A Caine classic gets the special edition Blu-Ray treatment from Network.
For a discussion of The Ipcress File, I direct you to Anthony Nield’s review of the 2006 Network Special Edition DVD. You can find his thoughts here.
ITV released The Ipcress File back in 2008 on a Blu-Ray which was criticised by some on account of excessive video noise and some obvious edge enhancement. Although still a vast improvement on any of the SD releases, it seemed that something better could be waiting in the wings – and, six years later, here it finally is. This new Blu-Ray disc looks different to the earlier release which had muted colours and a distinctly drab appearance. The colours are very vivid here, perhaps a little too much for some tastes but to my eye they are just about perfect and suit the film down to the ground. When it comes to clarity and detail, this new disc is a great improvement and while there is a lovely sheen of film grain, there is no obtrusive noise or over-enhancement. Indeed, the overall effect is one of immense satisfaction, as if one was watching the film for the first time.
On the audio front, Network offer us two choices. Both tracks are lossless but the clear winner is the original mono track which is stunning in terms of fidelity and mixed to perfection. The DTS-HD MA 5.1 track is poor in comparison with dialogue too low in the mix and a definite sense of strain throughout. English subtitles are provided for the feature but not for the extras.
Accompanying the film is an audio commentary from the director, Sidney J. Furie, and the editor, Peter Hunt. This is very gossipy and sometimes verging on the geriatric but always entertaining to listen to.
There are numerous extra features taken from the 2006 special edition release. Interviews with Ken Adam and Sir Michael Caine prove relatively brief but entertaining. The Caine piece is the meatier of the two, running just over twenty minutes, and it provides a fair amount of gossip about the Palmer films and, indeed, Caine’s early stardom. Ken Adam is a little more contained but has some interesting things to say about designing a film which was intended to be more realistic and downbeat than the Bond films which had made Adam’s fame. There’s also a short Phil Cornwell comedy sketch featuring his Caine impression which he exploited to great effect in Stella Street. It’s quite amusing but not much more than that.
Candid Caine is a curio from LWT, first shown in 1969 and running 44 minutes. Caine comes across very well and is remarkably unaffected, although he’s also a bit awkward. It’s interesting for the period details as much as anything else – the truly horrible cravats stand out. As usual for Network, the ad breaks remain intact.
Finally, there are some enjoyable US radio spots, extensive image galleries and the original theatrical trailer.
I love The Ipcress File a great deal and it was a regular TV favourite when I was growing up. It’s ironic that a film which was meant to be a more realistic counterpart to the Bond series now looks, thanks to Furie’s insane choice of shots, just as way-out and dated as anything else the Swinging Sixties had to offer. But this is, for me, very much part of the film’s charm. Add Nigel Green at his most commanding, Guy Doleman at his most dryly funny, John Barry’s guitar, and a star-making performance from Michael Caine and you have a classic spy movie. This Network Blu-Ray is the definitive home presentation of the film to date and is highly recommended.
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