The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (Blu-ray)

Edinburgh, 1932. Jean Brodie (Maggie Smith) is a dedicated teacher at the very conservative Marcia Blaine School for Girls. “I am in the business of putting old heads on young shoulders,” she says to her class, “and all my girls are the crème de la crème.” Her unusual teaching methods regularly with school officials.

Miss Brodie encourages her students to follow their hearts, and explore their passions. She shuns regular lessons in favor of regaling her students with stories about her lost love, while offering her strong held opinions on literature, art, politics, and anything else that strikes her fancy. Brodie’s girls adore her, led by the precocious Sandy (Pamela Franklin). Essentially, Miss Brodie attempts to mold them into extensions of her own personality, by “assigning” them a particular quality. It’s almost as if they were preordained to fill a certain role, predetermined by Miss Brodie. Mary Macgregor (Jane Carr) is the dim but loyal follower. Sandy is the secret agent type, effective at covering up Miss Brodie’s deception. All of this has rubbed the school’s stern headmistress, Miss Mackay (Celia Johnson), the wrong way, though it’s not clear exactly why, it seems possible that Miss MacKay feels threatened by anything or anyone that supports nontraditional thought.

Not only is Miss Brodie unusual when it comes to her teaching methods, but her personal life tends to raise a few eyebrows as well. She is surprisingly open with her girls regarding her romantic entanglements. A smart, relatively good looking woman, Jean is lusted after by art teacher for the upper classes, Teddy Lloyd (Robert Stephens, Smith’s real life husband at the time), though he happens to be married with several children. At the same time, Jean is having a not so secret affair with music teacher Gordon Lowther (Gordon Jackson), shocking many of her colleagues, but titillating her students.

While Jean’s romantic entanglements move much of the films drama forward, things get really strange when she nominates Jenny (Diane Grayson) as a “lady of affairs,” encouraging her to become art teacher Teddy Lloyd’s lover. These kids from rather sheltered backgrounds naturally accept Brodie’s authority, and do as they’re told. However, as they begin to mature, Sandy begins to see things as they truly are. As such, she begins to question the status quo. In the end, it’s not her romances, but her political leanings that that ultimately wreak havoc with Brodie’s personal and professional life.

One of the most underrated directors of 20th century British cinema, helms The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie with understated intelligence. His style is simple, but effective, allowing the story and the actors to be the stars of the film. To that end, Maggie Smith is wonderful in the lead role, making Brodie undeniably sympathetic. She deservedly won an Oscar for her work. High praise also goes to Pamela Franklin, who made the transition from child to adult actress with her role as Sandy. She covers playing twelve to eighteen quite convincingly, and handles a nude scene with appropriate grace. Veteran actress Celia Johnson is always a pleasure to watch, and her performance as headmistress Miss Mackay is no exception.

Presented in the 1.85:1 aspect ratio, Twilight Time’s 1080p presentation is quite impressive. Overall, the image sports solid clarity and sharpness throughout. Color is well balanced, and flesh tones appear natural. Black levels are appropriate.

The DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 sound mix presents the dialogue with a fine level of clarity, without bleeding into Rod McKuen’s fine score. Sound effects are clear, and appropriate for the period. There are no age related issues to speak of.

English SDH subtitles are included.

The following extras are available:

  • Audio Commentary with Director Ronald Neame and Actress Pamela Franklin: Recorded separately, and edited together, this is an excellent commentary. The two often have different viewpoints on the same scene, which is definitely thought provoking. Neame shares some wonderful stories about Maggie Smith (the woman is awesome!)
  • Isolated Score and Effects Track is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0.
  • Theatrical Trailer (SD, 3:48)
  • Teaser Trailer (SD, 00:55)
  • Six-Page Booklet: Contains some color stills from the production, original poster art on the back cover, and film historian Julie Kirgo’s essay on the film.

 

There are only 3,000 copies of this Blu-ray available. Those interested should go to www.screenarchives.com to see if product is still in stock. Information about the movie can also be found via Facebook at www.facebook.com/twilighttimemovies.

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