In another star-defining performance, Sidney Poitier headlines the troubled school youth drama To Sir, With Love - now on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray exclusive to the Columbia Classics 4K Ultra HD Collection Vol 3 set. The film is just as powerful and poignant as ever about a teacher desperate to reach his students through structure and discipline. And the film looks amazing thanks to a fresh new Dolby Vision HDR transfer, a surprisingly effective Dolby Atmos audio track, complete with some excellent new and archival bonus features. Highly Recommended.
As I previously reviewed this film way back in 2015 (forgive the rough-edged writing, I was still new to this gig), I still hold to that as my definitive opinion on this particular classic. Coming from a family that was quick to buy VHS tapes even when they were astronomically priced, To Sir, With Love was a staple in our house. I’m not sure why, but this along with films like On Golden Pond were our regular “feel good” movies to throw on any given weekend night. And after countless viewings, the film still packs an emotional punch. Compared to its other troubled youth contemporaries it still stands tall as the best of the pack largely thanks to Sidney Poitier delivering an incredible Oscar-worthy performance (amazingly he wasn't even nominated for one!)
Vital Disc Stats: The 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray
To Sir, With Love marches to the head of the class on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray for the first time with a new two-disc 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray set exclusive to Sony’s Columbia Classics 4K Ultra HD Collection Volume 3. Similar to the past volumes, this film gets its own two-disc case with slipcover and classic artwork for the insert art. The discs get their own bays without stacking. The 4K is pressed on a BD-66 disc with the film in 1080p pressed on a Region Free BD-50 disc. The discs load to static image main menus with standard navigation options and the bonus features panel along the right side of the screen.
Sony once again proves that with a little time, some spit and polish, and a new transfer, the moldy oldies like To Sir, With Love can look amazing on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray with an often stunning Dolby Vision (and HDR10) transfer. I was already impressed with what Twilight Time accomplished so many years ago - and that disc is still quite something - but there’s no comparison to what Sony achieved here. Fine film grain is retained throughout with a nice cinematic appearance. It’s a little heavier around those optical transitions, but that’s to be expected. I was most impressed with the amount of detail improvement in facial features, clothing styles, and the London locations.
While the film may be a fairly serious affair, it’s quite colorful and with Dolby Vision HDR employed those primaries are richer and more vividly lifelike than ever. Skin tones are also right on point without anyone looking too hot or too sickly pale. I was also really impressed with the black levels and contrast for this release. Not that it’s overly dark, to begin with, but the shadows and shading are quite fantastic with an impressive sense of depth and dimension. Whites are naturally crisp and brilliant without blooming (that wasn’t already there, to begin with). Without any kind of age-related issues or compression nonsense to report, this is another terrific catalog restoration from Sony. (Hey Paramount… maybe ask these guys how they do it? Just a thought.)
On top of legacy DTS-HD MA 5.1 and DTS-HD MA 2.0 Mono tracks (which are both great), I was really surprised to see this film score an Atmos track. Outside of Lulu’s title tune, some of the rock music cues, and a few busy location scenes, it’s just not a title I thought even needed a wall-to-wall immersive audio mix, but we got one and it’s actually pretty damn good! All the basics like dialog, score, and main sound effects are well-covered and balanced with a little more weight and presence than the 5.1 or 2.0 tracks. There isn’t a lot of rumble in the subs to speak of, it’s not that kind of movie, but there’s enough low-end response to ensure even the quietest scenes remain full and alive. Height and rear channels are sporadically active but get the most attention during those busier location scenes. In the classroom or in the gymnasium, the creeks of chairs or squeaks on the floor hold that load and help make the film feel bigger and more immersive. That said, for all the positives, it’s not all that necessary to watch this film in Atmos. Truthfully that 2.0 mono is still my favorite track while the 5.1 does a terrific job all on its own. Regardless of how you’re set up at home, you’ve got some great options to work with.
In another nice turn from Sony, they’ve ported over most of the bonus features from the Twilight Time disc and added some new ones to the mix. There’s a lovely tribute to Poitier on the 4K disc as well as the 1974 TV pilot which is a kick if you’ve never seen it. I had a teacher that had a weird love for TV show versions of movies and I saw this on an old VHS tape, so it’s pretty cool seeing this look and sound so good. On the standard Blu-ray is To Sir, With Love II from 1996 which is, alright… an odd sequel but still great to see Poitier doing his thing not long before he’d effectively retire from acting altogether. It’s also nice to see Sony bring back Twilight Time’s commentary with Judy Geeson, Julie Kirgo, and the late great Nick Redman - it’s a lovely track if you’ve never listened to it.
4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc
The “Savior Teacher” genre has many entries, but few are actually good without pandering or frequently posting a white teacher as the head of a ragtag band of under-privileges. To Sir, With Love plays to a lot of those kinds of tropes, but what separates this film from its genre siblings (besides it actually being good) is that it’s an example of a teacher who truly cares about the students they’re trying to reach by treating them as adults. It’s also another Oscar-worthy turn from the legendary Sidney Poitier who sadly wasn’t nominated at all as the entire film was virtually shut out of any award considerations. Sony works their amazing restoration magic for this classic drama. To Sir, With Love looks and sounds better than ever thanks to an often stunning Dolby Vision Transfer, three excellent audio tracks including a surprisingly effective Atmos mix, and a wonderful assortment of new and archival bonus features. Again, if you don’t plan on buying the set, once this gets a single solo release consider it Highly Recommended.