DVD Review HTF REVIEW: Cinema Classics - The Quiller Memorandum & The Chairman

Michael Osadciw

Screenwriter
Joined
Jun 24, 2003
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Real Name
Michael Osadciw


THE QUILLER MEMORANDUM
THE CHAIRMAN
CINEMA CLASSICS COLLECTION



Studio: 20th Century Fox
Film Year: 1966 & 1969
Film Length: 105 minutes & 98 minutes
Genre: Thriller/Action/Drama

Aspect Ratio:
2.35:1 (widescreen enhanced)


Colour/B&W: Colour

Audio:
English 2.0 mono

English 2.0 stereo (The Chairman only)

Spanish 2.0 mono

French

2.0 mono

Subtitles: English, Spanish
Film Rating: PG









Release Date: November 7, 2006.


Film Rating (The Quiller Memorandum):
/


Starring: Quiller (George Segal), Alec Guinness (Pol), Max von Sydow (Oktober), Senta Berger (Inge Lindt)

Written by: Harold Pinter
Directed by: Michael Anderson


Film Rating (The Chairman):
/


Starring: Gregory Peck (Dr. John Hathaway), Anne Heywood (Kay Hanna), Arthur Hill (Marshal Shelby)

Written by: Ben Maddow
Directed by: J. Lee Thompson



In this latest wave of the Cinema Classics Collection, Fox is continuing the release of classic spy films. This November expect to see The Quiller Memorandum and The Chairman. Both have excellent performances from highly regarded actors such as Gregory Peck, George Segal, and Alec Guinness.

During the height of the cold war, Quiller is an American spy trying to find the hideout of a neo-Nazi movement in West Berlin. Armed with only his wit and intelligence he gathers information from his informants and evades those who are after him. But his luck will soon run out as he learns he’s falling into trap of the enemy he’s trying to expose. It could cost him his life.

In my opinion this is a brilliantly written spy film that is shot with such simple surroundings in Berlin. Visually it doesn’t give the impression of a large problem to investigate – we only see what Quiller, the lone spy, sees. But we know much more is happening behind the scenes.

Some may find the pacing of the film a little slow since it’s mostly dialogue but if you listen to the lines in this film carefully enough you can decode the truth behind certain personalities. Some scenes are brilliant too; the scene near the end of the film when Quiller must make his “choice” and is followed by neo-Nazis every step he takes ‘til dawn is mesmerizing in its pacing. A feeling of helplessness is truly felt.

The Chairman is not as serious of a film and it’s dated because the world has changed so much since the 1960s. During the time when very few visited China, Gregory Peck as Nobel Prize winner Dr. Hathaway visits China as a spy by the United States Military. During his visit to decode a formula to saves millions of people, he has no idea who he can trust. The U.S. does because all conversation is sent back to a satellite for the military to hear because of a transmitter implanted in the back of his head. Little does he know that the implant is a bomb too!

Peck’s performance is relatively amusing in this film and it has an interesting was of delivering the back story to the viewer through flashbacks of Hathaway’s thoughts on his trip to China. I think you’ll also get a bit of a laugh by looking at the computers and props in the military lab. Bordering science fiction…?

These two titles are available separately and each are packaged in a keepcase that slides into a nice thick cardboard cover featuring original poster art. There is a 4 page booklet in each with a write up of the film, the era, and the production.


THE QUILLER MEMORANDUM: VIDEO QUALITY
/

THE CHAIRMAN: VIDEO QUALITY
/


The Quiller Memorandum is somewhat inconsistent in presentation. This, without a doubt, is due to the film source for this title. While I’m sure Fox took great strides to clean up this picture as much as the budget would allow, the video can look very good to fair. I’m not going to lay fault on the transfer to DVD because compression artefacts and artificial sharpening are about as absent as it can get for standard-definition. I will note that the end result does seem to have a bit of softening due to noise reduction, probably to tone down grain or noise. If that’s the case it certainly worked because grain doesn’t seem to be an issue. But the image does lack sharp definitive edges and has low legibility of words on street signs and businesses that would normally seem legible in standard definition.

The viewer is taken to the dark streets of Berlin in the opening sequence. Shadow detail is limited for the most part and black level isn’t very deep either. This scene is also the blurriest but it does improve immediately after. Skip to Chapter 2 to the scene when Quiller is obtaining information from Pol in the Berlin Olympic Stadium, and the film looks almost the perforations fell off the sprockets momentarily causing some heavy distortion. This scene is the only time this happens but it looks to be as corrected as possible for this release.

As mentioned before, black level isn’t that strong and in Chapter 3 it actually raises and lowers over and over for the duration of Quiller’s conversation with Hengel the informant.

Much of the film looks very good. The picture is nice and bright and outdoor scenes have the most colours despite being subdued. Interior scenes are adequately lit and are pleasing to view. The most impressive scene is the car pursuit where cameras are actually fixated to the cars (or to something that represents the car) as they are driving. It doesn’t appear that projection screens were used at all behind the actors for this scene heightening the realism and depth of this car pursuit.

The aspect ratio is 2.35:1 and is widescreen enhanced. It’s interesting to note that the opening credits of this film actually appear in a ratio that appears to be 2.55:1. The credits stretch to the far edges of the screen. As soon as the title sequence is over the next shot has the “black bars” reduced to 2.35:1. The top bar stayed the same but the bottom bar lowered a good 3 inches.

The Chairman is different in some respects. While the colours look relatively the same, there is more grain in this film and it doesn’t look like there was much attempt to clean up the dirt on this film. There are many artefacts on the print that weren’t wiped clean and it’s consistent throughout the film. There is no major damage but I wouldn’t call this one of the best restoration efforts. The image also doesn’t suffer from the blurriness…and I’ll take grain over blurriness any day…but there is some artificial sharpening present. That nasty white line is clearly seen along the edges of people when contrasted with brighter backgrounds.



THE QUILLER MEMORANDUM: AUDIO QUALITY
/

THE CHAIRMAN: AUDIO QUALITY
/


The Quiller Memorandum has only the original mono soundtrack and not a newly created stereo mix. That’s a relief because I’ve always found the fake stereo versions to sound bad or offering little to no improvement.

The audio encoding is Dolby Digital 2.0 and the soundtrack shows it’s not one of the better produced ones. Dialogue sounds ok but the sound effects suck – the fidelity isn’t there. The original sounds sound bad. For example, when Quiller investigates at a professional swimming pool, the water splashing from all of the swimmers doesn’t sound like water at all…it’s just noise…and it’s bright too…plus it sounds looped. If I had closed my eyes and not seen what was happening I would still have no idea if I were to only listen. One thing that did stick out a lot was footsteps. It could have been intended because of the amount of walking in this movie, but I bet you could count every step listening to Quiller’s shoes on the pavement. It’s louder than or equal to many other sounds in this film.

A consistent hiss is present in the background. Listening to this film at louder volumes is also uncomfortable. I recommend a lower volume level.

Not much different can be said about The Chairman. The sound characteristics above are almost identical on this film except for the stereo presentation which is slightly quieter and just a little less screechy…of course with a more diffused front soundstage.


SPECIAL FEATURES
/


The Quiller Memorandum includes an audio commentary by Lee Pfeiffer of Cinema Retro Magazine, whose credits are also those of being a teacher of film at NYU. He is joined by Eddie Friedfeld, film critic and journalist who also teachers at NYU. These guys talk a lot of the history of the era, what led to the cold war, and about the film. They are very detailed with the topics at hand and it’s actually a great history lesson at the same time!

The rest of the disc is shy of features but I don’t mind…you’ll find the film’s theatrical trailer that isn’t widescreen enhanced – it doesn’t even have a proper aspect ratio and is shifted quite a bit to the left. It looks bad and is swirling with dot crawl on the reds!

The Chairman also features an audio commentary from the same two fellows. They provide an equally impressive amount of information on this title with a little more focus on Gregory Peck too.

There is a much more “shortened” version of The Chairman (17.33) which Fox has meticulously restored. It uses scenes from the film but also deleted and alternate scenes. It’s an interesting watch if you want to watch this movie in less than 20 minutes!

Lastly, the feature that will probably interest many men out there are two alternate scenes pulled from the international version of this film. Women at your Disposal (1.10) and Butterflies in the Bedroom (3.07) show the virtually full-frontal nudity edits (of females) that were made to the American version. It also explains the woman’s comment about the butterflies as well as Hathaway’s comment in the next scene about having his belt stolen.


IN THE END…

These are great discs and great films. It’s the first time I’ve seen any of these and it proves that there are many classics in the film vault begged to be seen. Even though The Chairman I prefer The Quiller Memorandum. Actually, I couldn’t help but notice how much George Seagal looks like president George W. Bush in this film…maybe it’s his facial expressions or the suit…but I just kept getting that feeling…ha! Anyways, I’m intrigued to see what’s lined up for the next Cinema Classics Collection release. These titles are recommended.

Mike Osadciw
November 4, 2006.
 

Bill Parisho

Stunt Coordinator
Joined
Jan 16, 2004
Messages
140
I'm looking forward to these 2 releases. Not so much The Chairman, as I recall the movie being rather silly. I remember watching The Quiller Memorandum on late night TV. An excellent film. I have the pleasure of knowing Lee Pfeiffer and I can tell you, he's very knowledgeable about espionage films. I'm looking forward to hearing what these two gentleman have to say about both movies. Also the music scores by John Barry and Jerry Goldsmith are a treat to hear.
Bill Parisho
 

Aaron Silverman

Senior HTF Member
Joined
Jan 22, 1999
Messages
11,378
Location
Florida
Real Name
Aaron Silverman
I've been interested in seeing Quiller since discovering the book series a couple of years ago. The material is ripe for a filmic revival!
 

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