Lady Caroline Lamb (1972)

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Released 2-Aug-2004

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Romance None
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1972
Running Time 117:32
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (79:07) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Robert Bolt
Studio
Distributor
Pulsar Productions
Universal Pictures Home Video
Starring Sarah Miles
Jon Finch
Richard Chamberlain
John Mills
Margaret Leighton
Pamela Brown
Silvia Monti
Ralph Richardson
Laurence Olivier
Case ?
RPI $9.95 Music Richard Rodney Bennett


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits Yes

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Plot Synopsis

†††† In a distinguished career as a writer, Robert Bolt was nominated for Best Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium for Lawrence of Arabia in 1962. That year Bolt lost, but a few years later was to win back-to-back Oscars for Dr Zhivago (1965) and A Man for All Seasons (1966).There were numerous memorable screenplays from the gifted writer, but only once did he direct, and that was only after David Lean turned down the offer from Bolt as producer. That was in 1973, when he helmed Lady Caroline Lamb, filming his own screenplay and starring his then wife, Sarah Miles.The pair were actually married twice, this film being produced during their first attempt at marital bliss. Today Lady Caroline Lamb is memorable for mainly very wrong reasons, and has long disappeared from video shelves. I found the title gathering dust and decided to take a fresh look at a film that was so typical of the 70s costume drama.

†††† Bolt uses some historical hooks for his screenplay, but omits other interesting facts, such as the titular lady's personal literary accomplishments. The film opens with a young woman's enthusiastic horse ride home to announce that she has been proposed to by Mr William Lamb (Jon Finch) and that she has accepted. The young lady is Caroline Beesborough (Sarah Miles). Married, but not so happily, the young wife, who seems prone to rather odd behaviour at times, is out for a carriage ride when she encounters an outdoors boxing competition. She is attracted to a foppish participant, who turns out to be George Byron (Richard Chamberlain). Caroline goes to Byron's rooms and learns that he is an unpublished "great poet". She stays the night, there is a scandal but hubby is tolerant. Byron's work, "Childe Harold", is published and is a great success with the female readers. After a ball, where Caroline oddly wears black while everyone else is in white, she tells William that she loves Byron. The two lovers set up house, but Byron soon tires of Caroline, who embarrasses him at a costume ball. Byron attends the Duke of Wellington's dinner party, choosing another companion rather than take Caroline, who trots along beside his carriage dressed as a page. Caroline slashes her wrist in front of Wellington's guests, splattering the ladies with her blood. On it goes. Caroline is rehabilitated, but William's mother, Lady Melbourne (Margaret Leighton) tells her she is ruining her husband's political career. How it all ends is very predictable. The screenplay is lengthy yet never becomes boring, due mainly to the beautiful images on screen - except for the leading lady - and the elaborate posturing and delivery of the actors.

†††† Sarah Miles is an actress I have never found appealing. She became a darling of the swinging 60s and her unattractive countenance and tinny little voice was in some memorable films, such as Term of Trial (1962), The Servant (1963) and Blow Up (1966). Perhaps her most attractive performance was extracted by David Lean for Ryan's Daughter, but here, under her husband's direction, she is at her worst. Unforgettable is her appearance as a near nude Nubian slave at a masquerade ball. Richard Chamberlain was on a high in 1973. He had scored in The Music Lovers (1970) under Ken Russell, been acclaimed for his Hamlet the same year and as Edward VIII in The Woman I Love. Sadly he is ludicrous under Robert Boltís direction. Far, far prettier than Sarah Miles, he fops outrageously under a Little Orphan Annie wig and doe-eyed make-up. Jon Finch, fresh from Hitchcock's Frenzy, primps and preens, sulking like a poor man's Oliver Reed. A bevy of English notables all do their little bits, with Laurence Olivier as Duke of Wellington actually managing a few lines that are understated and effective in a post-coital scene with Miss Miles. John Mills, Pamela Brown, Ralph Richardson, Peter Bull and Michael Wilding - oddly last in the cast credits in his final big screen appearance - all contribute, with the most enjoyable appearance being that of the glorious and delicious Margaret Leighton as "Lady Melbourne", Lady Caroline's disapproving mother-in-law. (Miss Leighton had played "Gertrude" to Richard Chamberlain's "Prince of Denmark"). Amidst all of the terrible, very quotable bad lines, Miss Leighton has a line commenting on Lady Caroline, but she could very well be referring to the film itself: "Your wife is a mass of nothing, Willy. She has no centre, none at all."

†††† The British and Italian co-production looks sumptuous, suggesting that there were high hopes for this lurid historical soapy. Costumes are beautiful, the Pinewood interiors are sumptuous and locations in England and Italy lovely and lush. All visuals are beautifully captured by the Panavision camera of Oswald Morris, responsible for many noted films, including Moulin Rouge (1953), Kubrick's Lolita (1962), The Hill (1965) and Equus (1975), before his last assignment on 1982's Dark Crystal. The widescreen images are presented beautifully, in quite brilliant Eastmancolor. The lovely orchestral themes come from Richard Rodney Bennett, the great film composer whose work for film includes the unforgettable Murder on the Orient Express (1974), Equus (1977), Enchanted April (1991) and Four Weddings and a Funeral(1994). Forget the drama, look at the pictures and listen to the music.

†††† This film is definitely a guilty pleasure. The history is questionable, the histrionics are mostly laughable, the leading lady is a fright, and Richard Chamberlain as striking as Penelope Cruz. Costumes, sets and music all feed the senses, so if you ever have the opportunity sit back and enjoy a lavish example of 1970's historical soap opera. This should be re-released.

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Transfer Quality

Video

†††† It was a very pleasant surprise to find that this elegantly presented film was given such a fine DVD rendering.

†††† Presented at the ratio of 2.35:1 and 16x9 enhanced the widescreen images are extremely beautiful. Oswald Morris has captured every image beautifully, whether it be lyrical pastoral scenes, sumptuous dinners, lavish balls or outdoor fisticuffs. With a modest amount of grain, the image is sharp and detailed, doing justice to the wonderfully detailed interiors. Shadow detail is also fine, except for one night carriage ride early in the film (11:45) which exhibits some low level noise. Generally the video artefacts were minimal, with only slight evidence of aliasing and noise reduction, but these are rare instances. The colour is exemplary, with the widest of templates, and scene after scene exhibiting calendar quality loveliness. For two examples, look at the delicate shades of flowers (9:00) and the richly hued Wellington dinner table (74:40).

†††† Film artefacts were minimal, with just the occasional isolated fleck. I did not see any scratches, dirt or cue marks. Altogether a superb print of a visually splendid film.

†††† This is a dual layer disc with the change occurring at 79:07.

†††† There are no subtitles.

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

Audio

†††† There is one audio stream, English Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono Encoded at 224 Kbps.

†††† According to The IMDb this film was originally made with mono sound, which is a shame. With the visual sense so sated by the images, it seems a pity that the ear was deprived of the pleasure of, at least, two-track stereo. What does exist on this disc is a crisp clear soundtrack, with every syllable of the enormous amount of dialogue distinct and without any sync problems. There is a total lack of hiss or crackle, with no pops or dropouts. Although the sound is dramatically satisfying and rich, it does lack some depth and the music of Richard Rodney Bennett suffers here. So, although the richly diverse score is still enjoyable, it is not the sumptuous experience it should be. Interestingly, someone, director Bolt perhaps, decided to dispense with dialogue in one scene which has Byron entertaining a bevy of adoring females with his literary work. Instead we are permitted to enjoy the images and the accompanying score without the distraction of Richard Chamberlain's mellifluous tones. A wise decision.

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

Extras

†††† Not a one - unless you count the menu and scene selection.

Main Menu

†††† The menu screen has no animation, live action or sound. The background is a very feint watermark image from the film, with a stylised scroll title on the left hand side of the screen. The right hand side has a frame from the film showing the leading lady on horseback.

Censorship

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R4 vs R1

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

††† As far as I can acertain the sole availability is on VHS tape through the Amazon marketplace.

Summary

†††† Lady Caroline Lamb is one of those films that is dramatically so bad that it is enjoyable. You may want to take notes, for some of the lines are such howlers that they bear repeating. Sarah Miles was one of the great mistakes of the cinema, and Richard Chamberlain sets gay liberation back decades. You probably won't find this one around, however I did see it recently on free-to-air TV, in a nice print, but not widescreen. This DVD, despite being quite a few years old, certainly does justice to the superlative technical aspects of the film.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Garry Armstrong (BioGarry)
Tuesday, March 06, 2012
Review Equipment
DVDSONY BLU RAY BDP-S350, using HDMI output
DisplaySamsung LA55A950D1F : 55 inch LCD HD. Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD player. Calibrated with THX Optimizer.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-DS777
SpeakersVAF DC-X fronts; VAF DC-6 center; VAF DC-2 rears; LFE-07subwoofer (80W X 2)

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