recognise them - as time has caused most to change visibly. These aren't your Ac-Tor luvvies, they're everyday people who tell us that the film opened up tourism for the area as many people wanted to see where it was all shot. A charming piece.
- Interviews (SD, total 38 mins)
Here we have individual interviews with some of the cast of 'The Railway Children' and also with children's Author Jacqueline Wilson who provides us with her views on the movie which she admires greatly. We also have reminiscences from Jenny Agutter, Sally Thomsett & Bernard Cribbins. The interviews are broken up with the questions asked appearing on title cards, so no attempt has been made to cut them together with other material to highlight the discussion. Apparently, Gary Warren who played Peter has left acting behind and now works in the rag trade. It would have been nice to hear from him and to see how he looks nowadays.
One of the funniest stories comes from Sally Thomsett who reveals that both she and Jenny Agutter had been banned from going out on the town as they were playing characters younger than their real ages. This didn't stop them from getting a taxi to pick them up from their Hotel's back door and take them to a Leeds nightclub. Who should they bump into there? None other than their director.
That all time family favourite 'The Railway Children' arrives on Region B locked Blu-ray in a 40th Anniversary Edition with a generally excellent 1080p AVC/MPEG-4 encoded transfer framed in the theatrically correct widescreen 1.66:1 aspect ratio.
The film has never looked better with verdant English countryside and a sharp, pristine, colourful image throughout - although night shots do show some lack of shadow detail.
The audio comes in an LPCM 2.0 mono flavour which remains faithful to the original soundtrack although a fair amount of digital clean up has taken place. Dialogue is crisp and clear throughout.
The Extras include a nice retrospective documentary as well as individual interviews with children's author Jacqueline Wilson, Jenny Agutter, Sally Thomsett & Bernard Cribbins.
As a movie, it's the charming tale of a family who move to a house near a railway station, make new friends, wave at trains and have a host of adventures. A superb family film about a bygone age when children were less cheeky.
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