Jamaica Inn (Flashback) (1939)

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Released 28-Aug-2001

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama None
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 1939
Running Time 90:33
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Alfred Hitchcock
Studio
Distributor
Mayflower Pictures
Flashback Home Entertainment
Starring Charles Laughton
Horace Hodges
Hay Petrie
Frederick Piper
Herbert Lomas
Clare Greet
William Devlin
Jeanne De Casalis
Mabel Terry-Lewis
A. Bromley Davenport
George Curzon
Basil Radford
Leslie Banks
Case ?
RPI ? Music Eric Fenby


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English MPEG 2.0 (256Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.29:1
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

    More years ago than I care to remember I bought a second-hand copy of a book called The Fifty Worst Movies of All Time. This film was listed amongst them. Years later I had the opportunity to see this film, on a double-bill in a revival cinema with a Hitchcock silent called The Manxman. I can only say that I was underwhelmed, but even so this is not even the worst film that Hitchcock made, let alone one of the worst of all time. If you compare this to Juno and the Paycock, Elstree Calling or Under Capricorn, it doesn't look so bad.

    The film is based on a novel by Daphne du Maurier, and concerns the adventures of Mary (Maureen O'Hara), a young woman who comes to live with her aunt at the inn with the title name in 1819. Her uncle Joss (Leslie Banks) is a despicable piece of work, the head of a group of smugglers. Unbeknownst to him, one of his band is Trehearne (Robert Newton), an officer of the law. Also causing mayhem is the local magistrate Sir Humphrey Pengallon (Charles Laughton), not merely being the secret backer of the smugglers, but also hamming it up unmercifully.

    This is a pretty dull film, without any elements that would identify it as a Hitchcock film. It could easily have been a potboiler by any one of a dozen directors working in Britain at the time. The story is sluggish and Laughton goes so over the top that the rest of the cast seems inert by comparison. Perhaps Robert Newton needed to foreshadow his Long John Silver role with an arrrrr, Jim lad and make a few faces at the camera to redress the balance. The teenage Maureen O'Hara looks fetching as always but is hardly convincing as a girl threatened by these louts. The O'Hara who became a star in Hollywood would have cleaned up this band of smugglers well before breakfast.

    Hitchcock would have more success with adaptations of works by Daphne du Maurier with his next film Rebecca, made after his move to Hollywood, and again in the 1960s with The Birds. This one is hardly worth watching, but at the extremely low price you can hardly complain about the quality.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The film is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.29:1 and is slightly windowboxed, noticeable as a thin black bar at the top of the screen. The original aspect ratio was probably 1.37:1.

    This is a fuzzy, blurry transfer, almost certainly taken from a video master itself taken from a second or third generation duplicate print. I could still make out a fair amount of detail, but it is not very sharp. Shadow detail is very poor.

    There are no solid blacks or pure whites, just a variety of greys. While watchable, it is not very good.

    I could not detect any film to video artefacts, apart from what looked like analogue video tracking errors in the form of brief horizontal lines from time to time, and some occasional excessive noise reduction causing inappropriate movement of objects in the frame. Film artefacts are omnipresent, including dirt, scratches, flecks, splice marks and reel change markings (sometimes four at a time).

    No subtitles are provided on this single layer disc.

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

Audio

    The sole audio track is MPEG 2.0 mono.

    Dialogue is reasonably clear. Unfortunately though there is hiss, some occasional clicks and dropouts, and crackling present throughout much of the picture. But worst of all, the audio is harsh and distorted, and not easy to listen to.

    The music score is by Frederick Delius's amanuensis Eric Fenby, and is quite undistinguished. A pity that Delius could not have been exhumed to provide the score.

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

Extras

    No extras are provided.

R4 vs R1

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

    There is a Region 1 release from Laserlight, also released in Region 4 and reviewed here. It sounds as though the new release is preferable on the basis that the dialogue is audible, even if it is difficult to listen to.

    There was also a poor Region 1 release from Kino, which appears to be a little better than the Laserlight or the Flashback.

    There is a Region 2 release in Germany from Kinowelt, which apparently has numerous video artefacts and therefore cannot be recommended either. It does though have a 45 minute interview with Alfred Hitchcock from 1966 included as an extra.

    There are several other releases of this public domain film on DVD, but I have no information as to their quality.

Summary

    A pretty dismal experience.

    The video quality is very poor.

    The audio quality is very poor.

    No extras.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Philip Sawyer (Bio available.)
Sunday, September 05, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-S733A, using Component output
DisplaySony 86CM Trinitron Wega KVHR36M31. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD player, Dolby Digital, dts and DVD-Audio. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationSony TA-DA9000ES
SpeakersMain: Tannoy Revolution R3; Centre: Tannoy Sensys DCC; Rear: Richter Harlequin; Subwoofer: JBL SUB175

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