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The Complete Humphrey Jennings: Vol. 2 — Fires Were Started [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
  • Region: ABC (Region-Free)
  • Certification: E
  • Discs: 2  (1 x Blu-ray + 1 x DVD)
  • Run time: 138 Mins.
  • Studio: BFI
  • Blu-ray Release Date: April 23, 2012
  • RRP: £19.99

[amazon-product region=”uk” tracking_id=”bluraydefinit-21″]B007A0FWVA[/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:3.5/5]
Video Quality
[Rating:3.5/5]
Audio Quality
[Rating:3.5/5]
Supplemental Materials
[Rating:3/5]

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 Films

[Rating:3.5/5]

The documentarian Humphrey Jennings is an essential filmmaker when it comes to understanding a bygone era of Britain and the everyday lives of its people. In The Complete Humphrey Jennings: Volume One, the BFI brought together some of Jennings’ classic early documentaries depicting British life. Volume Two does the same, but this time out the films are taken from 1940-41 World War II-era Britain, and they have a distinct feel of propaganda about them. So much so that it is difficult through the lens of time to take them seriously as a true depiction of wartime life or the lives of the everyman that Jennings was so fond of portraying. Still, his aesthetic as a filmmaker is unmistakable and as works of art, these films arguably have no equals when it comes to documentaries. The stark black and white imagery of soldiers off to battle, shadowy and high in contrast juxtaposes with beautiful British pastorals.

The four films featured here, The Heart of Britain, Words for Battle, Listen to Britain, Fires Were Started ,and The Silent Village, variably depict Britain transitioning from one stage of the Second World War to another, from being on the defensive to an offensive posture, and, in Words for Battle (narrated by Sir Laurence Olivier), not just kind, stirring words of patriotism for god and country, but also for the allies across the pond, America.

Video Quality

[Rating:3.5/5]

Video quality is inconsistent across this collection of films owing to the original condition of the negatives from which the transfers were made and also the original production of some of the films, which often spliced in heavily duped stock footage juxtaposed with the cleaner, more detailed originally filmed content. The end result is, as you might expect, a rather mixed bag of sometimes breathtaking black and white imagery with sharp and richly textured grain and sometimes soft, damage-plagued shots. In other words, when it’s good, it’s good, when it’s bad, it’s blah. It can’t be helped, but BFI has done their best in this AVC/MPEG-4 1080p/24 transfer to keep things looking filmic and to avoid any heavy handed noise reduction or edge enhancement, which never appears in this release.

Audio Quality

[Rating:3.5/5]

The LPCM 2.0 (48kHz/24-bit) monaural soundtracks for each film are about as good as they can be given the original sources. There are definite source issues that can be heard that manifest in hissing, pops, and crackle along with sibilant distortions in dialogue at times, but overall the sound is effective.

Supplemental Materials

[Rating:3/5]

Two alternative cuts of Jennings’ filmsare offered up to supplement this package in addition to the usual strong booklet and a standard DVD of the release.

The supplements:

  • This is England (1.37:1; 1080p/24; 00:09:53) — Alternative cut of The Heart of Britain
  • I Was a Fireman (1.37:1; 1080p/24; 01:13:52) — Jennings’ original cut of The Fires were Started
  • Booklet: 40-page illustrated booklet with essays, film notes, and biographies. This is a particularly strong booklet from the BFI and well worth sifting through to get a firm grasp on the works of Humphrey Jennings.
  • DVD

The Definitive Word

Overall:

[Rating:3.5/5]

An interesting, if somewhat patriotically slanted, view of the UK during wartime, The Complete Humphrey Jennings Volume Two still holds much richness in its imagery and language that many cinephiles and filmmakers can learn from and appreciate.

Additional Screen Captures


[amazon-product region=”uk” tracking_id=”bluraydefinit-21″]B007A0FWVA[/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:3.5/5]
Video Quality
[Rating:3.5/5]
Audio Quality
[Rating:3.5/5]
Supplemental Materials
[Rating:3/5]

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