Maggie Smith is Miss Jean Brodie, history teacher at the Marcia Blaine School for Girls in1930’s Edinburgh. Flashy, charismatic, flamboyantly romantic and toweringly arrogant, shegathers around herself a small group of girls who, willing acolytes, follow her everywhere. TheShe is perpetually at war with headmistress Celiea Johnson, has had an affair with married artteacher Robert Stephens (who is still obsessed with her), and is currently dallying with naivemusic teacher Go…don Jackson. She is also Benito Mussolini’s biggest fan.
Of all the films featuring iconoclastic teachers, from To Sir With Love to DeadPoets Society to Mona Lisa Smile, it is doubtful that any approach the complexityof The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. While we in the audience enjoy Maggie Smith’sregular demolitions of the repressed and disapproving Celia Johnson, she is also clearly adangerous influence on her students, trying to manoeuver one into the Robert Stephens’ bed, andconvincing another to head off to Spain to fight for the Fascist forces of Franco. Her over-the-toparrogance is simultaneously engaging, amusing, and pathetic. Can you imagine how much moreinteresting something like Mona Lisa Smile might have been with Julia Roberts as anenthusiastic Fascist? Every film in this genre also features, along with the Charismatic Teacher,the Favourite Student, and here that role is filled by Pamela Franklin. Her arc is as fascinating asSmith’s, as we watch her move from hero-worship to disillusionment, finally rising up to destroyher mentor. Funny and dramatic without ever being maudlin, this is an absolutely marvellousfilm.
As with the other Studio Classics, the audio comes in both the original mono and remixedstereo versions. The 2.0 stereo has all the usual flaws: the surround is indiscriminate, with plentyof bizarre surround voices. The music is too loud in the rear speakers. Stereo aspects aside, thesound quality is variable. Most of the time the dialogue is crisp and clear, but there are momentsof distinct muzziness. There is also a certain level of buzz on the dialogue.
The credit sequence is rather discouraging, with a terrible degree of dirt and grain — norestoration has happened here, that’s for sure. Post credits, the situation improves, though thereare still some shots that are grainier than others. There is also some flicker and occasionalspeckling. On the other hand, the colours are bright and stable, there is no visible edgeenhancement, and the image is sharp.
The commentary is by director Robert Neame and Pamela Franklin, recorded separately.Neame does the lion’s share of the commentary, but both are very articulate and interestingspeakers. The behind-the-scenes information is copious and engagingly presented, and Neameconcludes in a very touching manner. A fine commentary. The other extras are a behind-the-scenes still gallery, the theatrical trailer and the teaser, and trailers for five other Studio Classics.The menu is basic.
Not a lot of extras, when compared to some of the other Studio Classics, but the commentaryis very good. The film doesn’t have a restored lustre, but it is a towering achievement. By allmeans see it.
Special Features List
- Audio Commentary
- Theatrical Trailer and Teaser
- Still Gallery
- Bonus Trailers