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David Lean Directs Noel Coward (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]

Noel Coward    Unrated   Blu-ray

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Product Details

  • Actors: Noel Coward
  • Format: Full Screen, Subtitled, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region A/1
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.77:1
  • Number of discs: 4
  • MPAA Rating: UNRATED
  • Studio: Criterion
  • Release Date: March 27 2012
  • ASIN: B006ML50RE
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #33,573 in DVD (See Top 100 in DVD)

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Amazon.com: 4.5 out of 5 stars  17 reviews
24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Criterion's celebration of David Lean and Noel Coward may be the year's best box set April 3 2012
By Alan W. Petrucelli - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Blu-ray
Criterion, who probably makes more film fans happier than any other company, has just released David Lean Directs Noel Coward. An odd pairing, at first glance---the man who directed such epics as Lawrence of Arabia, Doctor Zhivago and The Bridge on the River Kwai---with the premier light comedy actor/author/composer of the twentieth century. Even odder is the choice of material: A world class war story about the sinking of a ship; a world class romance about lost love; a world class picture of the British lower-middle class; and the world class comedy fantasy of the last century, respectively In Which We Serve, Brief Encounter, This Happy Breed and Blithe Spirit. Perhaps even more surprising is that all four were made during a period of about three years, from 1942 to 1945.
Briefly, all four films are extraordinary examples of propaganda at its best. Lean and Coward were both fervently patriotic, and England was the underdog at the time in a war. Lean was just beginning his astonishing career; Coward had just finished a dozen or so years of incredible success on the stage, but considerably less success, or even attempts, at a film career. In 1941, Germany bombed London for 57 consecutive evenings.
Coward wrote and Lean directed these films, with Coward playing the lead for In Which We Serve. Coward also produced, wrote the screenplay, composed the score, and officially codirected, though he handed the reigns to Lean in his directorial debut.
Coward was entertaining the troops during the shooting of the other three films, yet his mark is clearly visible in each films. The cameraman for the quartet was Ronald Neame, perhaps less a household name, yet later the director such gems as The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, I Could Go on Singing and The Horse's Mouth.
In Which We Serve is the story of a ship, sunk off the coast of Crete during the war. Based on incidences in the life of Coward's great friend Lord Louis Mountbatten, flashbacks tell the story of the few remaining survivors, clinging to a lifeboat, waiting for rescue. In lesser hands, this narrative technique would be worse than banal, but the creators, relying so very strongly on flashbacks, allow the audience to see war through the eyes of the women left at home, waiting, not knowing when or if their sons, husbands or boyfriends will return.
Brief Encounter is based on a slight one-act play Coward wrote for Tonight at 8:30 entitled Still Life. A man and a woman, both more or less happily married to other people, meet quite by accident in a train station. To the overused strains of Rachmaninoff, they fall hopelessly, helplessly and enormously in lover. Again, in lesser hands, this stiff-upper-lip-do-the-right-thing sort of drama could be cloying and irritating, but the moral quandary this couple feels somehow slips into the audience's brain, and the horrible realization that although love is usually just nifty, it can cause extraordinary heartache and pain. Parenthetically, Andre Previn has just turned this text into an opera.
This Happy Breed, an ordinary story about an ordinary family living an ordinary life just before the war, grabs the audience with its specificity and universality, until the ordinary becomes extraordinary, and the small pains and pleasures of everyday life insinuates into the audience's psyche. Based on an early play of Coward and drawing on his own lower-middle class background, the triumph here is really Robert Newton and Celia Johnson as the father and mother experiencing the trials and triumphs of everyday life.
The final film, Blithe Spirit, is perhaps the most well known. Rex Harrison stars as an author, re-married after the death of his first wife, hiring psychic Margaret Rutherford to perform a séance so he can learn the lingo of the telepathic trade for his new book. Alas, Madame Arcarti, Rutherford's character, somewhat ineptly brings back the ghost of his first wife, with hilarity and confusion ensuing.
Criterion's restruck prints are wonderful, the extras are pretty astounding, with the complete South Bank show on Coward and some lovely interviews with author and critic Barry Day who has made Coward very much something of his own cottage industry. Day resembles someone who might be in an unexpurgated Alice in Wonderland, but has that fuzzy British charm which can be so endearing. All in all, we owe a deep debt of gratitude to Criterion.
Now, if we could get them to clean up and release the nearly unavailable films Coward acted in, such as The Scoundrel, The Astonished Heart, and perhaps even the television version of Blithe Spirit?
19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars David Lean & Noel Coward March 22 2012
By Michael B. Druxman - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD
The Criterion Collection has released DAVID LEAN DIRECTS NOEL COWARD, a four-disc boxed set containing the quartet of films that the two artists made together during the first half of 1940s. The collection is being released in both Blu-Ray and DVD editions. This reviewer's remarks are based on the DVD set.

All four films, two of which are in Technicolor, have been magnificently remastered. The colors are brilliant and balanced; the black-and-white images sharp and solid.

I'm not going to use much space talking about the individual movies, since anybody who decides to purchase this collection will, undoubtedly, be well familiar with them.

IN WHICH WE SERVE (1942) was co-directed by Coward and Lean and deals with a ship of the Royal Navy, sunk in the Mediterranean during the early days of World War II. This event occurs at the start of the picture, thus most of the narrative is told via flashback as the survivors cling to a life raft, being strafed by German planes while they await rescue.

Coward plays the ship's captain, and we follow his story, as well as the histories of several crew members. Among the cast in this stirring film, nominated for a Best Picture Oscar,are John Mills, Bernard Miles, Celia Johnson, Kay Walsh, Michael Wilding and Richard Attenborough.

THIS HAPPY BREED (1944) is the story of an average middle class British family seen over a period of twenty years, from the end of The Great War to just before the beginning of World War II. It is a tale of the vicissitudes of life.

The Technicolor film stars Robert Newton, Celia Johnson, John Mills, Kay Walsh and Stanley Holloway.

BLITHE SPIRIT (1945), also in color, is a sparkling comedy about a man (Rex Harrison) who must explain to his present wife (Kay Hammond) why his late wife (Constance Cummings) has decided to haunt them. Margaret Rutherford plays the wacky medium who has brought the poor fellow's problems about. The players are all in top form. A delightful fantasy, adapted from Coward's popular stage play.

BRIEF ENCOUNTER (1945) is one of the finest romantic films ever produced, an absorbing love story, adapted from Coward's play, STILL LIFE.

The plot is very simple. Married doctor Trevor Howard and suburban housewife Celia Johnson happen to meet on a train platform and enter into a quietly passionate, ultimately, doomed, love affair.

This collection includes a fabulous cornucopia of extras. Among them are new interviews on all the films with Noel Coward scholar Barry Day, a 2010 interview with cinematographer/screenwriter/producer Ronald Neame, documentaries on the making of IN WHICH WE SERVE and BRIEF ENCOUNTER, a 1971 television documentary on David Lean, a 1969 audio conversation between Coward and Richard Attenborough, a 1992 British television show about the life and career of Coward and much more, including a 46 page booklet filled with essays about the various movies and the talented men who made them.

© Michael B. Druxman
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An elegant collection, worthy of "double dip" . . . April 20 2012
By Jrum C. - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD
Am still thrilled with my 9 film Korean release David Lean DVD Collection Box Set [9 Discs, Import, All Regions] (Oliver Twist /Great Expectations / Blithe Spirit / This Happy Breed /Brief Encounter /Madeleine /The Sound Barrier /Hobson's Choice) (+ "Passionate Friends", unlisted), so was a bit hesitant to buy the Criterion set (after all, 9-set was only missing "In Which We Serve", which was only previously available as public domain release). Bit the bullet, spent $55 for THIS set (after spending $47 for 1st set). Summary: a most worthy addition to library. Criterion set has the 4 listed films, including a wonderfully restored "Serve", numerous extra features (as listed in product description), a 45 page booklet, and just flat-out classy packaging (each film has own case -hardboard w/film photos, and plastic tray-), including shiny black accents for all film titles, all housed in similarly designed box. Substantial extra features, and now having clean copy of "In Which We Serve" (with subtitles!), made this a worthy purchase! (BUT: if your budget only allows for one set, still consider the Korean one. Has only a few extra features, but ALL films are very crisp/clean in video and audio. Don't be 'put-off' by foreign packaging -it is still a lovely box set- and audio/subs ARE in English!) To close, please don't disparage (too harshly!) this review. Yes, the Criterion is a magnificent set, but a lover of film might just want to enjoy even more terrific DL titles for same amount!
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What a magnificent upgrade on this blu ray box set!! Thank you Criterion! May 21 2012
By Monty Britton - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Blu-ray|Verified Purchase
I already own the Korean nine film DVD set of David Lean films (minus In Which We Serve)David Lean DVD Collection Box Set [9 Discs, Import, All Regions] (Oliver Twist /Great Expectations / Blithe Spirit / This Happy Breed /Brief Encounter /Madeleine /The Sound Barrier /Hobson's Choice), so I was hesitant on upgrading to blu ray. The Korean DVDs look really good, but these Criterion prints look amazing!! I fell in love with these movies (especially Brief Encounter) all over again. Too bad there are only four films. This set makes me crave for more of David Lean's older films on blu ray. Criterion has always done a great job with restoring these classics and so glad to see these get upgraded to blu ray! Can't say which one looks the best, all of these films look brilliant. Blithe Spirit really looks good with its rich colors that really stand out. While the detail in the black and white fims like Brief Encounter really looks amazing! And every film comes with its own special features.
This is hands down Criterion's best blu ray set and worthy to be in every film lover's collection.
Set like this makes me a big fan of the blu ray format. Thanks again to Criterion for giving us film lover's a great collection. Another great blu ray set from you guys!
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A big upgrade in quality! April 26 2012
By William C. Saul - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Blu-ray|Verified Purchase
These four David Lean/Noel Coward films are definately worth the upgrade from the non-remastered editions. The color in "This Happy Breed" and "Blithe Spirit" is especially a big improvement from earlier editions. It's well worth the price!

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