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Ruggles of Red Gap [Masters of Cinema] [UK] Blu-ray Review

  • Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1
  • Video Codec: AVC/MPEG-4
  • Resolution: 1080p/24 (23.976Hz)
  • Audio Codec: English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono (48kHz/16-bit)
  • Subtitles: English SDH
  • Subtitles Color: White
  • Region: B (Region-Locked)
  • Certification: PG
  • Discs: 2 (1 x Blu-ray + 1 x DVD)
  • Run time: 91 Mins.
  • Studio: Eureka Entertainment [Masters of Cinema]
  • Blu-ray Release Date: May 28, 2012
  • RRP: £20.42

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

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:4/5]

Leo McCarey’s adaptation of Harry Leon Wilson’s novel of the same name, Ruggles of Red Gap, was the third screen adaptation of the story, but the depression-era, 1935 comedy became the definitive version instantly. A turn-of-the-century comedy of manners set in the burgeoning American West, the story centers on the recently transplanted English butler Ruggles (Charles Laughton) who arrives in the New World courtesy of his previous employer, the Earl of Burnstead who lost him in a poker match to Egbert Floud (the coincidentally-named Charlie Ruggles), a brash, wealthy American rancher.

Once in America, Ruggles’ veneer of decorum quickly fades away under the influence of Floud who takes Ruggles out with his drinking companions, insists on calling him “Charlie” and “Colonel,” which leads to an unfortunate misunderstanding. This finds Floud’s social-climbing wife forced into putting up the pretense that Ruggles is an English gentleman late of the English army in order to impress her neighbors.

McCarey’s comedy is almost custom made for Laughton’s laid back, underplayed, demeanor. Honed during the silent era with work on Laurel & Hardy and other icons of the silent comedy era, McCarey’s style relies on a slow, methodical tone and many gags that are often pulled off with the slightest facial expression.

Video Quality

[Rating:4/5]

A new HD transfer, licensed from Universal, graces this Masters of Cinema release from Eureka. With this film being from 1935, I went into this viewing not expecting too much, but I was pleasantly surprised. The image was very clean, but also showed lots of texture and natural grain. A strong sense of contrast prevailed owing to the deep and stable black levels and strong white levels. Flicker, flutter and other issues were minimal as were scratches, dirt, dust, and other debris. The AVC/MPEG-4 1080p transfer was truly reference for a film of its vintage.

Audio Quality

[Rating:3/5/5]

The original monaural soundtrack is served up in DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 (48kHz/16-bit). The limitations of the day are what mostly hinder this presentation, but it is as good as can be with little crackle or hiss and intelligible dialogue.

Supplemental Materials

[Rating:3.5/5]

Eureka has given this Masters of Cinema release their usual attention in the supplemental department with numerous video supplements, in HD, of interest on board the disc, despite the unsually thin, though no less relevant and interesting, booklet.

The supplements:

  • Music & Effects Track
  • Simon Callow (1.78:1; 1080p/24; 00:17:04) – This interview with Charles Laughton biographer Simon Callow (Charles Laughton: A Difficult Actor) was filmed in London in February 2012 exclusively for The Masters of Cinema Series.
  • Ruggles on the Road – In the years following the film’s release, Charles Laughton and Charlie Ruggles re-teamed to play their beloved roles in three separate radio adaptations.:
    • The Lux Radio Theater – July 10, 1939
    • The Screen Guild Theater – December 17, 1945
    • Academy Award Theater – June 8, 1946
  • Gettysburg Address – Following the film’s popularity, this promotional 78rpm recording of Laughton reciting Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address was released in 1937.
  • DVD
  • Booklet: Essay,”Ruggles of Red Gap” by Dan Sallitt, a filmmaker and critic living in New York. His films include Honeymoon [1998], All the Ships at Sea [2004], and The Unspeakable Act [2012]. He was the film critic for the Los Angeles Reader, and his writings have appeared in the Chicago Reader, Slate, MUBI, Wide Angle, Senses of Cinema, and other venues. He blogs at Thanks for the Use of the Hall (https://sallitt.blogspot.com). Additionally, the booklet contains stills and credits.

The Definitive Word

Overall:

[Rating:4/5]

An amusing look at the class distinctions and social climbers of the turn-of-the-century American West, Ruggles of Red Gap is a classic comedy of the 1930s that straddles both the silent and talkie eras effortlessly. It still manages to hold up today, mainly due to the timeless work of Charles Laughton and the wonderful original story from Harry Leon Wilson upon which it is based. The Masters of Cinema release does it due justice with a superlative transfer to Blu-ray.

Additional Screen Captures

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

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