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This review originally appeared in issue 6 of THE CINEMA LASER.


The folks at Lumivision are doing a fine job preserving the film heritage on Laserdisc, their past silent releases of THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA and THE LOST WORLD are excellent examples. Now, in conjunction with the George Eastman House, Lumivision presents FIRE OVER ENGLAND ($35).

Set during the Elizabethan period, FIRE OVER ENGLAND is a highly enjoyable costume drama/swashbuckler. There is enough court intrigue, romance, sword fights and battles to appeal to all tastes. FIRE OVER ENGLAND may star Flora Robson as Elizabeth I, but it is Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh as the romantic leads that people tend to remember. Raymond Massey is Spain's King Philip and a young (and always enjoyable) James Mason appears in a small (uncredited), but pivotal role.

FIRE OVER ENGLAND was photographed by James Wong Howe and his use of light and shadow throughout the film is glorious. Thanks to Lumivision and the preservation of 35mm materials at the George Eastman House, the beauty of Howe's cinematography will be available for future generations to enjoy. After years of suffering through worn, multigenerational public domain 16mm prints, it's a revelation to see actual 35mm materials on FIRE OVER ENGLAND. This is not to say that the film element is perfect, it does show signs of wear and age. There are markings, primarily at reel changes, and a bit of wavering but otherwise the black and white element is sharp and rich in detail. As for the digital monaural soundtrack, it is not free from problems. The volume level isn't consistently stable, but it shouldn't bother most viewers. On the other hand, the Pioneer LDCA pressing is consistently clean.

The jacket to FIRE OVER ENGLAND indicates that Side two is in CAV, unfortunately it is in CLV, despite the fact that it runs under 30 minutes. I tend to suspect that Pioneer is responsible and not the folks at Lumivision.


Laserdisc reviews are Copyright 1996 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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