Up the Front (1972)
|Year Of Production||1972|
|RSDL / Flipper||No/No||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||4||Directed By||Bob Kellett|
Universal Pictures Home Video
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)|
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||1.78:1|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.85:1||Miscellaneous|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
Frankie Howerd's best remembered TV series is Up Pompeii!, which commenced on the BBC in 1969. It was one of a number of UK TV series which were translated to the big screen during the next decade. The adventures of the Roman slave Lurcio must have been a success in the cinema in 1971, because by the end of the following year two sequels were released. Up the Chastity Belt was set in Mediaeval times, with Howerd playing Lurkalot. The final sequel was Up the Front, set in World War One and chronicling the exploits of Lurk, former underfootman to Lord Twithampton (William Mervyn). Hypnotised by both The Great Vincento (Stanley Holloway) and the charms of Fanny (Madeline Smith) into joining up, Lurk finds himself in France. Unfortunately, he is under the command of Sergeant-Major Groping (Bill Fraser), who just happens to have been Lord Twithampton's butler.
Lurk finds himself behind enemy lines, and when he has the German Master Plan tattooed on his backside, he must avoid the Germans and present the Plan to General Burke.
I think Frankie Howerd was at his best in front of an audience, where he could indulge in his witty ad libs and feed off the audience's laughter. He spends much of the film talking directly to camera, but there is no response. I found myself wishing that someone had dubbed a laughter track onto the soundtrack. You would have to do that, because after a bright start this film degenerates into witless farce. Howerd seems to be trying his best, but the rest of the cast seem to have just turned up for their pay packets. Lance Percival hams it up badly as a German spy, Bill Fraser is all twitches and tics as the villainous Groping, and there's even a guest appearance by Zsa Zsa Gabor as Mata Hari, daaah-link. Stanley Holloway plays the drunken hypnotist, and really looks drunk. Peter Bull is wasted as a German officer. Of note is the recruiting officer who signs Lurk up: Bob Hoskins, in his film debut. Also contributing to the dull feel of the film is that it seems to have been shot entirely in the studio.
There's plenty of double-entendre but precious little genuine wit in this movie. I wish that the powers that be would release the earlier entries in this series (already available on DVD in the UK together on a single disc), plus the original TV series, which was one of the best of a golden era in British television comedy. This one is for Howerd completists only.
The film is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, not far from the original 1.85:1. The framing looks a little tight, so perhaps it has been cropped as well. It is 16x9 enhanced.
I have now reviewed a number of these low-priced barebones releases from Universal and Studio Canal of British films, and I have to say that this one gets the best transfer of the lot. The probable cause is that the source material is in near perfect condition. It is as sharp as you could expect, with plenty of detail. Contrast is quite good. The colour rendition is the weak point of the transfer. While flesh tones are realistic, reds tend to be too heavily saturated. Witness the uniform worn by General Burke (Robert Coote) in the ball sequence. It is far too red and looks ready to burst out all over the screen. Black levels are very good, except during low light levels, where there is plenty of noise and the black looks more like a muddy brown.
The only film to video artefacts are the telecine wobble visible during the opening credits, and some slight edge enhancement. You would not notice these unless you were looking for them.
There are practically no film artefacts at all. I did notice some very rare flecks, but that was all. There is a pleasing amount of film grain visible.
The disc is single-layered and there are no subtitles.
The sole audio track is Dolby Digital 2.0 mono.
Dialogue is perfectly rendered throughout, even when Bill Fraser is mumbling away. You can hear every entendre and double-entendre with complete clarity. There are a few explosions and other sound effects that show up the basic mono sound, but there is no obvious hiss or distortion.
One sequence, from 34:30 for about three minutes where Lurk sits writing a letter oblivious to the continual entrance and exit of the British and German troops behind him, suffers from poor audio sync. I feel confident that this is due to inept looping of the dialogue, as in the next scene the sync is back to normal.
The music score by Peter Greenwell is rudimentary, with a few patriotic sounding tunes and the German national anthem thrown in for good measure.
|Surround Channel Use|
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
The UK Region 2 appears to be identical to the Region 4, though the cover art is different.
This belongs down the back (of your video storage unit).
The video transfer is almost exemplary.
The audio transfer is very good.
|DVD||Pioneer DV-S733A, using Component output|
|Display||Sony 86CM Trinitron Wega KVHR36M31. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to DVD player, Dolby Digital, dts and DVD-Audio. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.|
|Speakers||Main: Tannoy Revolution R3; Centre: Tannoy Sensys DCC; Rear: Richter Harlequin; Subwoofer: JBL SUB175|