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SPECIFICATIONS
  • 1.66:1 Widescreen
  • English PCM Mono
  • English subtitles
  • 1 Disc
FEATURES
  • Interview from 2003 with director Ronald Neame
  • Audio interview from 2002 with actor John Mills
  • Original theatrical trailer
  • Insert featuring an essay by acclaimed film critic and historian Robert Murphy
  • Television interview from 1973 with actor Alec Guinness

Tunes of Glory

Blu-ray
Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: Ronald Neame
1960 | 106 Minutes | Licensor: Janus Films

Release Information
Blu-ray | MSRP: $39.95 | Series: The Criterion Collection | Edition: #225
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Release Date: December 3, 2019
Review Date: December 1, 2019

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SYNOPSIS

In Ronald Neame’s Tunes of Glory, the incomparable Alec Guinness plays Jock Sinclair—a whiskey-drinking, up-by-the-bootstraps commanding officer of a peacetime Scottish battalion. A lifetime military man, Sinclair expects respect and loyalty from his men. But when Basil Barrow (John Mills)—an educated, by-the-book scion of a military family—enters the scene as Sinclair’s replacement, the two men engage in a fierce struggle for control of both the battalion and the hearts and minds of its men. Based on the novel by James Kennaway and featuring flawless performances by Guinness and Mills, Tunes of Glory uses the rigid stratification of military life to comment on the institutional contradictions and class hierarchies of English society, making for an unexpectedly moving drama.


PICTURE

Since Ronald Neame’s Hopscotch managed to snag a Blu-ray upgrade it should probably be no surprise that his 1960 film, Tunes of Glory, now receives its own Blu-ray upgrade over Criterion’s previous DVD edition (I was, admittedly, a bit surprised by the announcement). Presented on this dual-layer disc in its original aspect ratio of 1.66:1, the 1080p/24hz high-definition encode comes from a new 4K restoration, scanned from the 35mm original camera negative.

Two-seconds after the opening credits it clear this new presentation obliterates the old DVD, though not without an issue of its own. The DVD still had some source damage (particularly an odd tramline that popped up in the last reel of the film) and was noticeably compressed and noisy, while this new high-definition presentation corrects all of those issues and then some. Compression is not an issue at all here, with a clear and sharp film-like image. Details are staggering and I don’t know how to describe the picture’s crispness other than “life-like.” Every fine detail, from the textures of the uniforms to strands of hair to the stones of the courtyard to the fine grain structure of the film elements themselves, just pops off the screen. It looks staggeringly good in this regard and I was just shocked by it.

What throws the image off a little bit is that the colours lean significantly warmer in comparison to the DVD, with everything taking on a more yellow hue, meaning white shirts and snow look more yellow than white. This could be—as I’ve said previously with some other restorations that showed the same colour scheme—intentional, but it does throw off black levels, and crushing is evident in a few darker shots, or shots heavier in shadow. The DVD, at the very least, didn’t show a similar look in its colours, with them looking a bit more natural in the area. This aspect is a shame, and a bit disappointing, but every other aspect of this presentation is exceptional.

8/10

All Blu-ray screen captures come from the source disc and have been shrunk from 1920x1080 to 900x506 and slightly compressed to conserve space. While they are not exact representations they should offer a general idea of overall video quality.

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AUDIO

The film’s soundtrack gets a lossless upgrade with the PCM 1.0 mono presentation found here. The sound is a bit sharper and I found fidelity and range to be better, though still limited. Dialogue is clear (some in North America may have issues with accents, though) and music is clean, not sounding edgy or harsh.

6/10

SUPPLEMENTS

The same features from the DVD have been ported over. Ronald Neame’s 2002 interview (recorded for the DVD) first makes it over. Here the director talks about being drawn to the script and recalls the casting of Mills and Guinness (Guinness would only do the film if he could play Sinclair) and various anecdotes around the production. It’s also his favourite film, despite it not being successful financially. This interview runs 23-minutes.

Criterion then includes interviews with the film’s stars (who, according to Neame in the previous interview, had a disagreement over who should have top billing). John Mills sat down to record an audio interview for the DVD in 2002, and here he talks a little about the film and his character, explaining what drew him to the film. He also comments on working with Guinness, who was suggested here by the interviewer, and by Neame previously, to be a borderline method actor (keeping himself in character between takes), though Mills shoots that down saying neither he nor Guinness practiced that “nonsense.” Criterion also presents the same excerpt found on the DVD from a television program called Film Extra, featuring Alec Guinness. Here Guinness talks about his draw to acting, getting his roles for David Lean’s adaptations of Great Expectations and Oliver Twist, and then his work for Ealing Studios. He also explains a key disadvantage to film acting in comparison to stage acting (it basically comes down to your performance being altered during editing of the script or the final film) and talks a bit about the possibility of film directing, though he would only do so if he found material good for him (obviously he never did). They’re both short (running 14-minutes and 15-minutes respectively) but entertaining and insightful, particularly in Guinness’ own thoughts on acting.

The film’s original theatrical trailer then closes the disc (the presentation looking a bit better in comparison to the DVD) and Robert Murphy’s same short essay on the film is found in the included insert. The interviews are good but the scholarly angle is still missing (Murphy’s essay doesn’t fill this void entirely) and at the higher price point (in comparison to the DVD’s lower one) they’re even less satisfying.

5/10

CLOSING

The supplements are good but leave one wanting in the end. The presentation, on the other hand, goes well and beyond what I was expecting, despite the colours.


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