The Man in the White Suit is an anti-capitalist parable about profiteering and victimisation. In this parable, the victim selects himself, and steers an obsessive course which relentlessly ignores the outside world.
The victim is Cambridge-educated inventor Sidney Stratton, whose quest is to invent a non-destructible, non-stainable synthetic textile - the prototype of which becomes the eponymous white suit. A fluorescent white suit at that - all the better to see him by.
All the better, because our hapless inventor soon becomes the target of one and all. Of both bosses and workers, who each realise that a cloth which cannot wear out will destroy industry and employment. The invention must be seized and suppressed; be hidden along with the never-dull razor-blade, the engine which can run on water and the lifetime light-bulb.
This entrant in The Sir Alec Guinness Ealing Comedy DVD Collection is one of Alec Guinness' better roles. The character of Sidney Stratton is meek and strangely appealing, in the way a lost puppy dog is. There's not much more characterisation than that, but characterisation wasn't Alec Guinness's strong-point; he was always best playing himself. And Alec Guinness suits this role just fine.
Cecil Parker is the bumbling captain of industry, Birnley, who is recounting this cautionary tale. But the stand-out act comes from the always delectable Joan Greenwood, as Birnley's deep-voiced, seductive daughter who finds herself strangely drawn to Guinness's odd character.
This is a simple tale, as the best parables always are. But it is told strongly, and stands repeated viewings. And special honours must go to the technical effects team who created the quirky sound effects for Sidney Stratton's technical apparatus - once heard, never forgotten, and copied countless times since.
This 1951 Academy ratio black-and-white movie is a delight to the eye.
The tonal contrasts are clear and strong. The play of light upon the characters' faces is especially fine - watch for the scenes of Guinness and Greenwood in close-up together. Greenwood is as finely lit and photographed as Ingrid Bergman is in Spellbound or Casablanca.
Black and white movies when rendered as finely as this on DVD are truly wondrous. And they show why cinema masters such as Ingmar Bergman, Woody Allen and Billy Wilder still had such a love for this format, well into the full-colour age.
This is again two-channel mono sound, but is every bit as clear and firm in its soundstage presentation as the other entrants in this box-set. No surround-sound or low-end workouts here, but it is everything that is needed for enjoyment of this classic parable - or, as they describe it, 'comedy'.
I think this will stand repeated viewings, but many people would probably be content with rental. It is however part of an indispensable box-set, so you're stuck with it.