Rita, Sue and Bob Too [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray B - United Kingdom - British Film Institute
Review written by and copyright: James-Masaki Ryan (21st May 2017).
The Film

“Rita and Sue and Bob Too” (1987)

Rita (played by Siobhan Finneran) and Sue (played by Michelle Holmes) are two teenage girls babysitting for Bob and Michelle’s young children for the night. In addition to payment, Bob offers them a ride home, but with a little detour along the way. He asks the girls about their desires, what they think of the opposite sex, and if they’ve ever had experiences with boys. The girls are not disgusted but more curious about what Bob has to offer them. Uncomfortably the girls have their first sexual encounter with Bob in the car, with one going after the other is finished.

The two girls continue a secret relationship with Bob, whether in his car, in an open house bedroom, or on the moor, going one at a time. The girls start to feel jealously eventually, as one would want to “go first” rather than next, and later when they start feeling more for Bob as time goes by. There are suspicions around town, with classmates calling Sue names for being with a married man. Rita’s drunken father is concerned that she is staying out far too much. Bob’s wife Michelle also suspects something as she finds a packet of condoms in his trousers, all the more frustrating as this had happened before in their marriage. With jealously and suspicion coming from all sides, the secret love triangle is about to get undone.

“Rita, Sue and Bob Too” was originally a stage play written by Andrea Dunbar in 1982 with Dunbar adapting her own play for the screenplay. Director Alan Clarke had a busy year in 1987, directing the television films “Christine” and “Road”, and also directing two theatrical films “Billy the Kid and the Green Baize Vampire” and “Rita, Sue and Bob Too”. All four productions were quite different in tone but sharing a similar look and style, with “Christine” being a serious look at drug addiction, “Road” being a freeform look at various characters in an environment, and “Billy the Kid” being a bizarre horror film. “Rita, Sue and Bob Too” was a comedy but not all audiences were laughing. A love triangle can be irksome but when including marital infidelity and also teenagers being taken advantage of, it does cause concerns. The sex scenes can be seen as disturbing but it is played with dark comedy with the uncomfortableness shown without graphic nudity - with Bob’s bare behind being the only seen nudity throughout rather than that of the girls. It is not only a dark comedy but the film does take things seriously in moral and social values with criticism of the education system, morals not being taught to youth, poverty causing youth to lash out against both the parents and the system altogether. The film also presents abuse, pregnancy, and race and class struggles with the characters and their surroundings.

Clarke perfected the use of the Steadicam for the past few years in his productions to create sweeping camera moves in a 360 degree space rather than the traditional static shots and this production is not different, creating a spacious view of the characters’ lives. The opening shot of the drunken father coming home and crossing the view is his daughter which the camera follows next. Inside Bob and Michelle’s house, the camera follows the characters during their argument from room to room. Ironically the only times that the camera is mostly still are the sex scenes leading to more discomfort for the audience that is made to look, rather than looking elsewhere. Stylistically it is not much different from Clarke’s television productions, with the only difference may be the sex scenes that most likely could not be broadcast.

The film premiered at the Brighton Film Festival on May 21st, 1987. Critics were hugely divided with some appalled by the immoral theme of underage sex and the way it was presented in the film while other critics highly praised the cinematography, directing, and the dark humor. Screenwriter Andrea Dunbar defended the film for what it was, but she even admitted that the humorously and strangely “happy” ending was a strange tag to end the movie as the latter half of the film is more serious in tone. The film opened theatrically on September 11th, 1987 and audiences were divided just as well. Those able to see the humor as a way to tell the social issues were positive while the conservatives were horrified by the film. “Rita, Sue and Bob Too” continues to divide audiences as it tackles sex and abuse in a very unusual tone. Dunbar was not able to see much success from her writing work as acclaimed as they were. She died at the age of 29 in 1990 and did not see much monetary income from her works. Director Alan Clarke also died in 1990 at the age of 54 from cancer, just as he was branching out to work on feature films in America for the first time.

Note this is a region B Blu-ray which can only be played back on region B and region free Blu-ray players

Video

The BFI presents the film in 1080p in the AVC MPEG-4 codec, in the original 1.66:1 aspect ratio. The film was shot on Super 16mm and this new restoration comes from the original negatives provided by Channel 4, scanned at 2K resolution. The image was digitally cleaned to present a quite pristine look, with damage removed and grain left intact for a pure film presentation. The original opening titles were recreated digitally from the original textless opening with the original title elements, rather than the theatrical prints which the opening shots were created optically and losing a generation in elements. The opening looks just as good as the rest of the film. Colors are reproduced well with dark blacks looking truly black and bright colors looking particularly bright. There are no issues of color instability or film wobble in the transfer. Another excellent restoration by the BFI.

The film’s runtime is 93:09

Audio

English LPCM 1.0
The original mono audio is presented in lossless mono, from a master audio track provided by Channel 4, the producers of the film. Audio has also been restored, removing any audio damage leaving a very clean track with dialogue sounding clear and music by Michael Kamen sounding very good as well.

There are optional English HoH subtitles for the main feature. There are a few words here and there not captioned which usually happens during a fast talking dialogue scene.

Extras

“Rita, Sue and Bob Too” is a 2 disc set with one Blu-ray with the film and extras, along with one DVD that has the identical contents to the Blu-ray but in the standard definition PAL format.

"Having a Ball: The Making of Rita, Sue and Bob Too" documentary (68:16)
This newly produced documentary, directed by Jon Robertson features new interviews with a large group of people, including actors Michelle Holmes, Siobhan Finneran, George Costigan, biographer Richard T. Kelly, Alan Clarke’s daughter Molly Clarke and many more. Discussed are about the turn from stage to script, the casting and rehearsal process, the use of the Steadicam, and people’s reactions and the controversy.
in 1080p AVC-MPEG-4, in 1.78:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles

Stills and Collections Gallery (98 pages)
A large collection of stills are presented, provided by Channel 4, the BFI, and the film’s collaborators.

Textless Opening (4:10)
As stated previously, the opening sequence was recreated digitally by compositing the sequence from the original negative without text with a separate text element. The original opening can be seen here without the opening credits.
in 1080p AVC-MPEG-4, in 1.66:1, in English LPCM 2.0 with no subtitles

Theatrical Trailer (1:37)
The original trailer has also been remastered in 2K resolution from the original 16mm elements and presented here.
in 1080p AVC-MPEG-4, in 1.66:1, in English LPCM 2.0 with no subtitles

DVD Copy
The DVD offers identical content but on a PAL region 2 DVD.

32 Page Booklet
The booklet includes essays, photos, film credits, bonus features credits, transfer information, and acknowledgements. The first essay is by David Rolinson, breaking down the film and its themes. Rolinson is the writer of the 2005 publication “Alan Clarke” and one of many contributors to the BFI boxset of “Dissent & Disruption: Alan Clarke at the BBC” released last year. Next is screenwriter Andrea Dunbar’s essay to confront the divided reactions to the film in 1987. Last there is a biography of Dunbar written by Max Stafford-Clark, the former Artistic Director of the Royal Court Theatre, where he was Dunbar’s mentor.

The BFI has collected a great amount of extras for this release. A commentary could have cemented it higher, but with the well edited lengthy documentary, it certainly makes up for a lack of a commentary.

Overall

“Rita, Sue and Bob Too” is still a controversial work with its depiction of sexual activity between teens and an older married man, but ranks high as another technical gem in director Alan Clarke’s filmography, delving in a more comedic turn compared to his more serious works. The BFI release presents excellent video and audio with great extras, making this release yet another recommended release.

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

 


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