• I Start Counting (Fun City Editions) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Fun City Editions
    Released on: November 24th, 2020.
    Director: David Greene
    Cast: Jenny Agutter, Bryan Marshall, Simon Ward, Clare Sutcliffe
    Year: 1969
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    I Start Counting – Movie Review:

    Directed by David Greene and released in its native English in 1969 (originally with an X-rating!), I Start Counting stars a young Jenny Agutter (of Walkabout and An American Werewolf In London fame) as a fourteen-year-old teenaged girl named Wynne. She lives with her adopted mother (Madge Ryan), grandfather (Billy Russell) and older foster brothers George (Bryan Marshall) and Len (Gregory Phillips) in an apartment building in working class neighborhood where she goes to school. Wynne, however, shares a strange fascination with her childhood home out in the country. Now very much in shambles, she nevertheless visits the old place on a regular basis.

    Wynne’s best friend is Corinne (Clare Sutcliffe), but she’s closest of all with George, who she’s clearly got romantic feelings for. While Wynne deals with her burgeoning sexuality, a serial killer begins preying on teenaged girl victims in the neighborhood. After observing some of her brother’s unusual behavior as of late, Wynne starts to suspect that her own brother just might be the one doing the killing.

    Based on the novel of the same name by Audrey Erskine-Lindop, I Start Counting is as much a look at the difficulties of growing up and dealing the matters of the heart than it is the serial killer thriller you might expect it to be, but don’t let dissuade you. This is very much a slow burn, a deliberately paced picture concerned far more with character development than with cheap thrills, but it’s very well made and, even in its slower spots, never dull. Production values are quite strong across the board. The film’s original theme song, performed by Lindsay Moore, might grate a little bit but otherwise the soundtrack is solid and generally pretty appropriate for the story being told. Alex Thompson’s cinematography is top notch, there are some very striking compositions on display in the picture and there’s great use of color here as well. Director David Green, probably best known for Roots and Godspell, directs with minimal flash, never verging into style over substance but ensuring that the picture is visually appealing throughout. It’s all very well put together.

    As to the acting, this is really Jenny Agutter’s show, for the most part, and she really takes advantage of it. Only sixteen when she made this picture, she proves the perfect choice for the role, delivering a performance that is as believable as it is, at times, truly sympathetic. As Wynne, she really goes through a whole gamut of emotions, and she never feels anything less than spot on in her work here. Supporting turns from Bryan Marshall and Clare Sutcliffe are both good, and Gregory Phillips is strong here as well, delivering some occasional, and welcome, comic relief.

    I Start Counting – Blu-ray Review:

    Fun City Editions brings I Start Counting to region A locked Blu-ray ‘newly scanned & restored in 2k from its 35mm interpositive’ on a 50GB disc with the feature taking up just over 31.3GBs of space and framed at 1.85.1 widescreen. While minor damage shows up throughout, the transfer shows really nice detail and is rich with grain and texture. Colors are reproduced nicely, even if there is occasional fluctuation noticeable, and the film’s earthy palette coming across very naturally, while black levels are strong throughout and skin tones look lifelike and accurate. There are no issues at all with any noise reduction or edge enhancement and the picture is free of noticeable compression artifacts.

    A 24-bit English language DTS-HD 2.0 Mono track is the main audio option on the disc. A Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono mix is also included, as are optional English subtitles. The lossless mix is a good one, offering a properly balanced track with clean, clear dialogue and a nice, rich soundtrack. There are no problems with any hiss or distortion to note, it all sounds very good.

    Extras start off Audio Commentary with film historian Samm Deighan that starts off with the unusual combination of horror and coming of age story that the film revolves around, the quality of Jenny Agutter’s work in the film as well as details of her career, how Wynne's sexual awakening coincides with a serial killer active in the area, the fairy tale qualities of the movie, details on the different cast and crew members that worked on the picture, David Greene's career, English serial killers and their effect on British cinema, the ways that the movie deals with burgeoning sexuality, some of the visual nods in the film to works like Little Red Riding Hood, the use of violence in the, the inevitability of the film's ending, the quality of the cinematography in the picture and much more.

    As far as featurettes go, we get A Kickstart: Jenny Agutter Remembers I Start Counting, which is a twenty-minute piece in which the film's lead actress does just that. She speaks here about getting into acting while she was in ballet school and landed her first role and how her career took off from here. She covers some more early roles and then gets into how and why she was cast in Greene's picture at sixteen years of age. She talks about what Greene was like to work with, how impressed she was with the role and the story, how the crew were instructed not to swear in front of her due to her young age, how she got along with her co-stars including Bryan Marshall, some of the locations used for the picture and plenty more.

    Loss of Innocence: A Video Essay On I Start Counting by Chris O'Neill runs just shy of eight-minutes and explores the psychological thriller and coming of age drama elements that are used in the film, the use of subjective camera techniques to represent different points of view in the movie, the voyeuristic style used in key scenes, how Agutter's ability makes Wynne as empathetic as she is, the way that adults are portrayed in the film's environment, the portrayal of Wynne's relationship with George and quite a bit more. Lots of good insight here, he does a nice job of digging below the surface and exploring a lot of the subtext that is on display in the movie.

    A theatrical trailer, an optional twenty-eight second intro from Agutter and still gallery finish off the extras on the disc. Menus and chapter selection are also included. Included inside the keepcase alongside the disc is a twelve-page booklet that contains an excellent essay on the film by Amanda Reyes entitled I Start Directing, a second piece by Matt Stephenson that is a remembrance of sorts and, finally, credits for the feature.

    As far as the packaging is concerned, we get some nice reversible cover sleeve art and the first 2,000 units purchased directly from Vinegar Syndrome (who are distributing this release) get a very nice limited edition, slip cover with some cool spot varnish embossment on it.

    I Start Counting – The Final Word:

    I Start Counting is a picture well-worth seeking out, a mix of drama and suspense that works quite well thanks to a whole lot of talented people working both in front of, and behind, the camera. Fun City Editions has done a nice job bringing this picture to Blu-ray in a special edition release that offers up a nice presentation and does a great job of documenting the film’s history. Recommended.

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