The Four Feathers (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]
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This spectacular Technicolor epic, directed by Zoltán Korda (Jungle Book), is considered the finest of the many adaptations of A.E.W. Mason’s classic 1902 adventure novel about the British Empire’s exploits in Africa, and a crowning achievement of Alexander Korda’s legendary production company, London Films. Set at the end of the nineteenth century, The Four Feathers follows the travails of a young officer (Rembrandt’s John Clements) accused of cowardice after he resigns his post on the eve of a major deployment to Khartoum; he must fight to redeem himself in the eyes of his fellow officers (including The Fallen Idol’s Ralph Richardson) and fiancée (The Thief of Bagdad’s June Duprez). Featuring music by Miklós Rózsa (The Killers) and Oscar-nominated cinematography by Georges Périnal (The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp), The Four Feathers is a thrilling, thunderous epic.
SPECIAL EDITION FEATURES • New high-definition digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition • Audio commentary by film historian Charles Drazin • New video interview with David Korda, son of director Zoltán Korda • A Day at Denham, a short film from 1939 featuring footage of Zoltán Korda on the set of The Four Feathers • Trailer • PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by critic Michael Sragow
Far too many film versions of the The Four Feathers have been made over the years, which is especially surprising considering that this 1939 Korda brothers production is surely definitive. The film simultaneously celebrates and pokes fun at British imperialism, showing the kind of dogged stiff-upper-lippery that forged an Empire, but also the blinkered attitudes and crass snobbishness of the ruling classes (and those accents--did people ever really talk like that?). Whatever political subtext may or may not be read into it, though, the film is best celebrated for its magnificent vistas: partially made on location in the Sudan, as well as at the famous Denham Studios, this is British cinema from the days when it thought to rival Hollywood for sheer spectacle. Vincent Korda's production design and the glorious early color cinematography are helped greatly by fellow Hungarian émigré Miklos Rozsa's epic score.
John Clements is the notional hero, the man who determines to show the world that he is not a coward after resigning his commission (even though it would surely have saved everyone a lot of bother if he had just stuck with it) but the film is stolen by Ralph Richardson, magnificent as an officer struck blind and led to safety by Clements' Harry Faversham. The later scenes when Richardson's Capt. Durrance realizes the truth and its implications are the most poignant and emotionally truthful in the film. C. Aubrey Smith is delightful as the old buffer who relives his battles on the dinner table; to a modern audience, however, the "blackface" casting of John Laurie as the Khalifa strikes a discordant note. But adjusting some expectations for its vintage, this is a triumph of derring-do and far and away the most gripping version of this oft-told story on film. --Mark Walker --This text refers to the DVD edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
The original novel upon which the film is loosely based was penned by A.E.W. Mason and has an actual excuse for being somewhat flimsy: Following the bloody outbreak of World War I, Mason wrote the story as a mere identity cover while doing espionage work for the British government. He was able to scout northern Africa under this guise of an accomplished author gleaning material for the plot of the novel.
The plot of "Four Feathers" is simple yet engrossing: A young man, Harry Faversham (the dashing John Clements), is brought up by his distant father (Allan Jeayes) in a lonely household steeped in Imperial tradition which values courage and honor above happiness or life itself. His natural human instinct of self-preservation is accentuated into possible cowardice by the horrifying war stories told around the dinner table by old veterans. As he matures, Faversham falls deeply in love with Ethne Burroughs (the radiantly beautiful June Dupréz) and decides that he would rather spend his life in his own way than be trapped in the futile repetitiveness that is a soldier family.Read more ›
This 1939 film is a really excellent film; its exciting with a great plot and terrific character development. I highly recommend it to anyone over age 12.
And normally Criterion Collection obtains or makes excellent restorations.
*HOWEVER* in my opinion several segments of this version of this film are poorly restored. I do not recommend this version of this film (restored sometime prior to April 2013).
It made me nauseous. I had to stop watching after 45 minutes and resume watching the next day. Vertical scratches on some opening scenes, red and green fringes in too many later scenes. Reducing the color level to give pale colors considerably reduced the discomfort, but a newer restoration with better computer equipment would eliminate the problem.
I hope that one day Criterion Collection or someone else makes a better restoration of what is a great film.
(From having watched the descriptions of other properly restored Criterion Collections I can say that the green and red fringes come from the fact that early Technicolor films used 3 negatives. The 3 negatives would have slightly different shrink rates, meaning that the red, green or blue images would differ slightly in size causing these fringes. Normally computer restoration fixes this problem. In this version of the film the problem remains.)
From Criterion Collections website:
New high-definition digital restoration (with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the
Blu-ray edition) [As I say above, I thought the restoration was poor. Simply not up to Criterion Collection standards in my opinion.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
One of the best movies from the 1930s, and much better than the Heath Ledger version. The acting is solid, and the history (Britain vs. the Madhi) is almost accurate IMO.Published 19 months ago by Scarberian
You sent me a copy of The Four Feathers in PAL: We Don't use PAL in North America.Published on July 5 2014 by John Sciberras
I really enjoy the old movies. I found this version much more detailed than the newer one with Heath Ledger so was very pleased that I had purchased it.Published on Jan. 22 2014 by Debra M. Michaud
This is a classic war movie in every sense. The story, the setting and the artistry are wonderful. A great addition to any war-buff's collection.Published on Oct. 4 2013 by Bruce Cowan
suberb acting and story...really capivated me. Would highly recommend this movie as it's very, very enjoyable. Incredible acting and storyPublished on April 25 2013 by Hezzie