Blu-ray Review Wild River Blu-ray Review

Discussion in 'Blu-ray and UHD' started by Matt Hough, Feb 1, 2013.

  1. Matt Hough

    Matt Hough Executive Producer
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    XenForo Template An unconventional romance set against the backdrop of a monumental governmental works project during the Depression makes Elia Kazan’s Wild River one of the more unusual films of its day. With its motley slate of characters and the Tennessee locations giving an authentic look and feel to the film, Wild River may not have been appreciated much in its original release, but its dramatic story and its sociological statements both work wonderfully now.

    Wild River (Blu-ray) Directed by Elia Kazan Studio: 20th Century Fox Year: 1960 Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 1080p AVC codec Running Time: 110 minutes Rating: NR Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono English; Dolby Digital 2.0 mono Spanish Subtitles: SDH, Spanish, French

    Region: A MSRP: $ 24.99

    Release Date: January 15, 2013

    Review Date: February 1, 2013

    The Film

    4/5 When Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal institutes the Tennessee Valley Authority in 1933 in order to harness the mighty power of the Tennessee River to provide jobs programs and electric power for a relatively backward region of the country, several residents of the valley whose families had been there for generations refuse to budge despite the fact that once the dams are in use, the land they occupy would be under water. One such stubborn matriarch is Ella Garth (Jo Van Fleet) who will not leave her plot of land on an island in the river destined for flooding. Young TVA agent Chuck Glover (Montgomery Clift) is sent to reason with the lady, the idea being that a young and good looking agent might succeed where older and less attractive men had not. Instead, a relationship begins to develop between Chuck and Carol Garth Baldwin (Lee Remick), a widow with two young children and granddaughter to Ella. The entire area is split on the idea. Many do decide to leave making those who choose to remain all the angrier at Glover for tempting them with new houses and decent paying jobs. Paul Osborn’s screenplay was based on novels by William Bradford Huie and Borden Deal, and while the two stars occupy center stage for much of the movie, it’s the stubborn yet proud resistance by the elderly Ella Garth that will remain in your memory. Jo Van Fleet gives a speech a quarter of the way through the film that denotes all her reasons for staying refusing to part with a particle of land that generations of her family had lived on and worked. Director Elia Kazan manages to capture the still-existent racial bias present in the South of the period as well as showing plainly the result of generations of indolence and ignorance by the white inhabitants as well as the accepted segregationist beliefs rampant at the time. The reluctant romance between Chuck and Carol is one of the odder ones you’ll ever see in a mainstream film. She’s virtually begging to be freed from the loneliness of widowhood while he’s torn between desire and duty to the TVA wondering if his desperation in trying to get Ella to leave is what’s motivating him to pursue Carol. Montgomery Clift is much steadier on his feet and more focused with his lines here than he was in the films immediately preceding (Suddenly Last Summer) and following (The Misfits) this one. Still, he’s not the most felicitous casting choice (Kazan wanted Brando, but who didn’t during this period?) and doesn’t make the most forceful presence when it’s needed. He’s completely ineffectual in fight scenes with the bruising Albert Salmi playing one of the overlords who resents his black field hands leaving the area. Neither Salmi nor any of the other top-billed stars who play Tennessee residents have the accent down (you’ll hear the real thing from a couple of locally cast extras who get a few lines here or there). Jo Van Fleet’s magnetic presence triumphs despite the occasional slip with her regional accent, and Lee Remick, whose desperation is palpable throughout the film, also has lapses with the Tennessee twang. As the most decent man in the territory and the one-time fiancé to Carol, Frank Overton gives an excellent, heart-wrenching performance.

    Video Quality

    4.5/5 The film’s Cinemascope 2.35:1 theatrical aspect ratio is faithfully delivered in a 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. Sharpness is usually excellent except in an occasional shot (and in the rough looking black and white vintage footage of actual Tennessee Valley flooding). Color is nicely consistent and well saturated even if flesh tones occasionally seem a bit pink. Black levels are good but not great. The film has been divided into 24 chapters.

    Audio Quality

    4/5 The DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono track does a very good job reproducing the merging of the dialogue, music, and effects tracks into a typical mono track of its era. The dialogue is never drowned out by Kenyon Hopkins’ music or sound effects especially in a climactic home invasion of Carol’s house by a band of thugs bent on driving Chuck away.

    Special Features

    2/5 The audio commentary is by film critic Richard Schickel. As an enthusiastic admirer of this neglected movie, he does a good job for the first third of the film offering information about the cast, director, writer, and crew while analyzing aspects of the story worthy of discussion. As the film runs, however, his comments become few and far between as he runs out of things to say. The theatrical trailer is presented in 480i and runs for 3 minutes.

    In Conclusion

    4/5 (not an average) Unfairly ignored by critics and the public in its day, Wild River makes a good case for itself on Blu-ray. The transfer is excellent in both video and audio, and while the bonus feature array is rather lean, it’s the movie that counts, and this one is definitely recommended. Matt Hough Charlotte, NC

     
  2. moviepas

    moviepas Second Unit

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    What more can you say" I have it already on Blu ray and ran it this week and loved it. However, I wrote the ending before I got there and it turned out the same. Not a critic of the film, though. The original black & white 1930s footage is in my collection as a film and DVD in its original form. Unfortunately, parts of my country, a million miles from my home, was suffering the same fate as I watched the film. This for the second time in two years, when large parts of my own state in rural areas was also inundated and so much gone for ever(an old preserved moviehouse was flooded in my state at that time in Charlton. I don't know how it turned out in the end for it). We have suffered bushfires in my state again this past month. many deliberately built. On a lighter note, in the 1950s our governments(Australia) started the Snowy River Scheme which built a huge hydro plant to extend the use of electricity in the country and gave oodles of work to post-war European migrants along with local workers, saw temporary stores built supplying goods needed by the workers and their families. I knew people involved in business there and their stores had to be moved at least once before the project was finished. At least one town was moved and the name retained(Tallangatta) and the original town site went under water when it started flowing. In the east of my state a town was built for the mining of brown coal and in more recent years this had to be moved(Yallourn) to mine more coal that was under the houses. The power generating plant attached was and is still named Hazelwood the town of Hazelwood was renamed Churchill after Sir Winston Churchill died early in the life of this project. The Snowy River films are set in the Snowy River scheme areas.
     
  3. Mark Walker

    Mark Walker Cinematographer
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    Thanks for the review Matt! I pre-ordered this a long time ago from Amazon and got it about the same time folks were saying it could be had for $8.99 at Costco. Bargains aside, this was my first time seeing this film with any kind of decent presentation, since I never saw a quality DVD release available in the USA. It is a fantastic film on a very good Blu-ray.
     
  4. haineshisway

    haineshisway Producer

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    I would have to say that the color in this transfer is absolute perfection - it's a poster child for correct color of that era. There is not one problem with the color ever - skin tones, blue skies, it's all perfect. And, of course, there's really no reason to call out stock footage as being problematic because it's stock footage. I loved this film (my first time seeing it) and everything about this transfer gets five stars from the likes of me.
     
  5. Lromero1396

    Lromero1396 Supporting Actor

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    Is this still available from Costco? I haven't been able to find it at 2 local Costco locations and I really don't want to pay $20 for it.
     
  6. haineshisway

    haineshisway Producer

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    Why? It's WORTH the twenty bucks. :) The more Fox actually makes from these releases the more likely other wonderful titles will come.
     
  7. Lromero1396

    Lromero1396 Supporting Actor

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    Money's a bit tight right now.
     

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