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London in the Raw
SPECIFICATIONS
  • 1.33:1 Standard
  • English PCM Mono
  • English subtitles
  • 1 Disc
FEATURES
  • Alternative, more explicit, version of the feature
  • Three 60s London Sketches; Pub (Peter Davis, 1962, 15 mins); Chelsea Bridge Boys (Peter Davis, Staffan Lamm, 1966, 28 mins); Strip (Peter Davis, Staffan Lamm, Don Defina, 1966, 26 mins);
  • Original trailer
  • Illustrated booklet with essay by novelist and critic Stewart Home (author of Down and Out in Shoreditch and Hoxton); original review and promotional material; recollections by Davis, Defina and Lamm

London in the Raw

Blu-ray
Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: Arnold L. Miller
1964 | 72 Minutes

Release Information
Blu-ray | MSRP: £22.99 | Series: BFI Flipside | Edition: #2
BFI Video

Release Date: May 25, 2009
Review Date: July 26, 2009

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SYNOPSIS

'The World's greatest city laid bare! Thrill to its gay excitement, its bright lights, but be shocked by the sin in its shadows!' Following on from his Take Off Your Clothes and Live, and influenced by the world-wide success of Italian 'Mondo' movies, which combined documentary footage with staged sequences of salacious effect, legendary British low budget movie mogul Arnold Miller concocted this fascinating exploitation-style documentary. Peering voyeuristically behind the grimy net-curtains of London life into seedy bars and clubs for beatnik 'art lovers', and burrowing beneath the glittering facade of the capital's glamorous cocktail lounges and casinos, London in the Raw provides a cynical, sometimes startling vision of life on and off the rain-spattered streets of 1960s London.

Discuss the film and Blu-ray here   


PICTURE

For their second release in their Flipside series (a line that sets out to rescue ďweird and wonderful British films from obscurityĒ,) BFI Video presents Arnold Millerís London in the Raw in the aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on this dual-layer Blu-ray disc. The transfer is in 1080p. While this a UK release the Blu-ray is region free and should play on all Blu-ray players worldwide.

I wasnít exactly sure what I would get when popping this disc in the player but I know I wasnít expecting something that looked this good! The amount of care and love that went into the picture here is simply astonishing. With all things considered (specifically the age and obscurity of the film) this is one of the more surprising high definition transfers Iíve come across because thereís next-to-nothing wrong with it.

The print is in stellar shape and I assume it went through a rather vigorous restoration and other than a few small bits of debris thereís nothing notable about damage. The transfer itself is absolutely stellar presenting a crisp, sharp image throughout with noticeable, natural looking film grain. Colours are surprisingly bright and vibrant with reds looking especially good and contrast looks to be pitch perfect.

I was rather shocked with it, pleasantly so. Itís a beautiful looking transfer that went far a beyond what I would expect for a film certainly destined for obscurity.

9/10

All Blu-ray screen captures come from the source disc and have been shrunk from 1920x1080 to 900x506 and slightly compressed 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 lossless mono track doesnít quite live up to the image though this may have more to do with source elements. Music and some dialogue sound decent enough if a little edgy, but the narration throughout does come off a bit of mess, both weak and somewhat distorted. The track is quite clean, though, and I didnít notice a pop or scratch or even a hiss.

6/10

SUPPLEMENTS

BFI have dug up some rather wonderful supplements for this release, all just as fascinating to go through as the film itself.

London in the Raw: Alternative Cut is a roughly 47-minute version of the film. Itís amazingly not just a shorter version of the film (concentrating on the more exploitive subjects in the film) but it actually includes sequences not in the main film such as an extended bit involving the prostitute and an odd ďmotionlessĒ peep show. Also as a bonus it receives a rather wonderful video transfer and lossless audio, both about as good as what the main feature presents. Itís actually a rather fascinating re-edit though I canít say what its purpose probably was.

Though not necessarily related to the film directly the Blu-ray also includes three short films described on the back package as ďLondon sketchesĒ, documenting London during the 60ís, which make decent companion pieces but certainly donít come off anywhere near as exploitive as the main ďdocumentaryĒ on this release.

Pub is a barely 16-minute short film directed by Peter Davis giving a brief look at pub life in London during the 60s. Itís a fine little piece that hovers around various individuals at a local pub taking in the general atmosphere. The short actually opens with a text note stating that the film comes from the best possible source and still displays a lot of damage. The note actually comes off a little too harsh because the film still looks pretty good despite some heavy damage on the right hand side. The feature is again presented in high-def with a lossless mono track.

The next short documentary is Chelsea Bridge Boys, running 31-minutes and is again also presented in high definition with lossless audio. Covering a biker gang the documentary alternates between interviews with the members (who are quite honest and very engaging) and then footage of them either ďhanging outĒ or riding their bikes through the streets (though, as one states, not at ridiculous speeds because they donít want to kill themselves.) Directed by Peter Davis and Staffan Lamm itís another great little addition giving an engaging look at a London subculture.

The final short is simply called Strip which offers a look at a London strip club in 1966, directed by Peter Davis, Staffan Lamm, and Don DeFina. It runs almost 26-minutes and is again presented in high definition with lossless audio. We get a few interviews with some of the strippers but more footage of actual shows and footage in the dressing rooms. While the surroundings donít really reflect a good working environment everyone seems surprisingly cheerful. This Blu-ray release as a whole has its fair share of nudity so I doubt anyone picking it up would be bothered by such a thing but I should warn that this feature in particular contains quite a bit, pretty much wall to wall. While plenty of nudity does help in drawing an audience the film does feel like its genuinely trying to document its subject and it is fairly successful in its portrayal.

The features close with a rather amusing theatrical trailer running less than 2-minutes really pushing this as some hard exposť.

Finally the package comes with a 37-page booklet with a large collection of material starting with an essay about London in the Raw, its filmmakers, and a brief mention of the other docs on here. Another short essay by Vic Pratt goes into detail about the shorter version of the film, though canít reach a decent conclusion as to why it exists (Miller doesnít recall ever making it.) A not so positive review for the film is reprinted here from a 1964 issue of ďMonthly Film BulletinĒ and then we get biographies for both director Arnold Miller and director of photography Stanley A. Long. Thereís also notes by the directors for the short films that appear as supplements on this release (Pub, Chelsea Bridge Boys, and Strip) which are all rather wonderful reflections. And youíll also find various photos and advertising materials scattered about through the booklet. In whole itís an incredibly meaty and informative booklet.

I was disappointed the supplements on the disc didnít present much more about the main feature itself (only the trailer and the short version have to do specifically with the main feature) but the addition of the historical documentaries is a wonderful treat and actually make this Blu-ray worth picking up.

9/10

CLOSING

Despite the moral high ground of the narrator itís obvious why this film exists and in this regard itís exploitation at its best and is admittedly a blast. But the three documentaries included as supplements here make this disc a must to pick up. What pleases me the most about this release is that despite the obscure nature of the films included those involved in the production of this Blu-ray have put an incredible amount of care and work into this release, specifically the transfers. It exceeded my expectations on just about every level and looks absolutely wonderful. A very high recommendation.

(Again this Blu-ray title is region free and should play on all Blu-ray players worldwide.)




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