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SPECIFICATIONS
  • 2.35:1 Widescreen
  • French PCM Mono
  • English subtitles
  • 1 Disc
FEATURES
  • Video introduction featuring interviews with director Ronald Neame and novelist and screenwriter Brian Garfield
  • Original theatrical trailer and teaser
  • The original television audio track, remixed for family viewing, presented as an alternate audio track
  • Walter Matthau in a 1980 appearance on The Dick Cavett Show
  • An essay by critic Glenn Kenny

Hopscotch

Blu-ray
Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: Ronald Neame
1980 | 105 Minutes | Licensor: Westchester Films

Release Information
Blu-ray | MSRP: $39.95 | Series: The Criterion Collection | Edition: #163
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Release Date: August 15, 2017
Review Date: July 27, 2017

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SYNOPSIS

The inimitable comic team of Walter Matthau and Glenda Jackson star in this nimble tale of international intrigue from master British filmmaker Ronald Neame. Based on Brian Garfieldís best-selling novel, the blithe thriller centers on Miles Kendig (Matthau), a disillusioned retired CIA agent who, with the help of a chic and savvy Viennese widow (Jackson), threatens to publish his memoirs and expose the innermost secrets of every major intelligence agency in the world. Despite being in major hot water with his former colleagues, Kendig refuses to get in lineóheís having too much fun. Set to the sounds of Mozart, this lighthearted sendup of the paranoid dramas of its era is an expertly crafted, singular take on the spy movie.


PICTURE

Ronald Neameís Hopscotch receives a fairly surprising, out-of-left-field Blu-ray upgrade from the Criterion Collection, who present the film in the aspect ratio of 2.39:1 on a dual-layer disc. Also surprising is the fact Criterion is not simply reusing their old high-definition master: the 1080p/24hz presentation has actually been sourced from a new 2K restoration that was scanned from the 35mm internegative.

Revisiting the old DVD and looking back at what I said on it Iím thinking I was a bit unfair with it (I gave its image a 6 out of 10). It has actually held up fairly well I must say. Yes, the source shows its age in certain respects and the encode does have a little trouble handling the grain present, but it still looks quite good for an older standard-definition presentation.

That being said this Blu-ray does offer a rather shocking upgrade in the picture department. The DVD was also sourced from the same 35mm internegative and some of the short-comings found on the DVD have been carried over to here. I still found certain areas of the screen, particularly during the opening, looked a bit faded or washed out and the filmís colours donít pop all that much. At the very least further restoration has been done and while I noticed a spec here and there damage isnít as noticeable as what was on the DVD.

The film is very grainy, which is a bit of a surprise, and while that definitely was noticeable on the DVD (with mixed success) itís more prominent here. It looks much better here in comparison to the DVD, though not without a few hiccups. The opening parade sequence looked a bit rough at first, with a mosquito noise effect far in the background. Looking a little closer I realized that it was raining (or at least sprinkling) in the scene and this may have been causing the odd effect. When we go into the beer tent grain can still look a little off but it then stabilizes and grain rendering looks far more natural throughout the remainder of the film.

The improved grain management also helps in improving detail levels. The film looks astoundingly sharp throughout with natural looking textures and fine details popping off the screen more clearly; you can make out every line on Matthauís face even in some long shots. Black levels are decent and I didnít find much to complain about in this area, but Iím not all that sure on colours. Again, like the DVD, the colours can be a bit muted, despite some sharp reds and greens that pop up. But I found there to be heavier green tint to the film. This isnít all that bad most of the time but in some scenes it becomes obvious, like when Ned Beattyís blonde hair can suddenly take a heavier green tint. This isnít consistent, though, and the degree can vary, so I had to wonder if maybe it was intentional: some (but not all) of the heavier greens appear in settings where there would be fluorescent lights, so I guess that look could make sense (though I think fluorescents give off more of a purple).

There are a handful of short-comings but the overall image is still shockingly good. Hopscotch still seems to be an odd title for Criterion to release (and an even odder one to upgrade to Blu-ray) but theyíve put the level of love and care into its presentation I have come to expect from them.

8/10

All Blu-ray screen captures come from the source disc and have been shrunk from 1920x1080 to 900x506 and slightly compressed to conserve space. While they are not exact representations they should offer a general idea of overall video quality.

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AUDIO

The film comes with two 1.0 monaural soundtracks: the original theatrical audio presented in lossless PCM and an alternate ďtelevisionĒ track that cleans up the language, presented in Dolby Digital. I suspect the TV track is the exact same one found on the DVD, with no retouching. It sounds fine despite some obvious dubs (the acoustics sound a bit different in comparison to the rest of the dialogue) but still sounds a bit flat.

The theatrical track, much to my surprise, comes off quite dynamic. Dialogue and sound effects offer unexpected fidelity and depth, but I was most surprised by the filmís music. It makes heavy use of classical music, Matthauís character being a fan (as was Matthau in real life, at least according to Glenn Kenny in the releaseís included essay) and the range found during these moments was somewhat startling. The track is also clean, free of any distracting noise or distortion. It sounds very good.

7/10

SUPPLEMENTS

This release ports over most of the features found on the DVD. As mentioned in the Audio portion this disc yet again features the broadcast television audio track. Because of how not-violent it is I think many may be surprised to learn the film has an R-rating. Because of this the film really has a loose, fun, family friendly feel. But what probably gets past people nowadays (maybe sadly) is the language: there are actually quite a number of F-bombs dropped throughout the film, along with other words, primarily from Ned Beattyís character, and it is this that would have earned the film its R. Removing just these would have almost guaranteed the film a G-rating or, at worst, a PG. Itís a curious addition, though rather fascinating in that context, and itís interesting to see how removing all those F-bombs does change the Beatty character a bit, making him less abrasive.

Also carried over from the DVD is a 22-minute interview featuring director Ronal Neame and author Brian Garfield. Itís an okay interview with a few interesting tidbits, like how casting of the main character somehow morphed from Warren Beatty to Walter Matthau, and the real reason behind Matthau agreeing to do the film was the fact Neame would do it (Neame having turned down the film a number of times before accepting). The twoórecorded separatelyógo over the general production history of the film, Garfield even explaining how the film was a more pleasing project than other films based on his work (he hints at a displeasure of the film Death Wish, based on another one of his novels, but doesnít get into great detail). There are some amusing anecdotes, and interesting facts about choices in the film (like the use of classical music), but they concentrate too much time on certain sequences in the film (specifically the Oktoberfest opening). A decent interview, but not a required viewing.

New to this edition is a 22-minute television from 1980 interview between Dick Cavett and Walter Matthau, Matthau there to promote his new film, the remake of Little Miss Marker. He doesnít talk about that film (though mentions Tony Curtis) and instead Cavett and he just carry on about whatever topic seems to pop into either of their heads, though Matthau sets the stage early for a fairly unorthodox interview when he comes out on stage with cotton balls stuffed into his nostril and right ear. Matthau does talk about his early theater work (I laughed when, in response to a question about working in the Yiddish Theater, he answers he sold cherry drinks ice cream) and talks about acting, but itís a generally loose stream-of-consciousness talk between the two, and there are a few laughs.

Like the previous DVD this disc concludes with a theatrical trailer and a teaser trailer, both a bit obnoxious. The insert then features a nice essay on Matthau and the film by Glenn Kenny, Bruce Ederís from the previous release being nowhere to be found.

The addition of the Matthau interview is a good one but the release overall still feels pretty slim, especially at the higher price point.

5/10

CLOSING

Supplements are still weak, though I did get a kick out of the newly added Matthau interview. Still, the image offers a sharp improvement over the DVDís and fans of the film will want to pick it up for that reason.


View packaging for this Blu-ray

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