Withnail and I (Blu-ray) (1987)

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Released 10-Mar-2010

Cover Art

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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
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
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 1987
Running Time 103:00 (Case: 107)
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 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
Case Standard Blu-ray
RPI $39.95 Music David Dundas
Rick Wentworth


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Unknown English DTS HD Master Audio 5.1 (768Kb/s)
English Linear PCM 48/24 2.0 (2304Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Linear PCM 48/16 2.0 (1536Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Linear PCM 48/16 2.0 (1536Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
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

    Umbrella Entertainment have finally entered the Blu-ray market with two excellent cult films - Richard Lowenstein's 1986 film Dogs in Space and this 1987 British cult classic, Withnail & I. I reviewed the two-disc DVD edition of Withnail & I back in July 2009 - click here to read my review. The following synopsis has been taken from that review.

     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. With his debut feature, 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 in 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 of 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 decide 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 Blu-ray edition from Umbrella is a great investment.

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Transfer Quality

Video

Disclaimer: Please note that this disc has a video resolution of 1080p. It has been reviewed on a display device with a maximum native resolution of 1080i. More information can be found here.

    Withnail & I is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.77:1, which is 16x9 enhanced. The correct aspect ratio is 1.85:1. The film has been encoded using MPEG-4 AVC compression and is presented in 1080p.

    When I reviewed the DVD edition of this film, I said, "the film looks as good as I've ever seen it on any format". Well, that comment is worth repeating with the release of this Blu-ray. There is a certain degree of inherent softness and a couple of scenes exhibit some film grain, but overall the transfer looks a treat. Directly comparing the image quality of the DVD and Blu-ray, the latter delivers a marked improvement. Virtually every scene has improved luminance and clarity. Blacks were generally outstanding. Considering a good part of this film is dark and gloomy, shadow detail was also enhanced.

    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, the colours on the Blu-ray are far more rich and natural than on the DVD. That's not a criticism of the DVD set - it's just an indication of the improvement between the formats.

    I didn't notice any compression artefacts and there were virtually no film artefacts evident.

     Like the DVD edition, there are no subtitles on the Blu-ray.

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

Audio

    There are four audio tracks available on the Blu-ray, English DTS Master Audio (768 Kb/s), English Linear PCM 48/24 2.0 (2304Kb/s) and two separate audio commentaries - both Linear PCM 48/16 2.0 (1536Kb/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. In my opinion the remixed audio was a bit of a disappointment. Music and the occasional direction 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 channelled through the rear speakers as well as the centre - I found this to be quite 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.

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 the studio politics that hampered the production and how it almost forced 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.

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 travelled 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 that "Uncle Monty's cottage" was in. The building is isolated and abandoned but Richard and Mark find a way inside.

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. 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.

         In terms of Blu-ray comparisons, there is a UK, region free edition released by Starz Home Entertainment in August 2009.

         This edition seems very similar to the local Umbrella edition. However, it does also feature the Bruce Robinson Interview (which is also present on the Umbrella 2-disc DVD edition) and The Drinking Game extra, which is absent from all local editions.

        All other specs appear to be the same between versions.

    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. Like many of you, I tolerated watching this film on an abysmal VHS tape all those years ago. Who would have thought back then that we'd see this film with such clarity today? While some inherent qualities prevent total eminence, this Blu-ray version of the cult classic is the best we are likely to see for quite some time.

         The video transfer is excellent.

         The audio transfer is a little annoying at times, but still very good.

         The selection of extras is the same as the DVD edition - interesting and relevant.


  • Ratings (out of 5)

    Video
    Audio
    Extras
    Plot
    Overall

    © Steve Crawford (Tip toe through my bio)
    Monday, March 29, 2010
    Review Equipment
    DVDPanasonic DMP-BD35 Blu Ray Player, using HDMI 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
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    Audio Commentaries & Isolated Score - KaiGusto REPLY POSTED