Colditz Story, The (Blu-ray) (1955)

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Released 15-Aug-2018

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category War Featurette-Colditz Revealed (53:34)
Featurette-Restoration Comparison (3:03)
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1955
Running Time 97:54
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Guy Hamilton
Studio
Distributor

Sony Pictures Home Entertain
Starring John Mills
Eric Portman
Federick Valk
Denis Shaw
Christopher Rhodes
Lionel Jeffries
Bryan Forber
Anton Diffring
Case Standard Blu-ray
RPI ? Music Francis Chagrin


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Linear PCM 48/16 1.0
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.66:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio 1.66:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

     In WW2 the Germans came up with the rather daft idea of putting those prisoners of war who persisting in trying to escape into one, supposedly escape proof, camp in the middle of Germany. The result was Colditz but, of course, putting men bent on escaping all together only allowed them to pool ideas and experiences and to hone their escape techniques. Colditz, a castle built to keep people out, proved to be less than perfect at keeping prisoners in!

     In 1940 Pat Reid (John Mills) and “Mac” McGill (Christopher Rhodes) arrive at Colditz Castle to join two other British officers who are already there, Harry Tyler (Lionel Jeffries) and Jimmy Winslow (Bryan Forber), although there are also groups of French, Polish and Dutch officer prisoners already in the castle. All these officers have been transferred to Colditz because they had tried to escape from other POW camps multiple times. Another group of British prisoners soon arrive. They are led by Colonel Richmond (Eric Portman), who becomes the senior British officer in the camp and is warned by the camp Kommandant (Frederick Valk) that escapes are not permitted. Other Germans responsible for keeping the POWs in check are Fischer (Anton Diffring) and head of security Priem (Denis Shaw).

       Not surprisingly, escape attempts continued although initially there was no coordination between the nationalities and so attempted escapes by one group often resulted in the them inadvertently exposing another group’s escape until Colonel Richmond engineered an agreement between all nationalities to cooperate. The result was a number of escape attempts from the very simple, such as vaulting over the fence, to elaborate tunnels, ruses, impersonations and deceptions. Some were successful, others not, but a successful escape from the castle was only the first step and most escapees were recaptured. But then Mac comes up with an escape plan that looks like it may succeed.

     The Colditz Story was released in 1955, only a decade after the end of the war, and it is a very British film of its period. So while The Colditz Story is based on the book by Pat Reid, who was a POW in Colditz and a text screen before the film explains that the events shown are true, but may have been rearranged, (and that the names used, with the exception of Pat Reid, were changed) this is a relatively sanitised view of POW life with deft humour, German baiting, stiff upper lips and an atmosphere of boy’s own adventure. Although there are a couple of deaths, there is not really a sense of danger or peril and the Germans, especially the Kommandant and Priem, are decent enough types. Fischer, played by the familiar face of Anton Diffring, who actually fled the Nazis in 1936 but then spent the next 4 decades playing Nazis on film, is a little more hard edged, but not overly so. It is to the film’s credit, however, that the Germans speak German, the French French and the Poles Polish, none of which is subtitled which adds to the authenticity of the film (these languages are also not subtitled). However, there is never any doubt about the gist of what is being said, such as the scene when the Kommandant is tearing strips off Priem after the Reid escape!

     The Colditz Story is directed by Guy Hamilton; it was his 4th feature and although he made only 23 films in his career his resume is pretty impressive including Goldfinger (1964) and three other Bonds, Funeral in Berlin (1966) and Battle of Britain (1969). There is nothing flashy about his direction in The Colditz Story, which suits the film, and he is well served by an array of familiar English actors including John Mills, who can do this type of film in his sleep, Lionel Jeffries, Ian Carmichael and Richard Wattis.

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Transfer Quality

Video

     The Colditz Story is presented in the 1.66:1 aspect ratio, in black and white, in 1080p using the MPEG-4 AVC code.

     The restoration comparison extra included on this Blu-ray shows how the film has been cleaned up and restored for this presentation. Blacks, grey scales and shadow detail are very good, detail also very good. There is still an occasional tiny mark and some blur with movement against the castle’s stone walls, but otherwise the print is great. Pleasing grain is present.

     English captions for the hearing impaired are available.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

     Audio is English LPCM 1.0. The film was released in theatres with a mono audio track.

     Dialogue is clean and easy to hear. The effects, mostly background voices, gunshots, engines and the occasional siren, are acceptable. However the music by Francis Chagrin is strident and sounds screechy in some places. There is obviously no surround or subwoofer use.

     There are no lip synchronisation issues.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Colditz Revealed (53:34)

     Made in 2011, written and directed by Matt Richards and narrated by Max Arthur, this is an excellent look at the reality of life in Colditz during WW2. Featuring some clips from the film, WW2 archive footage, comments by Colditz expert David Ray MBE, Henry Reid, son of author Pat Reid and reminiscences by Gorran Purdon and Pete Tunstall, who were both POWs held in Colditz, this feature covers the early days in Colditz when the lack of coordination between different nationalities held captive in resulted in escape attempts at cross purposes to others, the later coordination, the routine and food inside the camp, some of the more audacious escape attempts, successful “home runs” and differences between the film, the book and the reality. Informative and entertaining.

Restoration Comparison (3:03)

     Silent split screens showing before and after restoration comparisons.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

     This Australian Blu-ray is the same as the Region B UK release of The Colditz Story. There does not appear to be a US release at present.

Summary

     In the ilk of films such as The Wooden Horse (1950), The Colditz Story is a boy’s own adventure featuring derring-do, audacious and inventive escape attempts, stiff upper lips and deft humour. There are no histrionics, larger than life characters or long action sequences but good scripting, a good cast and a good director combine for an enjoyable classic WW2 film that has been restored and well presented on this Blu-ray. The excellent extra feature adds value to the package.

     The restored video is very good and the audio the original mono.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ray Nyland (the bio is the thing)
Thursday, October 11, 2018
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S580, using HDMI output
DisplayLG 55inch HD LCD. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderNAD T737. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationNAD T737
SpeakersStudio Acoustics 5.1

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