Written by: Michael Den Boer on September 16th, 2008
Theatrical Release Date: UK, 1970
Director: Simon Hesera
Writer: Roman Polanski
Cast: Lily Bacberg, Benny Bundgaard, Mark Burns, Eva Dahlbeck, Lise Dietrich, Joanna Dunham, Beatie Edney, June Eelli, Grith Fjeldmose, John Franklin, Arthur Jensen, Bertel Lauring, Fiona Lewis, Jack MacGowran, Marie Masters, Sisse Reingaard, Maurice Roëves, Peter Sellers, Cle Soegard, Graham Stark
DVD released: September 9th, 2008
Approximate running time: 84 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Sound: Dolby Digital Mono English
DVD Release: Code Red
Region Coding: Region 0 NTSC
Retail Price: $19.98
A Day at the Beach is a story about a young girl named Winnie who spends the day at with her alcoholic uncle Bernie. From the beginning of their day together things just start to fall apart as Bernie becomes more interested in finding his next drink and less interested in spending time with Winnie. At one point during the film Bernie alludes that he may actually be Winnie’s father and not her uncle. He quickly changes the subject telling Winnie that when she is older he can tell her who her father really is.
The story unfolds as the day progresses with the next morning arriving dawn signally the end of Bernie and Winnie’s day together as he falls flat on his face. Winnie tries to revive Bernie who lays motionless on the pavement as the film fades into the end credits. Watching Bernie disintegrate all in front of Winnie as the day progresses really pulls at the heart strings. Even though his demise comes off as tragic it is a logical conclusion after all that has happened up to that point.
A Day at the Beach was adapted from the novel with the same title which was written by Dutch author Heere Heeresma. Director Roman Polanski who wrote the screenplay was originally going to direct A Day at the Beach. While preparing the film tragedy would befall Roman Polanski whose wife Sharon Tate and their unborn child were murdered by the Manson family. Even though Roman Polanski stepped away from the project one can still see some of his sensibilities in the final product. The mind boggles thinking about what he would have done had he directed A Day at the Beach.
Stepping in as the film’s director Simon Hesera who had previously never directed a film and he would only direct one more film after this film a documentary about David Ben-Gurion the first Prime Minister of Israel. Visually Simon Hesera does a satisfying job handling the film’s dark subject matter. Simon Hesera also manages to create some claustrophobic moments that are Polanski like. The film is briskly paced with each new event effortlessly folding into the next. The film also features a rather remarkable score from composer Mort Shuman. The films beautifully realized natural cinematography was shot by Gilbert Taylor whose notable credits as a cinematographer include Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, A Hard Day’s Night, Repulsion, Cul-de-sac, Frenzy, The Omen, Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope, Flash Gordon and Roman Polanski’s Macbeth.
Mark Burns is cast in the lead role Bernie. Performance wise it is hard to imagine anyone else in the role after you have seen this film. Burns totally engrosses himself in the self loathing and tragic fate of his character. He has two moments that linger with you long after the film end credits have faded off the screen. This first moment is a scene when Bernie and Winnie have just arrived at the beach. They find momentary shelter and something to drink when a shop keeper and her daughter agrees to serve them. During this scene Bernie is starting to pile up the beers. He tells the shop keepers’ daughter when she goes to fetch him another one to put it under her arm so that the warmth of her body can take some of the chill off the beer. This is the first of many moments which show that Bernie is not a man of compromise or easy top please. Anyone who doesn’t appease him feels his wrath.
Cast in two minor roles are Pellers Sellers and Graham Stark playing gays lovers who run a shop on the beach. Graham Stark often worked with Peter Sellers and his most famous role is as Hercule LaJoy from the Pink Panther films a Shot in the Dark. This scene involving Pellers Sellers and Graham Stark is one of the moments in the film that really stood out for me. Both men hit on Bernie from the moment he arrives. Bernie plays along until he gets what he wants. The scene ends with the nastiest moment from Bernie as he verbally tears apart Graham Stark’s character Pipi. Stark’s character also has some of the most horrendous teeth that you will ever encounter. Of note Peter Sellers is billed under the alias A. Queen in the credits. The films other major role is Winnie who is portrayed by a first time actress named Beatie Edney who would go onto a productive film career that is still going on strong today. Her most notable role is Heather MacLeod from Highlander and Highlander: Endgame. Ultimately A Day at the Beach is an unflinching look at a man whose addiction engulfs him in the end.
Code Red presents A Day at the Beach in an anamorphic widescreen that retains the film’s original aspect ratio. Shortly after it was released A Day at the Beach faded away into obscurity to a clerical error by Paramount Pictures the company that had originally released it. The transfer for A Day at the Beach from Code Red is of their usual high standards. There are some very mild instances of print damage. Nothing that is ever to distracting. On a few of the wider angle shots some objects and people do look a tad soft. Besides these minor flaws the transfer has nicely saturated colors, strong black levels and details look crisp throughout. Edge enhancement is kept to a minimum and there are no problems with compression or artifacts. This transfer has also been flagged for progressive playback.
This release comes with one audio option a Dolby Digital mono mix in English. There is some noticeable hiss that crops up from time to time. The audio sound balanced and there are no issues with distortion. Overall for a film nearly forty years old and the limitations of the mono source the audio comes off sounding very good.
Extras for this release are limited to trailers for films currently or soon to be released on DVD from Code Red. The titles include Choke Canyon, The Farmer, Power Play, The Visitor and Can I Do It…Til I Need Glasses? Since the key players involved in this filmed have either passed away actor Mark Burns and director Simon Hesera or were unavailable like Roman Polanski and cinematographer Gilbert Taylor it is not surprising that there is no extra content related to A Day at the Beach. Overall A Day at the Beach gets a strong audio/video presentation form Code Red that comes up light in the extras department.