DVD Review HTF DVD REVIEW: Pride of the Marines (Warner Archive)

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Ken_McAlinden, Nov 1, 2009.

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  1. Ken_McAlinden

    Ken_McAlinden Producer
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    Pride of the Marines

    Directed by: Delmer Daves

    Starring: John Garfield, Eleanor Parker, Dane Clark, Rosemary DeCamp


    Studio: Warner Bros. (Warner Archive)

    Year: 1945

    Rating: NR

    Film Length: 119 minutes

    Aspect Ratio: 4:3

    Subtitles: None

    Release Date: Fall 2009

    The Film ****

    Pride of the Marines adapts the true life story of decorated World War II veteran Al Schmid (Garfield). The first half hour of the film looks at Schmid's pre-war life in Philadelphia where he works as a welder and lives as a confirmed bachelor and avid sportsman. Despite his aversion to romantic attachment, he finds a perfect match in the feisty Ruth Hartley (Parker). When the Japanese attack Pearl Harbor, Al signs up for the Marines and, overcoming his fear of commitment, proposes to Ruth. We then flash forward to Al's service on Guadacanal where he and fellow Marine Lee Diamond (Clark) distinguish themselves by manning a machine gun turret and holding their position against an overwhelming Japanese force. During this incident, Lee's arm is seriously wounded and Al suffers injuries from a grenade that result in him being blinded, with one eye beyond repair and another heavily damaged with a only a small chance that surgery could partially restore his sight. We then follow the ups and downs of Al's rehabilitation. Despite the efforts of Lee, devoted nurse Virginia Pfeiffer (DeCamp) and fellow convalescing serviceman, Al resists efforts to help him adjust to living without sight and refuses to let Ruth know the extent of his injuries.

    Released less than two weeks after the end of World War II and over a year before William Wyler's classic The Best Years of Our Lives, Pride of the Marines takes on the subject of the personal cost of war and the effect it has on the lives of returning veterans and their families. While at face value this seems like it was a risky film for Warner Bros. to put into production before the War was over, it really was not. Al Schmid's story was well publicized via outlets such as Life Magazine and the book by Roger Butterfield on which the film was based. At the time, Schmid was recognized as a hero and made regular appearances at war bond fundraising rallies.

    While Pride of the Marines occasionally gets a bit too sentimental and contains elements of wartime propaganda that cause it to feel somewhat dated, on balance, the film works exceptionally well. Much of the credit for this goes to Garfield who actively pursued bringing this story to the screen, likely due to both his well-established commitment to honoring members of the US Armed Forces, and his recognition of the suitability of the role for himself. The Al Schmid of the first three reels of the film is almost a stock Garfield East Coast tough guy character which likely helped the audiences get on board and empathize with him quickly before he goes through his difficult rehabilitation in the film's second half.

    Delmer Daves deftly keeps things moving through the film's first two acts, fully exploiting the on-screen chemistry between Garfield and Parker in the film's extended "anti-romantic" courtship scenes and then turning all of the right screws of action, suspense, and claustrophobia during the brief but highly effective Guadalcanal sequence. He falters somewhat in letting the film's second half drag on a bit which allows Garfield's Schmid to come across as a bit too stridently self-pitying, but enough goodwill has been built up for the character by that point that audience remains in his corner. The protracted nature of the film's second half also prolongs viewer anticipation of the inevitable reunion between Garfield and Parker, which makes it a bit easier to accept the dramatically contrived way in which it is accomplished.  There is also a sense of verisimilitude in details like the use of real-life people's names in all of the key parts and atypical for vintage Hollywood decisions to keep real-life details such as the Jewish ethnicity of Schmid's fellow Marine Lee Diamond in the screenplay.

    The Video ***½

    The 4:3 black and white video presentation is a better than average effort for the Warner Archive series. The film element has a few instances of severe damage, especially in the first reel, that would likely have been corrected for a pressed disc release. Detail is reasonably good, but it also has a slightly filtered look that leaves one with a vague impression of what used to be film grain and a hint of softness that will only be evident on very large displays. Contrast levels are generally excellent with impressive black levels particularly in the nighttime Guadalcanal scenes. Edge enhancement is negligible to non-existent, and the base transfer appears to have been component and progressive in nature (no composite artifacts or combing were apparent).

    The Audio ***

    The Dolby Digital 2.0 mono soundtrack is solid if unspectacular. Critical listeners will notice noise reduction artifacts, and like the video, there are infrequent instances of audible track damage that likely would have been fully or partially addressed on a pressed disc release.

    The Extras ½

    There are no extras on this release.

    Packaging

    As is the case with most Warner Archive titles, the single sided single layered burned to order DVD-R disc is packaged in the familiar Amaray-sized case with a promotional image from the film set against a blue background. The disc is authored with a sparse menu with the only available selection being to play the movie. Chapter stops are encoded every ten minutes and are selectable by chaptering forward or directly entering the chapter number with the DVD remote.

    Summary ****

    John Garfield's commitment to the project shows in his tour de force performance as wounded World War II veteran Al Schmid in Pride of the Marines. The film gets a bit overly sentimental in its second half and has some dated propaganda elements, but these are balanced by an atypical for the time commitment to document the personal cost of combat on soldiers and their families. It is presented by Warner Archive on a burned to order DVD-R with a solid audio and video presentation marred only by some unretouched instances of heavy film element damage and some light filtering that causes it to be less film like and detailed than it could have otherwise appeared. As is common for Warner Archive releases, there are no extras.

     
  2. Jon Hertzberg

    Jon Hertzberg Screenwriter

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    Thanks for the review, Ken. Glad to know that the transfer is solid as far as Warner Archive releases go. Still disappointed that this was not released as part of the aborted John Garfield box set, with some meaningful extras. For those interested, there is some substantive discussion of the film and Garfield's role in the Garfield documentary included on the dvd of THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE.
     
  3. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator
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    I bought this disc when it first came out and was generally happy with the quality, but I'm also still disappointed that the Garfield boxset never came to be from Warner. I missed opportunity in my opinion.






    Crawdaddy
     
  4. borisfw

    borisfw Supporting Actor

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    Ken,

    Nice review. I bought the movie in one of the early sales.

    And Robert i know what you mean. When they first started droping Garfield titles in the Archive i was waiting on a bundle .But it never happened. Now i've bit on three titles.So if they put out a value pak now i'm screwed. I guess i'll wait for sales and codes to pick up the rest.
     

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