Chimes at Midnight (1965)

Needless to say, finding THIS recently was a surprise, to say the least; I was under the impression the UK DVD of the film released by Cornerstone was exclusive to HMV there, so it was interesting to find it on import here (not too unreasonably priced)… even more so cos the film remains locked in posthumous legal limbo (in this case it seems to be mostly on the late Harry Saltzman’s side), so technically it probably shouldn’t be available at all. From what I read, apart from the long-vanished Spanish DVD, French and Italian issues have also come and hastily gone, so maybe I did well to at least get my hands on this one in case it eventually does the same… Anyway, I bought it without, admittedly, having done any research into the quality (I mean, it’s not like I was expecting to actually own the bloody thing), and, well, that post facto research was not heartening, and yeah, aurally I didn’t find it as problematic as most reviews of the film claim it is (maybe I just don’t notice sync problems like others do?) but visually, eh. Non-anamorphic and interlaced dreadfully thanks to a clearly ho-hum NTSC>PAL conversion, too bright as well… how sad that seemingly no one can pull theirs heads out of their arses to give this the release it deserves. Cos the film itself is terrific; I know you read all the time that it’s one of Welles’ best films, one of the best Shakespeare adaptations ever, all that, and it’s true, this really is an amazing piece of filmmaking. Welles finds an emotional devastation in the new King Henry V’s rejection of his old carousing partner that I don’t think I ever got from actually reading the end of 2 Henry IV, and the whole Battle of Shrewsbury business (shot by none other than JESS FRANCO of all people) really is astounding. In short, a film that should never have been allowed to slip into the abyss it seems to be stuck in unless you can access the grey market…

EDIT (15/10/14): About a year after I wrote the above, the Mr Bongo label issued their own disc of Chimes, which fact I only discovered today when I actually found it at Title in Surry Hills, where I also found the Cornerstone abomination. Not wanting to get burned again, I asked the man behind the counter to do an online check for me to make sure it was OK, and, happily, it proves to do so, anamorphic, native PAL transfer, and with actual contrast (indeed, I’d actually found a Youtube copy that was superior to the Cornerstone DVD, which I now suspect probably came from this one). However, I know from my own previous reading that Mr Bongo’s business practices leave something to be desired at times, and one review I later found myself suggests this particular edition is, in fact, a clone of doubtful legality of the French edition by Studio Canal that was available very briefly a long time ago before Beatrice Welles urged them at lawyer-point to withdraw it. So still (probably) no good legit copy of Chimes out there. Still, legally dodgy though it may still be, I’ll still settle for the Bongo disc as being markedly less technically dodgy than the other one…

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