- Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
- Video Codec: AVC/MPEG-4
- Resolution: 1080p/24
- Audio Codec: English Mono LPCM 2.0 (48kHz/24-bit)
- Subtitles: English SDH
- Region: ABC (Region-Free)
- Discs: 1
- Studio: BFI
- Release Date: August 24, 2009
- List Price: £22.99
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The cinematic world has a long history of films dealing with the subject of older married men falling in love with younger, often under aged, women and the futility of trying to make such a relationship work. More recent films that have explored these themes, which immediately spring to mind, are director Sam Mendes’ 1999 Oscar winning American Beauty and Sofia Coppola’s beautifully quiet Lost in Translation that managed to make Bill Murray a respectable dramatic actor in a lot of people’s minds. Of course, there is also 1978’s controversial, Pretty Baby, from Louis Malle, starring a very young 12-year-old Brooke Shields as a child prostitute in 1917 who gets involved in an ill-fated romance with an erotic photographer.
By the late 1960’s in Britain, there were a string of films dealing with the subject of married men falling for teenaged girls, and the focus of British cinema had shifted somewhat from the dour black and white realism of the British New Wave of films like Saturday Night and Sunday Morning or The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner to more colorful landscapes and happy-go-lucky themes.
Further inspection of these films, however, reveals a direct line running straight from the New Wave. They did not abandon realism for candy-colored escapism, as most critics of the time had inferred, but, rather, that realism was updated and adapted to the new era. There were now copious amounts of new ideals and social upheavals coming to the fore, not the least of which were sexual freedoms and, as was looming on the horizon, economic instabilities that would lower the boom on the swinging sixties.
Oddly enough, this looming fear of things to come seemed to be inherent in the art of the day by the end of the decade just as it is in Gerry O’Hara’s 1969 film, All the Right Noises. O’Hara, known more for his work as an assistant director on such renowned projects as Tom Jones, The L-Shaped Room, and Anastasia, would direct several “personal” projects over the course of his career; All the Right Noises was one of them.
Starring a young Olivia Hussey in her first post-Romeo and Juliet role and Tom Bell still known for his critically acclaimed turn in 1962’s The L-Shaped Room, All the Right Noises tells of Len (Bell) an electrician and married father of two working as a stagehand who falls in love with the fifteen-years-and-eleven-month-old Val (Hussey), an actress in the theatre company he is hired on to. The two have an affair even after Len finds out that Val is under the age of consent (which is 16 in the UK, by the way) when he sees her in her school uniform.
It’s all hush-hush and kisses, from the start, and O’Hara stays out of the way, never passing judgment. It’s as if O’Hara is daring someone to cast the first stone. In All the Right Noises, however, there are no clear directions for a stone to be cast. It is a wisp of a story — a slice of life, if you will. Tastefully done, Val is neither cast as a an innocent victim nor as the seductive nymph and Len is not the hapless fool throwing away his marriage and risking losing his children or the dirty old man. They are two people who have fallen together through circumstance and both are victims of their years.
If any opinion is offered it is in the incontrovertible futility of Val and Len’s romance from the onset of its bloom. Like every blossom, it is destined to wither, and this one even more so. There is a continuing sense of inescapable fate hanging over All the Right Noises. Len and Val, caught up in their joy of love and lust, seem to know that at any moment the walls can come tumbling in.
O’Hara’s adeptness at direction is obvious in All the Right Noises. He crafts an emotional and historical time capsule effortlessly, coaxing touching performances out of his lead performers. It is heartening to think that Oliva Hussey would never go on to attain the promise of these early days of her stardom, only drifting through horror films and martial arts cinema for the rest of her career and that Tom Bell would eventually have to turn to television to turn in the best of his work. All the Right Noises would go on to be a box office failure, but perhaps it is time for this film to be reassessed through the lens of time.
All the Right Noises arrives from the BFI in its 1.85:1 aspect ratio in an AVC/MPEG-4 1080p/24 high definition encoding. Unfortunately, the transfer has been taken from a safety print rather than the original negative, and although the best has been done to clean it up and make it as good as possible for this high definition release, serious problems still persist throughout. Black levels are all over the place, ranging from slightly grayish and noisy, to completely crushed and lacking in any detail delineation in dark scenes. Color timing issues are a nuisance, as the BFI admits, the print’s greenish tint at times peeks through, particularly in the darker areas. White levels are occasionally blown out and overall detail is soft, awash in a swarm of harsh noise and grain. On the plus side, flesh tones are spot on, but it’s one bright spot in a disappointing release.
All the Right Noises is provided with an English Mono LPCM 2.0 (48kHz/24-bit) audio track. Dialogue is intelligible and dynamics are present with a surprising amount of upper low frequency extension. Although the sound has been cleaned up by the BFI, there are still some problematic issues present in the source, particularly sibilant distortions and some issues with clipping. Overall, however, All the Right Noises sounds far better than the other BFI release I had the chance to review recently, Man of Violence, but it still cannot be considered reference material.
Supplements are slender on this release, but there is an interesting historical interview with Olivia Hussey and her Romeo and Juliet co-star Leonard Whiting from 1967 and a short film from Gerry O’Hara that doesn’t have much to it.
- Olivia Hussey/Leonard Whiting Interview (1967) (1.33:1; 1080p/24; 0:17.05) — The Romeo and Juliet co-stars discuss their work on the film and their young careers. It is quite interesting to hear the optimism they both had for their futures at this early stage in their lives.
- The Spy’s Wife (1972) (1.33:1; 1080p/24) — It’s matrimony and espionage in this short film from Gerry O’Hara.
The Definitive Word
All the Right Noises continues the BFI’s Flipside series of obscure and forgotten films from the British cinematic canon. With a remarkably informed performance from a young and burgeoning Olivia Hussey, it is perplexing to think that she did not go on to be more successful in her career. This is truly a film that deserves rescuing from the trash heap of history, even if the transfer is not up to the highest of standards.