The Four Feathers [Criterion Collection] Blu-ray Review
- Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1
- Video Codec: AVC/MPEG-4
- Resolution: 1080p/24
- Audio Codec: English LPCM Mono (48kHz/24-bit)
- Subtitles: N/A
- Region: A (Region-Locked)
- Rating: NR
- Discs: 1 (1 x Blu-ray)
- Studio: Criterion Collection
- Blu-ray Release Date: October 11, 2011
- List Price: $39.95
Click thumbnails for high-resolution 1920X1080p screen captures
(Screen captures are lightly compressed with lossy JPEG thus are meant as a general representation of the content and do not fully reveal the capabilities of the Blu-ray format)
What a year for film 1939 was! It saw the release of The Wizard of Oz, Gone With the Wind, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Wuthering Heights, Stagecoach, and this fourth screen adaptation of A.E.W. Mason’s classic 1902 adventure novel, Zoltán Korda’s Technicolor spectacular, The Four Feathers, and that’s just a few of the gems to hit the screen that year.
Set at the end of the nineteenth century at the height of the British empire’s exploits in Northern Africa, The Four Feathers follows British army Harry Faversham (John Clements) who has just resigned his commission after his regiment is given orders to go to Khartoum to retake the fallen city. In order to clear himself of the charges of cowardice levied against him, which arrive in the form of three white feathers from his fellow officers, and to prove his honor to his fiancé Ethne (June Duprez), Harry undertakes to meet up with the British army in Egypt by going undercover as a native. Once there, he must rescue his friend and rival at love for his fiancé’s hand at marriage, Captain John Durrance (Ralph Richardson), from the perils of the desert when he goes blind from sun stroke and is left for dead after his division is attacked and defeated. Later, when Harry is mistaken for an Arab trying to rob John, the British soldiers leave him to be thrown into prison, where he comes across two of his former army colleagues and must try to lead them to freedom as well.
The film is filled with the sweeping cinematography of the African landscape by Georges Périnal and Osmond Borradaile and the vibrant, more real than life Technicolor imagery that makes everything leap from the screen. It’s a fabulous British epic that is, for sure, one of the top ten films to come out in that colossal film year of 1939.
The Four Feathers does show some of the telltale signs of a restored Technicolor film from the 1930s, it has a coarse grain structure, shows some obvious flutter in the image and some unstable color reproduction, particular towards the sides of the frames, but otherwise, it is difficult to argue against this transfer from Criterion Collection. This is how Technicolor should look. Coming in an AVC/MPEG-4 1080p/24 encodement of the film’s original 1.37:1 framing. The colors are brighter, more saturated, and realer than real. Reds in particular really shimmer right off the screen. It’s rare to see a Technicolor film be brought back these days with the color palette looking anything close to what real Technicolor looked like, this, I would say, hits the mark.
The audio is the original monaural mix in LPCM 2.0. By today’s standards it doesn’t sound like a reference release, but it is quite good nonetheless with little inherent clipping or hiss noticeable and clear dialogue.
The actual on disc extras and even the booklet are rather unusually thin for this Criterion release. There is a very good audio commentary and two very brief featurettes while the booklet only contains a single essay.
The supplements provided with this release are:
- Audio Commentary – Featuring British film historian Charles Drazin, recorded exclusively for the Criterion Collection in 2011. Drazin’s books include Korda: Britain’s Only Movie Mogul and In Search of “The Third Man.”
- David Korda (1.78:1; 1080p/24; 00:23:14) – This video interview with David Korda, the eldest son of The Four Feathers director Zoltán Korda, was recorded in London in 2011. In it, he discusses his family ad his father’s career.
- A Day at Denham (1.37:1; 1080p/24; 00:10:21) – This 1939 promotional film takes viewers on a brief tour of London Film Productions’ studios at Denham and includes rare footage of Zoltán Korda at work on The Four Feathers. Founded by Alexander Korda, the studios operated from 1936 to 1952.
- Booklet: The booklet is an unusually thin one for the Criterion Collection containing only one essay on the film from Michael Sragow.
The Definitive Word
A masterful film brought to life superbly in high definition by the Criterion Collection, The Four Feathers is a true classic that should be in every film lovers collection.
Additional Screen Captures