MOVIE 4.5 / 5
PICTURE 3.5 / 5
AUDIO 3.5 / 5
The disc is REGION B "LOCKED", so tested on a Momitsu Blu Ray player. Audio: English (DTS Master Audio Mono), German and Spanish Castillian. Subtitles: German, Spanish (Castillian), Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Norwegian, Swedish. NO ENGLISH SUBTITLES though.
For those not familiar with the movie, the story takes place in early 1900s England. A young boy -a child- almost 13 years old lends himself as a messenger between two lovers, an experience that will mark him for the rest of his life.
This is a very good movie, that recreates a old world with so many details, that it makes one really feel in another time and place.
It's not a movie for everyone though. It's slow, deliberate. To enjoy it, you have to able to put yourself in the young messenger's place, innocently trapped in a world that he has to discover and undesrtand as it unfolds before him, and it depends also in undertanding the the class-ridden and prohibitive world in which the love he came to witness (and serve) takes place.
Although the casting was made so two stars can take first bill (Julie Christie and Alan Bates, whom do a very good job), it's Dominic Guard's subdued and tender performance the one that carries the film, an outstanding acting debut (winner of a Bafta Film award, "Most Promising Newcomer to Leading Film Roles"). It's worth mentioning too that Margareth Leighton was nominated for an Oscar, and won a Bafta too.
Now, about the Blu Ray.
Picture quality is hard to judge. Is it better than the DVD? I must say YES (my reference for comparison is the copy of the collection "Screen Icons" that the UK's Sunday Telgraph included as a giveaway some 4 years ago). Colors are truer, images clearer. The copy is in pristine condition, without stains or scratches or any other sign of deterioration. Grain is slightly present, and there's no evident manipulation like noise reduction or things like that. In general, details are more enhanced.
So then, what's the problem?. I must quote INFREG, who, in this site, writes as follows (regarding an old dvd edition):
"Yes, it is a pity that the movie is not presented in its intended theatrical aspect ratio 1.85... The movie is presented in its original open matte format, which means it was shot in conventional 1.33 to fit TV screens. For theatrical release the picture was then cropped at the top and the bottom, a common practice since the Fifties. So the picture is nothing missing here as the other reviewers suggest. Instead, it shows more information at the top and the bottom than the theatrical release. Just for the record".
That's the DVD. The Blu Ray DOES present an 1:85:1 aspect ratio, meaning that it fills completely the 16 x 9 screen. Meaning that it discards the original film format and presents the movie the way INFREG says it was intended to be exhibited in theaters. Is INFREG right? I guess he is. Nothing in the movie, as included in the Blu Ray, appears as if out of frame or focus. All the contrary.
There's a similar case with the Blu Ray release of "Herostratus" by the BFI. It presents the movie as it was supposed to be shown (16 x 9). But unlike The Go-Between, Herostratus BD includes the original film version (4 x 3) as an extra.
The problem is that if you work with the original 4 x 3 version, but you have to "zoom it in" to fill the 16 x 9 screen, then inevitably you will lose detail. In other words, The Go-Between BD show better detail compared to the standard DVD, but it could have been better. That's the only explanation (not, let's say, some other defect in the transfer) that I find to explain the picture quality that I saw. I think Studio-Canal should have included the original format AS AN EXTRA, as BFI did with Herostratus.
Another problem is that in some scenes the frame shakes slightly and repeatedly from side to side. As far as I could compare, this is a problem shared by the very same scenes on the dvd (so they seem to be inherent to the original film). At first, the issue is annoying, but afterwards they feel few and far between, not enough to ruin the experience.
The original english audio track, decoded as DTS- Master Audio Stereo, but actually monophonic, is generally plain, as you would expect from a 1971 movie. Since it is expected, is not a flaw really. Being a movie dependent on dialogues, the most important thing is clarity, and you have it. And the music is pretty clear too. I must add that in comparison, german audio is not as good, and spanish audio is very poor. Those are also decoded as DTS Master Audio stereo (mono), but of lesser quality, evidently recorded when the movie was first released.
Extras consist mainly on individual interviews, in some cases with people linked only indirectly with the director or the production. There are two important ones: with Gerry Fisher, cinematographer, and John Heyman, producer. There's also a short audio interview with director Joseph Losey, but from some 3 years after the movie and not specifically refered to the movie.
FINAL WORDS. This BD is a must have for fans of the movie, and for those who have afinity with (and patience for) period dramas. Generally speaking, is not a reference Blu Ray, but I was satisfied with the presentation and I doubt that it can look better (except if they include the film in its original format, something that I don't think will happen).
My greatest regret though is that this release is REGION B "locked", and so they have limited the possiblities for Blu Ray users (outside Europe) to get to know or collect this classic.