The Good Die Young [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray B - United Kingdom - British Film Institute
Review written by and copyright: James-Masaki Ryan (1st August 2020).
The Film

"The Good Die Young" (1954)

Joe (played by Richard Basehart) is an American that who flies to Britain to try to get his British wife Mary (played by Joan Collins) to return home with him. She is stuck there because of her mentally unstable mother (played by Freeda Jackson) who is continuously putting her on a guilt trip for leaving her and moving to America with an American husband. Joe had risked his job to make the trip and with the trip becoming longer than anticipated, so are his funds to be able to return home with his wife.

Mike (played by Stanley Baker) is a boxer that is looking to retire from the game so he can live a settled down life with his wife Angela (played by Rene Ray). But complications arise with Mike having to have his hand amputated from complications from injuries and gangrene as well as Angela's younger brother Dave (played by James Kenney) getting in trouble with the law leave Mike's future in a terrible position.

Eddie (played by John Ireland) is an American soldier married to Denise (played by Gloria Grahame), an actress who is being lavishly unfaithful and freely in front of her husband. Stuck as a powerless cuckold, Eddie is in a hopeless and frustrating situation in his life and he desperately wants out.

Ravenscourt (played by Laurence Harvey) is a carefree scoundrel who lives off his rich wife Eve's (played by Margaret Leighton) money as he racks up gambling debts. He is not afraid of danger or consequences, and the only thing he is truly waiting for in life is for his father (played by Robery Morley) to croak so he can inherit the money.

These four men are from different backgrounds and are in different situations, but after meeting each other in a local pub and discussing their stories, they befriend each other in an odd way. Ravenscourt sees that the problems of each person in the group could easily be solved by money. He puts together a plan for the four of them to rob a post office delivering soon-to-be discarded cash, which would be low risk according to his information. But with these four men with no criminal records and no experience in a heist, the stakes are high and dangerous.

"The Good Die Young" starts towards the end of the film, with the opening sequence being the four men ready to pull off the heist with a stolen car and guns. Basically told in flashbacks for each character, it follows the formula of "Double Indemnity" (1944) and "Sunset Boulevard" (1950) in which the later events are shown at the start. Even the narrator iterates that the four men are from different backgrounds and have no criminal history, for the audience to try and piece how and why these characters would suddenly be in a situation with guns in a briefcase. Adapted from the novel of the same name by writer Richard Macaulay, the story was placed in the postwar environment and some of the struggles that former soldiers faced whether personally or professionally, and in the film placed emphasis on both the Korean War and World War II. Directed and cowritten by Lewis Gilbert, the film adaptation kept things gritty and tense, provided an eclectic and interesting cast of characters that gave sympathy and empathy as well as frustrated hatred of others. Seeing the troubles that Joe has to deal with a controlling and mentally unstable mother-in-law that is straining his marriage is disheartening. Mike having promise of breaking free from the cruel world of boxing only to find less opportunities having little savings and a hand removed is cruel. Ravenscourt is the villain the audiences love to watch but hate to see succeed. Selfish and devious, there is much to hate but Laurence Harvey is absolutely great in the role and it's easy to see how his charm is able to group the less fortunate men together. Eddie's situation might be the weakest of the three, not only with his weak character but the strange plausibility that an American airman could have a relationship with a lavish actress. There probably is more story to the two leading up to how their relationship came to be, but doesn't seem to work as well as it could have.

Shot in stark black and white by cinematographer Jack Asher, the production looks stellar throughout with the outdoor streets, the detailed indoor sequences, and the intense final night sequence. "The Good Die Young" falls in the film noir category quite nicely, with its look, the style, the tone, and the conventions such as flashbacks and narration as frequently seen in some of the best of the era. While films noir might have "America" as the setting for the most part, there are quite a number of classics that take place overseas including London, such as "Night and the City" (1950) and "The Fallen Idol" (1948) to incredible effect. "The Good Die Young" is not as talked about in the same vein as other noir of the period, but seriously should be, as the performances, the structure, and the direction are top notch and always engaging. Director Lewis Gilbert was a jack of all trades and not a filmmaker that was known for a specific genre. His previous film, 1953's "Cosh Boy" was also in the noir category but mostly focused on juvenile delinquency, and featured performances from Joan Collins and James Kenney, plus cowriting from Vernon Harris and cinematography by Jack Asher, all who would work on "The Good Die Young" a year later. More adult centered and darker in tone, it's a different beast altogether and also one that feels very different from Gilbert's later works such as the acclaimed comedy "Alfie" (1966), the three 007 productions "You Only Live Twice", "The Spy Who Loved Me" (1977) and "Moonraker" (1979), as well as acclaimed adaptations of "Educating Rita" (1983) and "Shirley Valentine" (1989) to name a few from his lengthy and varied career. With the title of the film, it's fascinating to note that some of the main cast literally, died fairly young, not living to their 60s. Laurence Harvey and Margaret Leighton that played the married couple and married in real life in 1957 died at the ages of 45 and 53 respectively. Stanley Baker died at 48, Gloria Grahame died at 57 and James Kenney at 56. Not to say it was a curse at all, as Joan Collins is still alive and well in 2020, Robert Morley passed at the age of 84, and director Lewis Gilbert died in 2018 at the age of 90.

The film was released on March 4th, 1954 in the United Kingdom and in other parts of the world the same year and in the following year. Interestingly the UK domestic version of the film was slightly shortened and altered compared to the version screened in the international market. About two minutes of additional footage is included and some scenes include alternate footage. Differences are noted below:

- The kiss scene between Ravenscourt and his wife Eve have some additional lines and footage. (29 mins)
- The scene in which Eddie drops the fully clothed Denise in the bathtub is a comical sequence in the domestic version. In the export version, he not only drops her in the tub but pushes her head in the water as she struggles, giving a more violent tone, for this alternate take. (66 mins)
- After Ravenscourt discusses robbery plan with the men at the pub, he gives an emotional speech about the struggle of veterans that returned from the war. Interestingly it is in this scene that he says the title of the book and film, which was cut from the domestic version. (72 mins)
- There are additional shots during the robbery scene including an extended scene of Mike's death with the sounds of his final bout in the boxing ring added as his final thoughts. (79 mins)
- The scene on the train with Ravenscourt and Joe is extended (90 mins)

The added and alternate scenes are very interesting to see, and especially the tonal difference with the character of Eddie in the bathtub sequence. Once seeing the export cut, the jump cuts of the missing scenes become jarringly obvious. This BFI release presents the export cut for the very first time on home video worldwide, and also presents the domestic cut on Blu-ray for the first time worldwide.

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

Video

The BFI presents both cuts of the film in the original theatrical 1.66:1 aspect ratio in 1080p AVC MPEG-4. For the domestic version, the original 35mm negative held by the BFI was scanned and restored at 2K resolution and looks quite fantastic. The black and white image has wonderful grey scale, showing off both lights and shadows in every scene, damage is minimal with scratches and debris removed, while also keeping the film grain intact. It's absolutely an excellent looking restoration.

The export version of the film is also in the 1.66:1 aspect ratio in 1080p AVC MPEG-4. This was reconstructed using the restored 2K master of the theatrical version for the identical scenes and a 35mm duplicate negative of the export cut for the unique scenes. During these sequences the change in quality is quite noticeable in the image and the audio, with the image being slightly darker, and having more damage marks visible.

The Blu-ray includes the domestic version with a runtime of 98:13 and the export version at 100:30. The DVD only has the domestic version at 94:18, accounting for 4% PAL speedup.



















Audio

Blu-ray:
English LPCM 2.0 mono
DVD:
English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono
The original mono track was scanned from the original 35mm optical track negative and restored. Hisses, pops, and other distortion has been removed for the most part leaving a very clean and stable track. Dialogue is always clear and music is well balanced throughout, though there are some fidelity issues that can be heard from time to time. For the scenes from the export cut the audio does have more distortion and background noise which is easily discernible, as it comes from a lesser source. Overall the sound is quite good and is pleasing, especially in the domestic cut.

There are optional English HoH subtitle for both cuts of the film in a white font.

Extras

This is a dual format set with both versions of the film and extras on the Blu-ray in HD and for the DVD the domestic version of the film and extras in SD PAL.

Blu-ray

"When Giant Fought" 1926 short (30:55)
This silent three-reeler produced by the Frederick White Company starts off as a seemingly simple love triangle of two men courting a lovely lady, but places it in true life with the story of Tom Molineaux, an African-American former slave that became a significant name in boxing circuit in the United Kingdom in the early 1800s. To note, the film's intertitles does use some racially insensitive terms for when characters are talking about Molineaux and are left intact here without censorship. The film is in fairly good condition, with much of the usual damage like dirt and scratches removes, though flickering and lack of detailed sharpness are some of the weaker factors. A newly composed score by Mordecai Smyth is offered in stereo.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.33:1, LPCM 2.0 with English intertitles

"Midnight Taxi" 1946 short (17:15)
This government short sponsored by the National Savings Committee showcases the bustling nightlife of the city, but not where most people think, with the operations of the post office sorting and delivering mail in an intricate system underground.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.33:1, LPCM 2.0 with English intertitles

"Under Night Streets" 1958 short (19:37)
There are hundreds of miles of tunnels of the London Underground, and this short film shows what happens after the midnight when the trains stop running. Railway workers inspect, fix, and maintain the system during the wee hours, and this documentary and reenactment film shows the tiring efforts by the many staff. There is a very noticeable hiss during the entire short film on the soundtrack.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.33:1, LPCM 2.0 with English intertitles

"Not Like Any Other Director: Lewis Gilbert" 1995 interview (31:09)
Michael Caine, who Gilbert directed in "Alfie" and "Educating Rita" gives a loving introduction for the on stage interview between the director with moderator Anthony Sloman held at the National Film
Theatre in 1995. Gilbert discusses about his early days as a child actor, then moving into directing war documentaries, and his feature films, and also gives some fun information on working with Alfred Hitchcock, Michael Powell, and many others during his lengthy career.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.33:1, in English LPCM 2.0 with no subtitles

Image Gallery (11:06)
A series of black and white behind the scenes stills, lobby cards, and posters from the archives, with some jazz music tracks by Neil Sidwell, Terry Devine-King, Alexander L’Estrange, and Gerard Presence as background.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, LPCM 2.0


DVD

* The Film (Domestic Version)
"When Giant Fought" 1926 short (29:40)
"Midnight Taxi" 1946 short (16:34)
"Under Night Streets" 1958 short (18:50)
"Not Like Any Other Director: Lewis Gilbert" 1995 interview (31:09)
Image Gallery (11:06)

The domestic version of the film and the extras are carried onto the DVD copy. The export version is exclusive to the Blu-ray.


Booklet
A 24 page booklet is included in the first pressing only. First is the essay "An Unpleasant Slice of British Life: The Good Die Young" by curator Dr Josephine Botting. A biography of Lewis Gilbert by by Peter Rankin, cowriter of Gilbert's autobiography is next. Full film credits, special features information, stills, about the presentation and acknowledgements are also included.


The BFI have uploaded a clip on their YouTube channel, as seen here:



The interview and gallery are great extras, while the short films are interesting though not directly connected to the film itself. The film itself could have used a commentary track or other extras and interestingly there is no trailer included on this set.

Overall

"The Good Die Young" is an absolutely essential British film noir that should get more attention, with stellar performances, the intensity, the excellent structure are just some of the highlights of the work. The BFI dual format set presents both cuts of the film with some good extras making this highly recommended.

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

 


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