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Nightbirds [UK] Blu-ray Review

  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Video Codec: AVC/MPEG-4
  • Resolution: 1080p/24 (23.976Hz)
  • Audio Codec: English LPCM 2.0 Mono (48kHz/24-bit)
  • Subtitles: English HOH
  • Subtitles Color: White
  • Region: ABC (Region-Free)
  • Certification: 15
  • Discs: 2 (1 x Blu-ray + 1 x DVD)
  • Run time: 77 Mins.
  • Studio: BFI
  • Blu-ray Release Date: May 28, 2012
  • RRP: £19.99

Overall
[Rating:3.5/5]
The Film
[Rating:2.5/5]
Video Quality
[Rating:3.5/5]
Audio Quality
[Rating:3.5/5]
Supplemental Materials
[Rating:4/5]

Click thumbnails for high-resolution 1920X1080p screen captures

(All TheaterByte screen captures are lightly compressed with lossy JPEG at 100% quality setting and are meant as a general representation of the content. They do not fully reveal the capabilities of the Blu-ray format)

The Film

[Rating:2.5/5]

Before getting into the horror scene, Andy Milligan made these odd, art house type films – quiet, personal, provocative, and intellectually challenging. Nightbirds, a long-forgotten film from the end of the 60s/beginning of the 70s era that blends the serious side of the swinging sixties genre and sexploitation films with the stream of consciousness inspired by the French new wave, follows two lost souls from London’s East side in a white hot romance that devolves into cruelty.

Dink (Berwick Kaler) and Dee (Julie Shaw), meet on the streets and quickly shack up in Julie’s ramshackle apartment. What begins as a timid and gentle, sexually charged affair gradually and then quickly degrades from domestic bliss into a violent and angry confrontational situation. Neither Dee nor Dink can cope with the other or their own inner demons.

While the acting here is somewhat amateurish and Nightbirds’ overall feel is more film school than art house, it does have a little bit of impact and Milligan already shows some insight into the human psyche.

Video Quality

[Rating:3.5/5]

Nightbirds was thought lost in its complete version for years, but a 35mm print version surfaced in the collection of Nicolas Winding Refin alongside a 35mm print of The Body Beneath (also presented here). Both films were missing significant amount of footage, however. It wasn’t until a trailer for Nightbirds on a Something Weird Video, according to the BFI notes, turned up, that evidence of alternate footage was realized. Thus, SWV provided BFI with 16mm camera reversal elements for both films, but they only included production dialogue. Nightbirds was then reconstructed from the 16mm and 35mm sources under the supervision of Nicolas Winding Refin, transferred to high definition on a Spirit HD telecine with restoration work performed on the Phoenix Refine system.

The result of the different sources and some irreparable damage at the end of two reels means that Nightbirds is a heavily grained film and the quality wavers drastically, unfortunately. The transfer from BFI is not to be faulted in this endeavor one bit, I should add. It looks as close to the original as possible, one would imagine. I see no evidence of heavy-handed manipulations or compression errors.

Audio Quality

[Rating:3.5/5]

Two separate versions of the audio are offered, a dialogue-only and fully-mixed (dialogue and score) version, both in LPCM 2.0 Mono (48kHz/24-bit). The production dialogue version is sourced from the 16mm camera reversal element’s magnetic track while the fully-mixed track comes from a 35mm blow-print. While the production dialogue track does sound a little cleaner, it is too oddly silent and my preference here is definitely for the fully-mixed track that includes the score. A monaural mix that is still on the low budget end and does little with sound effects, it won’t show off your sound system at all, but it is good enough for this sort of material.

Supplemental Materials

[Rating:4/5]

This is a typically strong package of informative and relevant information, including a healthily-sized booklet and the inclusion of the film The Body Beneath.

The supplements:

  • Fully-Mixed and Dialogue-Only Soundtracks
  • Berwick Kaler Audio Commentary – Veteran star of the British stage and screen, Berwick Kaler, reminisces on Nightbirds and his other Andy Milligan roles with film expert Stephen Thrower.
  • The Body Beneath (With Dialogue-Only Track) (1.33:1; 1080p/24; 1:22:11)
  • The Body Beneath (With Fully-Mixed Soundtrack) (1.33:1; 1080p/24; 1:22:11)
  • Nightbirds Theatrical Trailer (1.33:1; 1080p/24)
  • The Body Beneath Theatrical Trailer (1.33:1; 1080p/24)
  • DVD
  • Booklet: There’s an extensive illustrated booklet with newly-commissioned essays from filmmaker Nicolas Winding Refn, Milligan biographer Jimmy McDonough and cult cinema authorities Stephen Thrower and Tim Lucas.

The Definitive Word

Overall:

[Rating:3.5/5]

Nightbirds is certainly one for real collectors or cinephiles; not the sort of film one puts in for a lazy afternoon. Still, I applaud BFI for bringing this lost film out for a new chance at exposure.

Additional Screen Captures

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Shop for more Blu-ray titles at Amazon.co.uk

Overall
[Rating:3.5/5]
The Film
[Rating:2.5/5]
Video Quality
[Rating:3.5/5]
Audio Quality
[Rating:3.5/5]
Supplemental Materials
[Rating:4/5]

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