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Hanover Street

An audio commentary track can enhance the movie it's annotating, but rarely does the track actually make the disc. Nevertheless, that's the case with Hanover Street. This Columbia TriStar release would be much less interesting if it weren't for writer-director Peter Hyams's comments on his 1979 film, which he also probably shot, though David Watkin is credited as cinematographer. Until the advent of Steven Soderbergh and Traffic, Hyams had been, for better or worse, unique in serving as his own DP. Hanover Street begins in London in 1943. Bomber pilot David Halloran (an impossibly young Harrison Ford) and a nurse named Margaret (Lesley-Anne Down) meet cute on Hanover Street while jostling for a bus. Soon they embark on an affair. The only drawback is that Margaret is married, with a young daughter (Patsy Kensit). Her husband, Paul Sellinger (Christopher Plummer), is supervising an important spy mission with the object of fetching a MacGuffin of some kind. A poignant love story quickly becomes an action film as a love-smitten Halloran begins to lose his nerve for flying, while Sellinger decides to prove his worth to a drifting Maggie, setting up a plot contrivance that joins the two men together on the hazardous mission. This is hokey fluff that is openly homage-nous (so to speak) to patriotic '40s war films, and the script is marbled with lines of dialogue such as "Don't you die. If you die I'm gonna kill you." Though often well shot, Hanover Street visibly suffers from the poverty of its $5 million budget, and the narrative loses steam as it alternates between the adventure of the men on the mission and Maggie wandering the halls of bureaucracy trying to find out about her husband — tedious scenes that keep telling us things we already know. The modestly competent cast also includes Richard Masur and Michael Sacks. Harrison Ford specialized in star-packed WWII adventure dramas for a time (his Force 10 from Navarone is a small gem), but here the chases and suspense scenes are undermined by a lack of indulgent cash. Director Hyams admits as much — his charming audio track, full of self-deprecation and insight into the visual challenges of movies, is informative and humanizing, with chatter that is reminiscent of audio tracks by John Frankenheimer (who also, by the way, doesn't bother doing any research before re-watching a film with a mike in his face — both directors tend to forget the names of minor actors, for example.) Columbia's DVD offers a good anamorphic transfer (2.35:1) that retains the original Panavision image. Audio comes in a Dolby Digital 4.0 or Dolby 2.0 Surround. Besides the commentary, the extras consists of three bonus trailers (The End of the Affair and two others). Keep-case.
—D.K. Holm



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