Studio: Sony Pictures Classics
Rated: R (for language)
Program Length: 98 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 1080p
Languages: English, French, Portuguese 5.1 DTS-HD MA; Spanish 5.1
Subtitles: English SDH, English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Arabic, Dutch
While viewing The Damned United, I was reminded of something which happened when I was a sophomore in high school. When the school year started we had a new English teacher, Mr. Naversen, who proved to be dynamic, funny and inspiring. His class was one which even the most reluctant students looked forward to. However, when we returned to school from Christmas vacation, we were told that Mr. Naversen would no longer be teaching sophomores. We were given no explanation, but it eventually filtered down that he had committed the sin of recommending that we read “The Catcher in the
The Damned United is a wonderful film which tells the story of Brian Clough (Michael Sheen), a brash and arrogant football manager in England, and his brief but disastrous 44-day tenure as the coach of the champion Leeds United team (football in England, of course, is known as soccer in the United States). Clough (rhymes with “cuff”) and his assistant, Peter Taylor (Timothy Spall), take an undistinguished team,
The story is told in flashbacks, with scenes from Clough’s time at Leeds United in 1974 alternating with scenes from his years with
Although The Damned United is a film which takes place in the world of sports, it is not really a sport film. The footage of matches is realistic but spare. We see snippets of action, but there are no shots of last-second goals or other heroics. Indeed, the match scenes more often focus on the nastier side of the sport, including actions which border on felonious assault.
Michael Sheen is brilliant as Brian Clough. Footage of the real Clough in the supplemental materials demonstrates how close Sheen gets to capturing the essence of the man. He is ably supported by a strong cast, which includes Jim Broadbent as Sam Longson, the long-suffering chairman of the
The story of Brian Clough is well-known in
The Damned United appears to be properly framed at 1.85:1. The 1080p Blu-ray transfer is excellent, although by design it will not blow the viewer away. There are no magnificent vistas to marvel at, although the video does come alive during a few scenes which occur in the sunny coastal town of
The lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack is excellent. The dialogue is clear and mostly intelligible (those who have trouble with English accents may need to engage the English subtitles a time or two). The surround channels are very effective during the match sequences, capturing both the intensity of the player and the enthusiastic involvement of the fans. Other surround effects tend to be on the subtle side but they are generally evocative and effective. This is not a Blu-ray disc which you will use to show off your audio system, but it does what it does very well.
This Blu-ray presentation of The Damned United includes quite a few interesting and informative extras, all of which are presented in high definition and in English stereo.
I was particularly interested in the deleted scenes, which can be seen with or without a commentary track by director Tom Hooper. Normally when watching deleted scenes I can readily understand why they did not make the final cut, but in this case there is one scene in particular which I would have left in the film. I will not give away anything here, but it involves Clough’s actions during a pivotal match between his
Speaking of commentary tracks, this disc includes a very worthwhile commentary by the director, producer Andy Harries, and Michael Sheen.
“Creating Clough: Michael Sheen Takes on Old Big ‘Ead” is a featurette in which the actor explains how he prepared himself for the role. Although he bears a striking resemblance to the real Brian Clough, Sheen explains that he was not trying to impersonate the man. He watched numerous films of Clough’s television interviews and read everything about Clough that he could get his hands on.
“Perfect Pitch: The Making of The Damned United” goes into some detail about casting, creating the look of the film, and how the filmmakers addressed some of the more controversial aspects of the story. The film is based upon David Peace’s book “The Damned Utd,” which was released as a novel. It has been reported that Clough’s widow (he died in 2004) was not happy with certain aspects of the book.
“Remembering Brian” features interviews with those who knew the real Brian Clough. Even former Leeds United players with whom Clough had clashes now demonstrate respect for the man.
“The Changing Game: Football in the Seventies” shows how the game has morphed from a rugby hybrid (as exemplified by Leeds United) to the more civilized game it is today. Former players and fans talk about how influential Clough was in changing the game. The Leeds United style of physically dominating opponents did not work well on the continent, where teams would frustrate the English teams with speed and by maintaining possession of the ball for lengthy stretches, so a change in tactics became necessary.
“Cloughisms” is a featurette which shows the filming of Michael Sheen recreating television interviews which Brian Clough did over the course of his career.
The single disc comes in a standard Blu-ray keep case.
The Final Analysis
The Damned United is a very entertaining and interesting sports film which focuses more on the people than on the games. It leaves one with the definite impression that coaching professional sports is best left to those who are highly driven workaholics.
Panasonic DMP-BD50 Blu-ray player Panasonic Viera TC-P46G15 Plasma display, calibrated to THX specification by Gregg Loewen Yamaha HTR-5890 THX Surround Receiver
Equipment used for this review:
Panasonic DMP-BD50 Blu-ray player
Panasonic Viera TC-P46G15 Plasma display, calibrated to THX specification by Gregg Loewen
Yamaha HTR-5890 THX Surround Receiver