Monday, 10 August 2009

Bill Douglas' Comrades is released on DVD and Blu-ray, comrades.

Well Comrades, something happened on the 27th July that we thought we'd never ever see happen, Bill Douglas' great lost (and last) film Comrades was released on DVD in the UK.

The films own history was something on an epic, and since its very brief cinematic release in 1987, one showing on TV and an incredibly brief sporadic international VHS release, nothiog had been heard of the film since. That was until February 2009, when Film4 announced it would be showing the movie on its free movie channel. This is what we wrote at the time: -

"Comrades is a cinematic account of the Tolpuddle Martyrs, a group of Dorset labourers who in the early 19th century took a collective stand against the unfair treatment meated out by their land owner. The land owner and the judiciary sought to crush any dissent amongst the peasant classes and the labourers were transported to Australia for their 'crimes'. The film had a terrific cast that includes James Fox, Michael Horden, Freddie Jones, Robert Stephens, Immelda Staunton, Keith Allen and Philip Davis, and was finally finished in 1987 (after endless production problems), and nearly 10 years after Bill Douglas had completed his life trilogy (My Ain Folk etc). Comrades received a limited cinematic release (no doubt in part due to its unfashionable theme and its 3 hr plus running time), and subsequently received only a couple of plays on television on Channel 4 (who co-funded the project) . It also received a very low key and brief VHS issue, but it has been long out of print and impossible to find.In the wake of Bill Douglas' death the BFI released the Trilogy on DVD, here is hoping that the premiere of Comrades on FILM4 is the first step to seeing this lost classic released on DVD very soon. "

Comrades, was dutifully played in its uncut glory and it didn't dissapoint. With such a fantastic film I can only assume the delay in getting it back on TV was due the myriad of owners the film is rumoured to have had.

Then came news of not only a full DVD release, but also a blu-ray edition (for those that do). Both editions came with a treasure trove of additional features:

Lanterna Magicka – Bill Douglas & the Secret History of Cinema (2009, 60 mins), an insightful new documentary on Douglas’s life and work
Visions of: Comrades (2009, 15 mins), cast-members recall making the film
Bill Douglas interviews (1978, 33 mins), exclusive presentation of a remarkable interview in which Douglas discusses his method and creating approach to writing and directing
Home and Away (Michael Alexander, 1974, 30 mins), charming short film co-scripted by Douglas
Original Comrades trailer
On-set report from the set of Comrades
Illustrated booklet with essays, production material and credits.

Due to summer holidays, I only managed to watch the DVD right the way through on Saturday. The extras on the DVD are absolutely superb. I would say that this along with the release of Winstanley is our DVD highlight of the year so far.

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