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DVD Review HTF DVD REVIEW: Goodbye, Mr Chips (1969) (1 Viewer)

Ken_McAlinden

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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

Year: 1969

Rated: G

Film Length: 155 minutes

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1

Subtitles: English SDH, French, Japanese, Thai

Release Date: January 27, 2008


The Film

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 Video

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 Audio

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 Extras
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).

Packaging

The film is packaged in a standard Amaray case with no inserts.

Summary

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.

Regards,
 

Joe Caps

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Ken, even in 70mmm the film looked a bit soft.

Do you have the laserdisc version and can you comment on picture quality between the two versions and compare the sound quality between the two versions.

So sad about this release. We have waited a LONG TIME for this release.
Warners has many extras for this including a distributors demo reel which has alternate filmed orchestrations for some of the songs and a short song, When I Was Younger, that was cut from the film.

Petula Clark, Peter O Toole and Leslie Bricusse could have given us one hell of a commentary track too!!
 

BillyFeldman

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Perhaps the reviewer would like to spell Miss Clark's last name correctly.
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I agree that the film's photography had the soft focus look that was popular at the time. The dupey sections you speak of - opticals on fades and dissolves perhaps? Rear projection? Other than that, there shouldn't be anything that looks dupey.
 

Ken_McAlinden

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Perhaps he would. Believe it or not, the last thing I did before posting was a search and replace because I though it ended with an "e" and I had neglected to do it in every instance but one. This guaranteed that I was 100% wrong.
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The dupey sections were brief and infrequent, and I was exempting opticals. There is one medium close shot of Miss C-l-a-r-k at Pompei, that is so bad it could very well be a problem with the production photography.

Unfortunately, I do not have the laserdisc, so I cannot A/B.

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BillyFeldman

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Re the shot you speak of - could it be an optically blown up shot - this happens more frequently than you'd think - where they didn't get the shot during principal photography, so they just blow up a wider shot to turn it into a medium close up - I'd have to see the shot to know, but I'll have the disc on Tuesday and will check it out.
 

Ken_McAlinden

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Yes, Yes, and Yes. They have unobtrusive still graphics with text to go along with them, so you will have to close your eyes to simulate a black screen if you are a purist.
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Regards,
 

Ken_McAlinden

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Looking at it again, it is mostly a problem with the color pulsing. There is another shot shortly after in the same conversation from the same angle that looks fine other than a couple of minor scratches, so it is probably just an issue with the element used for transfer or its antecedent.

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Ken_McAlinden

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The living city is Pompei within which are the ruins of ancient Pompeii, correct? I suppose "Pompeii" would be more specific, but I am a pretty lazy editor of my past posts.
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Brian Kidd

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I seem to be one of the few folks who really likes Leslie Bricusse's music, in general. This is one of his projects that I've been unable to see until now. I'm looking forward to giving it a whirl. Thanks for the review!
 

Ken_McAlinden

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Do not let my opinions spoil it for you. There are those who believe that were it not for bad taste, I would have no taste at all.
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Regards,
 

Art_AD

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There is a great 3 disc soundtrack album from FSM that is all inclusive. The booklet is great it has an in depth history of the movie and there are behind the scenes photos as well (all that should have been on this dvd release). I also remember their internet site had a 3 part story on the making of the film (I am almost sure). So if you want to know more about this great film the cd can fill in some of the blanks.
 

BillyFeldman

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I've just finished the first half of the film and looked in vain for this medium close shot of Miss Clark at Pompei that is so bad. Can you please give me an exact time so I can seek it out and perhaps comment on it? Thanks.

Otherwise, I must say this transfer is excellent and very much is what the film looked like when I saw it way back when.
 

Ken_McAlinden

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It is during their first conversation where they are sharing the sandwich. The colors go wonky for the duration of a single shot. It will be more noticeable on larger screens, particularly against the sky background. It is very brief.

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trajan

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lar
Just finished watching this dvd and found it to be very impressive. flawless print. The only problem I had was about at the 97 minute mark when O'Toole is confronting one of his assocites at an outdoor gathering. The lip sync on this section is way off. I can't believe the finale print was released in this condition.
 

Ken_McAlinden

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There are other scenes where they seemed to have issues with the production dialog (such as the one in the kitchen between O'Toole and Clark shortly after the intermission), but chose not to post-loop it anyway. At least those scenes have perfect sync.
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Regards,
 

LESG

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You are so right that there was so much more could have been done with this movie on DVD. yes its a lovely print, but the film is unchanged from the version available for years on video. I didnt expect them to alter the release print, but there is so much material they could have added. If warners ever think of releasing a 2 disc edition (lets all start hounding them) It could include:-
Deleted Scenes (of which as the CD lists afre many )-including the uncut version of "Schooldays", Peter O Toole's "When I Was Younger" (which would have seemed an obvious choice to add as its on all the soundtracks of the movie and it is obvious where the song was cut), Petula's complete "You and I", plus several others scenes alluded to in the CD

Narration by Peter and Pet and perhaps Leslie Bricusse, all of whom have said at one time or other that it is one of their favourite movies.

It would be very interesting to include the carefully re edited and shortened version which was the only version available for several years that runs 131 mins, this would be interesting to compare on Disc 2 (it cuts the last scene completely, but really makes his final speech more moving as the music swells under the boys clamouring all over him),

Some on set interviews which Warners would have in store.

When so many movies from the MGM/Warners library get released with all sorts of extras that do not have the audience appeal, or the iconic nature this film has gained over the years, one wonders if the powers that be even look at what they are releasing.

Any comments on that? Also the odd black blur at the top of the screen around the entire Chips/Ursula first meeting outside Katherine's house???
 

Joe Caps

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LESG not all of the things you mentioned were filmed. there is NO longer version of You and I. The longer version was done just for the record.

TCM occasionaly shows a almost half hour long early distributor reel to show what the upcoming film will be like. In there is a version of When I was Younger, and part of the song When I am older with completely different orchestrations. Anything else from this era was probably not kept.
they could have added the distributor reel to the dvd and also could do one of those half hour long docs about the making of the film. They could have it done by Mike Mattesino who produced the three cd album.

After a long wait for this title, it is almost as big a dissapointment as the Warners long awaited Quo Vadis.
 

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