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    Lord of the Flies (1963) Blu-ray Review

    Blu-ray Criterion

    Jul 13 2013 05:36 PM | Matt Hough in DVD & Blu-ray Reviews
    William Golding's prophetic parable of civilization run amok gets a lyrical yet savage cinematic treatment in Peter Brook's Lord of the Flies. Using a cast of completely amateur actors and a crew which was mostly new to movies, this early cinema verité effort looks amazingly fresh today: brash, spare, earthy and with an overwhelming quality of seat-of-their-pants filmmaking that adds a haunting quality to go with the original tale’s unboundingly morbid and mordant sensibility.

    Title Info:

    • Studio: Criterion
    • Distributed By: N/A
    • Video Resolution: 1080P/AVC
    • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
    • Audio: English PCM 1.0 (Mono)
    • Subtitles: English SDH
    • Rating: Not Rated
    • Run Time: 1 Hr. 30 Min.
    • Package Includes: Blu-ray
    • Case Type: keep case
    • Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
    • Region: A
    • Release Date: 07/16/2013
    • MSRP: $39.95

    The Production Rating: 4/5

    An airplane full of English public school boys being evacuated from England goes down in the ocean with about two dozen boys washing ashore an uninhabited island. From the start, four boys make immediate impressions: Ralph (James Aubrey) who is elected leader and tries to maintain a sense of order for their survival, Piggy (Hugh Edwards) whose intelligence and innate sense of fair play is continually tested, Jack (Tom Chapin) who desired the post of leader and who decides to head the group of hunters who’ll provide the others with food, and Simon (Tom Gaman) who seems more thoughtful and inwardly focused than the others. As weeks go by with no rescue in sight, alliances begin to shift and the hunter tribe become bullies who run roughshod over the others, taking whatever they want and calling all the shots. A belief that there is on the island some kind of “beast” which they must ward off begins to transform the prep school boys into savages who have quickly forgotten everything they ever knew about decency and honor.

    William Golding’s book is one of those novels which almost all school children have interaction with at some point in their educational lives, and the movie was shot with the book as its basic blueprint. Director Peter Brook has managed to include almost all of the book’s most famous incidents and doesn’t stint on the murders of innocents as well as displaying some of the tome’s most famous symbols: the conch shell, the pig’s head, Piggy’s glasses nor does he miss on showing the book’s most memorable incidents including the nightmarish sequence where the boys lose total control of themselves around a bonfire and give in to their basest instincts (which leads to the first murder) and the climactic dash from death that one character horrifyingly undergoes. Throughout, Brook uses the soundtrack to magnify the uncertainties of life going on around them (all the gurgles and snaps of the jungle by day and night) as well as to amplify the truly terrifying moments where the boys have gone completely out of control with a mob’s sensibilities (little do they realize that the real beast on the island is themselves). Brook also constructs an interesting beginning to the film using grainy photographs to establish the background information that gets the boys to that tropical island as well as taking some precious time to show more pastoral moments (Piggy and Ralph sampling the ocean water and looking for other survivors, Simon playing with a lizard, Piggy telling the younger kids the story of his hometown’s name change), scenes which happen less and less the more the savagery builds within the unbridled older boys.

    The cast of amateurs is a mixed blessing. They’re all fresh faces and ring completely true as ordinary kids attempting to survive extraordinary circumstances, but their line readings to a person don’t have the natural spontaneity of regular speech; they sound studied and stilted (almost all of the film was post synched). Their physical performances are all outstanding, and one buys into their barbarousness even with the wooden verbal limitations of their performances. Of the leads, perhaps Tom Chapin’s power mad Jack is the most genuine-seeming in look and manner as he rather quickly goes native with disastrous results, and James Aubrey's Ralph clearly does some impressive nonverbal acting for the camera.

    Video Rating: 4.5/5 3D Rating: NA

    The film is presented at 1.37:1 and is offered in 1080p resolution using the AVC codec. Sharpness is superb throughout, and the imagery is absolutely pristine (clips in some of the bonus features show a scratched and dirty picture, but that’s not the case with the beautiful transfer here completely lacking artifacts). The contrast has been wonderfully realized to present the grayscale in its most becoming light. If only the black levels were a little deeper, the image would truly have been reference quality, but few will complain about what is offered. The film has been divided into 13 chapters.

    Audio Rating: 4/5

    The PCM 1.0 (1.1 Mbps) sound mix offers fidelity that’s well above average, especially surprising in light of the miniscule budget for the film and the primitive sound recording techniques utilized for the dialogue (the commentary offers some entertaining facts about how it was done). With the dialogue almost all post synched (apart from Piggy’s story of his hometown’s name change), there is that airless quality to the track that can’t be helped. The sound effects and music never interfere with one’s complete understanding of what’s being said. There is the slightest bit of hiss which can be heard occasionally.

    Special Features: 5/5

    Audio Commentary: a piecemeal affair that’s entertaining and elucidating with director Peter Brook, producer Lewis Allen, director of photography Tom Hollyman, and editor Gerald Feil recorded in 1993.

    Audiobook Accompaniment: William Golding reading from his book is synched to the scenes in the film.

    Three Behind-the-Scenes Vignettes (HD): Brook, Allen, Feil, and Hollyman comment separately during these three brief pieces.
    • Home Movies and Tests (3:25): learning to use handheld cameras before the start of principal photography
    • Outtakes (2:58): brief clips where character was broken by the actors
    • Production Scrapbook (9:14): montage of photographs showing behind-the-scenes on the production

    Deleted Scene (1:57, HD): an early scene in the movie (it would have been in chapter four of the film) featuring Jack and Ralph.

    Peter Brook Interview (32:31, HD): a 2008 interview with the director who tells his memories of acquiring rights to the book, casting, and the three month shoot in Puerto Rico.

    South Bank Show (24:35, HD): an excerpt from a 1980 broadcast focusing on William Golding who tells of his early adult years up through the publication of Lord of the Flies.

    Gerald Feil Interview (19:36, HD): the editor and cameraman shares memories of the production and especially the difficulties of both picture and sound editing.

    The Empty Space (19:36, HD): Gerald Feil’s 1975 documentary on Peter Brook’s theatrical techniques being taught to a class of actors in Brooklyn, NY.

    Living Lord of the Flies (6:03, HD): Actor Tom Gaman (Simon) narrates some 8mm movies shot during the film’s three-month production and shares memories of working on the movie during his summer vacation.

    Theatrical Trailer (1:54, HD): an optional commentary from Gerald Feil is available in which he tells a funny story about the film’s premiere in New York.

    29-Page Booklet: includes the chapter listing, the cast and crew lists, some artwork of various boys from the film, movie historian Geoffrey Macnab's analysis of Golding's book and Brook’s movie, and an excerpt from Peter Brook’s autobiography detailing memories of working on the picture.

    Timeline: can be pulled up from the menu or by pushing the red button on the remote. It shows you your progress on the disc, the title of the chapter you’re now in, and index markers for the commentary and audio book reading that go along with the film, all of which can be switched on the fly. Additionally, two other buttons on the remote can place or remove bookmarks if you decide to stop viewing before reaching the end of the film or want to mark specific places for later reference.

    Overall Rating: 4.5/5

    The definitive film version of William Golding’s masterpiece, Lord of the Flies makes an impressive Blu-ray release with outstanding video and audio and a bonus feature package that’s extremely enjoyable. Highly recommended!

    Reviewed by: Matt Hough
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    2 Comments

    Sounds good, thanks for the review! I'll pick this one up on the B&N sale this month.

    Score by Raymond Leppard.

     

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