Tom Jones The Criterion Collection
Special Edition, Criterion Collection
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In the early 1960s, at the height of the British New Wave, a movement whose gritty realism they had helped establish, director Tony Richardson and playwright John Osborne set out for more fanciful narrative territory. Tom Jones brings a theatrical flair to Henry Fielding s canonical eighteenth-century novel, boisterously chronicling the misadventures of the foundling of the title (Albert Finney, in a career-defining turn), whose easy charm seems to lead him astray at every turn from his beloved, the wellborn Sophie Western (Susannah York). This spirited picaresque, evocatively shot in England s rambling countryside and featuring an extraordinary ensemble cast, went on to become a worldwide sensation, winning the Oscar for best picture on the way to securing its status as a classic of irreverent wit and playful cinematic expression.
TWO-BLU-RAY SPECIAL EDITION FEATURES
- New 4K digital restorations of the original theatrical version of the film and the 1989 director s cut, both supervised by director of photography Walter Lassally, with uncompressed monaural and stereo soundtracks
- New program on the film s cinematography featuring a conversation between Lassally and critic Peter Cowie
- Excerpt from a 1982 episode of The Dick Cavett Show featuring actor Albert Finney
- New interview with actor Vanessa Redgrave on director Tony Richardson, to whom she was married from 1962 to 1967
- New interview with film scholar Duncan Petrie on the movie s impact on British cinema
- Illustrated archival audio interview with composer John Addison on his Oscar-winning score for the film
- New interview with the director s-cut editor, Robert Lambert
- PLUS: An essay by scholar Neil Sinyard
Top customer reviews
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Image is often grainier than anticipated and colors veer from mildly rich to dull and muddy. Could it have looked better? Hmmm. Original elements lost long ago and working backward from prints that have been less than properly archived in the interim. Criterion's done wonders here, but don't expect perfection.
So, here's the deal: the new transfer is so far above any previous home video releases that it's actually gasp worthy. The two previous DVD releases were both done from the same faded, brown internegative - they were both travesties of the highest order. Here, the majority of the transfer comes from the original camera negative, with some sections from interpositives and internegatives. You can pretty well spot those sections as the quality definitely takes a drop. But for the most part this is a beautiful thing with wonderful color (at last!) and excellent detail and contrast. It's like going from Z to A. Mono sound is fine. Criterion has rather idiotically made the disc you have to pull out first the director's cut - and they don't put that on the label of the disc - so I put that in naturally thinking it would be the theatrical version, you know, the one that won the Best Picture Oscar, but noooooo, it was the director's cut, which I hate. I realized that part way through and took it off and got the second disc out, which is the theatrical cut. The director's cut is a total waste of time - the seven cut minutes are all important and help the rhythm of the film.
As to the film, it's fashionable these days not to like it or not understand why it was so hugely popular. Well, kiddies, context is everything. When it came out it was wild and wooly and completely fresh and unique and I am here to tell you that the audiences roared with frequent laughter and loved every second of it. Most people who criticize saw it on TV or home video or the reissue in 1989 and since people have trouble understanding anything before the year of their birth you get the negativity. This film was ripped off so many times by so many lesser talents over the years - just put yourself back in 1963 - it's still funny and charming and you cannot beat the cast, every single person brilliant.
Tom first sees the light of day in the home of Squire Allworthy (George Devine) as an abandoned baby. The squire raises Tom with the same advantages he bestows on his widowed sister’s son, Blifil (David Warner), who is his heir. Tom’s many enemies libel him to the squire, who eventually cuts him off with a small fortune. Tom makes his way to London by devious means and after many amorous adventures. There, he becomes reunited with his spirited sweetheart, Sophie Western (Susannah York), who’s fled her home because of her father’s insistence that she marry Blifil.
With its all-British cast, the movie won the Best Picture Academy Award. As a naughty but not licentious sex farce, it is consistently amusing and its deft editing makes for a light, airy comedy with excellent performances. Finney’s Tom has an innocent twinkle that charms the ladies, who find themselves in romantic trysts they can’t seem to help. Other stand-out performances include Hugh Griffith as gaudy Squire Western, Edith Evans as Miss Western and Peter Bull as Thwackum. Lynn Redgrave appears in a small role.
Back in 1963, the film was a breath of fresh air and stood apart from typical Hollywood studio films, which were top-heavy with spectacle but lacking substance. “Tom Jones” has a playfulness as it flirts with scandal, its occasional asides to the audience bringing us in on Tom’s misadventures.
The 2-disc Blu-ray edition contains two versions of the widescreen film, the 1963 theatrical version and the 1982 Director’s Cut. Bonus materials include interviews with film scholars; excerpt from a 1982 episode of “The Dick Caveat Show” featuring actor Albert Finney; interview with Vanessa Redgrave on her former husband, director Tony Richardson; illustrated archival audio interview with composer John Addison on his Oscar-winning score for the film; new interview with the editor of the Director’s Cut; and a critical essay.