This Sporting Life on Blu-ray

Sunday, 08 June 2014 23:00 Written by 

This Sporting Life - out now on Blu-rayRichard Harris (“Unforgiven”, “Gladiator”) stars as fictional rugby league sensation Frank Machin in this Oscar-nominated and BAFTA-winning film. Rachel Roberts (“Picnic at Hanging Rock”) co-stars as Frank’s widowed landlady, a woman he desperately wants to help but whose stony, embittered defences he struggles to break down. Despite his new-found wealth, Frank also seems incapable of jettisoning his working-class trappings and refining his rough and brutish persona.

Directed by Lindsay Anderson (“If...”), the movie also stars Alan Badel (“The Day of the Jackal”), along with a host of TV favourites such as original Doctor Who William Hartnell, Arthur Lowe (Dad's Army), Leonard Rossiter (The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin) and George Sewell (UFO). This new Blu-ray release features a superb high-definition transfer made from original, black and white film elements in its theatrical aspect ratio.

Harris and Roberts give incredible performances that bristle with sexual tension as two unhappy people who want different things out of life and rarely manage to click. Harris prowls around the cramped lodging set and then bursts onto the rugby field like an animal newly released into the wild, tearing the other players apart.

Roberts perfectly captures widower Margaret’s hatred for life and despair at the terrible card it has dealt her, refusing to move on for fear of her heart being ripped out of her chest a second time.

The film is equally effective in its searing depiction of class divisions and the fleeting nature of fame as Frank's star only rises as far as his sponsors allow it to, and his unsubtle attempts to rise above his poor origins are scorned by those who probably inherited their statuses and money.

The rugby action is brilliantly shot, conveying the violent, battering nature of the sport, firstly tracking Frank as he carves a devastating path through the opposition’s defences, and secondly symbolising how sometimes people seem stand in his way at every turn, dragging him back down into the dirt and sapping his resolve and momentum.

There is no question that “This Sporting Life” is a true British classic. It might not be much fun to watch but it is incredibly gripping and a wonderful character study.

Special features include:

  • Original theatrical trailer
  • Four image galleries, including extensive promotional and behind-the-scene shots
  • Promotional material PDFs
  • Commemorative booklet PDF by film historian David Rolinson

It is a shame there are no filmed interviews or a commentary track to bulk out the package a little but the film is definitely worth the asking price on its own.

“This Sporting Life” (1963) is out now, on Blu-ray, courtesy of Network Distributing. The main feature has a running time of 134 minutes approx., carries a ‘12’ certificate and retails for £14.99 on Blu-ray, or less from


Last modified on Sunday, 15 June 2014 16:52

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