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    North to Alaska Blu-ray Review

    Blu-ray Fox

    Nov 29 2013 02:17 PM | Matt Hough in DVD & Blu-ray Reviews
    Henry Hathaway’s rollicking northwestern (far north!) adventure comedy North to Alaska isn’t a very good movie as telegraphed and predictable as it is through much of its length, but its heart is in the right place, and it does have moments of fun mainly through some spirited direction and the good-natured performances of its principal cast. John Wayne fans looking for a change of pace from his dramas and traditional westerns have certainly taken to it despite its overlength and only average chemistry with his alluring female co-star.

    Title Info:

    • Studio: Fox
    • Distributed By: N/A
    • Video Resolution: 1080P/AVC
    • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
    • Audio: English 4.0 DTS-HDMA, Spanish 1.0 DD (Mono), Other
    • Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French
    • Rating: Not Rated
    • Run Time: 2 Hrs. 2 Min.
    • Package Includes: Blu-ray
    • Case Type: keep case
    • Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
    • Region: A
    • Release Date: 12/03/2013
    • MSRP: $24.99

    The Production Rating: 3/5

    Prospectors Sam McCord (John Wayne) and brothers George (Stewart Granger) and Billy (Fabian) Pratt have hit it big in the discovery of a huge vein of gold in Alaska in 1900, but the ever-cunning and dastardly Frankie Canon (Ernie Kovacs) is going to do everything in his power to steal the claim from them. He sees his opening when Sam heads to Seattle to get some drilling equipment they need and to pick up George’s fiancé he’s been waiting for for three years. But when Sam finds she’s already married, he talks saloon girl Michelle Bonet (Capucine) into coming back with him as a substitute for George’s lost girl. Along the way, she falls for Sam, but Sam’s honesty forbids him making a play for her even when his feelings are mutual. On arrival in Nome, Michelle recognizes con man Frankie as someone she was once in business with thus giving Frankie even more incentive to get the gold and the girl for himself.

    John Lee Mahin, Martin Rackin and Claude Binyon have adapted the play Birthday Gift to suit the talents of the film’s stars, and they’ve done a good job writing to each of the actors' strengths. But the story is very predictable: we know at first meeting that Sam and Michelle are going to fall for one another, and we never cease knowing it despite all the roadblocks the writers try to insert to quash their feelings for one another. The more than two hour running time is much too lengthy to support such a simple plot, but it does allow director Henry Hathaway to bookend his film with oversized brawling: in a saloon at the beginning (the elaborate brawl will remind you of the riotous one in The Great Race) and in the muddy streets of Nome at the end. They’re noisy and boisterous and allow the stars to show their moxie. Star John Wayne also gets to engage in a tree climbing contest and both his character and Stewart Granger’s get to play Cupid for one another along with the several anticipated scenes where most of the stars get drunk and act silly: all drawing the film out to its uncomfortable length.

    John Wayne certainly joins in the knockabout antics with fists and feet all ready for action and doesn’t disgrace himself in broader comedy. Capucine isn’t as rambunctious a leading lady in this kind of rowdy farce as Maureen O’Hara would be in the similarly toned (and overlong) McLintock! a couple of years later, but she generally gets in the spirit of things in her second American film appearance, and she does look stunning. Stewart Granger is second-billed but has far less to do in the film than one might expect. Fabian as the lovesick teenager who pines for Capucine’s Michelle gets to sing a song (the forgettable “If You Knew”) and get tossed around by his much more towering co-stars. Ernie Kovacs plays another of his black-hearted schemers here as he had done the year previously in It Happened to Jane, and he’s as smooth as oily silk as he makes attempt after attempt to get the gold belonging to his rivals. Pretty much wasted in the small part of a judgmental Swedish wife who changes her tune about Michelle’s worth is the always funny Kathleen Freeman.

    Video Rating: 4.5/5 3D Rating: NA

    The film’s Cinemascope 2.35:1 theatrical aspect ratio is faithfully rendered in this 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. Sharpness is wonderful throughout, and color is generally very good (reds are especially vivid) though there are a few scenes here and there in which color seems less vibrant and just a trifle faded. Skin tones always look natural if occasionally a bit pale. The film is artifact free, however, and generally looks quite splendid. The film has been divided into 36 chapters.

    Audio Rating: 4/5

    The DTS-HD Master Audio 4.0 sound mix has a nice spread and effective fidelity across the front soundstage with the surround channel much less active. Dialogue is always quite discernible with the directionalized speech spread across the front soundstage rather than being isolated into the various separate channels. Lionel Newman’s background score has very nice presence.

    Special Features: 1.5/5

    Fox Movietone News (0:50, SD): Fabian attends the film’s world premiere.

    Theatrical Trailer (3:00, SD)

    Overall Rating: 3/5

    North to Alaska was another sizable hit for John Wayne, but despite its overlength, it still plays just fine in this Fox Studio Classics Blu-ray release. Fans should have no complaints about picture or sound here.

    Reviewed by: Matt Hough
    Support HTF when you buy this title:


    Thanks Matt! Earlier this year Fox asked for your help to Voice Your Choice and pick the title from each decade you would most like to see released to Blu-ray. Over 42,000 people cast 80,000 votes.To thank Home Theater Forum members for their participation in the Voice Your Choice promotion, Fox has put together three bundles on Fox Connect with special pricing: 1) Buy all 8 titles on Blu-ray for just $75. 2) Buy the four first place titles for $40. 3) Buy the four second place titles for $40


    Here are the titles by decade:

    1930s: Jesse James (1st place), Call of the Wild (2nd place)1940s: Ghost and Mrs. Muir (1st place), Black Swan (2nd place)1950s: Carmen Jones (1st place), Desk Set (2nd place)1960s: North to Alaska (1st place), Undefeated (2nd place)