R.P.M.* *Revolutions Per Minute (Blu-ray) [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray ALL - United Kingdom - Powerhouse Films
Review written by and copyright: Rick Curzon (10th February 2019).
The Film

The films of director Stanley Kramer (Ship of Fools, Guess Whos Coming to Dinner?) reflected social and political concerns of their time and tackled controversial subjects head on. The little-seen 1970 feature R.P.M., set amidst the turmoil of late-60s anti-war student protests, is no exception.

As activists seize control of a California college, a free-thinking, anti-establishment college professor (Anthony Quinn) finds himself in a precarious position when hes invested as University President and must decide between restoring order or sanctioning a descent into anarchy

Video

Always interesting, frequently heavy-handed treatise on morally grey areas. Both sides are portrayed as intransigent but sympathetic and the film's approach is one of tolerance and of seeing both points of view. It's very well made and I can't fault any of the performances but just doesn't quite work as it would like. Rather, It's very much of it's time and is somewhat dated as a result.

Despite being based on real incidents it doesn't strike me as very realistic, but theatrical in a way. All of the students are way too old, which is amusing ... despite the fact most aren't. In any case, it's entertaining, thought-provoking and engrossing viewing.

Powerhouse Films present this relic of the late '60s - early '70s in it's correct US soft matte aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and the image is a doozy. Vividly shot and obviously well funded, R. P. M. has a slick if gritty production sheen typical of American films of the period and of the ambition; it's an important attempt by a serious film maker to come to terms with then contemporary volatile issues and events.

The colour palette is naturalistic but robust; reds stand out as vivid and flesh tones are well defined and satisfying. The general colour value choices are the warmer, browner, redder end of the spectrum; the film was set in the Autumn and was released in September 1970 to capitalise on the new academic term. Perhaps the time of year was meant to represent the tone of the protagonists in the narrative and the sense of events coming to a head?

Black levels are deep and rich and being a well-funded 35mm production I noticed no signs of black crush which can be a sign of expediency; at least none that I got the impression were unintended. Contrast is supportive of detail with no blown out highlights with plenty of fine detail in closeups, mid-shots and long shots coming through. Typically, fabrics and skin detail comes off best.

As is usual, David MacKenzie and Fidelity in Motion have expertly encoded this release so grain structure is well resolved with no signs of holes or clumping. I saw no signs of any digital tinkering or print damage.

Another winner from Powerhouse Films.

1080/24p / MPEG-4 AVC / 1.85:1 / 91:58

Audio

English LPCM 1.0
Subtitles: English HoH

A mightily impressive mono track; as good as I've ever heard with a very healthy low end, no distortions and very clear dialogue delineation. It even got my subwoofer going ever so slightly in the big confrontation scene at the end with De Vorzon's robust compositions kicking some serious audio butt!

Subtitles are welcome and essential, as usual. This is a very wordy, gabby film so very, very essential.

Extras

Audio Commentary by film historian Paul Talbot

Listening to this superb commentary Talbot) I was surprised to find that R. P. M. wasn't well received at the time by the public or by critics with comments claiming it contrived and the youth market rejecting it. But, thinking on it; it isn't surprising because despite all the research Kramer did he was still an older individual trying to come to terms with the youth movement and in the end this doesn't quite play to either position. Both come out of this film looking deeply flawed. Talbot is among the best commentators going, managing to balance a fact-historical based track with fanboy enthusiasm. His New England accent lends him an ever so slight breathless enthusiasm! I've listened to most of his tracks to date, especially those on Charles Bronson films. Here he describes himself as a Kramer scholar; a shame he didn't get called to do Criterion's It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World (1963) track.

Isolated Music & Effects Track (in LPCM 1.0)

The superb De Vorzon's and Perry Botkin Jr's score presented isolated.

"Two Sides of the Coin: The Songs and Music of R. P. M." interview with composer Barry De Vorzon (13:27)

I've been aware of De Vorzon since the early '80s when I noticed his name on films and TV shows I liked; namely Looker (1981) and "V": The Final Battle (1984). This engaging interview was fascinating and very welcome. His early career is covered and R. P. M. specifically.

TV Spot (1:03)

Typical TV spot of the era.

R. P. M.* *Revolutions Per Minute Image Gallery: Original Promotional Material (35 images)

Modest but decent HD still gallery of stills and promo material.


32-page liner notes booklet by Jeff Billington with Stanley Kramer on R.P.M., original soundtrack album liner notes, an overview of contemporary critical responses, and film credits

Typically excellent Powerhouse Films booklet with a splendid new essay on the film as well as some choice bits and bobs from the archives.

Overall

A fascinating, if flawed relic of a bygone era gets the deluxe treatment from Powerhouse Films as part of their now beloved Indicator Series Blu-ray releases. Image and sound are - as is usual now for this label - as good as can be given the masters used (hence the A+ rating for both). Extras are sparse this time when compared to many other releases in the range, but what have been provided are so good I've knocked the grade up a notch (B-) from what I'd have given another more mundane label's efforts.

Highly recommended; a beautifully produced disc of a fascinating film. Bravo to Anthony Nield and all at Powerhouse Films who worked on this release.

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

 


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