• Absolution

    Released by: Kino Studio Classics
    Released on: July 5th, 2016.
    Director: Anthony Page
    Cast: Richard Burton, Dominic Guard, David Bradley, Billy Connolly, Andrew Keir
    Year: 1978
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    The Movie:

    Based on the novel of the same name by Wicker Man scribe Anthony Schaffer, 1978’s Absolution stars Richard Burton as Father Goddard, a Latin teacher at a Catholic boy’s school called St. Anthony’s. Goddard has a close relationship with one of his students, Benjamin Stanfield (Dominic Guard), who seems destined himself to join the priesthood. That is, until this relationship is usurped by a Scottish squatter named Blakely (Billy Connolly) who lives in the woods at the outskirts of the school grounds. When it’s learned that Blakely has been breaking into the school at night to steal food, Goddard puts his foot down – Benjamin and any of the other boys enrolled are told in no uncertain terms to stay away from the man.

    This backfires. Benjamin’s relationship with the padre soon turns scornful, particularly once he tells Blakely about Goddard’s orders. To get back at the priest, Blakely convinces Benjamin that the reason for this is simple – Goddard has desires towards the boy. He convinces the boy to tell Goddard of his made up sexual exploits during confession, which he does, only for the priest to bring the cops in to deal with the squatter. Things go from bad to worse when Blakely and Benjamin get into an argument. Again, in confession, Benjamin tells Goddard of his sins, this time of murdering the Scotsman out in the woods. Goddard investigates and finds it to be a prank, but when Benjamin confesses to the crime a second time and notes that he wants to kill again, that his crippled classmate Arthur Dyson (David Bradley) may be next, the elderly priest finds himself in an increasingly bad situation.

    This is a clever picture that does a fine job of playing off of the conflict that exists between Goddard’s oath to uphold the sanctity of confession and his moral outrage that exists when confronted with the reality of the situation. Burton, in the lead, handles this well. As Goddard he comes across as well intentioned and intelligent, wanting the best for the kids under his care and hoping to simply see the problem that Blakely represents go away without issue. That doesn’t happen, obviously, and once it’s clear that it won’t, Burton’s understated performance intensifies in interesting ways. He overdoes it a little bit towards the end but for the most part he’s very good here and quite believable. He has a regal presence befitting an aged priest and he certainly looks the part as well. Dominic Guard is also quite good as Benjamin and a young Billy Conolly is great as the strange catalyst for all that happens between teacher and student.

    As to Goddard’s real feelings towards his favorite student? That’s left up for the audience to decide, but there are moments in the film where you do have to wonder if maybe Blakely was onto something when he put the idea into Benjamin’s head. There’s plenty of food for thought here, the script is smart enough to let us keep guessing about certain aspects of what’s really going on here and it is a far more interesting movie for it. The film isn’t super stylish but it is nicely shot and reasonably determined in its pacing. Production values are solid and the score from Stanley Myers is quite good.


    Absolution looks quite nice in AVC encoded 1080p high definition framed at 1.85.1 widescreen as it is presented on this Blu-ray release, transferred from a new 2k restoration. There’s some minor print damage here and there in the form of the occasional speck but nothing too serious. Grain is present, as it should be, but never distractingly so and colors look nice and natural. Detail is generally pretty strong and the picture has good depth and texture. The image is free of any obvious noise reduction or edge enhancement and color reproduction is pretty solid here. All in all, you get a pretty nice upgrade in quality here over what we’ve had before (the movie has been seen on DVD from various grey market and public domain companies over the years as well as an official release via MGM/TGG), the movie looks quite good on Blu-ray.

    The DTS-HD 2.0 mix on the disc is also quite good. There are no problems with hiss or distortion to report and the levels are well balanced. Dialogue is clear and easy to follow and this is problem free, and the score generally sounds quite good with strong range and decent depth to it.

    Extras are limited to a trailer for the feature, bonus trailers for The Rosary Murders and True Confessions, static menus and chapter selection.

    The Final Word:

    Kino’s Blu-ray release of Absolution is decidedly light on supplemental accompaniments but the presentation for the feature itself is quite pleasing. The movie is more of a slow burn thriller than a straight out horror picture but it is very well done and features a great, paranoid performance from Richard Burton. Recommended!

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!