Senior HTF Member
- May 22, 1999
- Real Name
One of my top-ten must-have-on-Blu-ray titles is finally out in Germany. It only took a week to reach me once I ordered it from Amazon.de.
For fans of this wonderful adventure (and I hope there will be many more now), the disc is both a godsend and a minor disappointment. It's the uncut film* (103 minutes). The aspect ratio is correct (2.35:1). The color was processed by DeLuxe (this being a Fox title) and doesn't have that rich Technicolor saturation we all know and love, but it is colorful, with decent flesh tones and nice sky and water blues. Black levels are quite acceptable and are never blocky. The image is sharp as a tack for the most part.
The disappointing factors are two. The film has been put through the DNR wringer, leaving very little if any visible grain structure. But this has not resulted in an oversoftened image that I can see. The mono audio, while probably never very dynamic, is rather flat here...not unclear, just lacking any umph, if you get what I mean. The domestic Fox DVD of years ago will give you an idea of what the audio is here.
Aside from that, the film is one of those rare birds that, plot-wise, work on several levels simultaneously. First and most obvious, it is a rousing pirate adventure, although there isn't much swashbuckling involved. Beneath that, it is a rather potent psychological study of the true nature of children, who in this case innocently bring down the very men who have been reluctantly protecting them in order to offload them at the nearest port, having inadvertently kidnapped them during the hijack of another ship. The relationship between the ship's captain (Anthony Quinn) and one of the children (Deborah Baxter) can feel a bit queasy, but also helps to explain how the film plays out.
I highly recommend this Koch release with the caveats mentioned. This is probably as good as we're likely to see it, and frankly, I'm rather bowled-over (but of course very grateful) that it is being given a Blu-ray at all. This is not a 2k or 4k restoration, but it is a palpable upgrade from DVD in terms of PQ if not audio.
*A HIGH WIND IN JAMAICA (1965) was cut by a significant amount by the distributor, 20th Century-Fox, who did not have much confidence in it. Mackendrick's original submission ran 135 minutes, and subsequently lost just over 1/2 hour with no input from the director. Nonetheless, like THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS, enough beautiful footage and plot details remained to render a near-classic. There is a fascinating chapter regarding the making of this film in the biography Lethal Innocence: The Cinema Of Alexander Mackendrick (1991, Methuen London, authored by Philip Kemp), inexpensive copies of which are currently available here: