BIRDY: Limited Edition Blu-Ray - Notes on an essay

Due for release on 28 October 2019 by Indicator, this limited edition Blu-Ray of Alan Parker's film Birdy (1984) features my new essay on the film in the booklet that accompanies the first pressing.

Birdy remains one of my favourite films of the 1980s and the commission to write the new essay from Powerhouse was an opportunity to not only revisit a film I had seen on release and revisited on VHS and DVD but also to return to the original novel by William Wharton.

The essay, ‘In a dream, I'm trying to decide what I am’, attempts to track the development of the script prior to Parker's involvement and how Wharton's strange, often abstract, narrative about the transformation of two friends in the aftermath of the Second World War (it was altered to the Vietnam conflict for the film) was brought to the screen by Parker.

Birdy is another iteration of Wharton's personality, one forged through his participation in the War, his relatively poor background and his childhood obsessions.Tracing the numerous avatars of Wharton involved a close re-reading of the novel Birdy and Wharton's posthumous war biography Shrapnel, tracing Wharton's double life - as abstract painter and author - through numerous interviews, in documents on Parker's own website, and then trying to tie those in with a delve through Parker's papers, donated to the BFI archives.

The papers at the BFI provided a fascinating insight into how Parker shaped Sandy Kroopf and Jack Behr’s script and attempted to retain as much of the ‘the “one person” schizophrenia of the book’ and remain true to the author's identity or identities.

Thanks to Nigel Good and Carolyne Bevan of the BFI Special Collections team I was able to access the draft scripts, Parker's letters and memos about the script, the notes on use of Garrett Brown's Skycam to shoot some of the flying sequences, technical notes about canaries, and his correspondence with Michael Reidenback. Reidenback, hoping to secure a role in the film, eventually provided Parker with a lot of research into army psychiatric units and their treatments of mental patients in the post-Vietnam era. This material left the impression that Parker clearly wanted to get the details right about what we eventually saw on screen. It also shed some further light on Wharton's own elusive personality and reclusive life.

The original draft of the essay was approximately 4600 words by November 2017. By the time I delivered the final draft, in December 2017, this had been reshaped and edited to approximately 3000 words. Finally, this release of Birdy has been a little while coming but it is heartening to know that this was not only down to Indicator's desire to secure Parker for a commentary and produce a number of relevant special features but also to go the extra mile and commission a new 2K remaster of the film.

But here it is at last. Enjoy.

  • New 2K remaster supervised and approved by director Alan Parker
  • Original stereo audio
  • New and exclusive audio commentary with director Alan Parker and the BFI’s Justin Johnson
  • Learning to Fly (2019): new and exclusive interview with screenwriters Jack Behr and Sandy Kroopf
  • Keith Gordon on William Wharton (2019): the actor and filmmaker shares his experiences of adapting Wharton for the screen
  • No Hard Feelings (1974): Alan Parker’s early film is an unsentimental view of wartime London through the eyes of a troubled young man
  • Original theatrical trailer
  • Image gallery: on-set and promotional photography
  • New and improved English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing
  • Limited edition exclusive booklet with a new essay by Frank Collins, an overview of contemporary critical responses, archival articles, and film credits
  • Limited Edition of 5,000 copies
  • All extras subject to change
BBFC cert: 15
EAN: 5037899071083

Purchase directly from the Powerhouse website.

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