- Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
- Video Codec: AVC/MPEG-4
- Resolution: 1080p/24
- Audio Codec: English Mono LPCM 2.0 (48kHz/24-bit)
- Subtitles: English SDH
- Region: ABC (Region-Free)
- Discs: 1
- Studio: BFI
- Release Date: August 24, 2009
- List Price: £22.99
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BFI (The British Film Institute) have launched their Flipside line to celebrate the obscure and forgotten genre films from Britain’s cinematic past. Owing their existence to the Cinematograph Films Act of 1927, which required distributors to acquire and exhibitors to show a minimum quota of British films in order to safeguard against competition from the U.S., an industry of low budget and rapidly produced British films sprang up.
By 1983 when the act was abolished by the Thatcher government, the quota had reached as high as 30 percent. By the mid-Fifties, the Cinematograph Films Act of 1957 in combination with taxes levied against box offices to be distributed amongst British film producers had spurred on a flourishing low budget market. No one seemed to notice that most of the “British” companies producing these films under the Cinematograph Act were in fact set up by U.S. interests to take advantage of the low costs and tax breaks.
By the end of the 1950’s, most of these films had moved into the exploitation genre, fueling the need for the repressed British society to get a glimpse of the forbidden — sex, sex, more sex and a little violence. The British Board of Film Censors was resolutely strict when it came to sex and violence mixed together in films. That being the case, films such as Man of Violence and The Big Switch, both featured here on this release, only passed the Censor Board with major cuts, but still provided domestic audiences with what was then tantalizing and titillating glimpses of flesh and flaunting of the current sexual mores.
Director Pete Walker, who directed the two films present on this Blu-ray release, got his start in this sexploitation genre before moving on to where he would really make his name — his so-called “terror films” of the mid-70’s to early-80’s.
Man of Violence truly fits into BFI’s Flipside label. Rescued from obscurity, it’s the sort of film that one would expect to find on the telly late night. You know the sort of film — so bad it’s almost funny? Filmed throughout the late 1960’s and released to theatres in 1971, Man of Violence represents the era in Britain right at the end of the carefree and booming 1960’s just before the country was to go spiraling into the bust of the 1970’s. It has the beginnings of the grittiness with Walker’s style of pulp (see his earlier attempt in The Big Switch) with some leftover 60’s swagger, and, of course, the sex and violence. There are plenty enough naked “birds” here to act as decoration on even this low budget set.
The story goes something like this — there are groups of corrupt politicians, club owners, and law enforcement officials and they are all vying for a shipment of gold coming into the country from a purposely de-stabilized Arab country. A mercenary named Moon (Michael Latimer) finds himself hired by all sides involved to do some spying. Of course, he’s out to get the gold for himself, along with the gorgeous blonde “hostess” Angel (Luan Peters) by his side, whom he just happens to have to rescue from a sexually charged interrogation by a lesbian “thug” and a drooling hooligan. Hey, this is a low budget sexploitation film. Man of Violence, ridiculous as it may seem, reportedly hits pretty close to the mark on some real historical figures from the corrupt Chelsea and Northern England scene of the 1970’s and can be seen as a pulpy document of that era. I for one see it as a humorous historical artifact very much routed to its time, regardless of historical facts or fiction. It to me is no different than, say, the blacksploitation or Martial Arts genre films of the 1970’s; they are very much a product of their time, but they are time capsules that should be preserved and reexamined.
This sort of low budget film is never going to make for grand high definition reference material, but BFI’s 1080p/24 AVC/MPEG-4 encoding of Man of Violence’s original 1.33:1 source is a strong one nonetheless. The film as been transferred from the original 35mm negative and fully restored, removing blemishes, dirt scratches and other issues. Man of Violence still maintains a strong grain structure and film-like quality with good amounts of detail in foreground and background shots. Color saturation is vivid, but flesh tones do at times look a little pinker than one would like. Blacks are inky and stable and shadow delineation is quite good with only some minor issues with crush, but not enough to overwhelm the overall detail in darker scenes.
There are some visible issues with flicker and scratches that creep into the transfer throughout the presentation, but these are acceptable given the amount of detail and natural grain that is retained from a lack of excessive processing. There are no obvious compression artifacts and issues such as edge enhancement are also nonexistent.
BFI have provided Man of Violence with its original monaural soundtrack in a LPCM 2.0 (48kHz/24-bit) configuration. Obviously, the budget being what it was, Man of Violence is not going to sound amazing under any circumstances, but it has been cleaned up pretty well. Still, there are moments when there is very obvious crackling in the dialogue and voices sound somewhat nasally, lacking much punch. At times, there’s obvious hiss when people are speaking and sometimes the dynamics fluctuate a bit too much. Still, BFI have probably done as best as they could with this low quality source and I’m sure it sounds about as good as it is going to get.
Man of Violence can be seen as two or three releases in one. Pete Walker’s gritty 1969 pulp film, The Big Switch, also known as Strip Poker in the United States, is provided in both its domestic form and its unedited international edition on here. For the first time, Britons will have the opportunity to view the film untouched by the censor board.
The supplements available on this release are:
- The Big Switch (aka Strip Poker) Domestic Version (1.33:1; 1080p/24; 1:08.58) — In this far-fetched pulp film, mostly intended for teen drive-in audiences in The States, a West End playboy is caught up in the seedy world of gangsters when his girlfriend is killed and he is framed for her murder. The film shows Walker long before he became adept at even his sleaziest of works, slipping in moments of titillation in the oddest of places. It’s truly late night fare.
- The Big Switch Export Version (1.33:1; 1080p/24; 1:16.42) — The “export” version adds in several minutes of further “risqué” footage, including an additional opening striptease routine in which the woman simulates self-flagellation.
- Man of Violence Trailer (1.33:1; 1080p/24)
- Man of Violence ‘Moon’ Title Card (1.33:1; 1080p/24)
- The Big Switch Trailer (1.33:1; 1080p/24)
The Definitive Word
Man of Violence and The Big Switch are certainly not masterpieces of British cinema, but they document a different era and BFI have done well in preserving them for posterity. These are the sorts of films that aren’t usually given much respect and care, but BFI have done just that in bringing them to Blu-ray Disc. Although their original production values prevent them from ever looking or sounding spectacular, it’s obvious they have been transferred with care for this release. Anyone curious about these obscure genre films can rest assured that purchasing this Blu-ray version will not be a disappointment.