The Ox-Bow Incident
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Directed by: William A Wellman
Film Length: 75 Minutes
Aspect Ratio: Full Frame 1.33:1
Audio: English Stereo, English Mono, Spanish Mono
Subtitled in English and Spanish
-Commentary by Dick Eulain and William Wellman Jr.
-“Henry Fonda: Hollywood’s Quiet Hero” as seen on BIOGRAPHY on the A&E Network
Release Date: November 4th, 2003
Fox Studios throws us another great movie from their Studio Classics releases. The Ox-Bow Incident, starring the late, great, Henry Fonda! Black and white, or classic films aren’t my usual choice when I choose to watch a DVD, but I did like this movie a lot. It had a lot darker ending than I expected, and I am sure was very controversial for its time. I like that this film took a bold stand, and made of very good statement with the ending.
Here is the synopsis from the back cover:
Gil Carter (Henry Fonda) and Art Croft (Henry Morgan) ride into a town frustrated by the prevalence of cattle rustlers. Suddenly, word comes that a popular rancher has been murdered, which puts the already enraged town over the edge. When the spiteful mayor forms a posse, Gil and Croft are swept up in their mission – to seek vengeance – even upon those innocent of any wrong-doing. As it becomes clear that blood-lust may win out over rationality, tension mounts in this “masterpiece” with its timeless message about the dangers of mob mentality.
Picture quality for this DVD was outstanding for a black and white transfer. Fox really did a superb job with the restoration! At first I wasn’t quite sure of the picture quality because black and white films are a rarity in my collection. It wasn’t until I got to the restoration part of the special features that I realized what they actually did for this film. The differences to me were simply amazing, considering what they had to work with! The restoration for this film to DVD must have been simply painstaking!
Comparatively, the picture is very clear and sharp. The 1993 film transfer is very soft and muddy looking, and everything sort of blends together. In this 2002 digital restoration, the picture is leaps and bounds over its previous 1993 transfer. Picture contrasts is outstanding, and the blacks are a very deep black. There is the occasional film damage and still a lot of film dirt, but with this 2002 version, you can see that they minimized film dirt substantially! There is also some film grain throughout the film, but you mostly see it in shots with background sky.
Overall, in my book, and not being really a black and white aficionado, I’d say this is a VERY impressive transfer! I give the picture quality of this DVD 5 stars just for the restoration factor alone. It isn’t a perfect picture, but it’s the best transfer that this movie will probably ever get! Compared to other old black and white classics, I think this DVD’s picture quality is outstanding. The clincher for me is when you watch the theatrical trailer, you are seeing clips of the film from the 1993 transfer, and the picture quality isn’t even in the same ballpark as this 2002 restoration! Bravo to FOX!
SEE FOR YOURSELF!: (click on the picture for a bigger version of the screen-shot)
Film Transfer Comparisons
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Picture Quality Rating:
Picture: 5 / 5
The DVD has both stereo and mono. Neither soundtrack was really spectacular, but I liked both of them, each for its own reasons. I like the stereo track because it gave the movie a bit more spaciousness, and sounded a bit more familiar to my ears. However, the stereo track’s drawback was that it made everything sound hollow. I ended up watching 3/4th of the DVD in mono. I figure mono is how people would have seen this movie back in the day, so I felt that the mono soundtrack represented the movie how it was meant to be seen.
The mono track did suffer from a bit of hiss (as did the stereo track), and crackled very easily at loud sounds such as gunshots, or when the music kicked in strong. Problem is, you had to turn the volume up in mono because the dialog was lower, but then you would get this crackling when any loud noise kicked in. It was sort of a catch 22, but I dealt with it. Even thought the stereo was hollow, I don’t recall the crackling as bad, so people might prefer to watch this DVD with the stereo track.
Sound Quality Rating:
Sound: 3 / 5
This DVD has some very good extras! [/b]
This commentary is by Dick Eulain (Professor at the University of New Mexico) and William Wellman Jr. Dick Eulain is a specialist on Western Films, and William Wellman Jr. is of course the son of the Director for The Ox-Bow Incident, William Wellman.
Apparently, this is a very hard movie to get made. In the time it was pitched, the country was about to get involved in the war, and nobody wanted to make such a grim story in that time period. Budget was very low for this film, and had to be shot mostly on an indoor sound stage. Only 1 day was shot outside in the desert!
This film did not get a very good response from audiences when it came out, but critics loved it. It won many awards. The National Board of Review gave it Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor, and the Academy gave it a Best Picture Award Nomination. It wasn’t until many years later that audiences appreciated the film. This was one of the first dark westerns. Usually westerns ended on a good note when the good guy saves the day, but this film is a much different.
I would recommend listening to the commentary! Lots and lots of very good info about the film!
Biography: Henry Fonda: Hollywood’s Quiet Hero
This is a nice episode of Biography on the A&E channel about Henry Fonda. It’s a recap of Henry Fonda’s life, and how he got into acting. There are interviews and comments on Fonda from Ron Howard, Jane Fonda, Peter Fonda, and Richard Dryfus to name a few. “Henry Fonda personified and new breed of American screen hero, lean, brooding, soft-spoken, and filled with integrity” as the narrator puts it. Fonda’s film career stretched over 50 years. He was born May 16th, 1905 in Nebraska. His father was a printer, and his mother was a housewife. The Fonda family were descendants of the first Colonial Pioneers, and could trace their lineage all the way back to the 1600’s. Henry was a very shy and introspective young man. He left home in 1923 to become a writer. He eventually dropped out of school and came back home. In 1925, a family friend, Marlin Brando’s Mother, approached Henry and offered him a chance to star in a play at the Omaha Community Theater. This is where it all began for Henry Fonda!
Total Running Time: 44:59 / Aspect Ratio: 4:3
A great classic style movie trailer, almost like a mini documentary! Henry Fonda speaks about the movie, and clips are shown from the film. This is a great trailer, because you can really see the difference between the picture quality of the restored film that you had just watched, compared to the un-restored clips of the movie in this trailer. It’s quite a difference!
Total Running Time: 2:12 / Aspect Ratio: 4:3
Several split screens showing comparisons of the 1993 Film Transfer next to the 2002 Film Restoration, scenes of the 2002 film restoration compared to the 2002 Final Digital Video Restoration, and finally the 2002 Final Digital Video Restoration compared to the 1993 Film Transfer.
Aspect Ratio: 4:3
17 various black and white behind the scenes pictures.
Extras / Bonus Features Rating:
Extras: 3 / 5
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"The Ox-Bow Incident" is a great Fox Classic, and this DVD is a superb restoration that brings this movie as close to its original glory as it’s ever been so far! This should be a must buy for classic DVD collectors!
I can definitely RECOMMEND buying this DVD!
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