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Lord of the Flies – The Criterion Collection #43 (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

July 18, 2013 by  



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The Criterion Collection has given us a magnificent and also a definitive Blu-ray release of “Lord of the Flies”!   This is the best version of the film on video to date and for anyone who grew up with the film, any cineaste who absolutely loved the film for its storyline, filmmaking or unhindered direction, “Lord of the Flies” on Blu-ray is an essential film that deserves to be in the collection of any cinema fan.   Highly recommended!

Image are courtesy of © 1963 Lord of the Flies Company. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Lord of the Flies – The Criterion Collection #43

YEAR OF FILM: 1963

DURATION: 90 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 1:37:1 aspect ratio, Black and White, Monaural, Subtitles: English SDH

COMPANY: Janus Films/THE CRITERION COLLECTION

RELEASE DATE: July 16, 2013

Based on the Novel by William Golding

Directed by Peter Brook

Produced by Lewis M. Allen

Associate Producer: Gerald Feil

Executive Producer: Al Hine

Music by Raymond Leppard

Cinematography by Tom Hollyman

Edited by Peter Brook, Gerald Feil, Jean-Claude Lubtchansky

Casting by Terry Fay, Michael McDonald

Starring:

James Aubrey as Ralph

Tom Chapin as Jack

Hugh Edwards as Piggy

Roger Elwin as Roger

Tom Gaman as Simon

Roger Allan as Piers

David Brunjes as Donald

Peter Davy as Peter

Kent Fletcher as Percival Wemys Madison

Nicholas Hammond as Robert

Christopher Harris as Bill

Alan Heaps as Neville

Jonathan Heaps as Howard

Burnes Hollyman as Douglas

Andrew Horne asMatthew

Richard Horne as Lance

Timothy Horne as Leslie

Peter Ksiezopolski as Francis

Athony McCall-Judson as Morris

Malcolm Rodker as Harold

David St. Clair as George

Rene Sanflorenzo Jr. as Charles

Jeremy Scuse as Rowland

John Stableford as Digby

In the hands of the renowned experimental theater director Peter Brook, William Golding’s legendary novel about the primitivism lurking beneath civilization becomes a film as raw and ragged as the lost boys at its center. Taking an innovative documentary-like approach, Brook shot Lord of the Flies with an off-the-cuff naturalism, seeming to record a spontaneous eruption of its characters’ ids. The result is a rattling masterpiece, as provocative as its source material.

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English novelist Sir William Golding is known for many award winning books.  From “Rites of Passage” from the “To the Ends of the Earth” trilogy to “The Inheritors”, “Pincher Martin” and “Free Fall”, Golding is best known for his 1954 novel “Lord of the Flies”.

The novel which has been voted in many polls for “Best English-language novels” and was voted #68 on the American Library Association’s “Most Frequently Challenged Books”, was not a great success when it first was released in 1954 but overtime it became a best-seller and would be required reading for many schools and colleges.

The film has received three film adaptations but the most popular is the 1963 film adaptation by filmmaker Peter Brook.  A film that was originally slated for six months of production, the film went into production much longer and released in theaters in 1963.

“Lord of the Flies” was nominated for a Golden Palm at the 1963 Cannes Film Festival and as the books have been required reading in schools for decades, the film has also been circulated in schools as required watching.

Having been released on DVD by the Criterion Collection back in 2000, the film has now received a new 4K digital transfer courtesy of the Criterion Collection and was released on Blu-ray and DVD in July 2013 with more special features than its older DVD counterpart.

“Lord of the Flies” revolves around a group of schoolboys who were evacuated from England during wartime and survived a plane crash which have left them on a remote island.

The film begins with an introduction to two characters, Ralph and the intelligent boy known as Piggy (a nickname that the boy doesn’t like).  As the two get to know each other, they find a conch shell and when Ralph blows into it, it attracts other survivors from the jungle.

But everyone quickly learns that no adults have survived, only the schoolboys.  And while the group of children are talking, they hear singing coming from a group of school choir boys led by a boy named Jack.

While Jack appears to be the most active and vocal and easily shuts down the other vocal person speaking, Piggy, Ralph wants every surviving person to vote and appoint a chief.  The boys vote for Ralph and the goal for Ralph is to keep things civilized and using Piggy’s classes to start a fire, hopefully alert some planes that their are survivors on the island that need to be rescued.  Another rule is that those holding the conch shell are allowed to speak during the assemblies.

But as Ralph tries to keep things civilized, Jack and the other choir boys start making wooden spears and becoming warriors of the group who intend to hunt and protect the group.  Also, Jack has a knife which can kill animals.

But one day after Jack and his group managed to find a pig to kill, the fire that Jack and his group were to maintain dies out and a plane overhead misses the island, which angers Ralph.  As Piggy tries to join in and admonish Jack, Jack slaps him and breaks his glasses.  This leads to a disagreement between Ralph and Jack and Jack tries to reinforce that because of them, they get to eat and they are protected.

Not long after, children start to talk about a beast that comes out of the water and with Jack becoming more violent and obsessed with this beast, he and his choir boys leave the group to create a new tribe without rules.  Jack becomes obsessed that a head must be offered to the beast and one day, a boy named Simon looks at the pig’s head and thinks of it as the “Lord of the Flies”.

But when a disagreement between Ralph and Jack leads to the splitting of the group, what happens when the majority of the group sides with Jack and their behavior starts to change and everyone begins acting like savages.

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VIDEO:

“Lord of the Flies – The Criterion Collection #43” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:37:1 aspect ratio). Having owned the previous Criterion Collection DVD release, the biggest difference is the HD version features much better contrast and detail.  There is no blurring, details from the paint on the boy’s skin, even other visuals such as mosquito bites on Piggy’s legs seem much more clearer in this latest print.  But the film looks so much better on Blu-ray and this is the best version of “Lord of the Flies” that I have seen to date.  Whites and grays are better contrast, black levels are nice and deep… Great digital transfer!

According to the Criterion Collection, the Blu-ray release was “supervised by cameraman and editor Gerald Feild, this new digital transfer was created in 4K resolution on an ARRISCAN film scanner from a 35 mm composite fine grain and a 35 mm duplicate negative; the restoration was then performed in 2K resolution.  Thousands of instances of dirt, debris, scratches, splices, warp, and jitter were manually removed using MTI’s DRS and Pixel Farm’s PFClean, while Image Systems’ Phoenix was used for small dirt, grain, noise reduction and flicker.

AUDIO:

“Lord of the Flies – The Criterion Collection #43” is presented in monaural LPCM 1.0. Dialogue is clear and I did not notice any pops, hiss or crackle during my viewing of the film.

According to the Criterion Collection, “The original monaural soundtrack was remastered at 24-bit from the 35 mm optical track print. Clicks, thumps, hiss and hum were manually removed using Pro Tools HD. Crackle was attenuated using AudioCube’s integrated workstation.”

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Lord of the Flies – The Criterion Collection #43” comes with the following special features:

  • Audio commentary – Featuring a 1993 audio commentary with director Peter Brooke, producer Lewis Allen, director of photography Tom Hollyman and cameraman/editor Gerald Feil.
  • Novel Reading – While watching the entire film, listen to a 1977 recording from Random House’s Listening Library as author William Golding discusses the making of “Lord of the Flies” and reads passages from his novel.
  • Behind the Scenes  – (15:37) Featuring home movies and tests, outtakes, production scrapbook with commentary by director Peter Brook,  producer Lewis Allen, director of photography Tom Hollyman and cameraman/editor Gerald Feil.
  • Deleted Scene – (1:57) A deleted scene which one can watch with the soundtrack, commentary by director Peter Brook,  producer Lewis Allen, director of photography Tom Hollyman and cameraman/editor Gerald Feil or with reading.
  • Peter Brook Interview – (32:31) A 2008 interview with director Peter Brook about the adaptation and complicated production history of “Lord of the Flies”.
  • The South Bank Show: William Golding – (24:35) Featuring an episode of “The South Bank Show” from November 16, 1980 with an interview with William Golding.
  • The Empty Space – (16:32) A 1975 documentary on Peter Brook’s methods as a theater director.
  • Living Lord of the Flies – (6:08) Tom Gauman’s (who played Simon) video essay which he wrote back in 1998 featuring footage from the behind-the-scenes of “Lord of the Flies”.
  • Trailer – The original theatrical trailer for “Lord of the Flies”.

EXTRAS:

“Lord of the Flies – The Criterion Collection #43” comes with a 30-page booklet featuring the essay “Trouble in Paradise” by Geoffrey Macnab and “Peter Brook: On the Making of Lord of the Flies”.

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“Lord of the Flies” is one of the few films that I watched when I was a student in school and appreciated more as an adult.

While I praise the film for taking on a daring theme of how innocent youths can be driven to savagery, using first time actors or unknown actors but also experimenting with various cinematic styles, when I was younger, “Lord of the Flies” was one of those films that the teacher had students watch while they left class or had to grade papers and needed the students to be kept busy by watching the film.

I’m not sure how many times I actually watched this film when I was younger but I do know that as a youngster, I was often upset by this film mainly due to the tragedies and I suppose part of me at the time, would want to see some misfortune come to the aggressors responsible for the tragedies.

But as I was then and am now, still captivated by the storyline of ordinary school kids having to grow up quickly as they have become castaways and seeing how children would make  the decisions of aligning themselves not for strategy but for someone strong, that made them feel they were going to be protected and fed.  The primary protagonist of Ralph and Piggy were the symbol of civilized citizens wanting decorum, peace and to see how many of the children are slowly corrupted and who become savages.

While this made impressive cinema then, even in the ’80s when I grew up, “Lord of the Flies” was a thought-provoking film that encouraged discussion and debate in class.

But what about in 2013, when people are so wrapped up in reality TV where people are separated into rival teams and to see how things start to change as these shows start to dwindle into a few people.  There have been experiments to recreate a world with children having to become adults such as the canceled CBS 2007 reality TV show “Kid Nation” in which children had to run a ghost town.  But that was reality TV where adults had to be present behind-the-scenes.

But with today’s technology and access to other types of entertainment and knowing what children are exposed to at a younger age, unfortunately, I don’t know if younger students can appreciate the film in the same manner. In fact, if this film was remade in today’s modern society, it may resemble the Japanese film “Battle Royale” than an evaluation of innocent children without adult supervision descending towards savagery.  Not that people today are desensitized by violence and I wonder how author William Goulding would see today’s society if he had to make the same film today.   Still, the “Lord of the Flies” is a classic and while I’m not sure if today’s teachers still practice promoting films/books such as “To Kill a Mockinbird”, “Lord of the Flies” and “Blessed the Beasts and the Children” to today’s generation of children,

With that being said, “Lord of the Flies” is an example of British cinema when taking risks and using children as actors in such a manner was possible back then.  There is just no way a film like “Lord of the Flies” can be made in today’s society like it was back in 1961.  From children’s curfew laws but also not wanting to have children be in areas where they can hurt themselves, children holding weapons, animals being subjected to certain situations that PETA would probably protest (ie. in the audio commentary, it is revealed that in order to get the pig to run, they had to use fire).  There were things done in “Lord of the Flies” that was all new to everyone working on the film.

That includes cinematography of having to shoot the film in zoom but using other techniques to give the film its look.

The film remains unsettling as seeing the children descend to madness, screaming “Kill! Kill! Kill!” is rather frightening.   The title “Lord of the Flies” is derived from a young boy entranced by a pigs decapitated head that was being offered to a beast while flies were flying around it.  Add to the tragedy of people being killed and the way the cuts are used to show the children being caught up and wanting to kill, an interesting juxtaposition of the good-natured children at the beginning of the film.  Each slowly being consumed by their fears and wanting to survive but yet following someone who seems to be worst in humanity.  Primal, savage, not wanting to submit to rules and is more interested in hunting.

But there are a few differences from the novel and the film, primarily how the film ends and certain reactions that would have been more appropriate if those certain reactions were shown at the end of the film and also the duration of the children’s descent to savagery.  And while a lot of us had to read the novel and watch the films, I still believe the novel offers much more to the storyline but somehow the casting of “Lord of the Flies” worked as I can’t imagine anyone playing Piggy, Ralph and Jack and those images of the characters are what I think of when I read the novel.  But don’t take my comments as the film is inferior, Peter Brook’s “Lord of the Flies” is as unsettling as what is featured in the book, just not everything from the novel is presented in the film.

As for the Blu-ray release, having owned the original Criterion Collection DVD, what I can say is that this Blu-ray release is so much better.  Not only has it received the 4K digital restoration but the picture quality shows a major difference in terms of the detail and clarity of the overall picture.  You can see the detail much more clearly, you can see the skin paint, the mosquito bites, everything looks so much better on Blu-ray.  And even more impressive are the number of special features included on this Blu-ray release.

Overall, the Criterion Collection has given us a magnificent and also a definitive Blu-ray release of “Lord of the Flies”!

This is the best version of the film on video to date and for anyone who grew up with the film, any cineaste who absolutely loved the film for its storyline, filmmaking or unhindered direction, “Lord of the Flies” on Blu-ray is an essential film that deserves to be in the collection of any cinema fan.   Highly recommended!

 






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