Although filmmaker Gerald Potterton is best known for his direction of the rotoscope animation classic Heavy Metal, the famed animation director made one live-action feature in 1973 with the Donald Pleasence-starring The Rainbow Boys. Canadian International Pictures presents the film on Blu-ray (and on disc) for the first time ever with a terrific 4K restoration sourced from the 35mm interpositive. This release also includes a 53-minute interview with Potterton, restoration demos and even some animated shorts from the filmmaker. Recommended!
The illustrious career of the one and only Donald Pleasence saw an interesting period from 1968 to 1987. Pleasence had worked extensively in Canada with filmmakers like William Fruet (Spasms, Blue Monkey) and Donald Shebib (Goin’ Down the Road, Rip-Off). Right during the same time, Pleasence was turning in performances on big Hollywood movies like Escape From New York, Halloween, and the John Badham-helmed Dracula. His tireless work ethic was frequently met by filmmakers who would push the irreplaceable British actor to break from his usual mold. One such time was in Gerald Potterton’s The Rainbow Boys, a playfully old-fashioned road movie that harkens back to old Hollywood comedies from the ‘50s and Ealing Studios comedies from the UK.
The Rainbow Boys concerns itself with prospector Ralph Logan (Pleasence), whose infrequent gold discoveries drive him to be a panhandler. Ralph is after a major gold discovery at the bottom of a mine that he inherited from his father, but he fears that it may just be a tall tale and is content living in a broken-down shack amidst the expansive Canadian wilderness. That is until a New York drifter named Mazella (Don Calfa) who convinces Ralph to join him on the quest for gold. The duo soon convinces the practical, level-headed Gladys (Kate Reid) to join them as well, although she’s mostly along for the ride because she cares about Ralph’s well-being secretly.
Much like the previously mentioned Hollywood and Ealing Studios comedies, The Rainbow Boys is very light fare, which works completely to its benefit. Throw three people into a three-person motorcycle and have them traverse the forest on their own. A simple conceit, to be sure, but one that plays dividends with the comfortable script and terrific performances from the trio. The Rainbow Boys draws its narrative and comedic power from the same source – watching these three people bicker, reconcile and force each other to open up. And when they’re doing all those things against massive, beautiful landscapes, the proceedings have genuine weight.
Pleasence himself is a big highlight here. Shorn of his usual intense posture and stare, he’s relegated to being a sad, portly man that’s terrified of what other people may think or do to him. The trivial nature of all the bickering becomes the drama itself, making the dream of finding gold sufficient enough to live on. It’s a very odd thing to feel in movies these days, but that may also be speaking to how most movies made today don’t know what to do with a lack of plot. The Rainbow Boys is a sincere pleasure that’s worth checking out.
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-rays
Take to the road and search for gold on Blu-ray with this one-disc (BD50) release from Canadian International Pictures that’s locked to Region A. The disc comes in a clear Viva case with reversible artwork and an attached essay booklet, and the case comes with a limited-edition slipcover with artwork designed by Sean Phillips. The Blu-ray boots up to a standard menu screen with options to play the film, set up audio, explore special features and select scenes.
The Rainbow Boys makes the leap from VHS to Blu-ray with a stunning new 4K restoration sourced from the 35mm interpositive. The transfer was produced by Zellco Entertainment, in collaboration with Library and Archives Canada, and looks absolutely stunning. The AVC-encoded image is framed at 2.38:1 and offers a very healthy bitrate throughout. Primaries, like the vast blue sky against miles of wilderness, look great and colors are tuned just right without letting them pop too much. Those rolling, mountainous hills in Canada shot in Panavision can’t look any better than they do here. Same goes for Pleasence’s weary face.
The supplied 2.0 DTS-HD MA mix was sourced from the original soundtrack, which was remastered at 24-bit from the original 35mm magnetic master mix. The result is nothing short of terrific, with dialogue coming through remarkably clear and higher-pitched notes like laughter and yelling never sounding tinny. The lightweight score is balanced nicely with the dialogue as well. The source doesn’t exhibit any damage.
Canadian International Pictures has packed this Blu-ray this release to the gills with newly produced features, including a terrific, career-spanning interview with Gerald Potterton. Potterton takes you through his career and how his work as an animator prepared him for something like The Rainbow Boys. Also of note in this special features collection are three animated shorts directed by Potterton and written by Harold Pinter. Add in a booklet essay with an enlightening piece by editor Katherine Reynolds and you have a great collection of supplements!
Gerald Potterton may best be known for his work as an animator, but it was his 1973 live-action film The Rainbow Boys that really showed off what the filmmaker could do with real locations. Canadian International Pictures presents the film on Blu-ray with a stunning new restoration and adds a nice collection of supplements that you’ll want to dig into. This release comes Recommended!