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International A bit of text on... It Happened Here (Dual-Format/BFI)

Discussion in 'Blu-ray and UHD' started by Patrick McCart, Aug 4, 2018.

  1. Patrick McCart

    Patrick McCart Lead Actor
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    "Every viewing of It Happened Here, I find, requires the same adjustment. You always prepare yourself to make allowances, to be indulgent because, after all, it is only an amateur film, made on half a shoestring - schoolboys' pocket-money virtually - with the barest of technical resources and volunteer personnel who came to went as the shooting stretched on. Yet within the first few minutes, practically within the first few shots, you find that allowances and indulgences are quite misplaced, because what you are seeing is simply a good film at it is admirable. The staging of the war and the war period have a conviction which eludes more glossy and expensive "historical" productions. The narrative structure is loose and casual, which makes it all the more remarkable that the film has a dramatic drive which carries through from the first shot to the last." - David Robinson (from his introduction to How It Happened Here)

    I got into silent film at a young age, having seen my first complete film when I was 15 years old - Abel Gance's Napoleon. Soon after, I saw the documentary miniseries "Hollywood" that further pushed me into a love of silents. Both the reconstruction of Napoleon and "Hollywood" were projects led by Kevin Brownlow. His name comes up on so many quality restorations of silent films and a plethora of excellent documentaries and books. It wasn't until years later I discovered that he had made a feature film about a Nazi occupation of England.

    The film was directed, produced, and written by Kevin Brownlow and Andrew Mollo. Brownlow is a familiar name to anyone into silent film and Mollo turns up in the credits of many films as a military historian. While initial photography was shot primarily by Brownlow in 16mm, when the production switched to 35mm (thanks to Tony Richardson and Stanley Kubrick), then-newcomer Peter Suschitzky (best known today for having shot The Empire Strikes Back and most of David Cronenberg's post-80s work).

    The heartbeat of the film, though, is Pauline Murray. The film follows her as a nurse encountering all these new ways of life. Her performance is wonderful. Just her face reminds one of silent film actresses. She had never acted professionally before this film. There's one scene that was removed on insistence by distributor United Artists that featured actual neo-Nazis discussing the finer aspects of euthanasia. It was restored to the film when Brownlow regained the rights in the 90s.

    There's a lot more about the film that's fascinating, but I recommend going in blind. Once you've seen it, make sure you read Brownlow's 1968 book on the making of the film, How It Happened Here. Like his film history books, it's every bit as brilliant and riveting.

    Up until last month, the only video editions available in the world were a R1 DVD from Milestone in the US released in 2000 and a R2 DVD from Filmfirst released in 2006. Both from a laserdisc/VHS master from 1995. Both looking and sounding extremely rough. Even with the film being intentionally "low-fi" in places, it was underwhelming. But the power of the film still worked beautifully. When BFI announced a dual-format edition, I immediately pre-ordered it.

    Much of the first half of the film was shot in 16mm and appears in various degrees of quality. Scratches, thick grain, high contrast, and post-dubbed audio. No attempt has been made to over-clean the image, but rather keep it looking like film. When it switches to 35mm, it still has a slightly rough edge, but mostly looks gorgeous and clean. The audio is probably the biggest improvement. The clarity is such that one can hear static during some of the music, revealing that that pieces were sourced from old 78s. According to the liner notes, the new remaster was made with the participation of Kevin Brownlow from the 35mm camera negative - though, the removed scene is sourced from a print and obviously, the 16mm footage is duplicate blow-up material.

    If the excellent new remaster wasn't enough, the Blu-ray is packed with extras. The original "demo" 16mm film Mirror on the World is provided in complete form (it's excerpted within It Happened Here as a newsreel). There's an hour-long interview with Kevin Brownlow. Some of the early trims are included with commentary by Brownlow. One of the more interesting items is an excerpt from an Italian WWII documentary that includes footage from this film under the pretense of it being seized Nazi propaganda. There's also an extensive booklet with essays and interviews. Also, if you don't mind importing from the UK, this is a region free release (despite packaging indicating it as Region B) with all supplements in standard 1080p.

    This is on my short list for the best release of 2018 on Blu-ray.

    (Apologies for the slightly ripped-off thread title).
     
  2. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    Winstanley, anyone?
     
    lark144 likes this.
  3. lark144

    lark144 Supporting Actor

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    Absolutely!
     
  4. Patrick McCart

    Patrick McCart Lead Actor
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    For some reason, I thought it was out of print. Just ordered from Amazon UK. I actually haven't seen it yet.
     

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