Dance Hall (UK - DVD R2)
Marcus dances the night away with some factory girls at the dance hall...
Four factory girls love to let off some steam at the local dance hall. They get to dance, socialise and of course contend with romance and boys but with a big event like New Year’s Eve on the way, this year’s big night out may come with a whole lot of drama.
If the extra features are to be believed this 1950 Ealing Studios film wasn’t all that well received on it's release but looking at it now it feels a little bit ahead of its time. This is a female centric look at youth culture really. Watching these working girls and following them around at night as they head to the dance hall. Really it’s a clubbing movie. It’s very music centric, it shows the group of girls and their different endeavours and paints the dance hall scene with an almost magical quality.
These sorts of movies have become a lot more common place over the years. Saturday Night Fever being the king of the sub-genre but probably without even knowing it Dance Hall got in on the game ahead of time. Unfortunately it’s central characters aren’t all that compelling and beyond some ups and downs between Natasha Parry and her love interests the plot is a little too thin to draw you into the social scene it's invited you into.
This old black and white doesn’t look too bad for the most part. Of course there are a few bits of dirt and a whole lot of dancing grain in wider spaces but other elements hold up quite well. Most of the black levels are quite deep and detail can be quite crisp given the right lighting. The live bands all look sharp with reflections off of trumpets and what not looking good despite the age of the film.
Of course the odd scenes suffer a bit more than others. Patchy, hazy elements turn up from time to time and some of the lower lit sets within the dance hall can look lifeless and drab with softer edges. Overall, this is a gritty presentation but it adds some realism I feel. The image is stable and barely has that wobble older British films can sometimes suffer from and while it’s never an impressive presentation it’s one that feels acceptable given the film’s limited popularity.
As I said in my review this is quite the celebration of music. There’s still a fairly consistant hiss and crackle to the track but the musical moments pack a bit of punch even with the limiations to the small stereo track. Dialogue is strong and often layered within the dance hall or busy homes and work places and while the film’s score is faint it adds a bit of space to the track.
‘Remembering Dance Hall’ (11:06) explains the film's negative critical reception mainly due to male dominated media back then. The film is described as 'underappreciated' at the time but it’s charm has grown since.
There’s also a ‘Behind the Scenes Still Gallery’
Dance Hall seems a good look at the youth culture it's set in. Sure it’s got that old English black and white charm to it that somewhat undermines the realism but it still manages to genuinely capture a period in the post war social scene. The DVD looks and sounds about as good as can be expected from this small British oldie but once again the short featurette included paints a good picture of the film’s history.
Review by Marcus Doidge
General viewing, but some scenes may be unsuitable for young children
Release Date: 21st January 2013
Disc Type: Single side, dual layer
Audio: Dolby Stereo 2.0 English
Extras: Remembering Dance Hall, Photo Gallery
Easter Egg: No
Director: Charles Crichton
Cast: Donald Houston, Bonar Colleano, Diana Dors, Petula Clark
Length: 77 minutes
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