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The Complete Humphrey Jennings Collection Vol. One: The First Days [UK] Blu-ray Review

  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Video Codec: AVC/MPEG-4
  • Resolution: 1080p/24 (24Hz)
  • Audio Codec: English LPCM 2.0 Mono (48kHz/16-bit)
  • Subtitles: N/A
  • Region: ABC (Region-Free)
  • Classification: U
  • Discs: 2 (1 x Blu-ray + 1 x DVD)
  • Studio: BFI
  • Run Time: 211 Mins.
  • Blu-ray Release Date: September 19, 2011
  • RRP: £19.99

[amazon-product region=”uk” tracking_id=”bluraydefinit-21″]B0051FBKYO[/amazon-product]

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

Shop for more Blu-ray titles at Amazon.com

Overall
[Rating:3.5/5]
The Films
[Rating:3/5]
Video Quality
[Rating:3/5]
Audio Quality
[Rating:3/5]
Supplemental Materials
[Rating:2.5/5]

Click thumbnails for high-resolution 1920X1080p screen captures

(Screen captures are lightly compressed with lossy JPEG  thus are meant as a general representation of the content and do not fully reveal the capabilities of the Blu-ray format)

The Films

[Rating:3/5]

This is another collection from the BFI, like From Turksib to Night Mail, that will be of more interest as a historical document than one of pure entertainment value. Bringing together 14 early wartime documentary shorts from one of Britain’s greatest and best known documentary filmmakers, The Humphrey Jennings Collection Volume One: The First Days will probably find its purpose in history classes or film schools.

Jennings’ films collected together here, spanning from 1934 to 1940, focus on everything from the truly mundane, like a particular fascination with the Royal Mail (Post Haste; Penny Journey), or the impact of the wheel on the development of modern society (The Story of the Wheel) to the impact of World War II on English farmers (Spring Offensive) and London during the blitz (London Can Take It!).

Whether he was turning his lens on simple farmers, exploring the Royal Mail, or studying the impact of war, Jennings’ documentaries were more stylized than purely factual presentations, giving them a very modern, art house feel and visually alluring aesthetic.

The complete list of films on the collection is as follows:

  • Post Haste (1934)
  • Locomotives (1934)
  • The Story of the Wheel (1934)
  • Farewell Topsails (1937)
  • Penny Journey (1938)
  • Speaking from America (1938)
  • The Farm (1938)
  • Making Fashion (1938)
  • Spare time (1939)
  • SS Ionian (1939)
  • The First Days (1939)
  • Spring Offensive (1940)
  • Welfare of the Workers (1940)
  • London Can Take It! (1940)

Video Quality

[Rating:3/5]

There’s really only so much of that BFI magic that can be worked with these short films that span from 1934 to 1940. Much of them have obviously not been kept very well and damage is prevalent throughout. Still, the AVC/MPEG-4 1080p/24 encodement looks about as authentic and film-like as can be, but surely doesn’t attain any sort of reference material status.

Audio Quality

[Rating:3/5]

Even the audio quality on here, provided in a LPCM 2.0 monaural configuration, is rather dodgy, with major amounts of pops, skips, and hiss quite obvious in the restoration. It has nothing to do with the transfer and everything to do with the original sources. To try to clean it up any more would only have resulted in unwanted artifacts.

Supplemental Materials

[Rating:2.5/5]

There are a few alternate cuts of the  shorts provided as extras and the typically extensive booklet as well, which includes a forward by Jennings’ daughter and essays on the films.

The supplements:

  • The Birth of the Robot (1936) – A Len Lye film on which Jennings collaborated
  • English Harvest (1939) – An alternative cut to Jennings’ 1938 film The Farm.
  • Cargoes (1940) – An alternative cut to Jennings’ 1939 film SS Ionian.
  • Britain Can Take It! (1940) – An alternative cut to Jennings’ 1940 film London Can Take It!
  • Booklet: This 40-page illustrated booklet has the special bonus of including a forward from Jennings’ daughter, plus the usual essays on the films, plus a filmmaker bio well worth reading.

The Definitive Word

Overall:

[Rating:3.5/5]

The Humphrey Jennings Collection Volume One offers a look at the early works of one of Britain’s most heralded documentary filmmakers. While the collection itself is far from reference quality or typical entertainment by today’s standards, it holds strong historical and educational value.

Additional Screen Captures


[amazon-product region=”uk” tracking_id=”bluraydefinit-21″]B0051FBKYO[/amazon-product]

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

Shop for more Blu-ray titles at Amazon.com

Overall
[Rating:3.5/5]
The Films
[Rating:3/5]
Video Quality
[Rating:3/5]
Audio Quality
[Rating:3/5]
Supplemental Materials
[Rating:2.5/5]

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