on 3 May 2016
PINK STRING AND SEALING WAX [1945 / 2016] [Ealing Studio Digitally Restored] [Blu-ray] The Story of A BAD WOMAN . . . Who Loved Shamelessly . . . Who Murdered Ruthlessly!
In 1890’s Brighton, the young son of a puritanical chemist longs to escape the repressive environment of his family life and the overbearing restraints of his cruel, pious father. Eventually finding refuge in a local tavern he is immediately attracted to the sordid glamour of the drinking classes and the gritty world that they inhabit. He also finds himself becoming infatuated with the tavern’s landlady, which will inadvertently lead to him being drawn into a plot to kill her abusive husband.
Directed by Robert Hamer [‘Kind Hearts And Coronets’ and ‘School For Scoundrels’], ‘PINK STRING AND SEALING WAX’ stars Googie Withers [‘The Lady Vanishes’], Mervyn Johns [‘Dead Of Night’] and Gordon Jackson [‘Whisky Galore’ and ‘The Quatermass Experiment’] in a film that cleverly entwines the dynamics of a thriller with biting social commentary and a multi-layered plot structure that contrasts the parallels of the British class system. This is part of the “Vintage Classics” collection, showcasing iconic British films, all fully restored and featuring brand new extra content.
Cast: Mervyn Johns, Mary Merrall, Gordon Jackson, Jean Ireland, Sally Ann Howes, Colin Simpson, David Walbridge, Googie Withers, John Carol, Catherine Lacey, Garry Marsh, Pauline Letts, Maudie Edwards, Frederick Piper, John Owers, Helen Goss, Margaret Ritchie, Don Stannard, John Ruddock, Ronald Adam, Charles Carson, Valentine Dyall, David Keir, Amy Dalby (uncredited) and Vincent Holman (uncredited)
Director: Robert Hamer
Producers: Michael Balcon and S.C. Balcon
Screenplay: Diana Morgan, Robert Hamer (script contribution) and Roland Pertwee (play)
Composer: Norman Demuth
Cinematography: Stanley Pavey
Video Resolution: 1080p [Black-and-White]
Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1
Audio: English: 2.0 LPCM Mono Audio
Subtitles: English SDH
Running Time: 89 minutes
Region: Region B/2
Number of discs: 1
Studio: Ealing Studio / StudioCanal
Andrew’s Blu-ray Review: The Ealing Studio's approach to class, culture and tradition, often mixed with a dark subtext and even, or especially, in the comedies for which they are most renowned today, is perhaps shown in its most acerbic form in ‘PINK STRING AND SEALING WAX’ , a film that has now been luminously restored to its formal glory from the original negative for release on this Ealing Studio / StudioCanal Blu-ray. The directorial début of Robert Hamer, who would later on direct the wonderful class based murderous black comedy ‘Kind Hearts and Coronets’ , but the ‘PINK STRING AND SEALING WAX’ film is a drama about life in late Victorian Brighton where social desires mix with drink and debauchery and result in some shocking outcomes.
This 1945 classic ‘PINK STRING AND SEALING WAX’ film gives us an evocative portrayal of Victorian England and is based on a West End play by Roland Pertwee (father of Jon Pertwee, the third Doctor Who), and director Robert Hamer does his best to recreate the draconian outright authority of the family and legal system in an unforgiving tale of emotionally buttoned up men and loose women. The film circulates around the Suttons, a middle class family, in a respectable God-fearing Brighton household a tyrannical husband holds sway. A chemist by profession, Edward Sutton (a masterful Mervyn Johns) has a son David Sutton (a peevish Gordon Jackson) who is employed in the business and crosses paths one night with the louche Pearl Bond (an elegant Googie Withers) who is unhappily married to an abusive pub landlord Joe Bond [Garry Marsh] whom she wishes dead. Naturally David has the means at his disposal, but is he desperate enough to help her out. Diana Morgan’s screenplay is a treat along with a sterling British cast, “Quality Street” cosies and perky bonnets aplenty in this black and white Ealing melodrama.
The film takes place in the South of England, in the town of Brighton, and mostly either happens at the pub or in Sutton’s house, so the limited locations, along with many other factors such as theatrical dramatic lighting and acting, remind of a staged performance. Indeed, the film is based on a play by Roland Pertwee and adopts many theatrical storytelling techniques and transitions between the scenes. On the one hand, it seems as if the movie would have worked much better if was properly adapted for a film medium, however this theatricality creates a strong sense of nostalgia for classical cinema, since this style of storytelling is rarely used in modern cinema.
Although Pearl Bond seems to be the focus of the film, the relationship within the Sutton family is explored in more depth than expected; throughout the film we witness harsh and conservative attitude of Edward Sutton, the father and head of family, towards his children, Peggy Sutton [Sally Ann Howes], Victoria Sutton [Jean Ireland] and David. These sequences are quite monotone and visually ascetic in comparison to the playful and comic scenes with Pearl Bond; however the Sutton family brings more depth into the film and raise a number of moral questions. Edward Sutton accuses David Sutton of writing poems and letters to women, forces Victoria Sutton to give vocal lessons instead of pursuing her dream to become a professional singer and deprives Peggy Sutton of pocket money for feeding his guinea pigs needed for scientific experimentations. Edward Sutton’s overprotective and pedantic care for his family may seem harsh and unreasonable for a modern viewer, but his judgments often prove to be correct, although often being opposed by his children.
The vert opposite is the case for Pearl Bond’s story, is contrasted to the posh middle class Sutton family. She struggles to get along with her drinking husband Joe Bond [Garry Marsh], hence trying to live by her own rules, gossiping and cheating with the pub regulars. The film, therefore, portrays two polarities, two classes with the binary opposites of morality and attitude towards life. Indeed, Edward Sutton’s treatment of his children, although overly strict, is a better way, however not perfect. Both stories offer a lot to learn and allow the viewer to make his/her mind of what is right or wrong by contrasting Pearl Bond and the Suttons family.
Although on the surface of the film ‘PINK STRING AND SEALING WAX’ may seem like an ordinary costume drama, in its essence there is an evident theme of class struggle, as well as the conflict between generations and a thought-provoking question of morality. The contrast of both stories allows the viewer to evaluate those eternal subjects in more detail. The film is quite slow and theatrical which means that more attention will be paid to the dialogue and the interaction between the characters, which are portrayed brilliantly by stunning Googie Withers and a believable patriarch Mervyn Johns. The film is fully restored and contains a number of special features such as interviews, behind-the-scenes stills and a comparison between the original film and the restored version, which allows us to acknowledge how much work has been done to bring this old classic film back to life via the British Film Institute and StudioCanal.
Blu-ray Video Quality – StudioCanal has once again brought you another brilliant stunning looking Ealing Studio ‘PINK STRING AND SEALING WAX’  genre classic film. Presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.37:1 and you get to witness a totally glorious crisp brilliant Black-and-White 1080p image transfer, especially with this really excellent remastered 2K restoration print, and also you get some nice defined close-ups that look so much cleaner. Contrast levels are also better balanced. Some of the most obvious improvements, however, are with shadow definition, and plenty of the night-time footage now appears a lot better balanced nuances. Grain is well resolved and tighter, but in some areas it could be difficult to see the difference and there are various segments where the better balanced contrast levels actually make a bigger difference. Overall the image stability is actually improved and plenty of flicker and sporadic light warping have been totally eliminated and improved totally with StudioCanal's excellent professional work that they always pursue and endeavour with each of their Blu-ray disc releases. Playback Region B/2: This will not play on most Blu-ray players sold in North America, Central America, South America, Japan, North Korea, South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Southeast Asia. Learn more about Blu-ray region specifications.
Blu-ray Audio Quality – StudioCanal has once again brought you another Ealing Studio ‘PINK STRING AND SEALING WAX’  genre classic film. Here we are presented with just one audio track in the form of 2.0 LPCM Mono Audio is in really good shape, which is quite adequate for a film of this calibre. The audio experience is very clean and stable. There are no pops, no audio dropouts, or digital distortions to report with this review. While obviously unable to overcome the technological limitations of the original recording, the track is decently clear, with good prioritisation. The dynamic range is limited and there's not much resonance to the track, but it serves the material well and does its job without incident. Once again StudioCanal Blu-ray release offers a very rich and rewarding audio experience track. So anyone purchasing this particular Blu-ray UK Release will be very well rewarded from the audio experience performance.
Blu-ray Special Features and Extras:
Special Feature: Interview with Joanna McCallum  [1080p] [1.78:1] [15:20] Here we find Joanna McCallum [Daughter of Googie Withers] sitting in a private cinema, and talks about in depth about her mother appearing for the first time in a Ealing Studios film in 1938, and that when Michael Balcon was just starting out as a producer for the Ealign Studios and where Basil Herbert Dean CBE [1888 – 1978], who was an English actor, writer, film producer/film director and theatrical producer/director and one that called the shots in running the Ealing Studios, which he was personally involved with Gracie Fields and George Formby films, as well as among other entertainers of that period, and in fact Googie Withers appeared in one of George Forby’s film. But before that Googie Withers had done a string of other films before that one. But after a film written by J.B. Priestley entitled ‘They Came to a City’  which was a British film directed by Basil Dearden, where the plot concerns the experiences of various people who have come to live in their "ideal" city, and explores their hopes and reasons for doing so, but was a massive flop, but it went onto help Googie Withers to get more dramatic roles, like the film ‘PINK STRING AND SEALING WAX,’ which was so ideal for her, but just before that film Googie Withers appeared in a dramatic role in the film ‘DEAD OF NIGHT’ , but was about certain people arriving at a house and what was different about this film was that it was done by several directors, all doing different horror stories and we get to see a dramatic clip featuring Googie Withers. But Joanna McCallum informs us that her Mum loved the clothes of the Victorian period films, as well as playing the villain in a film. Another interesting fact we here is that Googie Withers was asked to come back to the Ealing Studios after being away for some time and the first film was ‘The Loves of Joanna Godden’  that was directed by Charles Frend and the music was composed by Ralph Vaughan Williams. After that film Googie Withers met her husband, the actor John McCallum, who was from Australia, and they appeared together in a film. John McCallum first heard about Googie Withers while out in the Far East in the Second World War and they use to see films of Googie Withers and there and then decided he wanted to marry this English actress, which eventually of course they did get married. Joanna McCallum talks about Googie Withers and her acting style, which was always feisty brazen women, but away from acting Googie Withers was very funny, but very strangely they tried to show her old films, but hated it and was more enthusiastic preferring to think about her next film. Amazingly, we find out that Googie Withers worked right up until the age of 85, and in October 2007 appeared with Vanessa Redgrave in Oscar Wilde's Lady Windermere's Fan in London's West End. But on the 15th July, 2011 at her Sydney home, aged 94. Her husband John McCallum predeceased her on 3rd February, 2010. But all in all this was a really nice little special feature and a fascinating one on the life and times of Googie Withers and especially hearing Joanna McCallum reminiscing on her mother’s career and obviously was very proud of her and loved her dearly, and also informs us all the people that worked with Googie Withers also loved her, but was really nice at the end when Joanna McCallum was taken to Pinewood Studio on the set of a James Bond film and while touring the main studio, some workers were up above and called out to Googie Withers, but when they came down, Googie Withers remembered all of their names, even though Googie Withers had not been at Pinewood Studios for a very long time. So all in all this was a really enjoyable and especially hearing Joanna McCallum talk about the joys of Googie Withers being her Mum and was very proud of her and misses her greatly and was also a great joy to watch.
Special Feature: Interview with Melanie Williams  [1080p] [1.78:1] [15:17] Here we find Melanie Williams [Senior Lecturer in Film Studies at the University of East Anglia] sitting in the same private cinema that we saw Joanna McCallum in. Here Melanie Williams is focusing on the Women actors at Ealing Studios and talks in depth about the film ‘PINK STRING AND SEALING WAX,’ which previously was a very successful stage play by Roland Pertwee, but then went onto be adapted for the Ealing Studios film, which was directed by the brilliant Robert Hamer, who was Ealing Studios most distinguished and interesting director. But Ealing Studios at the height of their filming was really only interested in making films of the Victorian period genre and of course they also did adaptions to Charles Dickens stories. They also did films like ‘Champagne Charlie’  that was a British musical film directed by Alberto Cavalcanti and loosely based on the rivalry between the popular music hall performers. Other films of this genre were ‘Fanny by Gaslight’  which was about a Victorian aristocrat who keeps an evil lord away from a Member of Parliament's illegitimate daughter. But in Malcolm Balcon’s autobiography, he admitted that they were not very good with women, as a bulk of their films were mainly male oriented, but of course later on this was not the case, as they did do a lot of films that featured women, like ‘It Always Rains On A Sunday’ ; ‘Dance Hall’ ; ‘Frida’  and ‘Against the Wind’ . Melanie Williams talks in depth about Diana Morgan who was the main contract screenwriter and had a lot of male misogynous attitude towards her in a male dominated environment at Ealing Studios and was caused by the men always wanted to go down to the pub to talk over films and schedules, whereas Diana Morgan preferred to go home to her Husband and children. Melanie Williams talks about another famous actress that worked in Ealing Studios films and that was Joan Greenwood, who tended to play slinky vampy femme fatale posh women, who they used a lot in comedy films around the 1940s period. Melanie Williams feels that Googie Withers was up there with the best top actresses of that period, where she showed her true self as powerful women who takes no prisoners in the Ealing Studios films, which brought out her best acting skills and performances. Once again this was a really fascinating special on the Ealing Studios and the women involved with the studios and Melanie Williams is a very knowledgeable young lady and it was totally fascinating hearing about all the low down on this very famous English film studios.
Special Feature: Stills Gallery  [1080p] Here you get to view 10 stunning Black-and-White publicity photos of behind-the-scene of the film ‘PINK STRING AND SEALING WAX.’ You have to press the NEXT button on your remote to view all of the images.
Special Feature: Restoration Comparison  [1080p] [1.37:1] [2:29] here you get to view the old print of ‘PINK STRING AND SEALING WAX,’ then with a screen wipe you get revealed the brand new stunning remastered print and the difference is outstanding. But you also get to view images at the same time of the damaged print side by side the outstanding remastered print image. At the same time you get to hear the dramatic film score in the background.
Finally, ‘PINK STRING AND SEALING WAX’ is an essential addition to any collection of Ealing Studio films as it reflects many different aspects of the studio's output. It's a marvellous socially conscious dramatic thriller about families and murder. A lot of people have been asking and enquiring why the film is specifically entitled ‘PINK STRING AND SEALING WAX,’ well at first I was also very puzzled, but at the start of the film we find ourselves in the Sutton pharmacists shop, where an old lady is asking for some remedy towards a problematic bodily function that is occurring on a regular basis and asks Mr. Sutton for a remedy, which he insightfully recommends some pills, which the old lady gladly excepts his diagnosis, well at that point he wraps up the pill box with paper, pink string and sealing wax and that of course is the reason why the film was given the very subtle title of the film and the crux of the film that really centres around Mr. Sutton and his pharmacists shop that holds the story and film together. Despite the film giving us a slice of quaint, obviously old-fashioned look at Victorian life, compared in terms of modern filming techniques, but director Robert Hamer, a very talented man whose personal demons nearly sabotaged his career, again demonstrated his skill with actors and sustaining an intriguing tone, went onto direct the film ‘It Always Rains on Sunday’ . If you were looking for a period drama that was a little different, and especially in a good way, then this one is just the ticket, as it brings the England of the Victorian period to life, which is the best thing this film accomplishes from beginning to film credits. The black, high-necked, rustling Sunday-best clothes which the church-going women wear contrast violently with the billowing cleavages of the bad women that regularly frequent the pub. The unrelenting tyranny of the lord and master of the respectable family is offset by the free-and-easy beatings-up of the naughty gals that receive at the hands of tyrannical husbands and sweethearts, in giving us a side of English Victorian life, and especially in this interesting and brilliant Ealing Studio film, which has enough charm and charisma to appeal to the any film enthusiast and not simply film buffs at heart and especially with an interest in the Ealing Studio’s back catalogue. A fine restoration job has been done here, bringing the film a new lease of life and that, combined with the attractive design and informative bonus features makes this a must have purchase, that is the tops. Highly Recommended!
Andrew C. Miller – Your Ultimate No.1 Film Fan
Le Cinema Paradiso
WARE, United Kingdom