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Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea (Special Edition)
Based on the novel by Yukio Mishima, 1976's The Sailor Who Fell From Grace With The Sea introduces us to a widow named Anne Osborne (Sarah Miles), who makes her living running a small antique store. She lives in the English countryside, by the Atlantic shore, with her pubescent son, Jonathan (Jonathan Kahn). They get by alright, but it's clear that they both still miss David, Anne's late husband and Jonathan's father. Their lives are changed when Jim Cameron (Kris Kristofferson), an American sailor, meets Anne when his ship docks in the harbor. The two fall into a sexually charged romantic relationship, which causes Jim to reevaluate his station in life.
Jonathan, however, has been sneaking out of the house very early in the morning. His mother realizes this but, at first at least, isn't necessarily aware of why he's doing this. It turns out that Jonathan, how has an obsession with the sea, has fallen in with a strange secret society of sorts, made up of boys his own age and led by one known only as ‘The Chief' (Earl Rhodes), the other members referred to not by their names but only by numbers. The Chief is far more dominant than the other members of the group, belittling them often and espousing theories resembling those put forth by Nietzsche. Their collective idea is to stand up against rules they see as unfair, rules put forth by adults that they do not wish to abide by. As Jonathan falls in with this group more and more, he becomes obsessed not just with The Chief's ideas but also with Jim, eventually feeling the need to restore everything to the way he feels it should be.
Unusually dark at times and comprised of some admittedly very steamy love scenes, The Sailor Who Fell From Grace With The Sea is a pretty gripping watch. Skillfully directed by first time director Lewis John Carlino and beautifully shot by cinematographer Douglas Slocombe, it's a gorgeous looking film that does a great job of pulling the audience into its rather unusual storyline. Johnny Mandel's score does a very good job of highlighting the romance, the tension and even the horror elements that the movie puts forth, and even at one hundred and four minutes in length, the movie feels properly paced, hitting the fight mix of forward momentum in terms of its plot development, and basic (and very necessary) character development.
The performances here are strong. Sarah Miles is an interesting choice for the female lead, offering a natural vulnerability to the part of Anne that works really well in the context of the story. She looks right for the part and has good chemistry not just with Kristofferson, but with Kahn as well, both of those relationships being equally important to the ‘whole' of the film. It's easy to see why Anne would fall for Kristofferson's Jim. He's handsome, charming and smart. Kristofferson plays this part very well, looking great here, convincing as a ‘man of the sea,' his good looks offset by a grizzled and world-weary appearance. Kahn also delivers very strong work as the mixed up kid, conflicted about all of this and understandably so. Supporting work from Earl Rhodes is also very good, there isn't a weak performance in here to complain about, really.
The Sailor Who Fell From Grace With The Sea comes Blu-ray from Scorpion Releasing/Shout! Factory in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed at 2.35.1 widescreen, taking up just under 31GBs of space on the 50GB disc. Taken from a new scan of the original negative. The transfer looks really good. Skin tones might be just a tad too pink but otherwise colors look really good and black levels are strong. Detail and texture are frequently pretty impressive, there's nice depth to the image, especially in the scenes shot outdoors. There's very little print damage here at all, just the occasional white speck now and again, and overall the image is very clean. Compression artifacts are never a problem and there aren't any obvious issues with noise reduction or edge enhancement. This looks quite good, much better than the previous Blu-ray release which was taken from a somewhat faded looking print.
The only audio option is an English language 24-bit DTS-HD 2.0 Mono track, with optional subtitles offered up in English only. No problems to note here, the dialogue stays clean and clear for the most part (although parts of it are spoken quite softly, so those subtitles do come in handy) and the track is nicely balanced, with the score having some decent depth to it at times.
The extras on this release are comprised primarily of new interviews, the first being with director John Carlino that runs just under eighteen-minutes. He talks about how he first came to know the story because of the original novel, how it melded Japanese culture and English culture, the aesthetic employed in both the book and his filmed version of it, the erotic elements of the story as well as the horror aspects, working with producer Martin Poll, how this film was his directorial debut and some of the issues that entailed, working with Miles and Kristofferson and the other cast members including the younger ones, the film's infamous ‘cat dissection' sequence, problems that arose during the shoot and more. Carlino is a little soft spoken but this interview is definitely interesting and worthwhile.
The second interview gets actress Sarah Miles in front of the camera for ten-minutes. She talks about how Martin Poll got her the script and how she felt about the movie, taking the part, how she was familiar with book before the movie was started and her thoughts on the book itself. She also talks about working with Kristofferson and similarities between the actor and the character he plays in the film, working with Poll and Carlino, having to shoot the film's masturbation scene and quite a bit more. Again, this interview is quite revealing and definitely worth watching.
The third and final interview is with crew members photographer Graham Attwood, production manager Hugh Harlow, focus puller Robin Vidgeon, assistant director Anthony Wayne and set dressed Ian Wittaker. This segment runs just under a half an hour in length and it covers what each of the crew members were involved with, their thoughts on the book and story and having to film some of the more ‘uncomfortable' moments in the picture, working with the cast members, crew members and director, how some of the locals thought that the crew was shooting a pornographic film, what it was like on location, Kristofferson and Miles' work together, the camerawork needed for the production, having to put everyone up in apartments because there was only one hotel in Dartmouth, elements of the cinematography employed in the film, working with the child actors in the film, setting up the shoot, the importance of Kristofferson's ‘look' to the film, shooting on location versus at a studio and lots more. This piece in particular does a great job of detailing the efforts of the four different crew members interviewed and ti covers quite a bit of ground.
Aside from that, we get a couple of trailers for the feature, menus and chapter selection as well as some reversible cover sleeve art.
The Sailor Who Fell From Grace With The Sea is a very well made erotic thriller that makes great use of both Kristofferson and Miles' collective acting abilities, they are both very good here indeed. At times quite tense, it's a beautifully shot film and Scorpion/Shout! Factory have done a nice job bringing it to Blu-ray with a new transfers and a nice array of extra features. Highly recommended.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.