Luther (1973)

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Released 26-Jul-2005

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Main Menu Introduction
Menu Animation & Audio
Featurette-Interview With Richard Pena (Director Of NYFF)
Featurette-Ely Landau: In Front Of The Camera
Trailer-American Film Theatre Trailer Gallery (10)
Notes-AFT Cinebill For Luther
Notes-Article - "John Osborne And Luther"
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1973
Running Time 106:37 (Case: 110)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (90:46) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Guy Green
Umbrella Entertainment
Starring Stacy Keach
Patrick Magee
Hugh Griffith
Robert Stephens
Alan Badel
Julian Glover
Judi Dench
Leonard Rossiter
Maurice Denham
Peter Cellier
Thomas Heathcote
Malcolm Stoddard
Bruce Carstairs
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $29.95 Music John Addison

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 Yes
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 instalment in the American Film Theatre series contains a play by John Osborne about the Reformation instigator Martin Luther. It covers his life from his ordination into an order of monks through to his early married life in the 1530s, about thirty years in total. During this period he has questioned the material excesses of the Roman Catholic Church, including the sale of indulgences, been questioned by the Inquisition and excommunicated from the Church. His words and actions led to a split in the Church, with the north of Europe revolting against the hegemony of Rome and starting a more austere religious faith.

    Osborne has simply presented the facts of the case in theatrical terms, with speeches and dialogues that convey Luther's torment and inner doubt, and which also give an insight into the processes that led him to nail his theses to the door. It touches on his relationship with his overbearing father and very briefly of that with his eventual wife, a former nun.

    Unfortunately there seems to be something missing here. The play is episodic and does not quite rise to the level that it should, unlike Brecht's similarly themed Galileo which was also filmed in this series. It seems to be more of an intellectual exercise than one which is likely to move the audience. However, my comments should be considered in the context of my own lack of belief, and those who believe, especially Lutherans, may get more out of this. There is also a lot of reference to Luther's problems with constipation, though apparently the film adaptation by Edward Anhalt has toned down this aspect of the play.

    The movie is extremely well-acted, especially Stacy Keach as an at first unlikely Luther. Instead of going at the role all guns blazing (like Topol in Galileo), he is quiet and understated, which makes him all the more effective. He is given good support by a range of British character actors, some in quite small roles. Julian Glover is an effective foil as a soldier and representative of the common folk whom Luther inspires. Patrick Magee plays his father well, Robert Stephens is fine as the Inquisitor and Maurice Denham is effective as Luther's mentor. Some of the casting is more curious. Judi Dench has a very small role as Luther's wife, while second-billed Alan Badel portrays the Papal legate in an almost campy way. Hugh Griffith has nearly the second biggest role in the film as John Tetzel, seller of indulgences, and his performance is slightly less eccentric than usual.

    In all, a bit of a mixed bag. I enjoyed it due to the quality of the acting, but found the subject matter and the handling of it by director Guy Green less interesting.

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Transfer Quality


    The film is transferred in an aspect ratio of 1.75:1 and is 16x9 enhanced.

    This is perhaps the best transfer I have seen in the American Film Theatre series. The image is sharp and clear, not excessively detailed but acceptable for a thirty-two-year-old film. The transfer is bright and contrast levels are very good. Blacks are more solid than in other releases in this series with little in the way of low level noise.

    Colour too is very good. Flesh tones are mainly realistic though occasionally a little too pink. The bright red cloak of the Inquisitor is well rendered.

    There are few artefacts. There is some telecine wobble, though after the opening credits this was barely noticeable. There were some minor flecks at times but otherwise no serious film artefacts.

    No subtitles are provided. The disc is RSDL-formatted with the layer change unobtrusively placed at 90:46.

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


    The only audio track is Dolby Digital 2.0 mono.

    Unlike the video, the audio is not so good. Dialogue is mostly clear but there are a couple of instances where the level drops briefly - this may be in the original recording. At times the audio is slightly distorted, and there is some annoying sibilance, especially in the scene between Luther and the Cardinal.

    Music is supplied by John Addison, and is quite unintrusive. It sounds as though he has adapted music of the era or created his own in that fashion.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


Main Menu Introduction

    A brief sequence of film projection equipment ending with a film canister carrying the title of this film.

Menu Animation & Audio

    In the background we have some silent footage from the film, while the audio is the generic AFT theme for these DVD releases.

Featurette-Interview With Richard Pena (Director Of NYFF) (20:42)

    Annoyingly, the same interview that has cropped up on several of these releases. I'm getting sick of watching it. Pena discusses the AFT series.

Featurette-Ely Landau: In Front Of The Camera (6:13)

    Again, another repeated extra. Landau talks up the second series of films to woo subscribers.

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

    Trailers for ten releases in this series.

Notes-AFT Cinebill For Luther

    The cinebill contains three articles. The first is by Guy Green on his adaptation of the play, the second is a review of the play written by Kenneth Tynan in 1961, and the last an appreciation of Stacy Keach by John Huston. There is also a chronology of events in the life of Luther.


    Half a dozen colour and black and white stills.


    A single poster for the original theatrical release.

Notes-Article - "John Osborne And Luther"

    A useful article which gives some background on the playwright's life and career and then has some in-depth information about the play.

R4 vs R1

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

    There appears to be no substantial difference between the Region 4 and the US Region 1, and the UK Region 2 seems to be identical to the Region 4.


    A well-acted play transferred to the screen, which may have appeal for some.

    The video quality is very good.

    The audio quality is problematic.

    Some interesting extras but too much repetition from other releases in the same series, which makes this less desirable for collectors.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Philip Sawyer (Bio available.)
Tuesday, September 20, 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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