Passport to Pimlico Review

This is an extract from a review of the sixteen-disc Ealing Collection set. The full review will be posted shortly.

However, it is on to more familiar territory with Passport To Pimlico, in which the London borough declares independence from the rest of the United Kingdom, which was then scrimping to make it through the post-war years. On the contrary, Pimlico, thanks to the blowing up of a Second World War bomb, discovers amongst a cellar full of jewellery, gold and artwork that it was once ceded to the last Duke of Burgundy and does, therefore, belong to another country. Waving farewell to the court, crown and land of Britain, Pimlico agrees diplomatic terms with the country of which it was once a part and announces that it is now the independent state of Burgundy. Britain, however, does not take this matter of independence without fighting for its whole and draws a border with Burgundy, some might say persecuting shoppers who venture into London to take advantage of the absence of rationing. Deciding not to turn its cheek to Britain, Burgundy holds up a tube train. As spring turns to summer, Burgundy and Britain remain at loggerheads but as one great nation stares down at a minnow of the international stage, the people of Burgundy hold their own. As one dear old woman says, "We've always been English and we'll always be English and it's precisely because we are English that we're sticking up for our right to be Burgundians!"

Without water, electricity nor any supply of food, the little state of Burgundy looks to be in a state of crisis but as food is thrown over the walls and water and even milk is pumped in, Burgundy looks like it might weather the diplomatic storm. But in spite of this glimmer of hope, Ealing's tendency towards misfortune and the inevitability of authority has the fortunes of Burgundy and of Pimlico washed out by a rainstorm. With Passport To Pimlico, this was literally the so, with the independent nation celebrating its reunification with the rest of Britain under the chimes of Big Ben before its balmy summer ends with a clap of thunder and the opening of the heavens. Britain is, after all, a country of summer rain, of scurrying indoors and of dreams of small government dashed by the iron hand of a very big one. However, perhaps the fault with Passport To Pimlico is that in spite of the rich comedy and the absurdness of the situation is how inconsequential it feels. The Ealing-esque The Mouse That Roared would better visit the notion of a very small nation taking on the might of a very big one but both films are infused with a sense of sweetness that Ealing would have done better to avoid, even to have given it a colder heart.


When reviewing Optimum's two-disc release of Whisky Galore!, I wrote, "[it] is a glorious-looking film on this DVD, with an almost perfect transfer from Optimum. Noise is almost non-existent and the contrast in the picture is simply beautiful, with a very complementary sharpness to the image. It's a DVD like this that make you wonder if the move to colour was an altogether wise idea so well does the story, production and look of the film work in combination with one another." That's not strictly the case with these six discs although the very last statement is confirmed given how the five black-and-white films supplied look a good deal better than the colour The Ladykillers.

However, they don't look at all bad. Kind Hearts And Coronets probably looks the best and, given that I would imagine that Optimum have used the transfer of Whisky Galore from their earlier release, it will look equally good. However, Passport To Pimlico is disappointingly soft, perhaps in an attempt to disguise the condition of the print but which leaves it looking much less impressive than any of the other films in the set. Then again, none of the films have been restored particularly thoroughly with all of them, even Kind Hearts And Coronets, showing some obvious print damage. It's also worth saying, not that I mind though, that there's a fair amount of noise in the prints used, although it does look more as though it was present in the original prints than was generated through the transfer.

None of them have been gifted with the kind of transfer that Warner Brothers, for example, carry out with ease but they could have looked much, much worse. Except, that is, for The Ladykillers, which comes along looking like 'before' presentation in one of Warner's features on the restoration work that they carry out on the movies in their archives. With the colours not quite matching, objects have a soft halo about them and though the colours are perhaps too rich to look anything like real life, they do tend to look quite unbelievable. The effect is akin, though obviously not quite as extreme, to watching a 3D film without the glasses, with it looking much like the old release of The Wizard Of Oz than the restored two- or three-disc version. Though still watchable, it could have been so much better.

Given the age of each film, it won't be a surprise to learn that each film comes with a Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono audio track, all of which aren't bad but do feature the occasional pop, click and bit of hissing. However, as one who doesn't object to the odd fault such as those, I thought them fine. In particular, there's a warmth about them, particularly Dead Of Night and Kind Hearts And Coronets, that's quite pleasing. The major oversight, given that these are Optimum releases, is that they do not come with subtitles.


There are no extras on this DVD release.

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Last updated: 16/06/2018 09:04:52

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