Withnail and I: Special Edition (1987)

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Released 29-May-2009

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Comedy Main Menu Audio & Animation
Audio Commentary-Writer/Director - Bruce Robinson
Audio Commentary-Actors - Paul McGann & Ralph Brown
Featurette-Postcards from Penrith
Interviews-Crew-Bruce Robinson
Featurette-Making Of-Withnail & Us Documentary
Gallery-Photo-Stills by Ralph Steadman
Featurette-The Withnail & I Swear-A-Thon
Isolated Musical Score-Withnail & I Film Score
Theatrical Trailer-Withnail & I
Teaser Trailer-Umbrella Trailers
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 1987
Running Time 103:00 (Case: 107)
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered
Dual Disc Set
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Bruce Robinson
Studio
Distributor

Umbrella Entertainment
Starring Richard E. Grant
Paul McGann
Richard Griffiths
Ralph Brown
Michael Elphick
Daragh O'Malley
Michael Wardle
Una Brandon-Jones
Noel Johnson
Irene Sutcliffe
Llewellyn Rees
Robert Oates
Anthony Wise
Case Amaray-Transparent-Dual
RPI $24.95 Music David Dundas
Rick Wentworth


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Unknown English dts 5.1 (768Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes, Cigarettes and Camberwell Carrots
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits Yes

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

Plot Synopsis

    "We can't go on like this. I'm a trained actor reduced to the status of a bum"…Withnail

    Withnail & I is a semi-autobiographical tale of two young struggling actors living a depressive bohemian existence in London at the end of the 1960's. In his direction debut, writer/director, Bruce Robinson created a rolled gold cult classic - although it took some time for audiences to fully appreciate the film.

    The story of Withnail & I is based on real people and events from Robinson's life. The "I" character is naturally based on himself and another friend, Michael Feast, while the character of Withnail was based on the late Vivian MacKerrell. Vivian was an eccentric actor with little or no ambition - he was also a great friend of Bruce Robinson. Together with some other friends, the pair lived a very similar existence to the film characters in a townhouse at Camden Town, London during the 1960's. The character of Uncle Monty is based on the Italian film director, Franco Zeffirelli. Bruce Robinson played the role of Benvolio in Zeffirelli's 1968 film, Romeo and Juliet and had to avoid the constant sexual advances of the director. Robinson even used some of their dialogue in his screenplay.

    Withnail & I is a wonderful character study, which is so rich in rapid and witty dialogue that it takes many viewings to fully appreciate Robinson's screenplay. This film is without doubt one of the most quotable films ever made. Just about every scene in the film delivers passages of dialogue, which are cherished by fans the world over. Performances are uniformly excellent, with Richard E. Grant (in his feature debut) and Richard Griffiths both shining through in their roles. Paul McGann as Marwood (the name of the "I" character) and Ralph Brown as Danny also contribute brilliantly.

    Withnail (Richard E. Grant) and I (Paul McGann) are unemployed actors, living in the self imposed filth of their Camden Town apartment. This cold and depressing environment brings with it constant anxiety and a continuous search for booze to ease the pain.

    The pair decides to escape the gloomy London weather and spend a weekend in the country. Withnail's, Uncle Monty (Richard Griffiths) kindly agrees for them to spend the weekend at his cottage in the Lake District town of Penrith. Uncle Monty is a very dapper, wealthy and eccentric English gentleman - he is also an amorous homosexual.

    The weekend goes from bad to worse, as the foul weather follows them and intensifies. On arrival, Withnail and Marwood discover that the cottage has no food, heating or electricity. They also soon discover that some of the locals aren't too accommodating with offers of assistance.

    In the local tavern, Withnail has an altercation with a poacher and believes the man will return to their cottage later for violent retribution. Later that night, a petrified Withnail and Marwood cower in the same bed as they interpret the noises in the dark to be that of the rampaging poacher. However, they are soon relieved to find that Uncle Monty has arrived from London to spend some time with "his boys". He is also not at all distracted by the sight of them together in the same bed.

    With that in mind and the combination of some unfortunate encouragement from Withnail, the true purpose for Uncle Monty's visit soon becomes apparent.

    Withnail & I ultimately survived the dissention from certain studio executives who thought the film was a complete disaster. Although it wasn't an overnight success, over time this film has become a true cult classic, loved by fans the world over. Withnail & I has a timeless charm that only improves as the film ages. Whether you're a devotee of the film or if you haven't seen it at all, this two-disc set from Umbrella is a great investment.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    Withnail & I is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.77:1, which is 16x9 enhanced. The correct aspect ratio for the film is 1.85:1.

     The film looks as good as I've ever seen it on any format. Although there is a certain degree of inherent softness, overall the transfer has a good level of sharpness - especially in exterior scenes. Blacks were deep, clean and free from any issues with low-level noise. Considering a good part of this film is dark and gloomy, shadow detail was also generally good.

    To compliment the tone of the film, the colour palette used in Withnail & I is understated; as such there are no stunning displays of colour. However, all colours did appear to be nicely balanced on the DVD.

    I didn't notice any MPEG artefacts and film-to-video artefacts were well controlled. Very minor film artefacts were occasionally evident, but these were in no way obvious or problematic.

    Unfortunately, there are no subtitles on the DVD.

    This is a DVD 9, dual layer disc. The layer change on disc one (movie disc) is well placed at 55:23.

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

Audio

    There are five audio tracks available on the first disc, English dts 5.1 (768 Kb/s), English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s), English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s) and two separate audio commentaries - English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s).

    There might be a couple of comprehension issues with accents, but in general terms dialogue quality was excellent throughout.

    I didn't notice any obvious problems with audio sync.

    The original score for Withnail & I is credited to David Dundas and Rick Wentworth. It is a light and very pleasant score, which really compliments the film. Music from other artists has also been well used in the film - these include King Curtis, The Beatles and Jimi Hendrix.

    Withnail & I was originally released theatrically with a mono audio track - unfortunately for the purists, this track has not been included on this edition. I listened to the dts audio track and sampled the Dolby Digital track. The dts track was the richer of the two - therefore it was the preferred track. However, in my opinion the 5.1 remixed audio was a bit of a disappointment. As previously mentioned, Withnail & I is a dialogue driven film, so the audio remix seems like overkill. Music and the occasional direct effect were evident from the surround channels - such as the spatter of frying eggs at 3:12. But, during a number of scenes and for no apparent reason, actors voices were channeled through the rear speakers as well as the centre - I found this to be unneccasary and annoying.

    The subwoofer was mostly passive, but came to life during certain music passages.

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

Extras

    

Menu

    The main menu is animated, 16x9 enhanced and features a sample of the Jimi Hendrix classic, All Along The Watchtower.

Disc One Extras:     

Audio Commentary - Bruce Robinson (Writer/Director)

    A thoroughly entertaining commentary. Carl Deft from Blue Underground keeps the commentary flowing with the occasional relevant question. But generally, Bruce doesn't need too much prompting. He openly discusses most aspects of the production and provides great insight into the making of the film. He also talks about character inspirations and the studio politics that hampered the production - almost forcing him to quit the film altogether.

Audio Commentary - Paul McGann and Ralph Brown (Actors)

    Another entertaining commentary - this time from the actors who played Marwood ("I") and Danny respectively. Both are incredibly proud of the film and seem to relish the opportunity to talk about their memories and their contributions to the film. Fans will enjoy their enthusiasm for the dialogue and the steady stream of anecdotes.

Umbrella Trailers  

  • Nuns On The Run (2:48)
  • The Parole Officer (1:24)
  • Water (3:07)
  • Time Bandits (3:09)
  • Disc Two Extras:

    Featurette - Postcards From Penrith (20:53)

        This fascinating short film was produced in 2005 by two Withnail & I fans - Richard Sparks and Mark O'Connell. The pair traveled some 300 miles to find many of the locations used in the film and recreate a still image comparison of some of the scenes. Of particular interest is the poor state of repair they find "Uncle Monty's Cottage" in. The building is isolated and abandoned, but Richard and Mark find a way to get inside.

    Bruce Robinson Interview (14:19)

        This interview was conducted in 2006 for Blue Underground. Bruce openly discusses the film - in particular, his relationship with Handmade Films and executive producer, Denis O'Brien.

    Featurette - Withnail & Us (24:47)

        This documentary about the making of Withnail & I was produced in 1999 for British television. Many of the cast and crew offer their thoughts and memories of the production. Of significance is Bruce Robinson's home video footage, which features many of the real people who became the characters of the film. Fans also get an opportunity to discuss their favourite scenes and passages of dialogue.

    Photo Gallery - Behind-the-scenes stills by Ralph Steadman

        A collection of 20 black & white images taken by Ralph Steadman as the actors were getting acquainted with their characters.

    The Withnail & I Swear-A-Thon (1:12)

        This is a rapid cut of all the swearing in the film - quite funny.

    Original Theatrical Trailer

        Withnail & I (1:25)

    Withnail & I Film Score

        As the title suggests, this is the original film score written by David Dundas and Rick Wentworth. Each piece can be played individually or there is a "play all" function. Each selection plays over a different static image from the film.

  • The Wolf  (1:34)
  • To The Crow (2:23)
  • Marwood Walks (2:16)
  • Monty Remembers (2:03)
  • La Fite (1:12)
  • Crow Crag (0:57)
  • Cheval Blanc (1:16)
  • Withnail's Theme (2:39)

    R4 vs R1

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

        Any fan of Withnail & I will know that there are many DVD editions of the film available from all over the world.

        I will concentrate on comparing this Umbrella edition with the region free, Criterion release and the R2, 20th Anniversary Edition, released by Anchor Bay in 2006.

        The Umbrella edition seems to mirror the Anchor Bay release, with a couple of minor differences. The Anchor Bay Edition is a three-disc set, with the third disc being a CD of the film's soundtrack (original music score only). This soundtrack is also included on the Umbrella set, but it is contained on the second (special features) DVD. The Umbrella release is also missing the Withnail & I Drinking Game - probably due to social responsibility. Apart from these, both editions appear to be identical in terms of transfers and extras.

        The Criterion edition was released in 2001 and features a 1.85:1, non-anamorphic NTSC transfer. It also features a single mono audio track, English subtitles, the Withnail and Us documentary, pre-production photographs, trailer and poster of film art.

        The clear winners here appear to be the local Umbrella two-disc release and the Anchor Bay, 20th Anniversary Edition.

        There is another vastly inferior local edition of Withnail & I, which was released in 2002 by Rainbow Entertainment. This is officially no longer available, but I still occasionally see this edition in the bargain bins of DVD stores around town.

    Summary

        I'm sure Bruce Robinson never dreamed that his semi-autobiographical story would ever reach the status of a worldwide cult classic. Apart from some terrific performances, wonderful dialogue and the acting debut of Richard E. Grant, Withnail & I has taught us about the dangers of going on holiday by mistake. Umbrella Entertainment has delivered another outstanding two-disc presentation of a much loved cult favourite - enjoy.

        The transfers are both very good.

        The comprehensive selection of extras will definitely please fans of the film.

     


     

  • Ratings (out of 5)

    Video
    Audio
    Extras
    Plot
    Overall

    © Steve Crawford (Tip toe through my bio)
    Monday, July 06, 2009
    Review Equipment
    DVDJVC XV-N412, using Component output
    DisplayHitachi 106cm Plasma Display 42PD5000MA (1024x1024). Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080i.
    Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with THX Optimizer.
    AmplificationPanasonic SA-HE70 80W Dolby Digital and DTS
    SpeakersFronts: Jensen SPX7 Rears: Jensen SPX4 Centre: Jensen SPX13 Subwoofer: Jensen SPX17

    Other Reviews NONE
    Comments (Add)
    This is a quality release from Umbrella -