Senior HTF Member
- Feb 20, 2001
- Livonia, MI USA
- Real Name
- Kenneth McAlinden
Goodbye, Mr. Chips
Directed By: Herbert Ross
Starring: Peter O'Toole, Petula Clark, Michael Redgrave, Alison Leggatt, Siân Phillips, Michael Bryant, George Baker, Jack Hedley
Studio: Warner Brothers
Film Length: 155 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Japanese, Thai
Release Date: January 27, 2008
This MGM musical remake of the James Hilton novel previously filmed in 1939 moves the setting of the story to "between the wars", but keeps the essence of it intact. Peter O'Toole plays Arthur Chipping, a house master at English school for boys Brookfield with a comprehensive knowledge of the Classics, but little else. Against all probability the introverted "Chips" finds himself falling for Katherine Bridges (Clark), a free-spirited British musical comedy star who he eventually marries. Katherine initially finds adjustment from her fast paced urban theatrical lifestyle to the stuffy academic environment of Brookfield difficult, but as the years pass, she becomes quite popular with the students and we see Arthur and Katherine progress through a series of dramatic personal and professional peaks and valleys.
Goodbye Mr. Chips was the feature directorial debut of Herbert Ross, who had previously enjoyed success staging and choreographing musical sequences for films including Funny Girl and Inside Daisy Clover. Given his background, it comes as something of a surprise that he stages the majority of the film's musical numbers as introspective voiceover commentary montages without any choreography. Ross has indicated that he was intrigued by how music was used to comment on the inner life of characters in non-musical films such as The Graduate and adapted that concept to the staging of the numbers in Goodbye, Mr. Chips.
One affectation Ross does carry over from his history of staging cinematic musical sequences is a fondness for camera movement. As a result, the film includes some impressive tracking and crane shots. He also milks every bit of value possible from the film's location work, especially during the early vacation sequence in Pompeii. His fondness for camera movement and tracking shots steers him in the wrong direction during one technically impressive but dramatically questionable sequence where he follows a Nazi rocket from behind until it strikes a target which has a significant impact on the film's conclusion.
As a musical, the film falls a little short due to both O'Toole's lack of proficiency as a vocalist and a collection of none too memorable songs from Leslie Bricusse. These shortcomings are mitigated somewhat by the fact that O'Toole is only asked to carry two songs with two brief reprises, the enjoyable score and orchestrations by composer John Williams, and the force of nature that is Petula Clark. Clark brings energy and vivacity to even the dullest of material, which works perfectly within the context of the film since that is also the nature of her character, Katherine.
Dramatically, the film plays nearly as well as the original 1939 version thanks to an outstanding performance by O'Toole against type as a socially awkward stuffy academic. He imparts just enough spark through the reserved exterior to suggest a smoldering inner life which is essential to sell the handful of unguarded moments at emotional high and low points in the story. Clark is as charming in her dramatic scenes as she is during her musical numbers. All are aided and abetted by a highly capable supporting cast including Michael Redgrave and Michael Bryant as faculty sympathetic to the Chippings as well as George Baker and Michael Culver as an antagonistic parent/patron and a rival colleague. The scenery chewing is left to Siân Phillips (who was Mrs. Peter O'Toole at the time) in a supporting role as Ursula Mossbank, a vacuous bon vivant from Katherine's London Music Hall circle of friends.
Despite contemporaneous promotion that suggested otherwise (probably due to the success of Oliver!), this film steers clear of depicting the schoolchildren as identifiable moppets. Much like students would be experienced by a real teacher, they are shown as an ever evolving generation-spanning mass of children who periodically pop back into their teacher's life.
The DVD presents the film in its Panavision "scope" aspect ratio of 2.35:1 in a 16:9 enhanced frame. The film element is a little on the soft side and there are a few noticeable segments that look like dupe inserts were used. There are occasional instances of halos around high contrast edges including a few that look like they were clearly introduced in the digital video domain. The above criticisms sound perhaps harsher than they were intended, as the presentation is overall quite watchable, the softness is likely a stylistic result of the film stock that was chosen and the way it was shot and developed, and other than possibly the aforementioned minor edge halos which are not pervasive, little has been done to harm it in the video realm.
The film's Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is a bit hit and miss, possibly due to the way the film's sound was recorded. Dialog and effects sound harsher than the score and musical numbers with the degree of harshness varying by scene. In some instances, the filmmakers seem to have recorded dialog under non-ideal circumstances but opted to use production audio over re-dubbing. I also heard what sounded like very obvious noise reduction artifacts on more than a few occasions. The score and musical sequences do not suffer from these issues.
The only extras on this DVD are theatrical trailers for both cinematic versions of Goodbye Mr. Chips. The 1939 trailer runs a lengthy four minutes and five seconds with minimal film clips and lots of unique testimonial footage from "Town Crier" radio personality Alexander Woolcot extolling the virtues of the film and its source novel. It is presented in 4:3 video consistent with the film's theatrical exhibition with Dolby Digital 2.0 mono sound.
The 1969 theatrical trailer runs two minutes and five seconds and is presented in 4:3 letterboxed video with Dolby Digital 2.0 mono sound. It seems to suggest more of an "Oliver!" type experience with a cheery romance and a bunch of young moppets than what the film actually delivers.
Curiously for a catalog title, when the DVD is first spun, the viewer is greeted with an Anti-Piracy PSA with clips from "Casablanca" (1:01) and a Warner Blu-Ray Promo (1:09).
The film is packaged in a standard Amaray case with no inserts.
Goodbye Mr. Chips is a 30 years-on musical updating of the Sam Wood/Robert Donat original that curiously fails as a musical while still succeeding as a satisfying drama with heart and humor. It is presented on disc with a generally strong audio/video presentation with occasional problematic sequences. The only extras are two trailers, one for the film and another for its 1939 predecessor.