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Blu-ray Review

DVD cover

Chariots of Fire
30th Anniversary Edition


Starring: Ben Cross, Ian Charleson, Nigel Havers, Cheryl Campbell, Alice Krige and Ian Holm
Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment
RRP: £19.99
Certificate: 15
Available 16 July 2012

The digitally re-mastered version of Chariots of Fire is in cinemas and on Blu-ray now

Chariots of Fire tells a dramatized version of the true life stories of runners Harold Abrahams and Eric Liddell, both of whom competed in the Paris 1924 Olympics. Coming from very different backgrounds, the two men ran with different passions. Abrahams ran as a protest against the anti-Semitism which he found in the upper echelons of English society, whereas Liddell, who was a passionate Christian, ran for the greater glory of god...

Chariots of Fire (2 hr, 03 min, 33 sec) is a multi-award winning movie, directed by Hugh Hudson, from a Colin Welland script. The film was produced by David Puttnam, with the addition of a memorable score by Vangelis, the first few bars of which always starts someone slow running on the spot.

As well as the primary leads of Ben Cross (Abrahams) and Ian Charleson (Liddell), the film is a Who’s Who of some of the best acting talent Britain had at the time with the inclusion of Nigel Havers, Cheryl Campbell, Alice Krige, Ian Holm, John Gielgud and Lindsay Anderson, if you look closely you can even see a young Kenneth Branagh and Ruby Wax. This was obviously a project that people were clamouring to be a part of and given the end result, their faith was worth it.

Part of the film's appeal, is that it perfectly captures that mythical time between the wars when the Empire was at its height. England epitomised a gentle beauty, with which Tolkien would infuse Hobbiton. Like Hobbiton, this, if it existed at all, only did so for a privileged few. Both Abrahams and Liddell were both the products and victims of a class system, whose only esoteric and anachronistic values were those they imposed on themselves, whilst looking down on the remainder of humanity.

The film does not shy away from the social realities of the time, even if it is wrapped up with the beautiful cinematography of David Watkin. Both Abrahams’s Jewish background and Liddell's evangelical Christianity are a challenge to the accepted system, if for no other reason than it gives both men a calling which stands apart from the status quo. Whilst both men are driven by passion, it is a passion apart from the class system.

The film follows the trials and tribulations they both endure in the run up to the Olympics, although even when they arrive, the staging of a race on Sunday causes Liddell to refuse to run.

The disc has been digitally restored. One point to note is that the film was shot in a stylised way, with muted colour; therefore the film looks exactly as the director intended it to be.

The disc is well featured for extras, including both an isolated score and a full length commentary from Hugh Hudson. The disc has audio options for English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, French DTS 5.1, Castellano mono, German DTS 5.1, Italian mono DTS-HD Master Audio, Polish DTS 5.1 and mono tracks for Magyar and Turkish, all with appropriate subtitles.

The actual extras start with Paris 1924: Birth of the Modern Games (27 min, 19 sec) a documentary about the actual games, mixing elements of the film with historical elements, with stories from a variety of experts. David David Puttnam: A Cinematic Champion (25 min, 37 sec) looks at Puttnam and his work. Hugh Hudson: Journey to the Gold (14 min, 03 sec) takes a look at Hudson and his career, including his work on Chariots.

Wings on Their Heels: The Making of Chariots of Fire (27 min, 16 sec) is a documentary about the making of the film. Chariots of Fire: A Reunion (18 min, 58 sec) brings the surviving members together to talk about the film. Reliving the Sprint (1 min, 53 sec) has the first race with Havers Hudson and David Puttnam returning to where the race was shot.

Filming the Opening Shot (1 min, 03 sec) has the actors talking about the visual effect of the opening shots, with Ben Cross. Screen Tests for Ben Cross (4 min, 12 sec) and Ian Charleson (4 min, 32 sec). Seven additional scenes (9 min, 46 sec) and the Theatrical Trailer (1 min, 32 sec)

With its newly restored print and an impressive list of extras, Chariots as a disc is what Blu-ray discs really should be.


Charles Packer

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