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High Time

Twilight Time // Unrated // August 14, 2012 // Region 0
List Price: $29.95 [Buy now and save at Screenarchives]

Review by Adam Tyner | posted August 18, 2012 | E-mail the Author
Harvey Howard (Bing Crosby) figures it's about time someone in his family gave higher learning a shot.

No, Harv's not browbeating either of his stuck-up, over-entitled kids into heading to college; the millionaire burger magnate has enrolled himself in the hopes of getting that long overdue bachelor's degree. Sure, sure,
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the guy's flashed plenty of puzzled looks being a fiftysomething-year-old freshman and all, but Harvey insists that he's just another student, even setting up shop in one of those freshman shoebox dorms. Whether it's doing pull-ups in Phys Ed, choking back some sauerkraut juice, or slogging his way through all those fraternity initiation pranks, Harvey quickly proves that he can hold his own with the best of 'em. The rest of the students around Harvey quickly forget that he has an AARP card in his wallet and look at him as just another one of the guys. It can be hard work, but with the friendships he's struck up here -- and, hey! a blossoming romance with a beautiful French professor (Nicole Maurey) -- these might turn out to be four of the best years of Harv's long life after all.

High Time is an endearing, charming little comedy about determination and friendship. There's not a cynical bone in its body, and...heck, there's not even a villain in the usual sense of the word. I mean, Harvey's definitely handed plenty of hurdles he needs to leap over, and not everyone in his life is warm and supportive, but there's not an out-and-out bad guy lurking around anywhere near here. It's not hard to see why Harvey's classmates -- played by the likes of Tuesday Weld, Fabian, and the once and future Batgirl herself, Yvonne Craig -- are so quickly taken by him. He doesn't throw his weight around, he puts his nose to the grindstone, he supports his friends at every turn, and they treat Harvey with every bit as much respect as he shows them. High Time's sense of humor is sort of understatedly zany, what with an ill-fated iceskating jaunt by the goofy
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chemistry professor (Gavin MacLeod), a particularly explosive nightmare, and the sight of a sixty-someodd-year-old crooner strutting around in drag. Add in a freshman bonfire, phone booth stuffing, and totally-G-rated fraternity hazing, and pretty much everything you'd expect to see in a college comedy from the class of 1960 is in here somewhere.

High Time is warm and sweet and...c'mon, who doesn't like Bing Crosby? It's so good-natured and likeable that it's the sort of movie that you just want to give a big ol' bear hug. Crosby is naturally given the chance to belt out a couple of songs, including the Academy Award-nominated "The Second Time Around", and he's surrounded by a terrific supporting cast. High Time is gentle enough that a septuagenarian could comfortably watch it with his 7-year-old grandson and they'd both get a kick out of it. I definitely respect High Time for what it is, although...well, I can't say the movie does all that much for me. The best and worst thing about High Time is how dated it is. It's light entertainment by design, but that means there's not a whole lot to talk about afterwards. There aren't any particularly clever lines worth quoting. Its screwball approach is so muted that it hasn't aged as well as the best comedies from the era. I'm completely charmed by High Time, but it's not that funny, and it's not that memorable. Heck, arguably the most noteworthy thing about the movie is that it was remade a quarter-century later into the Rodney Dangerfield vehicle Back to School.

I feel so guilty saying anything critical about a movie this gentle and good-natured, but the honest answer is that High Time doesn't do a whole lot for me, and it's kinda tough to recommend that someone shell out thirty bucks to buy it sight-unseen. On the off-chance you have the option, my vote would be to Rent It.

On one hand, having High Time on Blu-ray at all is kind of a triumph. This is a film that, after all, never managed to find its way onto DVD, and I'm not sure if had ever gotten a proper release on Laserdisc or VHS either. It's fair to say that without Twilight Time swooping in for the rescue, High Time would still be caked under inches of dust in a climate-controlled vault of Fox's somewhere, continuing to languish in obscurity for who knows how long.

The downside is that not a lot of care went into remastering High Time. There's a little life to the palette, but a good bit of its vibrancy has clearly dulled over time. Though the definition and clarity are still distinctively HD, High Time is a good bit softer and less detailed than average for a film of its vintage. I'm used to the quality degrading somewhat during opticals -- it's unavoidable, after all -- but High Time seems to struggle with that more than most. It's also one of the more speckled presentations I've come across in a good, long while.

Some stretches look reasonably solid...
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...while others don't particularly scream "high definition!" at all. To play fair, I chose an example that isn't compromised by any optical effects:

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I can only guess that lower-generation materials were unusable, and Fox had to settle for something less-than-optimal when preparing this 1080p presentation. For what it's worth, High Time hasn't been subjected to any overzealous noise reduction, leaving the fairly coarse sheen of grain intact. I dunno, I'm not left with much else to praise this time around.

High Time arrives on a single layer Blu-ray disc at its theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1. Somewhat strangely, its AVC encode is split down the middle, spread across two files rather than the traditional one, although it doesn't impact playback in the slightest.

The technical specs read DTS-HD Master Audio 4.0, but with all three front channels active, I'll confess to being puzzled where the fourth channel is supposed to be, exactly. Unless my home theater is mucking up the sound in some way, there's not a peep in the surrounds. The lossless audio snaps to life during the couple of musical numbers, but otherwise, it's uncomfortably boxy and dated. Dialogue in particular suffers, coming through so harshly
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that I had to dial my receiver down quite a bit lower than normal for it to be tolerable. There's a bit of directionality to the dialogue, although some lines in completely static shots will still flutter across the front channels, and the shift in placement can be really jarring during cuts. Even grading on a curve, High Time's 24-bit lossless audio still slips below average.

English (SDH) subtitles and an isolated score are also offered.

  • Isolated Score: Isolated scores have been a fixture throughout most of Twilight Time's releases, and High Time's is presented in lossless 24-bit stereo.

  • Trailer (3 min.; SD): A rather rough standard-def trailer rounds out the extras.
High Time is accompanied by a set of liner notes by Julie Kirgo.

The Final Word
There's just something inherently warm and comforting about sitting down with a Bing Crosby film, and there's also something to be said about High Time's gentle slapstick, sweetness, and general pluck. I have to admit that it hasn't aged well over the past half-century and change, though. High Time as a movie is pleasant but forgettable, and its lackluster presentation on Blu-ray makes it that much tougher to recommend sight-unseen, especially at a premium price point like this. Rent It.






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