The Whistle Blower (Warner Vision) (1986)
|Year Of Production||1986|
|Running Time||98:44 (Case: 138)|
|RSDL / Flipper||No/No||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||1,2,3,4,5,6||Directed By||Simon Langton|
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||Full Frame||English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)|
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||None|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.66:1||Miscellaneous|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
Bob Johns (Nigel Havers) is a pleasant, affable, young man. An excellent linguist, he works at GCHQ Cheltenham, the British Government's information-gathering service as a translator in the Russian Section. However Bob has become increasingly dissatisfied with his work, following the publicity surrounding the recent trial of Dodgson, a GCHQ employee found guilty of spying for the Russians.
Bob plans a party at the house he shares with 2 other GCHQ employees, to celebrate his birthday and will introduce Cynthia and her daughter to his father, Frank Jones (Michael Caine). Frank is an ordinary man - he served in the Fleet Air Arm during the Korean War and now a widower, runs a modestly successful business. He's very proud of Bob, his only child. Everyone at the party is unaware that all their movements and conversations are being monitored, as British Intelligence has identified Bob as a possible suspect.
I have taken a slightly unusual approach to the plot synopsis section of this review by including word-for-word the back cover blurb to illustrate a point. This is one case which proves you shouldn't always believe what is written on the back cover of a disc and take it as gospel that it truly reflects what the story is about. The above synopsis is incredibly poorly written by someone who has obviously not even bothered to watch the film and contains two fundamental plot errors (the opening character's name is Bob JONES not JOHNS and he lives alone, not with two others as stated). Not only is it inaccurate and error-riddled, but it is further hampered by merely describing the scenes in the opening 15-20 minutes of the film. It sets up nothing in terms of plot and basically ignores what the film is actually about. To add further insult, the film is listed as running for 138 minutes when in fact it runs for a little over 98 minutes (or 1 hour 38 minutes).
So just what is this 1986 espionage thriller really about then? Here's a more accurate plot synopsis in one paragraph.
Michael Caine stars as Frank Jones, a small businessman dealing in office equipment who is also a former Korean War veteran. His son, Bob Jones (Nigel Havers), works at the British Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) in Cheltenham. Bob is a linguist who translates Russian messages and phone conversations for the government agency. Bob is not really enjoying his job of late, especially when a fellow colleague is convicted of spying for the Russians and sentenced to prison. All the employees of GCHQ are on their guard and everyone is keeping a close eye on everyone else. The tension and the nature of the work are beginning to get to Bob and he is thinking of resigning - an idea he puts to his father who thinks he is crazy. But Bob doesn't get a chance to resign, as just a few days after confiding in his father about the nature of the work he is performing and some of the things that are happening at GCHQ, Bob dies from a fall off the roof of his flat. The police put it down to suicide, but Frank is adamant that his son would never do such a thing. Despite the police basically writing off the death as accidental, Frank decides to pursue his own investigation and seek the answer as to why his son died. As he digs deeper and deeper, he uncovers a convoluted plot of double dealing, murder, and cover-up that reaches some dizzy heights in the ruling government. With an all-star British cast including Sir John Gielgud, James Fox, and The Professionals' Gordon Jackson, Michael Caine is the real star as the bitter working class battler trying desperately to get to the bottom of a plot far bigger than he could have ever imagined.
Unfortunately, this film has a real made-for-television feel to it, and much of the production has dated incredibly badly since the mid 1980s. The poor quality of the transfer does not help matters.
From the grubby opening credits I knew this was not going to be a pleasant viewing exercise. Basically it was downhill from that point on, with the wrong aspect ratio and all manner of grain, grubbiness, grit, dirt, and other artefacts galore, including the biggest one I have ever seen on a DVD. I guess I wasn't expecting a whole lot in terms of video quality here, but this transfer is about the worst I have ever seen. It really does look just like an old VHS rental tape copy.
The first problem is the aspect ratio. IMDB lists the original aspect ratio as 1.66:1. While I am unable to confirm this, what we get here is quite obviously an open-matter transfer in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1. It is therefore not 16x9 enhanced. Overall, this is a well below average transfer in terms of sharpness and detail. There is some minor edge enhancement, but it doesn't dominate. There are no shadow detail problems thankfully, but the level of grain is almost unbearable throughout the whole film. There is also plenty of low level noise in the black areas of the print.
Colours are fairly poor. They are washed out and muted. Skin tones are adequate, but the black levels are extremely poor, being displayed as nothing more than a series of light and dark greys.
I saw no compression artefacts and with this not really being the sharpest image you have ever seen there is no aliasing present. The biggest single issue with this transfer is the sheer number and size of the film artefacts. From reel change markings clearly evident at 51:36, 68:59, 85:00, and 85:07, to large splotches at 32:50 and awful telecine wobble at 37:22-37:25, the transfer is a cavalcade of grime and dirt. There are a couple of massive black squares which almost fill the frame at 24:51 and 51:31 that are so jarring you wonder how they were ever missed.
There are no subtitles available.
This is a single layered disc only. As a result, there is no layer change to navigate.
Only one soundtrack is present, an English Dolby Digital 2.0 effort that is labelled as stereo. There is some discernible stereo effect, but it is only minimal. Overall, this is a fairly harsh soundtrack with only basic fidelity and little dynamic range on offer.
Dialogue comes across as harsh but is at least clear and intelligible.
There is obviously no surround channel nor subwoofer use.
|Surround Channel Use|
Want a filmography in all its glory for inclusion on your DVD? Easy, simply copy and paste the listing from IMDB, complete with film numbers. To make matters worse, include all the television and awards ceremony appearances in the list just to completely give away where it was copied from. There are also a couple of mistakes in the list. In 2002 Michael Caine starred in The Quiet American, and not The American.
Need a biography for the main actor in the film? Easy, simply copy word-for-word the bio supplied by Leonard Maltin in his Movie Encyclopedia and don't bother to provide any credit as to where you got it from at all. There are a couple of pages of text here dedicated to Michael Caine, reproduced verbatim from the Maltin Movie Guide. Pretty sloppy and very slack if you ask me.
A dozen or so photos taken from the film.
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
From the information I can find, both the Region 1 and Region 2 discs are the same as this one.
Ignore the back cover blurb as it is completely misleading about what this film is about. Michael Caine stars in this British espionage thriller as a man trying to find the truth behind his son's apparent suicide. He believes there is more to the case than the police are saying and is hell-bent on proving the government was behind the death.
This is an awful transfer, in the wrong aspect ratio, filled with artefacts galore, some the size of trucks.
The audio is in better shape, but is still fairly flat and lifeless.
The extras, effectively pinched from other sources without any credit whatsoever are an insult to anyone with half a brain.
|DVD||Loewe Xemix 5106DO, using RGB output|
|Display||Loewe Calida (84cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.|
|Speakers||Front - B&W 602S2, Centre - B&W CC6S2, Rear - B&W 601S2, Sub - Energy E:xl S10|