The Four Feathers

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Details At A Glance

Category War Theatrical Trailer(s) None
Rating Other Trailer(s) None
Year Released 1939 Commentary Tracks None
Running Time 110 minutes Other Extras Production Notes
Cast & Crew Biographies
RSDL/Flipper No/No
Cast & Crew
Start Up Movie
Region 4 Director Zoltan Korda

Magna Pacific
Starring John Clements
Ralph Richardson
June Duprez
Sir C. Aubrey Smith
Allan Jeaves
Jack Allen
Case Magna/Carlton
RRP $29.95 Music  

Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame MPEG None
Widescreen Aspect Ratio N/A Dolby Digital 1.0
16x9 Enhancement N/A Soundtrack Languages English (Dolby Digital 1.0)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio 1.37:1
Macrovision ?
Subtitles None Smoking Yes

Plot Synopsis

    The Four Feathers is a classic movie directed by Zoltan Korda. It is one of the earliest movies filmed in what was then the very new and very experimental Technicolor process.

    John Clements stars as Harry Faversham, a Lieutenant in the British Army. His regiment is about to be sent to Egypt to fight in the Sudan, but he elects to resign his commission on the eve of their sailing for Egypt. This is viewed as an act of cowardice by his three closest friends and by his fiancé, who send him white feathers in contempt.

    Harry travels to the Sudan to redeem himself.

    The IMDB, and the back cover of this DVD, give the running time of this movie as 130 minutes. This DVD is 110 minutes long, and even allowing for the 4% speed-up inherent in PAL encoding, the running time is still 15 minutes shy of what it should be. There doesn't appear to be anything specifically missing from the movie, but I am not at all familiar with the original movie, so I cannot specifically say.
[Addendum 25th May 1999: The disc label gives the running time of this movie at 110 minutes. Magna Pacific state that this is the correct running time.]

Transfer Quality


    The video transfer of this movie, as can be expected for a movie made in 1939, has many problems. In a nutshell, it is no better nor is it any worse than I would have expected.

    The transfer is presented at an aspect ratio of 1.33:1. It is not 16x9 enhanced. Being made in 1939, this presentation is in the original aspect ratio. The transfer appears to have been taken from a print, since reel change markings are clearly evident in the upper right corner of the transfer.

    On my DVD player (Pioneer DV-505), the movie paused at 33:04, which is the transition from Chapter 7 to Chapter 8. Skipping to the next chapter with the remote made the movie continue. This appears to be a glitch with the encoding of chapter information, since skipping from the pause to the next Chapter actually made the movie go back a few seconds to the start of Chapter 8. The transition between Chapter 7 and Chapter 8 was not recognized by my player, with the counter pausing a few seconds before the movie does.
[Addendum 25th May 1999: This glitch has been confirmed on my player with two separate discs, so it appears to be a mastering glitch.]

    The transfer was variably sharp. At times, it was surprisingly clear, and at other times it was very blurry. Shadow detail was quite poor, with most dark scenes simply being dark with little detail in the shadows. Low level noise was not a problem with this transfer.

    The colours were generally surprisingly well rendered. There were a number of scenes which showed significant degradation of colour, but generally most scenes looked quite good colour-wise. Reds, in particular, were rendered quite vibrantly, even though there was a small amount of colour bleeding apparent.

    MPEG artefacts were spread throughout this transfer, particularly in some of the background scenes, where blockiness was clearly apparent. There was also a significant amount of MPEG motion artefact, which comprised of otherwise still images which wobbled from side-to-side. This was particularly apparent early on in the movie, where newspaper headlines wobbled significantly, with significant degradation in the resolution of the image.

    Film-to-video artefacts consisted of some overuse of edge enhancement, leading to ghost images around foreground objects which, whilst not particularly annoying, was certainly noticeable.

    Film artefacts were frequent, and in keeping with the age of the transfer. There were a lot of very large artefacts scattered throughout the movie. Surprisingly, these did not detract all that much from the overall movie experience.


    There is only a single audio track on this DVD - English Dolby Digital 1.0.

    Dialogue, whilst being quite muffled in frequency response, was nonetheless quite clear and audible, helped no doubt by the clarity of diction of the English actors. There were frequent pops and crackles throughout the soundtrack, none of which were particularly distracting.

    The audio sync was slightly out during the early part of the movie, but this seemed to improve after the first 30 minutes or so.

    The music was suitably melodramatic and orchestral in nature, almost being stereotypical of this era of movie-making.


    Only limited extras are on this disc.


    The main menu is plain and functional. It has a musical underscore.

Cast & Crew Biographies

    These are of fair length, but there aren't all that many of them.

Production Notes

    These are unusual and quite interesting.


    The Four Feathers is a classic movie, which certainly shows its age on DVD. Demo material this isn't, but on the other hand, it isn't Hall Of Shame material either.

    The video quality is very poor at times, and acceptable at other times.

    The audio quality is poor but acceptable given the vintage of the movie.

    The extras present are very limited.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Michael Demtschyna
14th May 1999
Amended 25th May 1999

Review Equipment
DVD Pioneer DV-505, using S-Video output
Display Loewe Art-95 95cm direct view CRT in 4:3 mode, via the S-Video input. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Audio Decoder Denon AVD-2000 Dolby Digital AddOn Decoder, used as a standalone processor. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Amplification 2 x EA Playmaster 100W per channel stereo amplifiers for Left, Right, Left Rear and Right Rear; Philips 360 50W per channel stereo amplifier for Centre and Subwoofer
Speakers Philips S2000 speakers for Left, Right; Polk Audio CS-100 Centre Speaker; Apex AS-123 speakers for Left Rear and Right Rear; Yamaha B100-115SE subwoofer