Plot: What’s it about?
Brookfield School has always been a cornerstone of life for young men, as a place to learn and develop into adults. The students enter the school as worried, sometimes even scared boys, but when the time came to leave, things were much different. The young men were strong, smart, and prepared to handle the trials & tribulations of the world. The school’s success can be traced to those who have the most contact with the students, the teachers. Of the faculty, one man is known above all others, the treasured Mr. Chips, real name Charles Edward Chipping (Robert Donat). He is the beloved teacher at the school, but not just for his lectures on the classics, instead for his sense of humor, patience, and desire to improve his students. He makes sure the lessons stick with his pupils, but he also keeps them interested and involved. But he hasn’t always been in that position, as he almost quit before he even got started. He was a joke to his students when he first arrived and while he remained, he was disconnected at times. That changed when he met a woman named Kathy (Greer Garson), who is like a whirlwind in his life. He is instantly a new person, more outgoing and social, not to mention upbeat. As Mr. Chips remembers his life at Brookfield School, will he have lived his life as he wished?
I have seen numerous films about inspirational educators, from Lean on Me to Mr. Holland’s Opus to Dead Poets Society. But before those films were even dreamed of, there was Goodbye, Mr. Chips, based on Robert Hilton’s novel of the same name. And don’t be fooled by later remakes, as this original 1939 edition is the best of the lot. Robert Donat alone puts this film in a level by itself, but his presence is not the lone highlight, not even close. I admit that the movie runs a little too long, but even so, it packs a genuine emotional punch, one which resonates after the end credits. I don’t often praise tear jerkers, but when well-made, these films can be memorable. In the case of Sam Wood’s Goodbye, Mr. Chips, the emotion is built with care and in the end, we don’t feel manipulated in the least. I have seen films that snare you in at the moment, only to have you resent the relentless emotional manipulation. But here is a film that makes you glad you were a witness to this man’s life, even in the more tragic moments. The sole emotion isn’t sadness either, as humor and traditional drama are spliced in as well.
Video: How’s it look?
Goodbye, Mr. Chips is presented in full frame, as intended. The previously-issued DVD was a bit hit and miss in that some of the scenes were pristine, with great balance (bear in mind it was a black and white film), great contrast and good depth. But those shots were few and far between. Others looked like they were filmed in a garage, at night, with no light. While this new Blu-ray doesn’t totally knock it out of the park, it’s a great improvement. Everything is a little more balanced, detail has been improved and things just seem a bit more consistent overall. Bearing in mind that the film came out in 1939, it’s a good-looking disc and certainly a worth upgrade over the DVD.
Audio: How’s it sound?
A simple mono option is provided here, which serves the needs of the material, but offers little beyond the basics. A few age related flaws can be heard, but pops and hiss are minimal, which is great news. As this is a mono soundtrack, don’t expect much depth or presence, but the elements have a good overall texture. So sound effects won’t shatter the windows, but as far as mono is concerned, they sound more than acceptable. The same holds true for the music, which sounds limited, but still comes across well enough. No troubles at all with the dialogue either, as vocals are clean and clear throughout. This disc also includes a French language track, as well as subtitles in English, Spanish, and French.
Supplements: What are the extras?
Warner’s previous DVD contained no bonus materials and…time hasn’t changed that. This disc contains no bonus features.
The Bottom Line
This is it. This is the movie that won Best Actor and “robbed” Clark Gable of his statue for Gone With the Wind. Was it the right call? Yes, actually. As much of a force as Gone With the Wind was, Donat’s performance transcends everything else. Warner’s new Blu-ray doesn’t offer us any supplements, but gives us a greatly-improved picture.