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Firemen’s Ball, The – Arrow Academy (BluRay / DVD Combo) 
Written by: on November 18th, 2015

Theatrical Release Date: Czechoslovakia, 1967
Director: Milos Forman
Writers: Milos Forman, Jaroslav Papousek, Ivan Passer
Cast: Jan Vostrcil, Josef Sebánek, Josef Valnoha

BluRay released: September 28th, 2015
Approximate running times: 73 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1 Aspect Ratio / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC
Rating: PG (UK)
Sound: LPCM Mono Czech
Subtitles: English
BluRay Release: Arrow Academy
Region Coding: Region Free (UK)
Retail Price: £15.99 (UK)

Synopsis: A small town fire department celebrates their former bosses eighty sixth birthday by throwing him a party and everyone in town is invited.

The Fireman’s Ball was directed by Milos Forman whose other notable films include, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Amadeus, The People vs. Larry Flynt and Man on the Moon. Key collaborators on The Fireman’s Ball include, cinematographer Miroslav Ondrícek (If…., Slaughterhouse-Five) and composer Karel Mares (A Report on the Party and the Guests).

The premise is simple get a room full of non-actors together and throw a party. From there film what mayhem ensues. When broken down to its core this is exactly what The Fireman’s Ball does and its does it remarkable well all things considered.

Structurally the film’s narrative is as straight forward as they come as the film opens with the last minute details begin taken care for the party which makes up the majority of this film’s plot. Also during this opening setup the film establishes one of handful of running gags that pop up throughout the film. And at the core of this gag is a table that has items that have been put there for a raffle that will be taking pace during the party. Unfortunately the man who is put in charge of watching these items is not good at this job and things continually disappear as the plot progresses.

From a production stand point there is not a single area where this film does not excel. The film is flawless directed and pacing is never an issue as things move at a break neck momentum. And when it comes to the performances in this film they far exceed exceptions.

And when it comes to memorable moments none shine brighter than the scene where the firemen try to secretly hold their beauty pageant behind closed doors. There is no doubt that their contest is not what appears to be and the moments where suspicious parents interrupt the proceedings are among this film’s most humorous moments.

The BluRay:

The Firemen’s Ball comes on a 50 GB dual layer BluRay. This release has been flagged for progressive playback and the film is presented in its intended 1.37:1 aspect ratio. The source used for this releases transfer is new 4K restoration by the Czech National Film Archive and the end result looks spectacular. Colors look accurate, details look crisp, grain look natural and there are no issues with DNR or compression.

This release comes with one audio option, a LPCM mono mix in Czech and removable English subtitles have been included for this release. The audio sounds clean, clear and balanced throughout.

Extras for this release include, a brief segment about this film’s restoration (2 minutes 21 seconds), a featurette titled ‘Appreciation by David Sorfa’ (32 minutes 32 seconds), a featurette titled ‘New Wave Faces’ (31 minutes 27 seconds, in Czech with English subtitles).

Topics discussed in the extra titled ‘Appreciation by David Sorfa’ include, how Milos Forman was older than the majority of the other Czech new wave filmmakers, the international success of The Fireman’s Ball and how the film was criticized by communists due to its depiction of the working class and Forman’s insistence on basing his films in reality. Also this extra takes an in depth look into the key moments from The Fireman’s Ball.

The extra titled ‘New Wave Faces’ explores three key Czhech new wave filmmakers Milos Forman, Jan Nemec and Vera Chytilová. This extra also takes an in-depth look at how these Czhech new wave cinema and these filmmakers often used nonprofessional actors.

Topics discussed in the interview with Milos Forman include, the origins of the film and how he got involved in making it, shooting for the first time in color, collaborating with cinematographer Miroslav Ondrícek, how the screenplay and film differ from each other and collaborating with producer Carlo Ponti.

Topics discussed in the interview with Ivan Passer include, the real life events which inspired the film, collaborating with producer Carlo Ponti on a film that never got made and how he got Ponti to agree to release Forman from his contract.

Topics discussed in the interview with Miroslav Ondrícek include, the first thing a cinematographer does when starting a film is outlining the shoots for each scene, the limitations of film stock, light sources and how technology has greatly improved over the years, how the film was originally going to be shot in black & white and why they decided to shoot in color, the look of the film, trouble finding the right costumes and filming the house that burned down.

Rounding out the extra is a reversible cover art option and a twenty page booklet with cats & crew information, an essay about the film titled ‘The Firemen’s Ball’ written by Peter Hames, contemporary reviews for the film and information about the transfer. Also included with this release is a DVD that has the same content included on the Blu-Ray included as part of this combo release. Overall The Fireman’s Ball gets a solid release from Arrow Academy.

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