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 (The 39 Steps, The Inn of the Sixth Happiness) 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. As I said before, I think the film runs too long toward the end, but aside from that, no complaints. Warner’s DVD is bare as can be, but the movie itself warrants at least a rental.
Video: How does it look?
Goodbye, Mr. Chips is presented in full frame, as intended. Warner has issued some great transfers for their classic movies, but this is one of the exceptions. This is a real shame, as when the image is at its best, you couldn’t ask for a better presentation, then the visuals degrade and soften, which is a disappointment. The moments of excellence make it tough not to come down hard, as this could have been a fantastic effort. The good sections look incredible, with a pristine print and no flaws in the slightest to mention. But then softness creeps in, as do print debris and grain, which combine to lessen the visual experience. In most scenes however, the visuals look passable, with only a few low end scenes to spoil the broth. So the movie doesn’t always look superb, but it looks solid, save for a few trouble spots.
Audio: How does 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?
This disc includes no bonus materials.