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To Sir, with Love: The Limited Edition Series Blu-ray Review

To Sir, with Love (1967) movie poster To Sir, with Love

US Theatrical Release: June 14, 1967 / Running Time: 105 Minutes / Rating: Not Rated

Director: James Clavell / Writer: E.R. Braithwaite (novel), James Clavell (screenplay)

Cast: Sidney Poitier (Mark Thackeray), Christian Roberts (Denham), Judy Geeson (Pamela Dare), Lulu (Barbara Pegg), Christopher Chittell (Potter), Adrienne Posta (Moira Joseph), Gareth Robinson (Tich Jackson), Lynn Sue Moon (Miss Wong), Anthony Villaroel (Seales), Richard Willson (Curly), Michael Des Barres (Williams), Suzy Kendall (Gillian Blanchard), Faith Brook (Grace Evans), Geoffrey Bayldon (Theo Weston), Patricia Routledge (Clinty Clintridge), Edward Burnham (Mr. Florian), Rita Webb (Mrs. Joseph), Fred Griffiths (Mr. Clark), Ann Bell (Mrs. Dare), Fiona Duncan (Euphemia Phillips), Mona Bruce (Josie Dawes), Marianne Stone (Gert), Dervis Ward (Mr. Bell), The Mindbenders (Band)

Buy To Sir, with Love on Blu-ray at Amazon.com

Sidney Poitier's 1967 ranks up there with Jessica Chastain's 2011, Steven Spielberg's 1993, and Victor Fleming's 1939 as one of the most creatively fulfilling years for an individual in cinema.
Poitier, a trailblazer who for 1963's Lilies of the Field became the first African American to win the Best Actor Oscar, appeared in three films the same year that gave us such game-changing landmarks as The Graduate and Bonnie and Clyde. Guess Who's Coming to Dinner would be nominated for Best Picture and thirty years later make the American Film Institute's much-cited list of the 100 greatest American movies. In the Heat of the Night would win Best Picture and though initially absent from AFI's list would easily make the 2007 update.

Mere months before those opened, Poitier starred in To Sir, with Love, a British drama about a teacher who shapes up tough students at an inner city school. A forebear to films like Stand and Deliver, Lean on Me, and Dangerous Minds, To Sir didn't attract the immediate clout and prestige of Poitier's US-produced 1967 movies, but it made a big impact nonetheless, selling many tickets, inspiring future educators, being shown to multiple generations of students, and giving rise to the chart-topping title song by Scottish singer and cast member Lulu, a tune widely referenced and covered for decades.

Secondary school teacher Mark Thackeray (Sidney Poitier) has his work cut out for him in "To Sir, with Love."

Poitier plays Mark Thackeray, a man born in British Guiana who has worked around the world, most recently in California. He arrives at the North Quay Secondary School to colleagues expecting him to quickly leave in defeat, as others have. The students are unruly, uneducated, and short on respect. The only thing most of them seem to enjoy about school are the mid-day dance sessions. The staff is largely discouraged and inexperienced.

Seeing the profession as a stop-gap as he waits for a job befitting his schooling in engineering, Thackeray is not like other teachers. His big break comes when he realizes the class, whom he is to teach every subject, simply isn't responding. And so, Thackeray decides not to treat the pupils like kids, but like the adults they'll be considered when they soon graduate.

The movie presents a very simple and idealized notion of education reform. Thackeray betters his class simply by preaching and practicing courtesy, hygiene, and respect. He shows these teenagers that he cares about them, even taking them on a somewhat unprecedented class trip to a history museum, which unfolds as a pictorial to the second of the title song's four iterations. Thackeray wins the respect not only of his students and peers but also the kind yet undereducated Cockney folk of his neighborhood.

There isn't much to the story, which feels stretched thin to reach its 105-minute runtime. Subplots include a student (Judy Geeson) who develops a crush on Thackeray, a gymnastics class that comes close to assault with a deadly weapon, and debate over how to properly observe the death of a biracial student's mother. Thackeray butts heads most extensively with Denham (Christian Roberts), a student who even goads the teacher into boxing him in gym class.

A brief period of respectful instruction is enough to turn these slackers into courteous go-getters.

To Sir may be tidy, unrealistic, and supremely dated, but it's also well-intentioned, feel-good cinema which still possesses the power to appeal to viewers of all ages and walks of life. The film does kind of play like a 1960s British movie executive's idea
of what a local teenager might enjoy. But it is based on an autobiographical 1959 novel by E.R. Braithwaite, inspired by his own experiences as a London schoolteacher.

Though some critics bemoaned the film's lack of realism, it still managed to resonate with the public, ending up the eighth highest-grossing film of '67 (Guess was third and Heat of the Night finished 12th). On the heels of Dangerous Minds and Mr. Holland's Opus, the film spawned an unlikely made-for-TV sequel in the US-produced To Sir, with Love II, directed by Peter Bogdanovich and featuring role reprisals by Poitier, Lulu, and Geeson.

The original film recently made its way to Blu-ray from Twilight Time, who released it in their usual limited methods in a run of 3,000 units.

To Sir, with Love: The Limited Edition Series Blu-ray cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Marketplace Blu-ray Disc Details

1.85:1 Widescreen
1.0 DTS-HD MA Mono (English), 2.0 DTS-HD MA Mono (Music and Effects Track)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired
Not Closed Captioned; Extras Not Subtitled
Release Date: February 10, 2015
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (BD-50)
List Price: $29.95
Blue Keepcase
Still available on DVD ($14.99 SRP; February 1, 2000) and Amazon Instant Video

VIDEO and AUDIO

Though produced nearly fifty years ago, To Sir, with Love boasts very good picture quality on Blu-ray. The 1.85:1 transfer has a minimum of imperfection and does a good job of hiding the film's age with a clean image that only features light grain. The monaural 1.0 DTS-HD master audio soundtrack is not as pleasing. Its volume levels fluctuate, requiring somewhat regular adjustment to hear the many quieter lines spoken without then being bombarded by music and pupil rambunctiousness. The recordings are generally flat and aged, but thankfully English SDH subtitles are able to clarify when needed.

E.R. Braithwaite, author of the book and the real-life Mr. Thackeray, shares his true story in a commentary and this 2011 interview. Lulu, the Scottish actress-singer who performed the film's chart-topping theme song, reflects on her filmmaking experience in two recent featurettes.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

To Sir, with Love only got some basic bonus features in its one and only DVD release from Sony,
released all the way back in 2000. Twilight Time gives this film more deluxe treatment, starting with two new audio commentaries found in the Set Up section.

The first track hails from Twilight Time's film historians Nick Redman and Julie Kirgo, who are joined by actress Judy Geeson. Geeson's detailed first-hand accounts hold the most value, but her contemporaries Redman and Kirgo bring useful perspectives as well, as a product of the British schooling system dramatized and an admirer of the film. It's a good listen, full of enjoyable revelations and observations.

The second commentary comes from author E.R. Braithwaite and author/teacher/principal Salome Thomas-EL. It's amazing to be able to hear Braithwaite, who is probably now 94 and not 102 as IMDb claims, speak over the movie based on his life about his teaching experiences and his limited input into the film. Recorded separately, Thomas-EL lends the perspective of a modern-day black urban educator. He shares his personal policies (some of them questionable, others clichιd) in relation to what's onscreen with increasing frequency as Braithwaite sadly grows quiet.

Also found in Set Up, the disc does include Twilight Time's standard isolated score feature, which removes dialogue and effects to provide a purely musical experience in 2.0 DTS-HD master audio.

On the all-HD video side, comprised largely of extras produced in 2011 but unreleased in North America until now, things kick off with "E.R. Braithwaite: In His Own Words" (23:46), which lets the author tell his compelling real story, which is more extensive than and slightly different from the movie version of it. The commentary seems to derive from this same session, with slight overlap.

"Lulu and the B-Side" (5:07) gathers the singer's thoughts on her involvement and her reflection on how her famous title song came about.

"Miniskirts, Blue Jeans and Pop Music!" (15:21) reflects on the production era, with Lulu and Michael Des Barres recalling the UK of their adolescences, their roles, and their director's manner.

The theatrical trailer for "To Sir, with Love" writes the film's title in cursive. Sidney Poitier wears his students on his blazer on the Blu-ray's menu and cover art.

"To Sidney with Love from Marty Baum" (5:14) allows the actor's former agent, in one of his final interviews,
to extoll his client, his rewarding decision to accept profit percentage over a big payday, and the film's success.

"Principal El: He Chose to Stay" (11:00) lets Salome Thomas-EL discuss the movie's valuable messages with fondness, experience, and perspective.

Finally, To Sir, with Love's original US theatrical trailer (3:17) is provided.

The set's final offering is found inside the keepcase. It is an illustrated 8-page booklet whose main attraction is an essay by Ms. Kirgo that sees the beauty in the film and in what Poitier brings to it.

Simply adapted from the cover art (which itself derives from a poster design), the static menu includes a gallery of Twilight Time's complete catalogue (divided by year) with artwork and availability. The Blu-ray resumes unfinished playback of the film, but does not support bookmarking.

Mr. Thackeray (Sidney Poitier) wins over his working class London pupils by treating them like adults.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

You can certainly accuse To Sir, with Love of being manufactured, overextended, and dated, but even approaching its 50th anniversary, the movie still has the power to put a smile on your face and move you with its story of a resolute teacher making over a class of ne'er-do-wells society has just about given up on.

While it would be easy to enjoy the film on its own, Twilight Time has brought it to Blu-ray in style with impressive picture quality and an unexpected abundance of newish extras that have never before seen the light of day. Though the company's relatively high prices and limited availability may discourage some, this is one release that's just too good to pass up.

Buy To Sir, with Love on Blu-ray at Amazon.com

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Reviewed March 11, 2015.



Text copyright 2015 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 1967 Columbia Pictures and 2015 Twilight Time and Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.
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