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Warner Home Video presents
"In my mind, you remain boys, just as you are this evening."
DVD ReviewThe year 1939 was one of the greatest in American cinema; with such titans as John Wayne and Clark Gable doing some of their most notable work, who would have guessed that Robert Donat would end up winning the Best Actor Oscar? But that was the case, and his performance covering six decades as a schoolteacher is certainly worthy of the award.
Mr. Chipping (Donat) has been a longtime Latin master at Brookfield School, a British public school (i.e., private school), circa 1928. Although aged and decrepit, he has the respect and affection of the boys and the staff. Most of the rest of the film is told in flashback as we trace his development from a young novice teacher unable to control his class, to middle age as a respected member of the faculty. The happy life of the school is disrupted by the coming of World War I, as the graduates and the masters alike are harvested in the trenches of France.
Although not much really happens in the way of plot, the picture is meant as a character piece and as that it does well in spades. Particularly poignant are the sequences where the painfully shy Mr. Chips (his first name is never mentioned) attempts to romance Katherine Ellis (Greer Garson) while on holiday in Central Europe. The horrors of war are truly brought home by the sequences as Chips solemnly intones the honor roll of the dead students and masters. Even though there's never a shot of the front lines, the loss of life and the waste of war are given a stinging resonance here. The passage of time is measured by montages of boys in roll call, which is a clever device, and the awkward recitation of historical events, which is less clever and often stilted.
Donat's performance is indeed striking. He's helped by some very effective old age makeup, which keeps things convincing. Donat also provides different movements for his character as he passes through the decades, at times in a Groucho Marx crouch. Garson isn't called upon to do much more than be exceedingly charming here, but she definitely does it well. A young John Mills makes a brief appearance as a grown student of Chipping's, while Terry Kilburn portrays a veritable parade of young Colley boys through the decades.
Even though this picture has somewhat of a reputation as a creaky relic of sentimentalism, it nonetheless can still be quite affecting. Definitely worth a look.
Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: A-
Image Transfer Review: The original full-frame picture generally looks quite good. There is some heavy speckling in the opening reel, but it quickly calms down. Grain is quite conspicuous, but it's decently well-rendered. The black levels are very good and greyscale is excellent. I found detail to be reasonably good, and at least the most significant textures are visible. Edge enhancement and artifacting are limited.
Image Transfer Grade: B+
Audio Transfer Review: The 1.0 mono suffers from a good deal of hiss and noise, which I frequently found to be distracting. The dialogue and music are otherwise reasonably clear, though the accents make the subtitles useful. Richard Addinsell's music sounds adequate for the period though of course significantly lacking in bass. The French mono track is exceedingly poorly dubbed and sounds as if it were recorded under water.
Audio Transfer Grade: C-
Disc ExtrasStatic menu with music
Scene Access with 33 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
Extras Review: Although this is in Warner's series of Oscar-winning films, Mr. Chips gets rather short shrift, with not even a trailer or a little squib of production notes to its name. At least the chaptering is thorough.
Extras Grade: D-
Final CommentsThe classic is given a very good transfer, but nothing whatsoever for extras.
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