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Milestone Film & Video presents

Hindle Wakes (1927)

"Look here, old lad. Thou didn't come here to talk about daisies."- Nat Jeffcote (Norman McKinnel)

Stars: Estelle Brody, Marie Ault, Humberstone Wright, Norman McKinnel, John Stuart
Other Stars: Irene Rooke, Gladys Jennings, Arthur Chesney, Peggy Carlisle, B. Graham Southern, Jack Rowal, Cyril Maclaglen, Alf Goddard
Director: Maurice Elvey

Manufacturer: Deluxe
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (thematic material)
Run Time: 01h:56m:27s
Release Date: 2005-04-12
Genre: drama

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
A- A-B+A C


DVD Review

The British silent cinema (other than a handful of early works by Alfred Hitchcock released on public-domain DVDs with varying degrees of shoddiness) is rather under-represented on DVD. Some might say that that's appropriate, but certainly one of the more interesting items to emerge from that darkness is this controversial drama of the sexes, based on the 1912 stage play by Stanley Houghton.

In the Lancashire town of Hindle, most of the populace works at the cotton mills owned by Nathaniel Jeffcote (Norman McKinnel). One week of each year, the mills shut down to allow the workers a holiday. Young Fanny Hawthorn (Estelle Brody) and Mary Hollins (Peggy Carlisle) decide to head off to seaside Blackpool, to have a time at the amusement park. There Fanny meets Alan Jeffcote (John Stuart), the scion upon whom the Jeffcote family pins their hopes. Fanny decides to be a bit naughty and sneak off for a few days with Alan for a dalliance, asking Mary to cover for her. But when Mary accidentally drowns, things quickly come unraveled and Fanny's parents demand satisfaction from the Jeffcotes.

Although the sexual liberation of women hardly seems shocking today, it was certainly so in just-post-Edwardian England, where Houghton's play apparently triggered rioting. The atmosphere was a little different by 1927, in the wake of the first Labour government, but certainly the notion of girls being "ruined" and forcible marriages as punishment were not unfamiliar to audiences of the time. What makes the play and film historically important is the defiance with which Fanny reacts to the notion of an arranged marriage, as she asserts that just like a man, she's entitled to a good time sexually, without necessarily being pinned down as a result. Both this point and the inter-class venom are toned down somewhat in this production, but they're certainly an important part of the story. Fanny's father, Chris Hawthorn, had been friends with Nathaniel Jeffcote from boyhood, and had not taken the opportunity to become a partner in the mill. As a result, he and his family are reduced to servitude in the mill itself. Chris Hawthorn is a bundle of conflict after he learns of his daughter's ruination, and on the one hand, urged by his wife (Marie Ault) he is tempted to force it for all the personal benefit that he can, he's also wracked with shame at having to go to Jeffcote for remediation. It's a complex relationship that's carried off very well.

Director Maurice Elvey was a longtime veteran of films who made the transition to sound without much problem. He takes the stage play and opens it up to a fairly incredible extent, taking full advantage of the Blackpool locale. Roller coaster buffs will really be intrigued by the POV sequences aboard a large period coaster, and there are some nighttime shots (genuine night-for-night) that test the limits of film stock of the period. Indeed, Elvey seems a little too enticed by the amusement parks, since the story bogs down there a bit as we take in the sights. It's nonetheless an interesting historical and sociological sequence. Elvey also makes fine use of intercutting, particularly when he brings the mill machinery back to the mind in the middle of the festivities. The message is clearly that no matter what fun one may have on holiday, nothing but labor awaits at the end.

The cast is quite good, with Brody having an appealing spunky streak that helps keep her character arc plausible. The fathers are excellent in their difficult relationship. Marie Ault is a standout as the alternately furious and grasping mother; one of the highlights of the picture is the suspenseful sequence in which Fanny returns home from holiday, oblivious to Mary's death. But her parents are well aware, and as they allow her to spin her yarns, Fanny's slow realization that they seem to know something is priceless. The intercutting and use of closeups in this sequence is particularly striking. Although period social dramas are often dated and difficult to sit through, this one is quite watchable.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: A-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The transfer is from a British Film Institute restoration of the picture. Other than the expected minor wear (speckling, scratches) for a film over 75 years old, it looks quite good. Greyscale, detail and texture are all quite sharp. Even though this is a PAL-NTSC conversion, there's not a lot of fast motion, and thus the ghosting issue is of minimal importance.

Image Transfer Grade: B+

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0(music only)yes

Audio Transfer Review: Two different audio scores are presented for the film. One, a fairly modern-sounding synthesized one by In the Nursery, includes some sounds effects that aren't jarring or out of place. It's a sensitive score that has a nice emotional impact. Or for the more traditional, the esteemed Philip Carli provides a piano score along the more ordinary lines. The recording quality of both is excellent and without any problems at all.

Audio Transfer Grade:

Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 13 cues and remote access
Cast and Crew Biographies
Production Notes
Weblink/DVD-ROM Material
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Still galleries
Extras Review: The principal DVD-player-accessible extra is a set of still galleries. About 20 stills are devoted to the film and another two dozen to the 1912 stage production. There's also an onscreen reproduction of segments of the 1927 presskit, though these won't be readable on smaller sets. Two PDF files are included for those with DVD/ROM access. The first is a five-page essay by anarchist Emma Goldman on the importance of the stage play, excerpted from The Social Significance of the Modern Drama (1914). There's also a Milestone press kit, with background information regarding the play, film, and the director. A useful but not excessive package.

Extras Grade: C

Final Comments

A surprisingly watchable English social drama about the sexual liberation of women, with a nice restoration and a decent transfer. Milestone also supplies a few useful background extras.

Mark Zimmer 2005-05-18