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Tony Richardson
Albert Finney, Susannah York, David Warner
Writing Credits:
John Osborne
The romantic and chivalrous adventures of adopted bastard Tom Jones in 18th century England.

Not Rated.

Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1
English LPCM Monaural (Theatrical)
English LPCM Stereo (Director’s Cut)
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 128 min. (Theatrical)
121 min. (Director’s Cut)
Price: $39.95
Release Date: 2/27/2018

• Both Theatrical and Director’s Cuts
• 1982 Albert Finney Interview
• “Scoring Tom Jones” Featurette
• 2017 Vanessa Redgrave Interview
• 2004/2017 Walter Lassally Interviews
• “The Influence of Tom Jones” Featurette
• “Re-Editing Tom Jones” Featurette
• Booklet


-LG OLED65C6P 65-Inch 4K Ultra HD Smart OLED TV
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Tom Jones: Criterion Collection [Blu-Ray] (1963)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (February 7, 2018)

If I'm in the mood for a bawdy tale of Ye Olden Days, I know where to go: the 1983 version of Fanny Hill. While the movie itself offers no fun or drama, it did present one significant asset: the often-unclad - and insanely beautiful - Lisa Raines.

Oh my - what a gorgeous woman! Her lovely visage makes the whole affair worthwhile.

Unfortunately, 1963's Tom Jones boasts no similar pleasures, mainly because it was made 20 years earlier when nudity wasn't as acceptable. As such, it comes across like Fanny Hill without the skin: a complete bore that did nothing other than bore me.

Set in 18th century England, Jenny Jones (Joyce Redman) bears a child out of wedlock. Her employer – the noble Squire Allworthy (George Devine) – sends away Jenny and raises the boy as his own.

Although Allworthy proves to be a virtuous “father”, Tom (Albert Finney) grows up to be a lecherous womanizer. Tom does fall in love with Sophie Western (Susannah York), though, a development that complicates because her father (Hugh Griffith) disapproves.

A look at the first five Oscar Best Picture winners for the first half of the 1960s shows four movies that could be claimed as classics. The decade started with 1960’s The Apartment and through 1964, we also got legendary films Lawrence of Arabia, West Side Story and My Fair Lady.

And then there’s Jones, a film that seems woefully out of its depth compared to those others. How in the world this tripe won an Academy Award for Best Picture is a mystery to me.

How it got nominated for Best Picture is a mystery to me. How it got made is a mystery to me. I guess it was the Sixties - who can explain half of the odd things that happened that decade?

Jones seems to be stuck as a product of its times. As with 1959’s …And God Created Woman, this is a film that lacks much impact outside of the era in which it was made.

I'm sure that in 1963, something like Jones felt like a breath of fresh air, a respite from the repression that marked society in the Fifties. The film could be "naughty" but still be seen in respectable circles, which I'd assume let viewers have their cake and eat it too.

While all of this may have been stimulating back then, it doesn't make the movie watchable today, and I find Jones to provide an unmitigated bore. We get little plot of which to speak, for the film comes off as a series of sketches welded together in a vaguely coherent manner.

All that would be fine if the material itself came across in a more entertaining way, but Jones strikes me as little more than an episode of Benny Hill with better production values and a more attractive protagonist. What anyone sees in the film befuddles me. Finney adds a lot of gusto to his portrayal of Tom but does little else. A "bawdy comedy" with no sex appeal or humor is what I call a "disaster".

I've seen less interesting films than Tom Jones, but not many with such a pedigree. Although the 1960s offered some other Best Picture-winning clunkers - A Man For All Seasons and Oliver! stand as two other weak Oscar victors - Tom Jones takes the cake. It becomes easily the worst Best Picture winner of the 1960s – and contends as one of the weakest picks of all-time.

The Disc Grades: Picture B/ Audio C+/ Bonus B

Tom Jones appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.66:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Though it revealed issues with the source, the image usually held up well.

This meant the movie mostly displayed nice definition. A smattering of soft shots cropped up at times, but the majority of the film boasted solid clarity and accuracy.

I saw no shimmering or jaggies, and the image lacked edge haloes. Print flaws also appeared absent, and the film offered a nice, natural layer of grain.

Colors fared well, as the movie came with a warm, amber-influenced palette. The hues came across as full and rich throughout the film.

Blacks seemed dark and deep, while shadows usually gave us fairly nice delineation. A few “day for night” shots came with the usual thickness, but that was unavoidable. Overall, the Blu-ray represented an inconsistent source well.

The same went for the movie’s dated LPCM monaural. Speech remained intelligible but not especially natural, mainly due to some dodgy looping. Still, the lines lacked edginess and didn’t create major concerns.

Music lacked much range but appeared clear enough, and effects seemed similar. Those elements also failed to display a lot of punch, but they also felt accurate and clean within the restrictions of their era. This was a decent track given its age.

Tom Jones got two DVD releases, one for each version of the film. The “Director’s Cut” hit all the way back in 1997, while the theatrical edition made it out in 2001.

Both were severely flawed, so the Blu-ray offers substantial improvements – especially in terms of visuals. Due to the limits of the source, there’s only so much the Blu-ray can do, but it seems clearer and more dynamic.

Picture demonstrates the more obvious step up, though, as the Criterion release appears much cleaner, tighter, bolder and more accurate. The Blu-ray stomps all over the prior DVDs.

Whereas the Jones DVDs lacked extras, the Criterion package includes a mix of materials – including two versions of the film. Here we find both the movie’s 1963 theatrical edition (2:08:49) as well as a 1989 Director’s Cut (2:01:41).

In 1989, director Tony Richardson apparently decided the film was too long so he edited it for reissue. He seems to have accomplished this via a mix of small trims, as the shorter Jones doesn’t appear to lose anything major. Whichever you prefer, you get your choice here, which I appreciate.

Note that while both versions offer identical visuals, they provide alternate soundtracks. The mono mix discussed above comes with the theatrical version, whereas the “Director’s Cut” delivers an LPCM stereo mix.

Don’t expect a lot from this track, as it didn’t expand horizons to a major degree. A few “action” scenes – like a deer hunt – offered mild blending/movement to the sides, but much of the audio still felt fairly monaural. Even score didn’t demonstrate a lot of breadth.

Audio quality largely remained similar, though the stereo track felt a bit weaker. Speech seemed a little more brittle, and the stereo version came across as a little “artificial” at times. Still, these weren’t substantial differences, so the stereo track didn’t seem significantly weaker than its mono counterpart.

On the “Theatrical” disc, we get a 1982 Dick Cavett Show interview with actor Albert Finney. In this four-minute, 32-second excerpt, Finney discusses his experiences during Jones as well as other aspects of the production. This becomes a decent clip but nothing terribly insightful.

An audio interview, Scoring Tom Jones provides a seven-minute, 53-second chat with composed John Addison. He covers his music in general as well as specifics about Jones. We find a good collection of notes here.

Finally, the “Theatrical” platter concludes with a 10-minute, 13-second Vanessa Redgrave Interview from 2017. Married to director Tony Richardson in 1963, Redgrave goes over aspects of society in the 1960s as well as her relationship with Richardson and his work. This turns into a fairly informative chat.

Over on the “Director’s Cut” disc, we open with an interview montage with cinematographer Walter Lassally. The 24-minute, 32-second reel mixes a 2004 piece with Lassally as well as a 2017 chat between Lassally and film critic Peter Cowie.

In this compilation, we learn about Lassally’s career, with a focus on Jones. The two segments offer a lot of good notes and this becomes probably the most enjoyable of the disc’s extras.

With The Influence of Tom Jones, we get a 22-minute, 18-second overview with film scholar Duncan Petrie. He gets into the history of Tony Richardson’s production company as well as aspects of the film’s creation. Petrie delivers a solid collection of facts and gives us a good sense of historical perspective.

Lastly, Re-Editing Tom Jones goes for 10 minutes, four seconds and features editor Robert Lambert. He examines the technical challenges related to the 1989 “Director’s Cut” as well as some of the changes. Though we get a few insights, we don’t learn as much about the creative decisions as I’d like.

A booklet finishes the set. A foldout 12-page affair, it mixes photos, credits and an essay from film professor Neil Sinyard. Though not one of Criterion’s best efforts, it completes matters on a satisfactory note.

Maybe someday I’ll figure out how Tom Jones found Oscar success, but it won’t happen today. The movie becomes a total dud, as it offers an inane experience free from charm or wit. The Blu-ray provides good picture as well as acceptable audio and a collection of supplements highlighted by two versions of the film. While I don’t care for Tom Jones, I feel pleased with this high-quality release.

Viewer Film Ratings: 2.3333 Stars Number of Votes: 3
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