Gary Couzens reviewed if…. for the release of the Paramount DVD in 2007. His view of the film differs little from mine, yet is infinitely more eloquent and knowledgeable than I could ever be. His review can be found here and I will focus on reviewing the disc itself.
Eureka Entertainment release if…. on Blu-ray through their Masters of Cinema series. The film looks fabulous in a stunning 1080p transfer, framed at 1.85:1 ratio and approved by cinematographer Miroslav Ondricek and assistant editor Ian Rakoff. Colours are bright and crisp, the image is near-spotless and the detail within is a joy to behold. There’s a small amount of grain present throughout and as you would expect, this is more noticeable during the low light or interior shots, however it is completely in keeping with the source material and suggests that this has been a careful and sympathetic digital transfer. Sound is presented in Linear PCM mono only and is clear and legible, without being overly bombastic. Again, perfectly in tune with the film itself. English subtitles are also available for the main feature.
Extras are plentiful and only overlap with previous home releases on a couple of counts. The commentary, with film critic and historian David Robinson and actor Malcolm McDowell, features the participants recorded separately and edited to form an always interesting chat track. Robinson’s pieces have a tendency to sound pre-prepared, as if reading from a script and can’t help but cover some of the same ground as the accompanying interview segments, but they act as a good contrast to McDowell’s more freeform and spontaneous reminiscing. This commentary track is presented in Dolby Digital stereo.
Two hours of newly recorded video interviews, featuring a producer, two writers, an editor, a production manager, a cameramen and five actors give a comprehensive, yet personal take on the film’s gestation and production. Some of the participants are clearly getting on in years and Eureka! should be congratulated for making the effort to get their memories down on tape. The result is a very enjoyable insight into how the film was written, cast and shot, with the only unfortunate absence being any available input from director Lindsay Anderson himself.
Three of Anderson’s early short films are also included. Three Installations (1952, 23 minutes) is a documentary/promotional piece for a conveyor belt manufacturer and focuses on use of the company’s products in an iron works, a cement factory and in the construction of a dockyard. Thursday’s Children (1954, 22 minutes), which Anderson co-directed with Guy Brenton, documents a school for deaf children and the challenges faced in teaching words to a person who has never heard a word spoken. Henry (1955, 5 minutes) is a promotional short for the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children and concerns the late night West End adventures of a boy driven from home by his warring parents. All three shorts are in black and white and presented in 4:3 ratio and feature sharp, if fairly rough prints, with Henry, in particular, being badly worn. They do, however, all provide a fascinating insight into their chosen subjects and looking on 60 years down the road, they are as interesting for the era they document, as they are for the subject matter they show. Be it dangerous working practices or racist children’s stories, there’s plenty here to reflect on and their inclusion on this disc is very welcome.
The extras are rounded off with a couple of US trailers which only differ from each other by the addition of a few critical quotes to the end of one.
The disc also includes a 56-page booklet, containing new writing by David Cairns; a new interview with actor Brian Pettifer; a self-conducted interview with Lindsay Anderson; notes on the three short films; and rare and archival imagery, however this was not available with the review copy.
As Gary stated in his review, if…. remains a powerful and memorable film, not simply for exposing the brutality of public school, but also for its willingness to focus on the alienation that this can foster in those unwilling to accept this established path to privilege. Over 45 years after release, the haircuts and motorcycles may have changed, but the film is still as enjoyable as ever and Eureka! have done a fine job in bringing it to Blu-ray in the best condition it’s been seen in for years, accompanied by a wealth of informative and entertaining supplements. Thoroughly recommended.