The first male actor of African descent to be nominated for a competitive Academy Award, for The Defiant Ones in 1958, Sidney Poitier would become the first black person to win an Academy Award for Best Actor in 1964, for his role in Lilies of the Field. For those who might have questioned whether Poitier’s work warranted the Oscar, 1967 would leave little doubt as he starred in three popular films, all of which took on the issue of race: To Sir, with Love; In the Heat of the Night; and Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, which made him the top box office star of that year, something thought to be impossible just a couple of years before.
Trained as an engineer and unable to land a job in his field, Mark Thackeray (Poitier) takes on his first teaching job in London’s lower class East End with minimal enthusiasm. North Quay Secondary School is hardly a glamorous place. The students have been rejected from other schools, and their rowdy antics drove their last teacher to resign. Nark is met by a staff of teachers that are pessimistic, and a class of unruly kids that have little in the way of expectations for themselves. Things don’t begin well, as Thackeray struggles to control himself in the face of incessant baiting by the students. When a particular incident causes him to lose his temper, it’s while chastising himself that Thackeray realizes the problem: everyone treats the students like kids. Perhaps, he can reach them by treating them like the adults they will soon become. By first teaching basic courtesy and manners, moving on to survival skills such as making a salad, answering their questions about adult topics, and showing them respect, they will give it back in turn.
In some ways, To Sir, With Love is a remake of an earlier Poitier film, Blackboard Jungle (1955), in which he played an unruly student. Both films are about a teacher attempting to get through to a classroom of disorderly students. By today’s standards these kids aren’t that bad. Even for 1967, their disrespectful, but no one pulls a knife. They have nothing on the guys in Blackboard Jungle who beat up and try to rape their teachers. In Blackboard Jungle, the teacher gets through to the students by standing up to them. Sir puts the onus on his students to be respectable men and woman. Somewhat simplistic, yes. But it works, here.
While the film is certainly sentimental, writer/director James Clavell doesn’t allow the viewer to forget that despite Sir’s acceptance, racism is an issue. Initially, his students refuse to attend the funeral of a black student’s family member because “people might talk” if a white girl entered a black person’s house. Also, why can’t a fully qualified engineer can’t find a job in engineering but is forced to take work as a teacher in a bad school? Could it have something to do with his skin color?
Presented in the 1.85:1 aspect ratio, Twilight Time has delivered another high quality 1080p transfer. The image is nicely detailed, with excellent shadow detail and solid black levels. The colors are a bit muted, but accurate. There’s a nice amount of grain giving things a filmic appearance.
The audio was recorded in mono, and the soundtrack has been faithfully reproduced in 1.0 DTS HD-MA. The dialogue is perfectly clear, and Lulu’s catchy title song comes through loud and clear!
English SDH subtitles are included.
The following extras are available:
- Audio Commentaries:
- Judy Geeson is joined by Twilight Time’s Julie Kirgo and Nick Redman. As usual, Kirgo and Redman provide lots of background information while Geeson contributes a number of fun anecdotes regarding the shoot.
- E.R. Braithwaite, who wrote the original novel To Sir, With Love, discusses how the evolved out of his real life experiences, along with author/teacher Salome Thomas El.
- Isolated Score Track is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0.
- E.R. Braithwaite: In His Own Words (HD, 23:46) the author reading from his book and then discussing his background.
- Lulu and the B-Side (HD, 5:07) an interview with the singer, who discusses how serendipitous it was that “To Sir, With Love” became Number One on both sides of the Atlantic.
- Miniskirts, Blue Jeans and Pop Music (HD, 15:21) focuses on the swinging sixties in London.
- To Sidney with Love from Marty Baum (HD, 5:44) recollections of Poitier by agent Marty Baum.
- Principal El: He Chose to Stay (HD, 11:00) Salome Thomas El discusses how important it is to give underprivileged kids a commitment.
- Theatrical Trailer (HD, 3:17)
- Booklet: An eight-page illustrated booklet featuring an insightful essay by Julie Kirgo.
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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