A Kid for Two Farthings [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray B - United Kingdom - British Film Institute
Review written by and copyright: James-Masaki Ryan (29th September 2019).
The Film

"A Kid for Two Farthings" (1955)

Joe (played by Jonathan Ashmore) is a young boy feeling quite lonely as his father has been in Africa for some time for work. One thing he believes in is a unicorn could grant him wishes, including being able to see his father again soon. His neighbor Mr. Kadinsky (played by David Kossoff) who runs a pressing shop gives hope to little Joe and tells him about mythical creatures and fantastical tales. Also working at the shop is Sam (played by Joe Robinson), an amateur bodybuilder that is looking to become Mr. World and is also engaged to Sonia (played by Diana Dors). While they have been together for a few years, Sam is not looking at marriage but more towards their finances with a big break. During this time, Sam gets caught up in the world of wrestling, recruited by the crooked fixer Blackie Isaacs (played by Lou Jacobi) and also Joe buys a little goat with a single horn on its head, thinking it is a unicorn that can grant wishes.

Taking place and mostly shot in the bustling market area of Petticoat Lane in London's East End, "A Kid for Two Farthings" is a film with multiple storylines that constantly intertwine. With the young boy a goat he thinks is a unicorn, an elderly man with stories up his sleeve, a young couple whose plans for marriage take an unexpected turn. But even though the three storylines seem very separated, the main characters in all have a common goal of wanting something better for the future. For Mr. Kadinsky he does want a new steam presser for his shop but he is a realist and sees hard work as a way to acquire it eventually. Sonia has been engaged to Sam for four years yet she still. Sam has the body but little in earnings for his future, and eventually gets involved in the world of wrestling unexpectedly. There are quite a few plots to follow but the one that takes the most screentime is the one with Sam and wrestling. His motivation is first not about the money, but seeing the bullying wrestler Python Macklin (played by Primo Carnera) get on his nerves, it's a force of manly frustration that gets him interested in the sport, and as a way to take the bully down. There are multiple sequences of Python instigating both Sam as well as Sonia including a slightly disturbing chase scene at nighttime. It is the centerpoint as well as the basis for the climax for the film, but it is not exactly a "wrestling" film at all. In many ways this is more of a children's film as much of the film could be seen through the eyes of little Joe. who is waiting along with his mother Joanna (played by Celia Johnson) for his father to return. One character that must also be mentioned is Petticoat Lane. The hustle and bustle of the marketplace is shown throughout the film, from stock footage to actual scenes shot in the streets, with some scenes taking place in doubling studios. The market itself with clothing stores, food stands, merchants shouting, and people gathering makes for a busy looking film in almost every scene, with windows showing outdoors throughout.

Writer Wolf Mankowitz wrote the novel "A Kid for Two Farthings" in 1953 and adapted the story to screen in 1955 for producer Alexander Korda and director Carol Reed. This would make Reed's first color film and would also be the last film collaboration between Korda and Reed. Compared to the more adult oriented works such as "Odd Man Out", "The Third Man", and "The Man Between", "A Kid for Two Farthings" was a simpler affair, with a very different tone and feel than anything the director had done. But like many of the director's previous works, there is a lot of emphasis on character and environment, with the post war London streets with dilapidated buildings, common folks in a natural setting, and dialogue that passes on from character to character in ping pong fashion, and interesting characters throughout. There are comical moments sprinkled everywhere and fun to be seen, though it is far from a perfect film. The love story between Sam and Sonia is basically surface level for example, and the story of Joe and Joanna's family issues is also unresolved. But even with its weaknesses, "A Kid for Two Farthings" is quite a gem and is one that is not often mentioned when discussing Reed's or Korda's filmographies.

The film was first screened in May 1955 at the Cannes Film Festival where it was nominated for the Palme d'Or, which eventually went to "Marty". It opened theatrically in the UK the same month and the rest of the world in later months and the following year. It was the 9th most popular movie in the UK that year, but over the years has not particularly grown with stature or popularity. It's been released in various DVD editions over the years but unfortunately none of them offered extras to accompany the film. This release from the BFI presents the first time the film has been made available on Blu-ray and with accompanying extras to boot.

Note this is a region B Blu-ray and region 2 PAL DVD set

Video

The BFI presents the film in the 1.37:1 aspect ratio in 1080p AVC MPEG-4. The accompanying DVD has the film in the same ratio in non-anamorphic PAL format. The high definition transfer from Park Circus has not been given a full restoration and is a slightly disappointing transfer. In the opening scene there is constant color fluctuation and happens in a few other scenes later on. Blues and greens are especially weak with more of a brownish and yellowish hue on the image. Some of the scenes actually look much better with skin tones and wardrobe colors, but there are also some issues with visible damage. Although much has been done to restore the image, there are some remaining such as the vertical moving stripe during the engagement ring scene, and some minor dust and debris. The BFI's booklet does not go into detail about the restoration and transfer, but this was not done in-house and while it has its negatives, it's the best the film has looked on home video.

The film's runtime is 90:28 on the Blu-ray and 86:51 on the DVD accounting for 4% PAL speedup.



















Audio

English LPCM 2.0 mono (Blu-ray)
English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (DVD)
The original mono audio track also has both positives and negatives. Dialogue is fairly clear though some of the portions can have a slight echo to it. The score by Benjamin Frankel comes in very loud and clear, though at times it does overpower the dialogue. The track has been cleaned quite well, with little if no hiss, pops, or cracks to speak of.

There are optional English HoH subtitles for the main feature in a white font.

Extras

This is a dual format set with the film and extras in HD on the Blu-ray and the content repeated on the DVD in standard definition PAL.


DISC ONE (Blu-ray)

"On The Ropes" wrestling and boxing shorts (with Play All) (14:13)
- "Has He Hit Me?" (1898) (0:42)
- "Two Wrestlers" (1900) (1:07)
- "Ritchie, the World's Light-weight Boxing Champion" (1914) (0:45)
- "Reigate Tournament: Wrestling on Horseback at the Annual Show" (1915) (0:58)
- "Twelve Hours Punching" (1924) (1:39)
- "Cockell v La Starza" (1954) (9:00)

From the archives of the BFI come a series of shorts from the turn of the century onward of boxing and wrestling. There are early silent boxing comedies, documentary works, as well as highlights of the 10 round bout between Don Cockell against Roland La Starza, in which Cockell won.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.33:1, Music LPCM 2.0 with English intertitles (for silent shorts), English LPCM 2.0 with no subtitles for “Cockell v La Starza”

"Sales Pitches" London Street Markets in Archive Film shorts (with Play All) (14:01)
- "Petticoat Lane" (1903) (2:34)
- "Petticoat Lane on Sunday" (1904) (3:02)
- "Tower Bridge Road Market" (1931) (4:55)
- "Petticoat Lane" (1959) (3:28)

More from the BFI archives are vintage footage of Petticoat Lane as seen in the main feature, with the hustle and bustle seen in different decades.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.33:1, Music LPCM 2.0 with English intertitles

"London After the War" shorts (with Play All) (62:23)
- "The Proud City: A Plan for London" (1946) (25:20)
- "A London Symphony" (1955) (17:31)
- "The Vanishing Street" (1962) (19:32)

A series of shorts that showcase the rebuilding and changes made to London in the postwar environment. "The Proud City" showcases the reconstruction process with some reenactment footage of the city planners, "A London Symphony" is a great documentary that follows select people around the city in an homage to "A Man with a Movie Camera" and "Berlin: Symphony of a Great City", and "The Vanishing Street" showcases the Jewish community in Petticoat Lane.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.33:1, in English LPCM 2.0 with no subtitles, with "The Vanishing Street" having some Hebrew portions with no subtitles

"All in a Day's Work" interview with actress Vera Day (16:55)
In this new interview with Vera Day who played the jealous Mimi in a minor role, Day recalls her career as well as her work on "A Kid for Two Farthings". She discusses her early days of modeling, her auditions, working on the production including the climactic final wrestling scenes. She also discusses her career onward and some of the career choices and regrets made.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.78:1, in English LPCM 2.0 with no subtitles

"Joe Robinson Remembers A Kid for Two Farthings" 2006 interview (27:26)
Following a screening of the film, Robinson is moderated by critic Geoff Andrew about the making of "A Kid for Two Farthings". They discuss the casting process, the wrestling, as well as other issues such as his future roles. This is an audio only interview which plays as an alternate audio track over the film. The audio is a little on the watery side.
in English LPCM 2.0 with no subtitles

Image Gallery (13:09)
An automated slideshow gallery of rare stills is provided. Unlike many BFI galleries, this actually has music music accompaniment, though it is not music from the film itself.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, Music LPCM 2.0


DISC TWO (DVD)

"On The Ropes" wrestling and boxing shorts (with Play All) (13:46)
- "Has He Hit Me?" (1898) (0:41)
- "Two Wrestlers" (1900) (1:06)
- "Ritchie, the World's Light-weight Boxing Champion" (1914) (0:44)
- "Reigate Tournament: Wrestling on Horseback at the Annual Show" (1915) (0:58)
- "Twelve Hours Punching" (1924) (1:38)
- "Cockell v La Starza" (1954) (8:38)
"Sales Pitches" London Street Markets in Archive Film shorts (with Play All) (13:57)
- "Petticoat Lane" (1903) (2:33)
- "Petticoat Lane on Sunday" (1904) (3:01)
- "Tower Bridge Road Market" (1931) (4:55)
- "Petticoat Lane" (1959) (3:28)
"London After the War" shorts (with Play All) (60:00)
- "The Proud City: A Plan for London" (1946) (24:19)
- "A London Symphony" (1955) (16:56)
- "The Vanishing Street" (1962) (18:45)
"All in a Day's Work" interview with actress Vera Day (16:14)
"Joe Robinson Remembers A Kid for Two Farthings" 2006 interview (audio only) (26:22)
Image Gallery (13:09)

The film and the extras are repeated on a standard definition PAL DVD.


Booklet
Included in the first pressing is a 24 page booklet. First is an essay by author Matthew Coniam on the film, its making, and its themes. Next is the essay "Wolf Mankowitz: Petticoat Lane to Panama" by BFI curator Dr. Josephine Botting, which documents the writer's fascinating life in novels and film to eventually becoming a diplomat. There are also full film credits, stills, special features credits, and acknowledgements.


While there is a lot of content on the disc, The amount of extras that are specifically for the film is a bit limited. Without including the booklet, there are two interviews and the gallery. There is no commentary, no visual essays, but the amount of extras of related shorts included is very generous.

Overall

"A Kid for Two Farthings" is a children's fantasy, a love story, a wrestling flick, and a story about a tight knit community all in one, and is director Carol Reed's more underappreciated works. The picture and audio may only be on the fair side, and the extras pertaining to the film itself is a bit limited, but still comes as recommended.

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

 


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