Release Date(s)1969 (August 21, 2018)
Studio(s)Columbia Pictures/Open Road Films (Twilight Time)
- Film/Program Grade: B
- Video Grade: B
- Audio Grade: A
- Extras Grade: D
Based upon the novel of the same name by Leslie Thomas, The Virgin Soldiers is a British war comedy from 1969, which takes place during the Malayan Emergency. Focusing on a group of soldiers seeking some recreational time, the National Servicemen are sent to Singapore. While there, private Brigg (Hywel Bennett) meets Phillipa (Lynn Redgrave), who happens to be the daughter of the regimental sergeant major (Nigel Patrick). Failing to win her over, he decides to end his virginity with a prostitute at a nightclub. Trying to find the courage to interact with Phillipa again, he is discouraged when suave sergeant Driscoll (Nigel Davenport) moves in on her next. But in the midst of this love triangle, the soldiers are also preparing for potential service.
Directed by John Dexter (his first theatrical film) and shot on location in both Singapore and Malaya, The Virgin Soldiers is solid entertainment. Dexter does a great job holding the film together with a good pace and interesting characters that manage to sustain interest. He also does a great job at transitioning from comedic moments to more serious moments during the latter part of the film. The mischief that occurs is amusing and silly, but the film is also classy in that it never tries to go the sleazy, exploitation route by avoiding heavy nudity, even with ample opportunities to do so.
The cast also hands in terrific performances. Tsai Chin, who some might remember as Lin Tang from the Christopher Lee Fu Manchu film series, departs from her sinister ways to a much lighter role as the silly, love-hungry Juicy Lucy. There’s also great cinematography by Kenneth Higgins, who was one of the top British cinematographers during the 1960s, as well as an enjoyable musical score by Peter Greenwood. And David Bowie fans take note as the late, great musician makes an uncredited cameo appearance in the film.
Twilight Time debuts The Virgin Soldiers on Blu-ray and it’s a solid release. With an HD master provided by Sony, the film looks vivacious with excellent detail on both indoor and outdoor scenery. The color palette seems to be on the cool side, resulting in some of the colors being a bit bolder. Greens in particular, including those found on the soldiers’ uniforms, look great. Black levels appear balanced and skin tones look natural, with close-ups showing great depth and detail, including sweat and skin blemishes. In regards to the audio, the English mono DTS-HD track comes in loud and clear. Dialogue is strong throughout while gunfire and other sounds are even stronger. Optional subtitles in English SDH are also included. Extras include an isolated score track, which sounds flawless with no detectable issues, the original theatrical trailer, a scroll-through of the current Twilight Time catalogue, and an 8-page insert booklet with an excellent essay by Julie Kirgo.
The Virgin Soldiers is a delightful film and is recommended to those who enjoy a good war comedy, as well as fans of British cinema. Now in high definition, the film looks amazing, and could perhaps open the door for more British films on Blu-ray in North America in the future. One can hope anyways.
- David Steigman