Galileo (1975)

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Released 17-Jun-2005

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Main Menu Introduction
Menu Animation & Audio
Interviews-Cast-Topol (Actor)
Interviews-Crew-Otto Plaschkes (Executive Producer)
Trailer-American Film Theatre Trailer Gallery (10)
Notes-AFT Cinebill For Galileo
Notes-Article - "Bertolt Brecht And Galileo"
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1975
Running Time 138:47
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (94:01) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Joseph Losey
Umbrella Entertainment
Starring Topol
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $29.95 Music Hanns Eisler
Richard Hartley
Richard Hartley

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.75:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    This film features a number of scenes in the life of Galileo Galilei (Topol). First he invents the telescope for mercantile interests in Venice. As a professor at the University of Padua he confirms the Copernican theory that the Earth revolves around the Sun, and falls foul of the Inquisition. Admonished, he eventually publishes a treatise which brings the wrath of the Church upon him, and he is forced to recant.

    The play upon which this film is based was written by Bertholt Brecht. As Topol correctly notes in the interview on this disc, Brecht's treatment of the material raises questions rather than posits answers. Should scientists be allowed to perform their studies and experiments without the hindrance of outside influences? Should science be used for commercial interests or for the benefit of mankind? Should a scientist withhold discoveries if they could be misused, or if in making life easier they will also make people less happy or less contented? The answers are not so easy, and Brecht leaves many of them to the viewer. He does however have Galileo condemn himself for recanting, though he sees that he was not really threatened by the Inquisition only with the benefit of hindsight. It is a fascinating play and surprisingly accessible given Brecht's reputation.

    While this is a production of the American Film Theatre, director Joseph Losey had been trying to get a film of this play off the ground since the late 1940s. The play was written by Brecht in German in 1938. After the war he produced a version in English with the collaboration of Charles Laughton, with the intention of Laughton playing the leading role on the stage. Brecht also subtly changed the play to be a veiled criticism of science in the wake of the atom bomb. The play was produced in 1947, with stage veteran Losey selected by the author to direct. Losey then tried to interest Hollywood in a film version, but Laughton was reluctant, given the left-wing leanings of Losey and Brecht. The pair were eventually forced to flee America in the wake of the Communist witch hunts. Losey settled in England, while Paramount acquired the film rights to the play.

    In 1953 Brecht translated the English version of the play back into German in the process revising it again. The present film is an adaptation of this last version. Meanwhile Losey, now working in Britain, still wanted to adapt it for the cinema. In the early 1960s Anthony Quinn wanted to play the part, but asked for too much money. Olivier was suggested, but this too fell through. Eventually Paramount's option lapsed and the rights were acquired by Ely Landau, whose chose Losey to direct. Losey's first choice for the lead role was Marlon Brando, who wasn't interested. He then thought of Nicol Williamson, but Landau suggested Chaim Topol, the Israeli actor who was then something of a Brecht veteran as well as being the star of Fiddler on the Roof. Topol jumped at the chance.

    Losey was able to attract a remarkable cast, many of whom had worked with him before. The larger roles are taken by well known faces, such as Tom Conti, Edward Fox, Michael Gough and Judy Parfitt. However, even small roles are well cast. John Gielgud plays the small role of the Old Cardinal (and the actor physically supporting him would later achieve a form of television immortality as Master Ploppy in Blackadder 2). Patrick Magee plays another Cardinal. Clive Revill and Georgia Brown appear only to perform a song two-thirds of the way through. Michel Lonsdale is Cardinal Barberini, later Pope Urban VIII. And the scene where Galileo attempts to demonstrate his telescope to the nine-year-old Duke of Florence has Margaret Leighton and Peggy Thorpe-Bates in wordless cameos, while Madeline Smith has only two lines. Colin Blakely appears at the beginning of the film as a merchant of Venice.

    Losey originally wanted to direct the film on location, but the budget would not allow it. It was eventually filmed on a soundstage in England. I have not seen any other production of the play, but this film version seems to work very well. The production design has a painterly look of the era in which it is set, with compositions to match. The performances are all excellent, even Topol who normally tends to play his characters larger than life. Indeed at the start of the movie he is a little over the top, but relaxes and is less energetic as it proceeds. This was probably deliberate to suggest that Galileo's initial exuberance was eventually tempered by age and by the need to be prudent.

    This is a fine film, perhaps not for all tastes but rewarding if you are prepared to spend the time understanding what Brecht was aiming at.

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Transfer Quality


    The film is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is 16x9 enhanced.

    Not a bad transfer as this series goes, but not perfect either. The transfer is sharp enough to allow un-distracted viewing, but still lacks genuine clarity and detail. Contrast is good and the transfer is quite bright. Shadow detail is not the best, with a loss of detail in darker portions of the image.

    Colour is quite good though as usual warmer in the reds than in the other primary colours. Flesh tones tend to be a little too pink or brown to be realistic. Black levels are compromised by low level noise.

    Aliasing is present occasionally though not to severe levels. Film artefacts are present, though are less frequent than in other American Film Theatre transfers. However the print used contains several reel change markings of the black cut-out circle variety. The print is also quite jumpy at first and continues to shake a small amount throughout.

    There are no subtitles.

    The disc is RSDL formatted with the layer change well placed in a fade to black between scenes at 94:01.

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


    The sole audio track is Dolby Digital 2.0 mono.

    Dialogue is generally clear though it varies in loudness and I had to turn the volume up considerably for all of it to be audible. The soundtrack is not in the best condition, with some hiss and crackling, particularly early in the film. It could best be described as "serviceable".

    The music used in the film is by Hanns Eisler, who died a decade earlier. He was a regular collaborator with Brecht and wrote some music for the 1947 stage production. Some of the score was lost and the remaining music was adapted by Richard Hartley for the movie. It is influenced by music of Galileo's era but has a distinct Twentieth Century stamp. Most of it is placed in interludes, though there is a long song performed by Revill and Brown.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


Main Menu Introduction

    The usual footage of projection equipment.

Menu Animation & Audio

    The menu has some footage from the film incorporated into it, together with the theme music for the DVD series.

Interviews - Cast-Topol (Actor)(21:11)

    An interesting interview with Topol who discusses his interest in Brecht, his casting and Losey's working methods. He is nearly unrecognisable, with his beard removed and his face assuming a granite-like countenance.

Interviews - Crew-Otto Plaschkes (Executive Producer) (21:46)

    This is repeated material from other discs in this series. Plaschkes talks about his involvement in the AFT series.

Trailer - American Film Theatre Trailer Gallery (25:46)

    Ten trailers for other films in the series.

Notes - AFT Cinebill For Galileo

    The cinebill contains the notes given to patrons at the original screenings. There are timeline biographies for Brecht and Galileo and some notes by Losey and his screenwriter Barbara Bray.

Gallery - Photo Stills

    Several production stills.

Notes - Article - Bertolt Brecht And Galileo

    A good article by Michael Feingold which gives some information about both Brecht and Galileo.

R4 vs R1

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

    The UK Region 2 and US Region 1 both seem to be identical to the Region 4.


    A fine adaptation of an interesting and challenging play.

    The video quality is acceptable.

    The audio quality is acceptable.

    A small quantity of extras.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Philip Sawyer (Bio available.)
Friday, August 05, 2005
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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