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Ronald Neame
Alec Guinness, John Mills, Susannah York
Writing Credits:
James Kennaway

An acting Commanding Officer conflicts with his new superior officer.

Not Rated

Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1
English PCM Monaural
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 107 min.
Price: $39.95
Release Date: 12/3/19

• Interview with Director Ronald Neame
• Interview with Actor John Mills
• Interview with Actor Alec Guinness
• Trailer
• Booklet


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Tunes of Glory [Blu-Ray] (1960)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (December 26, 2019)

For the third of four collaborations between director Ronald Neame and actor Alec Guinness, we go to 1960’s Tunes of Glory. The film looks at a power struggle within a military setting.

A member of the Scottish army since his youth, Major Jock Sinclair (Alec Guinness) became a Commanding Officer during World War II. With the regiment back in Scotland, he expects this position to continue.

However, peacetime brings different demands and challenges, so Sinclair’s superiors choose Lieutenant Colonel Basil Barrow (John Mills) for the Commanding Officer position. This sets up conflicts between the men that also trickle down to the soldiers under their watch.

Chalk up Tunes of Glory as an odd title for a drama of this sort. One might go into the film with the expectation it’ll provide a musical, but obviously that doesn’t become the case.

Tunes of Glory refers to the way bagpipes go along with the actions of the regiment. That makes sense, I guess, but it still seems like an awfully non-descriptive moniker.

Bad title or not, Tunes comes with good potential as a “battle of wills” drama, and the fact it takes place during peacetime adds to the tale in an odd way. Because we don’t follow the characters in the more intense setting of combat, we can more closely focus on the interpersonal domains.

With acclaimed actors as the leads and the solid Neame as director, Tunes should become a winner. However, the end result seems oddly turgid and unfocused.

Not that nothing happens, but Tunes feels like a film with long stretches of monotony punctuated by abrupt melodrama. The project doesn’t follow an especially concise narrative line, so it generally bops from one moment to another without great clarity.

If the interpersonal elements generated fireworks, this might matter less, but the battles between Sinclair and Barrow don’t go much of anywhere. While we expect good friction, their scenes feel petty and not especially compelling.

I often admire Guinness as an actor, but he hams up a storm as our lead. With a wide Scottish accent and a broad sense of personality, he chews scenery everywhere he looks, and that makes the film less effective since we don’t really buy his character as a believable human.

All of this leaves Tunes as a disappointment. Despite its potential positives, it tends to meander and wind up as a spotty drama.

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

Tunes of Glory appears in an aspect ratio of 1.66:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Across the board, this was a pleasing image.

Sharpness was strong. Only minor softness ever appeared, mainly via a few wider elements, so the majority of the film offered positive delineation.

I saw no jagged edges and shimmering wasn’t a problem. Source flaws stayed absent, while edge haloes didn’t appear, and with a nice layer of grain, the transfer showed no signs of intrusive noise reduction.

Colors appeared appealing. The movie exhibited a fairly earthy palette that remained warm and full.

Blacks were deep and firm, while shadows showed good clarity and delineation. This was a consistently fine presentation.

For its era, the movie’s LPCM monaural soundtrack worked fine, and dialogue sounded clear and acceptably natural. In a manner typical for the era, speech seemed a little thin at times, but I detected no concerns related to intelligibility or edginess. Effects were also clear and decently realistic, and they lacked problems related to distortion.

Music seemed to be similarly clean and bright. The mix delivered no substantial dynamic range, but it replicated the score with acceptable accuracy.

I heard no concerns related to background noise or source flaws. Overall, the soundtrack to Tunes served the movie in a more than adequate manner.

A few extras flesh out the set, and we start with an Interview with Director Ronald Neame. Recorded in 2003, this 23-minute, 23-second chat looks at cast/performances, music, and other production areas. Neame gives us a solid little overview of the film.

Next comes 2002 Interview with Actor John Mills. An audio-only piece, it spans 14 minutes, 27 seconds and includes Mills’ thoughts about his role/performance and other aspects of the film. Mills covers the material well.

From a 1973 episode of BBC’s Film Extra, we find an Interview with Actor Alec Guinness. The reel lasts 15 minutes, 22 seconds and goes over his life and career.

Guinness touches on Tunes briefly – for about a minute around the 11-minute mark – but he mostly discusses other domains. This becomes a brief but enjoyable piece.

In addition to the film’s trailer, we conclude with a booklet. It mixes credits, art and an essay from film scholar Robert Murphy. Though not one of Criterion’s most substantial booklets, it still finishes matters in a pleasing way.

With a lot of notable talent involved, Tunes of Glory seems like it should become a winner. Unfortunately, the movie tends toward stiff melodrama and it fails to connect. The Blu-ray brings very good picture along with adequate audio and a few bonus features. Tunes doesn’t live up to expectations.

Viewer Film Ratings: 2 Stars Number of Votes: 1
0 3:
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Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main