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SPECIFICATIONS
  • 1.33:1 Standard
  • English PCM Mono
  • English subtitles
  • 1 Disc
FEATURES
  • Audio commentary by film historian Charles Drazin
  • New video interview with David Korda, son of director ZoltŠn Korda
  • A Day at Denham, a short film from 1939 featuring footage of ZoltŠn Korda on the set of The Four Feathers
  • Trailer

The Four Feathers

Blu-ray
Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By:
Starring: John Clements, Ralph Richardson, C. Aubrey Smith, June Duprez, Allan Jeayes, Jack Allen, Donald Gray, Frederick Culley
1939 | 115 Minutes | Licensor: ITV Global Entertainment

Release Information
Blu-ray | MSRP: $39.95 | Series: The Criterion Collection | Edition: #583
RLJ Entertainment

Release Date: October 11, 2011
Review Date: October 10, 2011

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SYNOPSIS

This spectacular Technicolor epic, directed by ZoltŠn Korda, is considered the finest of the many adaptations of A.E.W. Mason's classic 1902 adventure novel about the British Empire's exploits in Africa, and a crowning achievement of Alexander Korda's legendary production company, London Films. Set at the end of the nineteenth century, The Four Feathers follows the travails of a young officer (John Clements) accused of cowardice after he resigns his post on the eve of a major deployment to Khartoum; he must fight to redeem himself in the eyes of his fellow officers (including Ralph Richardson) and fiancťe (June Duprez). Featuring music by Miklůs Růzsa and Oscar-nominated cinematography by Georges Pťrinal, The Four Feathers is a thrilling, thunderous epic.

Forum members rate this film 8.8/10

 

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PICTURE

Zoltan Kordaís The Four Feathers gets a Blu-ray release from The Criterion Collection, who present the film in its original aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on a dual-layer disc in a new 1080p/24hz high-definition transfer.

Problems do remain in the source, but I canít say this was a surprise considering the filmís age. Scratches remain and do rain through fairly regularly, and film grain is a bit heavy but shouldnít hamper oneís viewing. Colour separation is noticeable throughout, and there are red or green edges around most objects. Midway through I also noticed some red marks in one area and what look like reddish tram lines running through. Though itís not in the best shape I was actually expecting worse.

What is stunning about the image, though, is that the digital transfer itself comes off just about perfect. I think what most impressed me was how it handles film grain: as mentioned it gets heavy in the film and had the potential to create a noisy mess but itís handled perfectly and looks completely natural throughout. The image is also incredibly sharp with a stunning amount of clarity, and the filmís colours look wonderful but still retain that Technicolor look. Halos pop up in a few places but past this I didnít notice any other issues with the actual transfer.

Ultimately it still shows its age but the digital transfer is a bit of a stunner.

7/10

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

For a 72 year old film the audio is surprisingly good if still unspectacular. Dialogue is clear and the track doesnít present any background noise or damage. Music unfortunately doesnít come off the same way and the score sounds a bit edgy and a little distorted. Cleaned up a bit but the audio also shows its age in a few places.

6/10

SUPPLEMENTS

We only get a few supplements starting with an audio commentary by film historian Charles Drazin. The scholarly track follows the motions one would expect, covering the production, talking about the actors, examines some of the editing, and gets into detail about its location shooting. But Drazin keeps it unexpectedly engaging, especially when he gets into the politics of the time and Zoltanís conflict in making fairly conservative films for his brothers that pushed the British ideals of the time, which he didnít agree with. Drazin also offers some historical context for the filmís time period, talks about the many adaptations and the source novel. Thereís some dead space and Drazin sometimes just states whatís going on on screen but it was an engaging and worthwhile commentary that those who enjoy the film may want to give a go.

Following this is a 23-minute interview with Zoltanís son David Korda. Here Korda talks about his family, specifically his dad and uncles, and then moves on, simply focusing on his father and his work. Itís a very personal piece (especially when he gets into Zoltanís hatred towards all of the wives Alexander had over the years) but very engaging, while offering some intriguing production information at the same time, specifically the issues that arose with the film equipment in the hot Sudan sun. Great addition.

Finally there is a promotional film from 1939 called A Day at Denham, which runs 10-minutes. The film basically gives a tour of the London Films studio in Denham, moving from wardrobe, to the sets, the accountants, and even the studioís own power station. Thereís some behind-the-scenes footage from the set of The Four Feathers, which was being filmed at the time this was shot. Intriguing little short offering a glimpse into the inner workings of the Kordasí studio.

The disc then closes with a 3-minute theatrical trailer.

The release also comes with an insert which contains a fairly lengthy essay by Michael Sragow who writes about the film and the Kordasí careers, making for a decent read.

And unfortunately thatís it. I figured Criterion might include another film version of the story but alas thatís not the case. Just a few simple supplements that are at least worthwhile.

6/10

CLOSING

The print shows its age but Criterion still delivers us a strong and highly stable transfer. The supplements are good and interesting, but still feel a little slight.


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