The Brylcreem Boys

The Brylcreem Boys (1997)
Wizard Entertainment
Cast: Bill Campbell, Angus MacFadyen, Gabriel Byrne, Jean Butler
Extras: Theatrical Trailer, Cast & Crew Filmographies

As a world war raged in 1939, the young Republic of Ireland decided to remain neutral. To preserve this status, any German or Allied combatants who wound up in Ireland were interred in POW camps until the end of hostilities. ’The Brylcreem Boys’ is the story of one such camp and the colorful characters who inhabited it.

During a fierce aerial engagement, RAF Squadron Leader Miles Keogh (Bill Campbell) and his crew are forced to bail out over what they believe to be occupied France. It’s not long before they realize that a wayward compass has actually landed them in Ireland and that the Luftwaffe pilot who shot them down, Count Rudolph Von Stegenbek (Angus MacFadyen) is also a resident of their new home — Camp Curragh.

Under a very unique arrangement devised by the camp’s commander, Sean O’Brien (Gabriel Byrne), the German and Allied prisoners live on separate sides of the same camp and are allowed to freely come and go using day passes based on the honor system. During one such furlough to the local racetrack, both Keogh and Von Stegenbek are invited to the home of a beautiful local lass, Mattie Guerin (Jean Butler).

What ensues is a story filled with the usual POW-movie cliches — escape attempts, a cruel camp guard, strife among prisoners, friendship between enemies, etc. What sets this movie apart is the very unusual setting and bizarre rules of this prison camp. With its fair share of humor, romance, and drama, ’The Brylcreem Boys’ is a refreshing entry into a very tried and true film genre.

The DVD presents the video in a 1.33:1 aspect ratio. The film was originally shot in 35mm and this appears to be a full frame, open matte transfer. Unfortunately, it’s a real hit or miss affair. Film grain and blemishes are readily evident and black level becomes too washed out during the frequent nighttime scenes. In addition, sharpness fluctuates a bit which becomes quite distracting. On the other hand, colors are decent enough and the sweeping vistas of the Isle of Man (standing in for Ireland) are truly beautiful. The picture is by no means unwatchable, it’s just another sub-par release from Fox Lorber.

Audio is a very problematic Dolby Digital mono mix which is split between the two front speakers. There is a fairly constant hiss that is audible at high volume levels. The soundtrack is also poorly balanced as music and sound effects are much louder than the dialogue and it’s a constant battle to maintain a comfortable listening level.

The only extras on the disc are the film’s trailer and a few, cursory, cast and crew filmographies.

I found ’The Brylcreem Boys’ to be a very enjoyable story that examines a facet of World War II known to few outside of Ireland. On the other hand, it very much has the look and feel of a made for TV movie so don’t expect sterling performances or high production values. In addition, the tacked-on voice over ending really seems contrived and is quite disappointing. The problematic video and audio on the DVD makes it hard to recommend the disc even though I did find the film to be quite engaging. It’s at least worth a rental and retails for under $10 so those with an interest in World War II movies with a unique perspective may want to take a chance on ’The Brylcreem Boys.’