The Man in the White Suit (1951)

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Released 4-Aug-2003

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Comedy Main Menu Audio
Theatrical Trailer-2:32
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1951
Running Time 81:46
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Alexander Mackendrick
Ealing Studios
Universal Pictures Home Video
Starring Alec Guinness
Joan Greenwood
Cecil Parker
Michael Gough
Vida Hope
Case ?
RPI Box Music Benjamin Frankel

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.37:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Another delightful cinema classic! The Man in the White Suit is not quite the uproariously funny effort that we get with films like The Lavender Hill Mob, but it is equally entertaining. This is a study of reactions to a new technology.

    Alec Guinness plays Sydney Stratton, an eager young man who is keen to invent a new synthetic fibre, but who is too keen to go through the conventional channels. In the large textile mills of Manchester, where synthetic fibres like nylon and rayon are becoming the latest "big thing" (this film was made in 1951), research is going on, but Stratton thinks he has an idea for a major breakthrough. He invents a new fibre that's amazingly strong and has a static charge. The result is a cloth that won't get dirty; it can't even be dyed because it repels dye — it stays white (very white! It is a little bit luminous). It won't wear out, and it won't tear. In fact, it can't even be cut with ordinary tools — fortunately it parts when subjected to a temperature of 300 degrees, so it can be cut with an acetylene torch.

    Mr Birnley (Cecil Parker), is owner and general manager of the Birnley Mill, one of the larger and more advanced textile mills. His daughter, Daphne (Joan Greenwood), is interested in the owner of another mill, Mr Corland (Michael Gough). She talks her father into visiting Corland's mill to look into investing in some expansion that Corland wants to make. While there, they discover an experiment going on in the research lab. The experiment is making interesting bleep bloop noises (it's almost a machine that goes ping). They ask what it is, and the mill people are embarrassed to discover that no one in the lab knows who set up the experiment.

    Stratton eventually gets a chance to make his fibre (through a long and humorous series of exploits). What he doesn't expect is the reaction. (SPOILER ALERT: highlight with mouse to read) The mill owners are up in arms because they'll be ruined by a fabric that never wears out. The unions are equally incensed, because they'll be out of work. The resolution of the dilemma is quite interesting.

    Amusingly, there's an error in the IMDb entry for this film. It claims that Michael Gough provided the voice-over narration at the start and end of the film. The voice is very clearly that of Cecil Parker.

    This is an interesting film about the social consequences of an invention. It also happens to be quite funny. Recommended.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality


    This disc has a transfer in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, and so is not 16x9 enhanced. The original theatrical aspect ratio was 1.37:1, so this is as close as we can expect.

    The image is mostly sharp, but there's a bit more edge enhancement than I'd like in places. Shadow detail is mostly quite reasonable, although a few of the lower-light shots have a bit much in the way of unrelieved black. Film grain is no problem. There's no low-level noise.

    There is no colour in this film. It is a monochrome film. It features deep solid blacks, a good range of greys, and whites that are white. There's no false colouration, and no colour type artefacts except a touch of blooming on the white suit (which is probably deliberate).

    There are amazingly few film artefacts for a film of this age. There are a few spots and flecks, but it looks like they have done some restoration to get rid of anything big. There is more than a little aliasing, but it's not disturbing. There is next to no moiré. There are no MPEG artefacts.

    There are no subtitles, unfortunately.

    The disc is single-sided and single layered. That means there is no layer change. With a film this short (and monochrome), a second layer isn't required.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    The soundtrack is provided in English, but that's the only choice. It is a Dolby Digital 2.0 (192kbps) mono soundtrack. Given that the original was mono, that will do nicely.

    The dialogue is clear and comprehensible. There are no audio sync errors, even though one or two lines from Joan Greenwood look marginal.

    The music is not subtle — parts of it sound quite clichéd (insert dramatic chord!). Once again, it is performed by the Philharmonia Orchestra, conducted by Ernest Irving. The music was written by Benjamin Frankel.

    This mono soundtrack makes no use of the surrounds or subwoofer.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use



    The menu is static with music. It's easy to use.

Theatrical Trailer (2:32)

    Quite a decent trailer, but it contains a few too many spoilers.

R4 vs R1

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

    The Region 1 version of this disc, like all the others in this collection, has an Alec Guinness bio in addition to the trailer (the bio is presented differently from the other discs, but the content is the same). The menus and chapter selection are different, but the movie is the same. The transfer, this time, is of almost identical quality, but shows rather more moiré on certain fabrics, and a bit more aliasing. I must admit to wondering if this NTSC transfer were a conversion from the PAL transfer to NTSC, but the R1 runs 85:16, so it is not a video conversion. I guess it is just an example of the lower resolution of NTSC being shown up by the material.

    The Region 4 disc has the slightly better transfer, and is probably the better choice, if you don't mind missing the lengthy Alec Guinness bio.


    Another classic comedy, this time with some social commentary, on a good DVD.

    The video quality is surprisingly good, with few film artefacts after the opening credits.

    The audio quality is fine.

    The only extra is the trailer.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Tony Rogers (bio-degrading: making a fool of oneself in a bio...)
Saturday, August 30, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-S733A, using Component output
DisplaySony VPH-G70 CRT Projector, QuadScan Elite scaler (Tripler), ScreenTechnics 110. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationDenon AVC-A1SE
SpeakersFront Left, Centre, Right: Krix Euphonix; Rears: Krix KDX-M; Subwoofer: Krix Seismix 5

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