Monday, 10 August 2009

Winstanley DVD, Blu-ray and book, you lucky people.

Winstanley, the original "no budget" historical epic was released by the lovely people at the BFI on 3rd August.

No sooner had we seen the release of Comrades - a film charting the trials and tribulations of the Tolpuddle martyrs, then we get the wonderful release of Winstanley, charting the experience of a group known as the Diggers - a peaceful group who existed briefly during the English Civil war and whose beliefs have been likened to early communists.


We have been long term fans of this quaint but remarkable film, it making number 24 on our list of "must see" British films. The film itself was finally finished in 1975, but that it was ever made at all is something of a miracle. Directed by Kevin Brownlow and Andrew Mollo, the film was made with an incredibly small budget, with a crew who were made up of volunteers, and a cast of similar volunteers (only one of whom had any previous acting experience). From watching the film you would have absolutely no idea that this was the case, the film looks amazing (even shooting in black and white for cost saving purposes adds a marvellous aesthetic to the film). The attention to detail in film is absolutely top rate, from the detailing of clothes along to using the correct breed of livestock that would have been used in small holding during the mid 1600's.
A region 1 DVD and overseas VHS had been available for the last few years, but it was an absolute delight when the BFI announced that Winstanley would finally make its UK DVD and Blu-ray release debut on August 3rd 2009. It also announced some extra features on the discs:-
New restoration by the BFI National Archive.
New filmed interview with Kevin Brownlow and Mollo (38 mins).
It Happened Here Again (Eric Mival, 1976, 48 mins) – the making of Winstanley
9 Dalmuir West (Kevin Brownlow, 1962, 12 mins) – a record of the last weekend of Glasgow trams.
Illustrated 32-page booklet with contributions by Marina Lewycka (author of A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian), Eric Mival, Jonathan Rosenbaum, Tom Milne, and David Robinson; plus biographies and credits.
Thus far we have watched the film (and it looks incredible in its remastered glory) and all the new extra features twice over. It has inspired us to hunt down It Happened Here Brownlow and Mollo's previous film from 1964, (also a "no budget" volunteer-led film) set in a fictionalised Britain under Nazi occupation. We have also ordered Kevin Brownlow's recently published book entitled 'Winstanley: Warts and All' , an account of the making of Winstanley, which sounds like a incredibly interesting read.
Sure, we've had a rotten Summer weather-wise, but at least we have been royally entertained with some amazing (if unexpected) DVD releases.

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