The Wilby Conspiracy

The Wilby Conspiracy

DVD (Wide Screen)

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Overview

The Wilby Conspiracy

Seeing The Wilby Conspiracy anew on DVD -- it never made it to laserdisc -- is a profoundly moving experience. The only significant feature film from a major studio (United Artists) dealing with South Africa and apartheid, it disappeared from theaters without a trace in the mid-'70s -- Americans were still concentrating on Watergate and the end of the Vietnam War -- but found an audience on television. This new transfer, mildly letterboxed to the standard European non-anamorphic widescreen ratio of 1.66:1, looks sharper and crisper than any TV master ever prepared of this movie, and has the added virtue of preserving the original theatrical version's violence and humor, which were censored for broadcast and are very important to the effectiveness of the movie. The Wilby Conspiracy is, at heart, a profoundly serious movie, to be sure, but in telling its story, relentless seriousness of tone would have doomed the task of getting its message out. Screenwriters Rodney Amateau and Harold Nebenzal recognized this in adapting Peter Driscoll's novel, and included a share of realistically humorous moments, playing off the bizarre ironies of life in white-run South Africa as well as injecting some savage violence, some of which was also cut for broadcast. One piercingly serious joke, invoking the name of Jesus, definitely never made the cut for TV or syndicated broadcast. Sidney Poitier and Michael Caine display a beguiling chemistry together onscreen as a pair of fugitives in the white-supremacist country who find themselves caught up in a web of double-dealing and triple-crosses, all tied to the political strife over the country's racial policies. Ralph Nelson's careful mix of topical drama and suspense still plays well, and it looks sensational. The original theatrical prints probably looked even better, but measured against decades of lower-quality broadcast masters, even the night shots on this disc have a velvety, silky texture that reveals details previously missed. The audio has been mastered at a high level, as well, bringing out little bits of nastiness and humor in the dialogue, in addition to the beauty of the song that is sung over the opening credit sequence. The 20 chapters show a genuine effort at treating this film properly. The trailer is especially interesting in that it was better able to allude to the racial aspects of its subject in 1974 than it would have been a decade later (when the Reagan White House brought an influx of apartheid apologists to Washington). A commentary track might have been welcome, however, given that this is part of what MGM/UA calls "The Sidney Poitier Collection." Considering that the actor made his second screen appearance in an equally groundbreaking movie about South Africa (Cry, The Beloved Country [1951]), it's entirely possible that Poitier might have been willing to offer some reminiscences, about the movie and director Ralph Nelson, with whom he also made Lilies of the Field in 1963. Moreover, Michael Caine has always been particularly proud of this movie, recalling in a 1990 interview that he was persona non grata in white-ruled South Africa for having starred in the film. The disc opens automatically on a simple menu that includes the trailer and access to a Spanish soundtrack and English, French, and Spanish subtitles.

Product Details

Release Date: 01/20/2004
UPC: 0027616901507
Original Release: 1975
Rating: PG
Source: Mgm (Video & Dvd)
Region Code: 1
Presentation: [Wide Screen]
Sound: [Dolby Digital Mono]
Time: 1:46:00

Special Features

Closed Caption; Original theatrical trailer; English, French, and Spanish subtitles

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Sidney Poitier Shack Twala
Michael Caine Keogh
Nicol Williamson Horn
Prunella Gee Rina Van Niekirk
Persis Khambatta Dr. Persis Ray
Saeed Jaffrey Dr. Anil Mukerjee
Helmut Dantine Prosecutor
Ryk de Cosyer Van Heerden
Abdullah Sunado Masai Village Headman
Brian Epsom Judge
Rutger Hauer Blaine Van Niekirk
Patrick Allen District commissioner
Archie Duncan German

Technical Credits
Ralph Nelson Director
Rodney Amateau Screenwriter
Martin Baum Producer
Miriam Brickman Casting
Robin Browne Camera Operator
Rosemary Burrows Costumes/Costume Designer
John Coquillon Cinematographer
Helmut Dantine Executive Producer
Denise Exshaw Set Decoration/Design
Paul Heller Producer
Herbert Smith Camera Operator
John Hoesli Art Director
Stanley Myers Score Composer
Harold Nebenzal Screenwriter
Ivo Nightingale Asst. Director
Harry Pottle Production Designer
Bob Simmons Stunts
Phil Stokes Special Effects
Peter Sutton Sound/Sound Designer
Ernest Walter Editor
Robert Watts Production Manager
Kit West Special Effects
Freddie Williamson Makeup

Scene Index

Side #1 --
1. Main Title/Prisoner 34
2. Acting in Self-Defense
3. Whose National Security?
4. "My Fingers Are Numb"
5. Interrogated & Examined
6. Talking Back to Policemen
7. The Smell of Fear
8. A Proper Burial
9. "What Are You Good For?"
10. Diamonds, Lies & Dentistry
11. A Smelly Reunion
12. Hiding the Troublemaker
13. A Deal With the Devil
14. To Each His Own Specialty
15. Marital Blackmail
16. Sinkhole Science
17. A Run for the Border
18. In Foreign Airspace
19. Unwitting Conspirators
20. End Credits

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