Sorry, old bean.
20th Century-Fox's Cinema Archives vault of hard-to-find cult and library titles has released Decline and Fall...of a Bird Watcher, the 1968 British comedy based on Evelyn Waugh's Decline and Fall, directed by John Krish, and starring Robin Phillips, Genevieve Page, Donald Wolfit, Colin Blakely, and Leo McKern. Unfortunately, Fox has released this title in a full-frame transfer. Due to spotty reference materials, it can be difficult trying to figure out aspect ratios for British movies during this time period. However, by 1968, pretty much anything showing up in theaters (not already shot in a widescreen process--and no such process like "Panavision" or "CinemaScope" is credited on screen or in any reference work I could find for Decline) was expected to be soft-matted off during projection to a minimum of 1.66:1.
Now, I've reviewed other Cinema Archives fullscreen titles that used old altered-for-television prints--I seriously doubt they're the original open mattes--that looked okay cropped on my wide monitor. Unfortunately, Decline and Fall...of a Bird Watcher doesn't, with the resulting image looking too tight when cropped: tops of heads crowded or cut off at the top of the frame, and information lost at the bottom--not to mention an unnecessarily grainy, blown-out image. Fox has been all over the map with these Cinema Archives releases in terms of correct screen ratios (you never know if you're getting fullframe, letterboxed, or the rare anamorphic), with information on the web sketchy about which titles are botched. So, in an effort to help other fans like myself who want these movies presented correctly, and who don't want to waste their money on compromised product...skip this release of Decline and Fall...of a Bird Watcher.
Paul Mavis is an internationally published movie and television historian, a member of the Online Film Critics Society, and the author of The Espionage Filmography.