To Sir, With Love

This review is sponsored by

Details At A Glance

Category Drama Theatrical Trailer(s) Yes, 1 - 1.33:1, not 16x9, Dolby Digital 2.0 mono
Rating Other Trailer(s) Yes, 1 - Dolby Digital City
Year Released 1966 Commentary Tracks No
Running Time 100:47 minutes Other Extras Biographies - Cast and Crew
RSDL/Flipper RSDL (57:28)
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region 2,4 Director James Clavell
Columbia Pictures
Columbia TriStar
Starring Sidney Poitier 
Judy Geeson
Christian Roberts
Suzy Kendall
The Mindbenders
Case Brackley
RRP $34.95 Music Ron Grainer

Pan & Scan/Full Frame No MPEG None
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1 Dolby Digital 2.0 mono
16 x 9 Enhancement
Soundtrack Languages English (Dolby Digital 2.0 mono, 192 Kb/s)
French (Dolby Digital 2.0 mono, 192 Kb/s)
German (Dolby Digital 2.0 mono, 192 Kb/s)
Italian (Dolby Digital 2.0 mono, 192 Kb/s)
Spanish (Dolby Digital 2.0 mono, 192 Kb/s)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
Macrovision Yes Smoking Yes
Subtitles English
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or
After Credits

Plot Synopsis

    After a seemingly endless string of modern films, some of a so-so quality, it is refreshing to return to the odd classic film release. Amongst their back catalogue, Columbia TriStar has some gems and it is to be hoped that sooner rather than later a few more of those gems start making their appearance on DVD in Region 4. Classic films such as From Here To Eternity, Guns of Navarone, Lawrence of Arabia, Mr Smith Goes To Washington and On The Waterfront spring to mind quite readily. Until such time as those gems turn up, we shall have to make do with this gem. And it is a pleasure to see the widescreen version of the film after so long.

    Mark Thackery (Sidney Poitier) is an engineer who is unable to find work and so turns to teaching until such time as his employment opportunities improve. No teaching experience at all and so he is dutifully thrown into the deep end at North Quay, a school in the East End of London. But that is understating the problem - this is an area of tough living, broken homes and broken marriages. The pupils at his school are the worst of the worst, and Thackery gets the worst class in the worst school. Students such as Pamela Dare (Judy Geeson), Barbara Pegg (Lulu), Denham (Christian Roberts) and Potter (Chris Chittell) - foul mouthed anti-establishment types with no respect for authority. In the course of their final term at school, Thackery has the task of preparing these people for life in the real world, whilst also gaining their respect. Oh, and Thackery is black - in a very racist part of town.

    The story is really that simple - but this is a powerful story of social change and social tension in the East End of London during the sixties. Like so many British films both before and since, this is a true to life, gritty look at the times - something that the British do so well, and that Hollywood is completely incapable of doing. What makes the film shine is not the story but the cast that brought it to life. Sidney Poitier copped an Oscar for his performance in Lilies Of The Field in 1963, something of a breakthrough for African American actors. He then had a succession of stirring roles including this gem. He so brilliantly captures the role of the engineer seeking his level in a new occupation. This is a timeless performance that despite having been watched dozens of times still makes you sit up and take notice. But it is the performances of the supporting cast that really lift this out of the good category and into the very good category. Judy Geeson is wonderful as the young woman infatuated by a man unlike any she has ever met before. Christian Roberts is superb as the protagonist in the class, Lulu is creditable in her film debut (at the time she was one of the bright new talents of British pop music) and Suzy Kendall nicely understated as the colleague with a shine of her own for Thackery. The entire cast though contributed enormously to a stunning portrayal of a class of disadvantaged young adults in the East End. This was written by James Clavell, better known for his book Shogun (amongst others), and as I found out through the extras, born in Sydney: the sublime quality of the story cannot be doubted. But I never, ever realized that he was also the director of the film (so much for thinking he was just an author) and a fine job he did too. This is not a film that could rely on great cinematography to succeed - it needed great performances and superb capturing of the gritty nature of the location. James Clavell succeeded in obtaining both.

    A superb film that continues to stand the test of time, unlike many other films of the sixties (The Thomas Crown Affair or West Side Story anyone?). I for one am extremely glad that this has been given a release on DVD.

Transfer Quality


    And this superb film has been given a very nice restoration for the release.

    The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and it is 16x9 enhanced.

    You do have to bear in mind that this is 34 years old - the source material simply is not up to the quality of a film of far more recent vintage. However, this really is a very good transfer that hardly raises any quibbles at all. Sure it is not wonderfully sharp and nor do we expect it to be. In general, it is a reasonably softly defined transfer but never descends into anything unwatchable and maintains a consistency in definition that is to be lauded for a film of this age (indeed, it is far better than the lamentable effort for Out For Justice that I recently reviewed). The definition is good without being exceptional, whilst shadow detail reflects the age of the transfer - good without being too great. This is not a really clear transfer, but then again if it were it would diminish the impact of the film: the East End of the sixties was a dirty, depressing area and the film captures this so well. The transfer was a little grainy on occasions but nothing that was in the least distracting. There appear to be no problems with low level noise in the transfer.

    The transfer deliberately has quite a muted colour palette, which again captures the location and era so well. You certainly would not be seeing bright, vibrant colours in the East End of London in the sixties, so they are not present here at all. This is such a natural palette that it brings back memories of my childhood in Wolverhampton in England and my visits to London. There is obviously no problem whatsoever with oversaturation here.

    There were no MPEG artefacts noted in the transfer. There were no significant film-to-video artefacts in the transfer, apart from false colouration of portions of a white stripey shirt worn by one of the cast. There were very few noticeable film artefacts, and this is a surprisingly clean transfer for a film of this vintage.

    This is an RSDL format disc, with the layer change coming at 57:28. This is a reasonably placed change that is minimally disruptive to the film. What is unusual is that a film of this reasonably short length has been given RSDL formatting. This has no doubt contributed to the quality of the transfer, which maintained a fairly consistently high transfer rate throughout.


    Whilst there will be those who are appalled by the lack of a 5.1 remaster here, I am very pleased that the mono soundtrack of the original film has been retained.

    There are five audio tracks on the DVD, all being Dolby Digital 2.0 mono tracks: English, French, German, Italian and Spanish. I listened to the English default soundtrack.

    Dialogue was clear and easy to understand.

    There were no apparent audio sync problems with the disc.

    The score by Ron Grainer is a little overshadowed by the film itself, and the music from the British Beat era as exemplified by The Mindbenders appearance in the film. However, the musical contribution to the film is vital as it expresses so much of what made Britain in the sixties such a happening place (as bastardized by a certain film about an international man of mystery - shudder).

    And this is one of the better sounding mono soundtracks that I have heard. Okay, you can throw away your surround speakers and the subwoofer for this one, but what is left is still quite fine. The soundtrack is free from hiss and distortion, and the sound is far less raw than you often hear in mono soundtracks. The soundscape is quite decent and reasonably natural, although obviously lacking a little space in the sound.


    Well, what could we reasonably expect from a film of this age?


    Actually quite nicely done and they do appear to be 16x9 enhanced, which is a bit unusual.

Theatrical Trailer (3:19)

    Well this obviously shows its age pretty well and the quality is not the best and there are audio sync problems with it. Nonetheless, an interesting look at film promotion of the mid sixties. This is presented in a full frame format, not 16x9 enhanced and with a Dolby Digital 2.0 mono sound that is not as good as the film itself.

Biographies - Cast and Crew

    Disappointingly brief, covering only Sidney Poitier, Judy Geeson and James Clavell.

R4 vs R1

    This is due for release in Region 1 this week, and there is as yet no definite confirmation of the extras included and each online retailer is listing different extras. It would appear however that for all intents and purposes the Region 1 and Region 4 releases are pretty much the same, making Region 4 the region of choice with the inherent superiority of the PAL system.


    The cover banner says Columbia Classics. I would never disagree with that assessment of the film. A superb film that does hold its age well and I am glad that it is not only on DVD in Region 4, but that it has been blessed with a very good transfer for a film of its age.

    A very good video transfer for its vintage.

    A very decent audio transfer.

    A minimal extras package reflecting the film's age.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Ian Morris
31st January 2000

Review Equipment
DVD Pioneer DV-515; S-video output
Display Sony Trinitron Wega 84cm. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Audio Decoder Built in
Amplification Yamaha RXV-795. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Speakers Energy Speakers: centre EXLC; left and right EXLR; and subwoofer ES-12XL