Kent born writer and director Bruce Robinson’s (How to Get Ahead in Advertising, The Rum Diary) finest hour as a filmmaker was in 1987 with the cult classic Withnail & I, and it has finally been given a release of magnitude from Arrow Video, across 4 discs in a limited edition set. A film that is beloved by many cult film fans, it is nice to see if given the proper respect, along with Robinson’s follow-up 1989 film, How to Get Ahead in Advertising.
Beginning in Camden, London at the back end of the 1960’s, we meet two unemployed actors who are finding it difficult to deal with their lives and their situation. Withnail (Richard E. Grant) and I (Paul McGann) decide to have a change of scenery and pace by heading up North to stay in Withnail’s Uncle Monty’s (Richard Griffiths) country cottage. When they get to this so-called idyllic country home, they find that there’s no food, there are volatile people in the area and it won’t stop raining. Their skills in such a situation beyond limited, it is upto the two men to figure out what they want to do in their lives, and when Uncle Monty shows up at the cottage things go from bad to worse, when his attraction to I (Marwood) gets out of hand.
Such a peculiar, funny and downright fantastic film, Withnail & I uses the great writing of Robinson, and the terrific performances of Grant and McGann to create a true masterpiece of British cinema. Grant, the drunken buffoon who is too cynical and bitter to make any strides in life, and McGann, the straighter and more together side of the coin, attempting to better himself whilst always being dragged back down by Withnail’s neediness. Their friendship is tested as they struggle in the countryside, and we get to witness it, and it’s an absolute joy. I also have to make mention to how much I enjoy both Richard Griffiths’ Uncle Monty and Ralph Brown’s Danny here, they repeatedly make me howl with laughter each time I visit this movie. I think it’s excellent that this film has been given the full-on special edition treatment, and Arrow have done a wondrous job once again.
Along with the film itself, the follow-up film, How to Get Ahead in Advertising is here on another disc, and is another enjoyable film from Bruce Robinson. While not on par with Withnail & I, it is still a fantastic film in its own right and has a lot to offer. Grant, also appearing here, plays Denis Dimbleby Bagley, a young advertising executive who struggles to come up with a slogan for pimple cream. His obsessing over the subject causes strain in his relationships with his boss, his friends and even his wife. Suddenly he grows a stress-caused boil on his shoulder which proceeds to form eyes and a mouth and speak to him. A weird movie with a fantasy-like concept, it is filled with brilliantly written dialogue and tons of laugh-out-loud moments, this, along with Withnail & I, are Grant’s finest hours as an actor, and it is great to see both films on this set. I had previously not seen this film, and having finally sat down with it, I am sure I will watch it numerous times in the future. It is just so strange and enjoyable.
So, it is worth pointing out that with these two films alone, and the gorgeous transfers that they’ve been given, it is worth the price of admission of picking up this set, but the smorgasbord of extras is where you really start to feel like you’re getting your money’s worth. Audio commentaries, documentaries, trailers and newly shot interviews are here, along with a beautiful hardback book of over 200 pages in length. It is a glorious release, and one of Arrow Video’s finest yet. It looks the part, both as a set on your shelf, and in video and audio quality too. The 2K restoration of Withnail & I is the best the film has ever, and will likely ever look. Deluxe is the word that comes to mind with this release, and just in time for Christmas too. Fantastic.
Here’s what you’ll get with the set;
4-DISC LIMITED EDITION CONTENTS:
- New 2K restoration of WITHNAIL and I from the original camera negative, supervised and approved by director of photography Peter Hannan
- Bruce Robinson s follow-up feature, How to Get Ahead in Advertising, newly transferred from original film elements and approved by director of photography Peter Hannan
- High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD Presentation of both films
- Original uncompressed mono 1.0 PCM audio for both films
- Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing
- Audio commentary by writer-director Bruce Robinson
- Audio commentary by critic and writer Kevin Jackson, author of the BFI Modern Classic on WITHNAIL and I
- All four original Withnail Weekend documentaries, first screened on Channel 4 in 1999, including The Peculiar Memories of Bruce Robinson, which looks at the director s career, Withnail & Us, which focuses on the film s making, and two shorter documentaries, I Demand to Have Some Booze and Withnail on the Pier
- Newly filmed interviews with key members of WITHNAIL and I s behind-the-scenes team (TBC)
- Theatrical trailers for both films
- Exclusive limited edition hardback book packaging (2,000 copies) containing new writing on the films, reprints of key articles on WITHNAIL and I, deleted scenes and more across 200 pages, illustrated with original production stills
Withnail & I: Limited Edition Blu-ray Set is available now through Arrow Video.