Goodbye, Mr. Chips
R1 - America - Warner Home Video
Review written by and copyright: Cory Max (16th March 2008).
The Film

Whenever I’m discussing movies with friends and someone utters the expression, 'They don’t make ‘em like that anymore' my mind instantly turns to the classic film Goodbye, Mr. Chips. Can you imagine any screenwriter walking into a producers’ office in Hollywood today and trying to pitch the following plot for a film?

An erudite young man named Charles Chipping (Robert Donat) has accepted a teaching position at a prestigious boy’s boarding school during the Victorian era. His passion and his optimism are vividly evident to his fellow colleagues and to his new pupils. Seizing upon his naiveté, the boys decide to mildly haze the first year instructor. Mr. Chips, as he will soon be christened, doesn’t understand why the boys are being disrespectful and chastises them accordingly. The strict discipline that he meters out to the class cast him as a harsh and cold authoritarian to the boys and they shun him in all non-classroom encounters. He spends the early years of his career in virtual isolation, not only from his students, but also from his fellow staff members who view him as aloof and dull.

When the staid Mr. Chips accepts the invitation to holiday in Austria with one of the faculty, his life will be forever changed by the experience. While hiking alone in the Austrian Alps, he is stranded on the mountain for a few hours in an engulfing fog. He chances upon a beautiful woman named Katherine (Greer Garson) who is also temporarily trapped on the mountain. While 'Chips' weighs in the severity of their situation, Katherine views it as more of a delightful diversion to her day. Katherine’s buoyant hopefulness completely mesmerizes Mr. Chips and he slowly realizes that he is in love with the vivacious young woman. The pair is rescued and after a rather elusive courtship the two are married. The warm side of Katherine’s character slowly thaws away the cold and frigid veneer that 'Chips' has built up over the years and slowly the staff and students begin to accept and appreciate the new and improved Mr. Chips. His blissful transformation will soon be tested as an unforeseen tragedy befalls Katherine and he is once again alone. Believing that fate has intended for theirs to be a short, yet meaningful affiliation, he throws the weight of his new found enthusiasm into molding the futures of his ever-changing classroom. Generations will come and go and the memory of his dry and dreary deportment will diminish with time, and he will come to be regarded as the true embodiment of the Brookings School for Boys.

Goodbye, Mr. Chips is a testament to the bygone days of the golden age of filmmaking when a story meant more than the bottom line of gross ticket sales. It is the kind of film that is perfect for viewing on a cold rainy day when a warm and charming tale can help you to escape the stark reality of the times we now live in.

Video

For the most part, DVD releases from Warner Home Video are usually amongst my favorite film purchases. Alas, this cannot be said about this disc. The film is presented in its full frame 1.33:1 aspect ratio which is probably the only positive thing that can be said for the transfer. Almost every scene in the movie is chock full of grain, scratches and visible film damage. While the wonderful story at the heart of this film may keep you attentive to the narrative, the presentation is hardly worthy of a VHS treatment.

Audio

Just as bad as the video presentation is on this disc, the audio portion fares little better. The soundtrack is recorded in a muddy Dolby Digital 1.0 mono track. There is constant hiss and background hum that doesn’t detract from viewing, but none the less, is unsatisfactory in this technological day and age. Also included is a French audio track recorded in the same manner.

English, French and Spanish subtitles are also included.

Extras

Being a nostalgia buff at heart, I relish the supplements that Warner’s usually attaches to its DVD releases. Their Warner’s Night at the Movies allows the viewer to transport themselves back in time to the era of the film’s release. You usually get a Looney Tunes cartoon, movie trailers for films released that same year, a newsreel and a short film: The same bill of fare that was on the marquee at the local Bijou way back when. You would think that a classic film such as this would be given this treatment, but no, there’s not even the trailer for the presented film! Shame on you, Warner Home Video.

Overall

The Film: B+ Video: C- Audio: C- Extras: F Overall: C-

 


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