Prick Up Your Ears (1987)

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Released 10-Apr-2002

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Trailer-Keep The River On Your Right; The Last Seduction
Trailer-My Beautiful Laundrette; Cinema Paradiso
DVD Credits
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1987
Running Time 105:09
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Stephen Frears
Civilhand Zenith
Umbrella Entertainment
Starring Gary Oldman
Alfred Molina
Vanessa Redgrave
Julie Walters
Case Click
RPI $29.95 Music Stanley Myers

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Pan & Scan English Dolby Digital 2.0 (256Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio Unknown Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    A sad tale of a married couple - the initial lust and attraction wears off to be replaced by petty bickering and jealousy. So what's new, you ask. Well, these are two men and ultimately the relationship proves to be a fatal attraction. Prick Up Your Ears charts the rise to fame of gay sixties playwright Joe Orton and his relationship with live-in partner Kenneth Halliwell. Based on a true story, the movie tells the tale of how Leicester working class lad John Orton, played by a young and pretty Gary Oldman, destined for a career in the office, leaves his semi-detached council house in the industrial midlands to head for London to find fame and fortune. Accepted into RADA (Royal Academy of Dramatic Art), he meets blueprint thespian Kenneth Halliwell played by Alfred Molina (the pompous mayor in Chocolat). Initially tagging along with Orton's social circle, the pair eventually end up sharing 'digs' together in downbeat yet soon-to-be trendy Islington. Despite his perfect literary, social and education background, Halliwell is the ugly, balding, stereotyped classical actor who has no artistic talent and nothing to offer save his 'older than his age looks' and his classical thespian garb. As Orton becomes more successful and popular, Halliwell degenerates into a fat, balding, b****y slob who lives on the periphery of Orton's fame and becomes increasingly resentful till one fateful day .....

    Directed by Stephen Frears, who also directed High Fidelity, Prick Up Your Ears is best thought of as an 'Arthouse film' and will only appeal to a select minority. It beautifully portrays English sixties working class life and the furtive and fleeting liaisons of the male homosexual community who were constantly harassed, and indeed imprisoned, by the establishment. Despite the threat of toilet-frequenting Bobbies, prying neighbours and petty officialdom, Orton never failed to pick up a daily liaison identified by a sly look, the wink of an eye or a strategically placed handkerchief.

    The three lead actors put in understated, yet masterful performances. Gary Oldman, long before his villain roles, has a smooth, coquettish look, without being overtly camp that is entirely convincing whilst Alfred Morina also plays a masterful 'femme' reminiscent of one of the old boilers out of Chicken Run. Vanessa Redgrave plays a dapper matronly role as Orton's literary agent whilst Julie Walters gets a brief look-in as Joe's mum. Whilst the homosexual encounters may prove uncomfortable viewing to some and it is certainly an intense and ultimately tragic film, it has a gentle humour and charm and many witty one-liners from an ever-sparring couple.

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Transfer Quality


    This whole DVD smacks of low-budget and it has a pretty ordinary video transfer.

    The film is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 (pan and scan I'm afraid) and is not 16x9 enhanced. There is the inevitable cropping of heads and elbows due to the Pan & Scan formatting and the already cramp interior of the bed-sit is rendered almost claustrophobic.

    The film has only a moderate degree of sharpness not helped by the frequent low light settings. The shadow detail is generally poor and in the frequent near-dark bedroom and toilet scenes it's (thankfully) near-impossible to figure out what is going on. Molina's sweaty torso and pate in the oily, black introduction is reminiscent of the creature rising from the black lagoon replete with a fair smattering of low level noise which is present throughout the movie.

    The colours are drab and muted in keeping with the interior lighting, poor weather conditions and general greyness in the industrial centrelands of England. There is no appreciable colour noise or bleeding.

    There are few MPEG artefacts apart from Gibbs effect on the opening titles but aliasing is prominent throughout the movie and at times distracting. There are very few film artefacts with an occasional white fleck visible.

    There are no subtitles.

    The film is a single sided, single layered DVD-5 which probably accounts for the poor video transfer.

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


    The soundtrack could be described as adequate for a dialogue driven film and that's it.

    There is one audio track; English surround-encoded Dolby Digital 2.0.

    Thankfully, most dialogue is directed to the centre speaker and is very clear, mostly due to the excellent calibre of actor. There were no problems with lip or audio synch.

    The music is credited to Stanley Myers. There's not much of it in the film apart from the opening and closing credits but we occasionally get a short blast of swinging sixties big-band sound.

    The surrounds and subwoofer were not utilised and given the nature of the film were not really missed.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    There are no extras apart from a few trailers for Umbrella Entertainment films (including My Beautiful Laundrette also by Alan Bennett).


    The menu is static in 1.33:1 with scene selection and trailer selection.

R4 vs R1

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

    There is no R1 release of this movie and highly unlikely to be one in the future.


    Overall, this is a bare bones presentation of the Alan Bennett screenplay of the life of Joe Orton. Plenty of black humour and risqué business but unlikely to appeal to a wide audience. Worth a look at a rental copy if you're into this sort of scene.

    The video was mediocre and could have been a lot better if presented in the original film aspect ratio.

    The sound was uninspiring but adequate for the movie

    Extras were just about non-existent.

Ratings (out of 5)


© John Lancaster (read my bio)
Friday, May 03, 2002
Review Equipment
DVDToshiba SD-900E, using RGB output
DisplayPioneer SD-T50W1 (127cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderDenon ACV-A1SE. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationTheta Digital Intrepid
SpeakersML Aeon front. B&W LRC6 Centre. ML Script rear. REL Strata III SW.

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