Withnail & I Blu-ray Review - www.impulsegamer.com -

Feature 10
Video 9.0
Audio 8.5
Special Features 9.0
Total 9.0

Distributor: Umbrella
Running Time: 107 Minutes
Reviewer: Simon Black
Classification
: MA15+

9.0


Withnail & I

Bruce Robinson’s 1986 low-budget gem Withnail & I, partly funded out of the director’s own pocket, remains one of the most enduring English comedies of all time and the ultimate cult classic.  It helped launch the careers of its two stars, Richard E. Grant as struggling actor Withnail and Paul McGann as the eponymous and long-suffering ‘I’ (his character is never mentioned by name) and is quite simply one of the most darkly funny, tragically absurdist and eminently quotable movies of all time (‘We want the finest wines available to humanity. We want them here, and we want them now!’) 

Despite the universally high regard in which it’s held, however, the film hasn’t always been given the respect it deserves when it comes to home media.  Previous VHS and DVD editions have featured dark, grainy, jittery transfers, presented the film in the incorrect aspect ratio, failed to include all (or indeed, on occasion, any) of the available bonus features and just generally made a cock-up of the whole spectacle. 

Thankfully the Umbrella Blu-ray edition corrects all these deficiencies in one fell, gloriously high definition swoop.  First up, aspect ratio.  The film is presented in an anamorphically enhanced ‘1.77:1’ widescreen: no annoying black bars across the top and bottom of the screen, and none of this 4:3 full screen nonsense.  Picture quality is superb; simply put, this is the best the film has ever looked by a factor too high to compute.  The transfer is sharp, pristine and vibrant, three adjectives one would be hard pressed to bestow upon many of the previous DVD editions.  We’re simultaneously playing Umbrella’s BD and the Rainbow Entertainment bare bones DVD edition, and the difference is laughable; on the Rainbow DVD artefacts abound, the picture is gritty, soft, dark and dreary to the point where it makes the film all but unwatchable.  No more!  On HD Withnail looks like a different creature altogether – it’s perfection itself, and a revelation for fans who have spent the last couple of decades sitting through gloomily inferior VHS and DVD versions. 

Ok, so it looks the business, but thankfully the improvements don’t stop there.  The HD edition, as well as the standard and rather flat-sounding standard 2.0 soundtrack, also features a hugely impressive DTS-HD Master Audio.  The music, such an integral part of this film, is really brought to the fore, the dialogue is crisp and clear, and both the score and the songs utilised throughout (such as King Curtis’ haunting rendition of ‘A Whiter Shade of Pale’) sound bold and robust.  

As you’d expect the Umbrella BD also collects the best of the available bonus content, including two audio commentaries (the one with Robinson is fantastic) and the excellent Withnail & Us and Postcards from Penrith featurettes.  The only thing missing is the lengthy and rather insightful interview with Robinson which graced the special edition DVD release a few years back; it’s mentioned on the Blu-ray slick but is nowhere to be found on the actual disc.  It’s a trifling oversight as it happens; picture and audio quality are so hugely improved on Blu that the BD is worth purchasing for those reasons alone - the excellent extras are just the icing on the cake. 

Special Features

Audio Commentary With Actors Paul McGann and Ralph Brown

Audio Commentary with Director Bruce Robinson

Postcards from Penrith Featurette (21 mins)

Withnail & Us 1999 Documentary (25 mins)

Swear-a-thon

Behind the Scenes Stills

Theatrical Trailer

Withnail & I Isolated Film Score (audio only)






 
 



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