Studio Canal brings us a brand new restoration of the 1953 war film Appointment in London.
Appointment in London centres around Wing Commander Tim Mason, with events taking place in 1943. Mason– played by Dirk Bogarde in one of his highly effective but safe performances–is well on his way toward finishing the required number of bombing missions before he can be shipped off to do a safer job somewhere.
He is a very sympathetic character, both in terms of interactions with other characters on screen, as well as being compelling to the viewer. Bogarde plays him emotional but aloof, which feels just right. Initially, he seems cold and it can be difficult to identify with him, but as the film progresses Tim Mason becomes more tangible and relatable.
Consequently, this opens up the whole story and cast of characters to us too. Finding out about young, proud, foolish Pilot Officer Greeno (Bryan Forbes); Flight Lieutenant Bill Brown (Bill Kerr) and Naval Officer Eve Canyon (Dinah Sheridan) draws us in so that when the dangerous final mission comes, we are living that tension along with them. This makes the rather tender and touching emotional scenes much more fulfilling.
British war films of the 1950s can be jarring to watch in the modern day, as they don’t always feel terrifically realistic by today’s standards. The sometimes impressive action sequences–often padded out by library footage of actual battle and the like–followed by some rather stiff, jolly-hock-sticks type camaraderie or love scenes are enough to take the viewer out of the moment.
Appointment in London looks at first glance to be one of these. However, it is written with a balance between grit and tenderness, acted with integrity and directed with a sensitivity that allows meaningful moments to breathe without adding unnecessary melodrama.
Players like Bill Kerr bring just a touch of humour, but a light touch that isn’t clumsy, misplaced or overdone. Anne Leon as a young widow is heartbreaking and heartening all at once. The entire supporting cast is great here: nobody is out of place or superfluous.
By the time the Appointment of the title is kept at the end of the film, the somewhat triumphant and sentimental closing sequence is fully justified and feels like a fitting end to a satisfying and well-crafted movie.
Studio Canal went back to the original negatives in order to make a brand new 4K transfer for this release. Consequently, we get a lovely crisp, detailed High Definition image. The work done shows. I have previously seen rather tired-looking prints of this film on television; to see it looking this good is a treat. Frankly, it helps bring us into the characters’ world more effectively, as the feeling of a barrier between us and them–in the form of the camera and screen–is not so acute.
This Blu-ray edition includes two new featurettes: Appointment with my Father: Hugh Wooldridge on John Wooldridge and Flight of the Pathfinders: author Will Iredale on Appointment in London.