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Radio On (Fun City Editions) Blu-ray Review

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    Ian Jane
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  • Radio On (Fun City Editions) Blu-ray Review



    Released by: Fun City Editions
    Released on: December 28th, 2021.
    Director: Christopher Petit
    Cast: David Beames, Lisa Kreuzer, Sandy Ratcliff, Andrew Byatt, Sting, Sue Jones-Davies
    Year: 1979
    Purchase From Amazon

    Radio On - Movie Review:

    Scripted and directed by Christopher Petit, 1979's Radio On follows a man named Robert (David Beames) who works as a DJ on the night shift, trying to make the lives of the factory workers who listen to him a little brighter. They call in with requests that he typically ignores, knowing that his carefully curated selections will enlighten them in a sense.

    When Robert's brother passes away, he decides to make the drive to Bristol and find out what happened to him. Along the way, Robert meets a cast of interesting, quirky characters who, like himself, seem to be looking for something more in life. After meeting a Scottish vet (Andrew Byatt) who is clearly messed up from his time in the service, he then runs into two German women, one of whom is hoping to find her missing ex-husband and the child she bore him. Later on he meets up with 'Just Like Eddie' (Sting), a guitar player who performs for him.

    The mystery of Robert's brother's death is never really resolved here, and the film is more about the journey than the destination. There's an obvious nod to the cinema of Fritz Land and Wim Wenders in the opening minutes of the film, the Wenders influence making it fairly clear what sort of territory we're headed into here. Radio On is a quirky and strange road movie of sorts, not the type of thing you'd expect from a British film made in the 1979, but it also explores how the different characters that populate this world communicate with one another, or in certain cases, how they don't, or simply can't, communicate with one another.

    There isn't a whole lot of dialogue in the film, but there is a wealth of music in the picture. The film makes great use of a pretty solid soundtrack, with contributions from David Bowie (Heroes/Helden, Alwyas Crashing In The Same Car), Kraftwerk (Uranium, Ohm Sweet Ohm), Robert Fripp (Urban Landscape), Ian Dury (Sweet Gene Vincent), Wreckless Eric (Whole Wide World, Veronica), Lene Lovich (Lucky Number), The Rumor (Frozen Years) and Devo (Satisfaction). The different selections noted above are all used very effectively here, accenting the sequences which they are played over in interesting ways.

    The acting in the film is solid, with Beames doing a great job in the lead. As to the production values, it's clear that this wasn't made with a massive budget and equally clear that it didn't need to be. Martin Schí¤fer's stark black and white cinematography uses shadows and light in interesting ways, and it's here that we see the Lang influence, as there are moments where this almost feels like it could have come out of the same movement from which some of Lang's early pictures emerged.

    Radio On - Blu-ray Review:

    Fun City Editions brings Radio On to region A Blu-ray in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed at 1.85.1 widescreen with the feature taking up 28GBs of space on the 50GB disc. Taken from a new 4k restoration of the original 35mm negative, the quality of the black and white image on this disc is excellent. Supervised by the British Film Institute (who released the film on Blu-ray earlier this year and on DVD back in 2008), the picture quality is beautifully film-like in motion. There's plenty of natural grain here and the picture is rich in depth and texture but there isn't really any actual print damage to note, leaving us with an image that is super clean while at the same time preserving the movie's gritty aesthetic. Compression is never a problem and there are no issues with noise reduction or edge enhancement. Contrast looks great and we get really strong lack levels as well. It's hard to imagine the picture looking much better than it does here.

    The 24-bit English language DTS-HD 2.0 Mono track on this disc, which comes with optional English SDH subtitles, sounds just fine. The film's soundtrack is obviously a highlight of the film, what with music playing such a huge part in the movie's effectiveness, and it comes through sounding excellent. There are no problems with any hiss or distortion and the track is properly balanced throughout. No complaints here at all.

    Extra features kick off with audio commentary with filmmaker and historian Kier-La Janisse who, as she typically does on her tracks, provides listeners with an interesting dissection of the film's themes and ideas while also offering up a history lesson on its production. Lots of info here on the cast and crew, on Petit's life and work, the locations and, of course, the film's use of music and the bands that were involved with its soundtrack. It's a good track, informative, opinionated and very listenable.

    Before The Explosion Of The Image Bank is a new thirty-seven minute video interview with director Chris Petit who has a nice stack of Godard and Lang discs on the shelf behind him during the shoot. It covers what he was going for with the movie, the people that he worked with on the project and how he feels about it years later. The disc also includes an archival audio interview with director Chris Petit that runs for fifty-one minutes.

    Carried over from the old BFI DVD release is an archival video interview with director Chris Petit and producer Keith Griffiths that runs for forty-two minutes. It's an interesting talk about the making of the film and the people they collaborated with to do it, as well as how the movie was received. Also carried over from that disc is Radio On (Remix), which is Chris Petit's follow-up digital video essay that runs for twenty-four minutes. It's a weird piece that sort of serves as a making of documentary that at times dabbles in surrealist imagery.

    Finishing up the extras on the disc is an image gallery, the film's original theatrical trailer, menus and chapter selection options.

    As far as the packaging goes, the disc comes bundled with a nice insert booklet with that contains writing on the film by Jason Wood, Ian Penman, Rudy Wurlitzer, Petit himself and Glenn Kenny as well as cast and crew info and some technical notes on the presentation. Some double sided cover sleeve art is also included.

    Radio On - The Final Word:

    Radio On is a strange and ponderous film that won't be to all tastes, but strange and ponderous movies are sometimes, when you're in the right frame of mind, the best kind. Fun City Editions gives this oddball British road movie a genuinely excellent release on a disc loaded with quality extra features and with a presentation that is pretty much flawless. Highly recommended.

    Click on the images below for full-sized Radio On screen caps!





























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