on 17 February 2015
I'M ALL RIGHT JACK  [Blu-ray] Highly Enjoyable British Comedy! Vintage Classic Comedy! Digitally Restored!
Winning BAFTAs for Best British Screenplay and British Actor Peter Sellers. ‘I'M ALL RIGHT JACK' is popularly considered to be the best of John Boulting and Roy Boulting's social satire.
Peter Sellers plays both Sir John Kennaway and the tragic-comid trade union leader Fred Kite. The results is a laugh-out-loud comedy with satiric edge, lampooning the then-burning issue of industrial relations. Bertram Tracepurcel [Dennis Price] plans to make a fortune from a missile contract, a scheme that involves manipulating his innocent nephew Stanley Windrush [Ian Carmichael] into acting as a catalyst in an escalating labour dispute, from which socialist Mr. Fred Kite is only too keen to make capital of the situation.
Featuring a superb supporting cast including Terry-Thomas, Sir Richard Attenborough, John Le Mesurier, Irene Handl and Margaret Rutherford. This is an ingenious comedy about the British workplace and self-serving hypocrisy. A sequel to the 1956's `A Private's Progress.' `I'M ALL RIGHT JACK' is brought roaring to life by Peter Sellers astonishing turn as the Stalinist unionist.
Cast: Ian Carmichael, Terry-Thomas, Peter Sellers, Sir Richard Attenborough, Dennis Price, Margaret Rutherford, Irene Handl, Liz Fraser, Miles Malleson, Marne Maitland, John Le Mesurier, Raymond Huntley, Victor Maddern, Kenneth Griffith, John Comer, Sam Kydd, Cardew Robinson, Tony Comer, Bruce Wightman, Bill Rayment, Ronnie Stevens, Martin Boddey, Brian Oulton, Malcolm Muggeridge, John Glyn-Jones, Pauline Winter, Maurice Colbourne, Jeremy White, Robin Ray, Michael Bates, Arthur Skinner, William Dexter, Robert S. Young, Roy Purcell, Marianne Stone, Terry Scott, Marion Shaw, Wally Patch, Alun Owen, Muriel Young, Frank Phillips, Ian Wilson, Margaret Lacey, George Selway, Alan Wilson, Basil Dignam, Harry Locke, Victor Harrington (uncredited), George Hilsdon (uncredited), Juba Kennerley (uncredited), Aileen Lewis (uncredited), John Leyton (uncredited), Jim O'Brady (uncredited), Ernie Rice (uncredited) and E.V.H. Emmett (Narrator voice) (uncredited)
Director: John Boulting
Producer: Roy Boulting
Screenplay: Frank Harvey, John Boulting and Alan Hackney (novel)
Composer: Ken Hare and Ron Goodwin
Cinematography: Mutz Greenbaum
Video Resolution: 1080p [Black-and-White]
Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1
Audio: English: 2.0 LCPM Mono Audio
Subtitles: English SDH
Running Time: 105 minutes
Region: Region B/2
Number of discs: 1
Andrew's Blu-ray Review: British comedy became world renowned in the 1940s and 1950s, primarily thanks to Ealing Studios. Considered by many to be the golden age of British comedy, the period produced films such as those from Ealing that left behind the glamour and vanity of early Hollywood to reflect the lives of the working classes of Britain. Their spirit carried on through the 1960s, as a number of studios brought working class comedy to the masses. Often full of slapstick and politics, these films helped to defy an era defined by domestic austerity and political paranoia. In some ways, they became a unique escape for cinema-goers at a time when the cinema was the largest recreational activity in the country.
Of all the unlikely subjects for successful satirising on the screen with organised labour and management in modern industry comes the British Boulting brothers, John Boulting and Roy Boulting, with their hilarious classic comedy film ‘I'm All Right, Jack.’ And, what do you know; they have run it into the brightest, liveliest British comedy ever seen. Much like their ‘Private's Progress,’ which took a decidedly scandalous view of life in the British Army during World War II, but this comedy classic satire takes a swipe at the obstructive tactics of trade unions and with the intrigues of management, too. As a matter of fact, most of the characters in this delightfully sharp and rowdy farce are the same as were in ‘Private's Progress,’ only grown a little longer in the tooth.
‘I'm All Right Jack' fits neatly into this era, bringing together the stars of the age to tell a tale of corporate manipulation, workers' rights, and the press in a satirical, goofy way. Directed by the Boulting Brothers, John and Roy, and written by Frank Harvey, the film examines these dynamics through the story of wealthy heir Stanley Windrush [Ian Carmichael], who is hired to work in a factory by his uncle Bettram Purcel [Dennis Price] the art-purloining major, now the head of the arms factory. Unknowingly, Stanley Windrush becomes the central figure in Bettram Purcel's plot to extort thousands of dollars out of Iran in a weapons-buying scheme while simultaneously embarrassing the trade unions. There's Sir Richard Attenborough, as the cockney schemer, now become a dapper man of affairs. These two arch and practiced connivers are joined in a clearly crooked plot, with Marne Maitland as a shifty-eyed Mohammedan, to mulct an unnamed Arab country on a big arms deal.
The film is loaded with stars, all of whom use their comedic talents to bolster the film above its contemporaries. Zany one-liners and physical hilarities fly by so quickly that it is easy to miss them. Thomas' almost elastic emotional expression makes one smile without him saying a word, and Peter Sellers is at his absolute best as union representative Fred Kite. Their performances poke fun at the vanity and self-obsession of all men, regardless of class, elevating the film from a satire of class warfare to one about the eternal battles of ego and greed.
Frank Harvey's screenplay can only be described as genius. To throw so many layers of satire and observation into one film is an achievement, and one of the many reasons the film is considered such a classic today. Not a line is wasted in Harvey's mission to observe the madness of men in their eternal race for wealth. He pulls on basic human instinct and creates an instant photographic time capsule of his time.
If the film sounds absurd, it is. That's the point. There are several reasons the film was the highest-grossing of 1959, perhaps most so because of its absurdity. As the scheme unravels and each political player becomes more and more desperate to get what they want, the story becomes timeless in its ridicule and makes it funny and sentient even today. At a time when class has become the primary political discourse even in America, although it only being so in the United Kingdom in 1959, the film's Blu-ray release allows contemporary viewers the chance to escape into the very laughable history of our own capitalist society.
It can be no simple coincidence that Peter Sellers decided to give Kite a somewhat Hitler-esque moustache. He is one of the most believable caricatures that have ever graced the screen. Inflated by his own importance within the union, he's a non-too-subtle swipe at the leftist leaning workforce coming to prominence in post-war Britain. All we'll say further is that John Boulting, Frank Harvey and Alan Hackney have written a script that is one of the liveliest in a long time, although loaded with cryptic British slang; that Mr. Boulting has directed it briskly; that Margaret Rutherford, Irene Handl, Liz Fraser and Victor Maddern play it finely, along with all those mentioned above and that this film should to be sure a must view around the word, especially on this stunning remastered Blu-ray disc.
Now re-released in a pristine Blu-Ray version `I'm All Right Jack' may have lost some of its edge over the years. Down more to the fact that we're surrounding by a sarcastic view point from all forms of media these days, it's a diluting of the culture rather than the film that is to blame. It still stands up well on its mature comedy feet. Terry Thomas is on hand to describe someone as a "shower, an absolute shower." John Le Mesurier is there being his effervescently charming self-whilst mixing in some hand-wringing anxiety. Everyone seems to be having fun, Sellers though does stand above the pack. His Mr. Fred Kite feels like one of his more-understated performances as though he is playing a real-life fuss pot who is trying to act in a comedy film. It's a fine turn and one that is perhaps the main reason the film is remembered so well today.
Blu-ray Video Quality – Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.66:1, and encoded with a brilliant crisp black-and-white 1080p image transfer, and arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of STUDIOCANAL. Recently restored by STUDIOCANAL, this very witty and very entertaining British comedy looks simply wonderful in high-definition. Virtually all close-ups boast outstanding depth and clarity and one can easily see even exceptionally small details. There are no traces of problematic de-graining or sharpening adjustments. Rather predictably, grain is beautifully resolved and evenly distributed and from start to finish the film has a very pleasing organic appearance. All in all, this is a fantastic restoration of I'm All Right Jack which will unquestionably remain the definitive presentation of the film on the home video market.
Blu-ray Audio Quality – There is only one standard audio track on this Blu-ray release: English 2.0 LCPM Mono Audio. STUDIOCANAL have provided optional English SDH subtitles for the main feature. It is very obvious that the audio has been fully restored as balance is excellent and there isn't even a whiff of background hiss. The dialogue is exceptionally clean, stable, and easy to follow. Dynamic intensity is somewhat limited, but depth cannot possibly be better. For the record, there are absolutely no pops, cracks, audio dropouts, or digital distortions to report in this review.
Blu-ray Special Features and Extras:
Special Feature: Brand New Interview with Liz Frazer  [1080p] [16:9] [9:52] Liz Fraser talks of how she got her role on I'm All Right Jack' with stories of its production and interacting with the cast and crew, and how this film helped springboard her into other acting roles. This is a very insightful and nostalgic interview from a very charming woman.
Special Feature: The Running, Jumping & Standing Still Film  [1080p] [4:3] [11:10] ‘The Running Jumping & Standing Still Film’ is a short film directed by Richard Lester and Peter Sellers, in collaboration with Bruce Lacey. It was filmed over two Sundays in 1959, at a cost of around £70 (including £5 for the rental of a field). It was nominated for an Academy Award, but did not win. It was a favourite of The Beatles, which led to Richard Lester being hired to direct `A Hard Day's Night' and then `Help!' in which Bruce Lacey makes a guest appearance as George Harrison's gardener in the opening sequence. Starring: Richard Lester, Peter Sellers, Spike Milligan, Mario Fabrizi, Bruce Lacey, David Lodge, Leo McKern, Norman Rossington and Graham Stark. Director Richard Lester first worked with Peter Sellers and Spike Milligan on three television series, ‘The Idiot Weekly Price 2d,’ ‘A Show Called Fred’ and ‘Son of Fred’ (all on ITV in 1956), each of them an early attempt to transfer the surreal humour of BBC radio's ‘The Goon Show’ to a visual medium. The film's lasting legacy, however, was its influence, as part of Spike Milligan's overall body of work on British comedy in general, and on Monty Python's Flying Circus (BBC, 1969-74) in particular. This is evident not only in its surreal humour, but in the way that elements of one routine are threaded through subsequent scenes, transcending the stand-alone sketch form and a tactic subsequently favoured by the Monty Python team.
Special Feature: CineFile: Sellers Best!  [480i] [16:9] [13:30] This TV Special was commissioned by Channel 4 for the original transmission in 1982. A Lucida Production and Directed by Paul Joyce. Starring Roy Boulting, Spike Milligan, Ian Carmichael and Dick Lester.
Theatrical Trailer: The Original Trailer for I'm All Right Jack' [1080p] [1.66:1] [3:06]
Finally, the film has a familiar British face in virtually every part, which suggests that somehow the nation is on trial, as indeed it was. Three years after the Suez fiasco, with Prime Minister Harold Macmillan declaring that “we’d never had it so good” and a chorus of angry young men proclaiming the country’s moral bankruptcy, ‘I’m All Right Jack’ preserves the Britain of 1959 in amber. It is a thoroughly enjoyable classic British comedy from the Boulting Brothers. It has a tremendous cast and very dry sense of humour that is just about perfect. One of the greatest and most memorable British comedy films from a time when a lot of great memorable British comedy films were being produced at the time. So all in all it is definitely well worth owning. Highly Recommended!
Andrew C. Miller – Your Ultimate No.1 Film Fan
Le Cinema Paradiso
WARE, United Kingdom
Watching again this marvellous 1959 British film by the Boulting brothers (director John and producer Roy) with its razor sharp script (courtesy of John B, Alan Hackney and John Harvey), I was struck by the fact that I'm All Right Jack is, whilst being very much a film of its time, just the sort of film that is rarely (if ever) made these days (although Made In Dagenham is probably the closest recent comparator). Following in the wake of the great Ealing Comedies of the previous decade or so and just about coinciding with the start of the more gag and innuendo-based Carry On films, I'm All Right Jack's perceptive satirical take on the workings of industrial management and unions really is unlike pretty much anything (certainly in terms of British films) to have reached the big screen since - this is no doubt partly to do with the migration of any such satire towards TV, but is nevertheless a crying shame.
Of course, not only does the film feature a number of leading comic actors of the time, as Ian Carmichael's innocent little rich boy Stanley Windrush, is infiltrated into his Uncle Bertie's (a superbly slimy Dennis Price) arms factory to (unbeknown to him) ferment industrial unrest for his uncle's own nefarious purposes, thereby antagonising Peter Sellers' superbly officious, Soviet-loving union shop steward Fred Kite, but I'm All Right Jack's entire cast represents one of the finest (principally comedic) casts of its era (and indeed of any era). Once again, I am reminded, via his portrayal of Bertie's business partner (and Stanley's ex-army buddy) the ruthless and duplicitous Sydney DeVere Cox, of what a great and versatile actor Richard Attenborough was - for me, one of the UK's absolute best (viz. Brighton Rock, Guns At Batasi, The Dock Brief, 10 Rillington Place, Seance On A Wet Afternoon, The Angry Silence, the list goes on). We also have Terry-Thomas at his blustering best as the womanising, racist personnel manager Major Hitchcock, together with a whole host of comic talent inhabiting Bertie's factory, including Victor Maddern, the hilariously stuttering Sam Kydd, Kenneth Griffith, Cardew Robinson and Terry Scott. Actress-wise we have the brilliant Irene Handl as Fred's wife and the buxom, glamorous Liz Fraser as her dreamy and flirtatious daughter Cynthia, who has eyes for Stanley. Handl's scene with Stanley's rich Aunt Dolly (the ever impressive Margaret Rutherford) is a standout and is a brilliant take on the film's other major preoccupation, the British class system.
As Boulting's film progresses it becomes clear that its title actually refers to the selfish, me-first culture developing in all echelons of society (here, specifically, to both corrupt management and intransigent unions), which the film-makers contrast (at the start of the film) against the feelings of unity and goodwill emerging in the wake of WW2. Boulting and cinematographer Mutz Greenbaum capture much nicely authentic period detail, such as during the film's early sequences of Stanley's failed attempts to secure employment in detergents, new automated food production and corsets - sequences peppered with new-fangled (and cheesy) advertising jingles and a darkly cynical voiceover.
Although the film (arguably) drifts slightly during its third quarter it fully recovers its form during its superb denouement scene where Stanley finally loses his rag in his uncomfortable 'middle-man' position, denouncing all and sundry ('You're a bounder Uncle Bertie') in an explosive rant, during a TV's 'discussion' programme, hosted by the real-life Malcolm Muggeridge.
For me, a quintessential British comedy, and one of the finest films of its era.