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    Goodbye Mr Chips (1939)

    Warner Bros./Warner Home Video . R4 . B&W . 110 mins . G . PAL


    I reviewed this story a little while back. It was a BBC production and starred Martin Clunes as Mr. Chips. That was the first time Iíd ever seen the story and I thought it was okay, if nothing astounding. Then I recently saw this version from 1939; a version that won the Oscar for the lead of Robert Donat as Mr. Chips. And I have to say, this version is far and away better in all regards.

    It documents the life of Mr. Charles Edward Chipping as he begins his career at Brookfield School For Boys. Signing on as the new languages teacher, he starts out very nervously and even unsuccessfully until he finds his feet. However, he is a shy and lonely man and when persuaded by a German friend to come along to Austria for a walking tour, he meets Katherine, a striking and free-spirited young woman who he falls completely in love with Ė even though he doesnít realise it.

    They soon marry and she teaches him what it is to not only be a good person, but to change the style in which he lives his life; a style he is flustered and frustrated by. She blends in perfectly with the school system and before anyone knows it, she has turned Brookfield into a wonderful school with the boys and other teachers falling over themselves to impress her.

    What follows are the remaining years of Mr. Chippingís life with Katherine and the fortunes of the changing world outside, while inside the warm confines of the schoolís walls, life goes on at its own meandering pace. When World War I begins the schoolís fortunes change dramatically as so many young men and teachers head off to war and Mr. Chips (as he is affectionately known) is left to steer the school with courage and bravery in his older years.

    "May I kick him, Sir?"

    This is a warm and witty story, told in a different manner to which we are accustomed some 60-odd years later. While time has changed the styles and the method and even the world depicted here, the messages of the film remain. These are what make it great as we watch Mr. Chipsí unique and humble perspective on life as he discovers as much about being human as he teaches the boys themselves. I discovered moments in which I could scarcely believe that a world like this ever existed, but then I went to public school in Australia 80 or 90 years after this is set. Strange customs and behaviours abound, but donít let this deter you from enjoying a film that manages to bridge the years between now and then and remain thoroughly poignant and moving.


    Made in 1939, the film is in the 4:3 ratio (so naturally, no enhancement) and black and white. However, this is fine as the story doesnít require anything spectacular by way of scenery of size. Well, some of the mountain scenes perhaps, but they are studio shot so it doesnít matter. The b+w is even enough, although the blacks border on deeper grey half the time. Shadow detail is alright though and while there isnít a lot of it, it works when there is. Film artefacts are everywhere, but while these are frequent there arenít many that are too affecting.


    Dialogue is usually clear enough here and the balances are good for this Dolby Digital mono presentation. Music is severely of the time in that whiny old violin they drag out for the moving moments of the piece, but apart from that sounds as it probably did back then. Itís not the best soundtrack Iíve ever heard by any means, but it does suit the film and was of the style of the time.

    Occasionally the outdoor (and obviously studio) shots pick up the echo from being indoors, but this doesnít happen a great deal as the majority of the action takes place indoors. Itís mono so it ainít great, but at least itís clear and audible.


    Disappointingly, there are no extras here. Maybe they all got detention or something.


    Well, for anyone who loves the book (by James Hilton) this is the better of the two versions Iíve seen. I'm not sure how many have been made, if any others have, but there you go. The presentation of the film (what Iím told is a well beloved classic) is fairly disappointing with the overall treatment of the disc and non-existent extras. But, this is a budget release and thatís what happens with budget releases.

    I dunno, the film is serviceable without doubt and I truly enjoyed it, so I guess itís gotta come down to you, the consumer, and how badly you want it. Iíd be willing to bet there isnít a two-disc set planned so this is probably the only version weíll ever see on DVD.

    A charming, endearing film with an exceedingly average disc presentation.

  • LINK: http://www.dvd.net.au/review.cgi?review_id=3827
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      And I quote...
    "Charming and endearing, Mr. Chips is a warm reflection on the life of one well-loved teacher and his life-spanning career."
    - Jules Faber
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Teac DVD-990
    • TV:
          AKAI CT-T29S32S 68cm
    • Speakers:
          Teac PLS-60 Home Theatre System
    • Centre Speaker:
          Teac PLS-60 Home Theatre System
    • Surrounds:
          Teac PLS-60 Home Theatre System
    • Subwoofer:
    • Audio Cables:
          Standard RCA
    • Video Cables:
          Standard Component RCA
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