DEAD POETS SOCIETY [1989 / 2015] [Blu-ray] [UK Release] Oh Captain, My Captain! He Was Their Inspiration! He Made Their Lives Extraordinary!
1997 Academy Award® winner Robin Williams for Best Supporting Actor delivers one of the most memorable performances in ‘DEAD POETS SOCIETY’ and now digitally restored and presented for the first time ever in breath-taking Blu-ray High Definition.
For generations, Welton Academy student’s class of 1959 have been groomed to live their stuffy lives of conformity and tradition and until a new professor John Keating [Robin Williams] inspires them to think for themselves, live life to the fullest and “Carp Diem.” This unconventional approach awakens the spirits of the students, but draws the wrath of a disapproving faculty when an unexpected tragedy strikes the school. With unforgettable characters and beautiful cinematography, ‘DEAD POETS SOCIETY’ will captivate and inspire you time and time again.
FILM FACT No.1: Awards and Nominations: 1989 British Society of Cinematographers: Nominated: Best Cinematography Award for John Seale. 1989 National Board of Review, USA: Win: NBR Award for Top Ten Films. 1990 Academy Awards®: Win: Best Writing of a Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen for Tom Schulman. Nominated: Best Picture for Paul Junger Witt, Steven Haft and Tony Thomas. Nominated: Best Actor in a Leading Role for Robin Williams. Nominated: Best Director for Peter Weir. 1990 Golden Globes: Nominated: Best Motion Picture in a Drama. Nominated: Best Director in a Motion Picture for Peter Weir. Nominated: Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture in a Drama for Robin Williams. Nominated: Best Screenplay in a Motion Picture for Tom Schulman. 1990 BAFTA Film Awards: Win: Best Film for Paul Junger Witt, Peter Weir, Steven Haft and Tony Thomas. Win: Best Original Film Score for Maurice Jarre. Nominated: Best Actor for Robin Williams. Nominated: Best Direction for Peter Weir. Nominated: Best Editing for William M. Anderson. Nominated: Best Original Screenplay for Tom Schulman. 1990 ASCAP Film and Television Music Awards: Win: Top Box Office Films for Maurice Jarre. 1990 Association of Polish Filmmakers Critics Awards: Win: Golden Reel Award for Best Foreign Film for Peter Weir (director). 1990 Casting Society of America: Win: Artios Award for Best Casting for Feature Film in a Drama for Howard Feuer. 1990 Chicago Film Critics Association Awards: Nominated: Most Promising Actor for Robert Sean Leonard. 1990 David di Donatello Awards: Win: Best Foreign Film (Miglior Film Straniero) for Peter Weir. Nominated: Best Foreign Actor (Migliore Attore Straniero) for Robin Williams. Nominated: Best Foreign Director (Migliore Regista Straniero) for Peter Weir. 1990 Directors Guild of America: Nominated: DGA Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures for Peter Weir. 1990 Golden Ciak Awards: Win: Best Foreign Film (Miglior Film Straniero) for Peter Weir (director). 1990 Italian National Syndicate of Film Journalists: Win: Silver Ribbon Award for Best Foreign Director (Regista del Miglior Film Straniero) for Peter Weir. 1990 Joseph Plateau Awards: Win: Best Foreign Film. 1990 Jupiter Award: Win: Best International Actor for Robin Williams. Win: Best International Film for Peter Weir. 1990 Political Film Society, USA: Win: PFS Award for Democracy. 1990 Warsaw International Film Festival: Win: Audience Award for Peter Weir. 1990 Writers Guild of America: Nominated: WGA Award (Screen) for Best Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen for Tom Schulman. 1990 Young Artist Awards: Win: Best Motion Picture in a Drama. 1991 Argentinean Film Critics Association Awards: Nominated: Silver Condor Award for Best Foreign Film (Mejor Película Extranjera) for Peter Weir [USA]. 1991 César Awards, France: Win: Best Foreign Film (Meilleur film étranger) for Peter Weir. 1991 Golden Screen, Germany: Win: Golden Screen Award for Best Foreign Film. 1991 Guild of German Art House Cinemas: Win: Gold Guild Film Award for Foreign Film (Ausländischer Film) for Peter Weir. 2015 Online Film & Television Association: Win: OFTA Film Hall of Fame for Motion Picture.
FILM FACT No.2: The script was written by Tom Schulman, based on his experiences at the Montgomery Bell Academy in Nashville, Tennessee, particularly with his inspirational teacher Samuel Pickering. A scene in the original script showing John Keating dying in a hospital was removed by film director Peter Weir, giving Todd Anderson's gesture of standing on his desk the meaning of standing for one's belief. Filming took place at St. Andrew's School in Middletown, Delaware, and at locations in New Castle, Delaware and in and nearby Wilmington, Delaware. Filming started in the winter of 1988 and took place at St. Andrew's School in Middletown, Delaware, and at locations in New Castle, Delaware, and in nearby Wilmington, Delaware. During the shooting, Peter Weir requested the young cast not to use modern slang, even off camera. Liam Neeson originally won the part of John Keating before Peter Weir took over direction from Jeff Kanew. Other actors considered were Dustin Hoffman, Tom Hanks and Mickey Rourke.
Cast: Robin Williams, Robert Sean Leonard, Ethan Hawke, Josh Charles, Gale Hansen, Dylan Kussman, Allelon Ruggiero, James Waterston, Norman Lloyd, Kurtwood Smith, Leon Pownall, Carla Belver, Leon Pownall, George Martin, Joe Aufiery, Matt Carey, Kevin Cooney, Jane Moore, Colin Irving, Alexandra Powers, Melora Walters, Welker White, Steve Mathios, Alan Pottinger, Pamela Burrell, Allison Hedges, Christine D'Ercole, John Cunningham, Debra Mooney, John Martin Bradley, Charles Lord, Kurt Leitner, Richard Stites, James J. Christy, Catherine Soles, Hoover Sutton, James Donnell Quinn, Simon Mein, Ashton W. Richards, Robert Gleason, Bill Rowe, Robert J. Zigler III, Keith Snyder, Nicholas K. Gilhool, Jonas Stiklorius, Craig Johnson, Chris Hull, Jason Woody, Sam Stegeman, Andrew Hill, Joel Fogel (uncredited), Newton Gilchrist (uncredited), Barry Godin (uncredited), Kate Kearney-Patch (uncredited), Jamie Kennedy (uncredited), Nancy Kirk (uncredited), Stephen Podolak (uncredited), Jeffrey Santoro (uncredited) and James R. Stoddard (uncredited)
Director: Peter Weir
Producers: Duncan Henderson, Paul Junger Witt, Steven Haft and Tony Thomas
Screenplay: Tom Schulman
Composer: Maurice Jarre
Cinematography: John Seale, A.C.S. A.S.C.
Image Resolution: 1080p [Metrocolor]
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Audio: English: 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
English: 2.0 Dolby Digital Stereo Audio
French: 5.0 Dolby Digital Audio
Subtitles: English SDH and French
Running Time: 129 minutes
Region: All Regions
Number of discs: 1
Studio: Touchstone Pictures
Andrew’s Blu-ray Review: For those of a certain generation, the mere mention of “The Dead Poets Society” might bring comments such as, "O Captain, my captain," "Carpe diem" or "so good, I bawled my eyes out." It's a story that follows a small group of boys in a New England preparatory school in the 1950s. Most are in their last year and are on a path they have not chosen for themselves. With the New Year, a new teacher arrives, Mr. John Keating [Robin Williams], who encourages the boys to think differently and to "seize the day." Each boy interprets the sentiment in their own way and is forever changed.
Watching this 1989 Best Picture nominee, it's a look back in time at a cast of young actors in their first big film, who are now much more familiar. Among them are Ethan Hawke [‘Daybreakers,’ ‘Before the Devil Knows You're Dead’ and ‘Training Day’]. Josh Charles [‘S.W.A.T.’ and Will Gardner in the CBS TV series ‘The Good Wife’] and Robert Sean Leonard [Dr. James Wilson on Fox's ‘House M.D.’]. Of course there's also Robin Williams, who was nominated for another Best Actor Oscar.
Even though the film as marketed as a Robin Williams film, it's really about all the boys. This is a story about them, not their teacher. In watching the bonus feature, "Dead Poets Society: A Look Back," each of the boys helped shape the film by giving their feedback as to how they, as a boy, would respond to the situations in the scene. Director Peter Weir listened to them and by taking their suggestions; the film has an honest and vulnerable tone.
So inspired are the students to “seize the day,” that they reformed “The Dead Poets Society,” an ultra-private group dating back to Keating days as a student. Together, while exploring their love for poetry, the young men form a strong bond. Neil Perry [Robert Sean Leonard] has a passion for acting despite his controlling father’s [Kurtwood Smith] demand that he go to medical school; Todd Anderson [Ethan Hawke] has big shoes to fill, as his brother was a star pupil at the school; Rich boy Charlie Dalton [Gale Hansen] seems to feel strangled by the school system, and just wants to escape; Knox Overstreet [Josh Charles] has fallen hard for a public high school student named Chris [Alexandra Powers], much to the displeasure of her macho boyfriend, Chet [Colin Irving].
Director Peter Weir [‘Picnic at Hanging Rock’ and ‘The Truman Show’] helped Robin Williams deliver one of the best performances of his career. While Robin Williams does jump on desks and the like, his performance is brought down several notches from something like ‘Good Morning, Vietnam.’ Robin Williams’s performance won him a Golden Globe® Awards and deservedly so. It should be noted that the young actors performances are top notch and totally believable.
The acting in the film is absolutely superb, especially considering that for most of the young actors, this was their first big gig. Robin Williams steals the show, however, as the eccentric Mr. Keating, a man so passionate about teaching that he'd do just about anything to get his point across, including having the students read lines of poetry while kicking soccer balls, and relating Shakespeare to Marlon Brando. This of course means that despite the serious tone of the film, we still get to see a little bit of the madcap Williams during the height of his comedic career, and what good is a dash of humour if it doesn't help us cope with the more depressing events in the story.
Tom Schulman's heartfelt script takes the main character's relationships with Keating above and beyond the usual student-teacher connection. For many, Mr. Keating functions as a secondary father figure to the boys, both intelligent and strong, but without the more overbearing qualities, while still playing the role of the friend. And in the end, this is what makes the film so unique. It's a real shame that our current education system habitually looks down upon teachers such as these, pegging them as scapegoats to a much bigger problem, when all they're really trying to do is broaden the minds of their students. ‘DEAD POETS SOCIETY’ is a great example of this, but not one that should be taken too seriously over time.
DEAD POETS SOCIETY MUSIC TRACK LIST
Water Music: Suite III in D Allegro (Music by George Frideric Handel) [Performed by The Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra] [Conducted by Karl Münchinger]
Symphony No. 9 (Music by Ludwig van Beethoven) [Performed by Fritz Reiner and The Chicago Symphony Orchestra]
Piano Concerto No. 5 in E Flat Major, Op. 73 “Emperor” (Composed by Ludwig van Beethoven) [Performed by Wilhelm Kempff with The Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra]
Rainbow Voice (Written by David Hykes) [Performed by David Hykes] [Courtesy of The Harmonic Arts Society]
The Fields of Athenry (Written by Pete St. John)
The Battle of New Orleans (Written by Jimmie Driftwood)
LET’S HAVE A PARTY (Written by Jessie Mae Robinson) [Performed by Wanda Jackson]
RIDGEWAY FIGHT SONG (Written by Jerry Rehberg)
SOUND OFF (Written by Willie Lee Duckworth and Bernard Lentz)
STRANDED IN THE JUNGLE (Written by Al Curry, James Johnson and Ernestine Smith) [Performed by The Cadets]
HEY LITTLE GIRL (Written by Henry “Professor Longhair” Byrd) [Performed by Henry “Professor Longhair” Byrd]
Blu-ray Image Quality – With this 2015 Touchstone Pictures 1989 release, ‘DEAD POETS SOCIETY’ looks totally vibrant and clear and filmic term on this UK release Blu-ray disc. Exterior scenes and shots of the school, as well as the surrounding town and countryside, are nice and colourful and especially vibrant. Twilight images reflected off the pond and fall trees next to green pastures are totally delightful. The interior shots of the school feature a more controlled colour scheme, which gives the film its period and nostalgic feel just right. Skin tones are warm, and very natural. Black levels are crisp, though when you see a shadow there is nothing really hiding in it. Film grain fans of this film will rejoice, as this presentation looks very once again is a very filmic presentation and there doesn't appear to be any noise reduction or edge enhancement. Lastly, the Blu-ray's source material is in very good shape and I didn’t see any dirt or damage. While there is much to be admired, there is some occasional softness, especially during the opening title sequence, although that is quite common for many films with optically created titles. Also, the overall feel of the film is slightly flat looking, but again, this was quite common for 1980s film stock and beyond the daytime exteriors, never displays vast amounts of texture or fine detail.
Blu-ray Audio Quality – With this 2015 Touchstone Pictures they have brought you a very pleasing 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio surround soundtrack, as it was originally mixed for stereo only, and feel free to choose the stereo mix to compare the audio presentation, especially with the surround soundtrack expanded use of surrounds for things like musical score and the occasional sound effect. Since this is soundtrack of the 1989 era, ‘DEAD POETS SOCIETY’ has a number of strengths, like the crystal clear dialogue, the nice dynamic range for the musical score and period songs used. A decent amount of stereo panning in the front sound speaker, which is not explosive, still holds up nicely, with especially supporting a low and mid-range music, vocal tones, and sound effects.
Blu-ray Special Features and Extras:
Special Feature: Dead Poets: A Look Back  [480i] [1.37:1] [26:55] This is mostly a collection of interviews talking and praising the wonderful director Peter Weir and how he works with the actors, but sadly there is no sign of Robin Williams and his comments on working on the film ‘DEAD POETS SOCIETY.’ But what we do get is some nice contributions from people like Melora Walters [Gloria], Ethan Hawke [Todd Anderson], Norman Lloyd [Mr. Nolan], Robert Sean Leonard [Neil Perry], Kurtwood Smith [Mr. Perry], Dylan Kussman [Richard Cameron] and Allelon Ruggiero [Steven Meeks].
Special Feature: Raw Takes  [480i] [1.37:1] [7:56] With this special feature we get the following unedited take that was shot as part of a sequence deleted from the final finished film, which was to be intercut with Neil’s suicide after the performance of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream;” where Mr. Keating [Robin Williams] visits the boys cave and then leads them to a frozen waterfall in the woods. The final shot illustrates Peter Weir’s use of music during shooting to motivate the actors. After viewing the deleted film sequences, you can understand why Peter Weir decided those particular scenes were not appropriate to be included into the final finished film.
Special Feature: Master of Sound: Alan Splet  [480i] [1.37:1] [11:00] A very nice tribute to the film's supervising sound editor Alan Splet. With this special tribute bonus feature, here with director Peter Weir, who first came into contact with his on his film ‘Mosquito Coast’ and David Lynch also speaks about his experiences with the brilliant sound designer/editor Alan Splet, especially how knowledgably he was with classical music and was also a very accomplished classical musician and you get to see why they both respected Alan Splet 100%, as he was a totally dedicated professional sound designer, as he would only record natural organic outside sounds, instead of generating the sounds with electronic equipment. David Lynch also praises Alan Splet and says he was a joy to work with and also the best experience he had ever had with Alan Splet.
Special Feature: KODAK Cinematography Master Class  [480i] [1.37:1] [15:00] This KODAK Cinematography Master Class Series is of Australian John Seale, A.C.S. A.S.C., and this follows him in the construction and lighting technique of “Creative Camera Techniques” similar to one of the dormitory bedroom sets in the ‘DEAD POETS SOCIETY’ film to illustrate how specific choices are made to create different lighting atmospheres. What is also fascinating is how cinematographer John Seale prepared the scenes in the dormitory bedroom of Todd Anderson and Neil Perry. There are lots of technical words and concepts, but overall, anyone with any interest in film will find it immensely enjoyable and eye-opening look into how to light a film set. Narrated by Gabrielle Adkins. This was all shot in the studios of the Australian Film Television & Radio School. This documentary was sponsored by The KODAK World Wide Student Program.
Theatrical Trailer  [480i] [1.37:1] [2:45] This is the Original Theatrical Trailer for the film ‘DEAD POETS SOCIETY.’ What a shame they could not have got hold of trailer with the 1.85:1 aspect ratio.
Audio Commentary with Director Peter Weir, Cinematographer John Seale, and Academy Award-Winning Writer Thomas Schulman: This is the same audio commentary that as was featured on the inferior 2006 DVD releases, where director Peter Weir, screenwriter Tom Schulman, and cinematographer John Seale, A.C.S. A.S.C. is quiet laid-back, but occasionally dry, and packed with great insights and anecdotes. Director Peter Weir starts by saying he is fascinated by certain locations and buildings and would wonder how they would be in a film he directed. But when Peter Weir visited the St. Andrew's School in Middletown in Delaware, where he filmed ‘DEAD POETS SOCIETY’ film and the different rooms he visited really stimulated him, so when you see at the start of the film, with the banners being displayed by the students and the candles being carried, Peter Weir thought it was a brilliant way to start the film. Screenwriter Tom Schulman talks about his early days in school and where tradition was drilled into him as a young person and really hated all the restriction he had to endure and was forced on him. Director Peter Weir also hated hi days in school and he got a lot of the same punishment you see in the film and the most detested thing he hated was having Latin forced down his throat and could not wait to leave school, but of course with his punishment he endured, he wanted this reflected in the film. Screenwriter Tom Schulman says that they decided not to present evil teachers versus good students, instead they wanted to show most teachers are just trying to do their best with their teaching methods, especially in the tradition of teaching in the film and throughout the ages. When Peter Weir was again at school he fell in love with poems, but when a particular poem he loved and was read out in the class by the teacher and where the teacher condemned the poem for bad structure, Peter Weir from that point hated poems and vowed not to read anymore poems, but with the film he directed, Peter started again to get interested and stimulated in poems. Screenwriter Tom Schulman tells us about his early days in school and where he used to sneak out at night and did rebel things like visiting bars that were forbidden and that is why he wanted scenes in the film where the students would rebel. When peter Weir was 12 years of age in Australia, all they had for entertainment is a big radiogram and was obsessed with listening to radio programmes, especially like plays because of the sound effects, but the most popular radio programme was the BBC “The Goon Show,” and the best place to listen was right under the radiogram where the Long Playing Records would be stored, as it was a great sound box, as it gave great sound effects, and that is why Peter Weir loves good audio sound in the films soundtrack. When you get to the point in the film where the boys in the snow after hearing the news about Neil’s suicide, they originally did that scene in a bathroom, but Peter Weir felt it didn’t work, so with a small film crew decided to do that scene again in the snow, they made sure there was no footprints in the snow with certain shots, but of course when they did different shots, they had to move 10 feet forward, but of course when Ethan Hawke’s ran off into the distance to the lake, they didn’t mind seeing the footprints. I would say hearing every time Peter Weir talks he is one of the most fascinating director filmmakers to spend time with as he just oozes with so much knowledge and is so passionate, and he never comes off as stuffy or self-adoring. Although containing some large gaps, each of the collaborators relays both technical and anecdotal information about the production; and from a completely unique perspective. But what I would say is the whenever John Seale, A.C.S. A.S.C. the cinematographer speaks, John talks in such technical terms and thoughts on how he shot each scene, and tended to go over my head and did not interest me one bit and it was not the best commentary on this disc, but as to the audio commentary from Peter Weir and Tom Schulman was totally fascinating and the part in the audio commentary that was totally fascinating and easily kept my interest for the whole of the 129 minutes duration and is a totally brilliant track for those who are ‘DEAD POETS SOCIETY’ film fans, like me and top marks for them to include this on the 2015 remastered Blu-ray disc.
Finally, ‘DEAD POETS SOCIETY’ is a very well made film with a cast of young up-and-coming stars. It looks back, with nostalgia and honesty combined, on a simple time where individualism wasn't expected of these bright young men. Robin Williams is less of a main character than I remembered, but this is one of his best and most memorable performances. As a Blu-ray, it's definitely a step up in terms of video quality over the inferior DVD, with many vibrant shots of the school and surrounding countryside. Fans who love this film, like I do, should be very happy with this 2015 remastered Blu-ray disc, as it boast the aforementioned image quality and retains the special features from the previous inferior DVD release. For newcomers, this isn't a demo disc by any means, but there are lots to appreciate in terms of performances, filmmaking, themes and especially seeing the genius of Robin Williams, who can do no wrong in my eyes. We should all be so lucky as to have someone that inspires us at a young age but the one of the next best things it is a film that does so. The film can be enjoyed by any generation as it deals with universal themes and will continue to inspire the young and old for many years to come. But one important thing I must mention and that is at the end of the film when the students stand on the desk to respect John Keating [Robin Williams] being sacked, I think this was the most powerful dramatic part in the film and if you don’t have a tear in your eyes in watching this scene, then you have no soul and there is no justice in appreciating this really brilliant powerful fantastic Peter Weir film. Highly Recommended!
Andrew C. Miller – Your Ultimate No.1 Film Aficionado
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