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SPECIFICATIONS
  • 1.33:1 Standard
  • English Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono
  • English subtitles
  • 1 Disc
FEATURES
  • Audio commentary featuring film scholars Alain Silver and James Ursini, co-authors of David Lean and His Films
  • The Hollywood Greats: Charles Laughton, a 1978 BBC documentary about the actor's life and career, featuring interviews with his friends and colleagues
  • Theatrical trailer

Hobson's Choice


Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: David Lean
Starring: Charles Laughton, John Mills, Brenda De Banzie, Daphne Anderson, Prunella Scales, Richard Wattis, Derek Blomfield
1954 | 107 Minutes | Licensor: CEC

Release Information
DVD | MSRP: $39.95 | Series: The Criterion Collection | Edition: #461
RLJ Entertainment

Release Date: February 17, 2009
Review Date: February 5, 2009

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SYNOPSIS

An unsung comic triumph from David Lean, Hobson's Choice stars the legendary Charles Laughton as the harrumphing Henry Hobson, the owner of a boot shop in late-Victorian Northern England. With his haughty, independent daughter Maggie (Brenda De Banzie) decides to forge her own path, romantically and professionally, with the help of none other than Henry' prized bootsmith Will (a splendid John Mills), father and daughter find themselves head-to-head in a fiery match of wills. Equally charming and caustic, Hobson's Choice, adapted from Harold Brighouse's famous play, is filled to the brim with great performances and elegant, inventive camera work.

Forum members rate this film 8.2/10

 

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PICTURE

Hobsonís Choice is presented in its original aspect ratio of approximately 1.33:1 on this dual-layer disc. The image has been slightly pictureboxed, a slim back border wrapping around the picture.

Despite that this is probably one of the more impressive black and white transfers Iíve seen from Criterion; itís incredibly clean. The image is consistently sharp with a remarkable amount of detail, contrast looks spot on, and, the biggest surprise, there is next to no damage. In all honesty, not counting grain, I donít recall a single blemish appearing throughout the whole film (though could have missed them.) As a whole itís a beautiful looking restoration and transfer.

8/10

All DVD screen captures are presented in their original size from the source disc. Images have been compressed slightly to conserve space. While they are not exact representations they should offer a general idea of overall video quality.

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AUDIO

The English Dolby Digital mono track is also very strong. I found the music during the opening credits and periodically throughout the film a little much, coming off a little too loud and harsh, but the rest of the track sounds sharp and crisp with no distortion or damage. For a mono track it sounds very good.

7/10

SUPPLEMENTS

For a pricier release (running a higher-tier $39.95) this release is pretty scant on supplements.

The big supplement would be the audio commentary by film historians Alain Silver and James Ursini, co-authors of David Lean and His Films. The track starts out a little off as if the two are trying to get their footing but it eventually picks up speed. The two talk about the filmís production, the play on which its based, the cast, and David Lean. They bring up some of his other films and make comparisons (Ryanís Daughter gets a lot of mention), get into the themes of the play/film (feminism taking center stage), Charles Laughtonís career and what he was like on set, but for the most part the two concentrate on the technical aspects of the film, such as camera movements, lighting, and framing, explaining Leanís techniques and how they serve they narrative. Thankfully they donít really fall into the trap of narrating the film themselves. I donít know if the film requires a commentary but I did enjoy this one, even if only mildly for its technical information.

Criterion supplements usually focus primarily on the director of the film but with the next feature, a 44-minute documentary from 1978 on Charles Laughton called The Hollywood Greats: Charles Laughton focuses solely on the filmís star, including interviews with his former wife and his brother, along with those that worked with him including Shelly Winters and Billy Wilder. I rather liked this feature, even if it does feel a little rushed as it compacts 60+ years into its running time, even skipping some surprising topics (the fact that thereís no mention of Spartacus, a big epic directed by Stanley Kubrick, was a bit of a surprise.) But it covers his life starting at the very beginning, moving through when he discovered acting, and his roller coaster career that had its share of ups and downs. It offers an examination of his work, though hastily blows through them, only really focusing on The Private Life of Henry VIII and Hobsonís Choice, while a big hit like The Hunchback of Notre Dame and his only directorial effort, Night of the Hunter,receive back seat treatment. But a good chunk of it does delve deeper into the manís private life, touching on his dislike of his appearance, his sexuality (maybe a little too much time on this subject) and what it was like to work with him. Itís informative and very interesting, but the man was so complicated, and his career so vast itís a shame this wasnít longer.

The disc then closes off with a fairly loud 2-minute theatrical trailer.

The release then includes a short booklet with an essay by Armond White. Itís actually not bad, offering an analysis of the play, the film, and Leanís visuals. No mention of Spielberg.

And that does unfortunately close off the release. Itís not loaded, but the couple features we do get are at least informative and enjoyable for the most part.

6/10

CLOSING

The disc is priced higher, which I do question (Iím not sure how their pricing works exactly, as their release of Ozuís An Autumn Afternoon contained a commentary and a couple video features, but only runs at $29.95,) but I give it a full-hearted recommendation. Itís slim on supplements but theyíre of decent quality, and the video transfer is exceptional, one of the better black and white images I have seen recently. Definitely worth picking up for those who love the film or are interested in Lean, Laughton, and their work.


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