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HTF REVIEW: Dodge City (HIGHLY RECOMMENDED).



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#1 of 17 OFFLINE   Herb Kane

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Posted April 17 2005 - 01:10 PM

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Dodge City






Studio: Warner Brothers
Year: 1939
Rated: Not Rated
Film Length: 100 Minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1 Standard
Audio: DD Monaural
Color/B&W: Color
Languages: English & French
Subtitles: English, French & Spanish
MSRP: $19.97 Individually/$59.92 Signature Collection
Package: Single disc/Keepcase





The Feature:
The next installment in Warner's Signature Collection Series highlights one of the most charismatic and likeable stars of the 30's and 40's, Errol Flynn. The collection contains five of his films including Captain Blood (1935), The Private Lives Of Elizabeth And Essex (1939), The Sea Hawk (1940), They Died With Their Boots On (1941) and the feature film, Dodge City (1939). The films are available individually or as a boxed set collection. If purchased as a set, you will also be treated to the full length bonus disc, The Adventures Of Errol Flynn.


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Dodge City is a wild cattle town. The railhead for transport back to the 'civilized' United States, it is the hub point to which Texan cattle are driven. The interface of rail and hoof is significant. When the cowpokes finally hit town after weeks on the trail they have a strong inclination to kick up their heels, and bulging wallets with which to do it. There is no effective law in Dodge, and gunfights are commonplace. Powerful cattle dealer Jeff Surrett (played by Bruce Cabot) cheats the merchants and townspeople with impunity. Dodge City needs a strong, principled man if it is to change its lawless ways.

The local doctor Irving (played by Henry Travers) and town officials have taking a liking to newcomer, Wade Hatton (played by Errol Flynn) and they express their interest in him as the new lawman, however, Hatton sees the position as one which is very short lived – to say the least. After a young child is killed however, Hatton and his clan have a change of heart and they decide to take on the position of sheriff in an attempt to restore order in Dodge City. However, Hatton has to convince the pretty newspaperwoman, Abbie Irving (played by Olivia de Havilland) that he is not the man she despises. Hatton played a role in her younger brother’s death for shooting her errant brother (played by William Lundigan) who went on a drunken shooting rampage during an earlier cattle run.

An alliance between the new sheriff and the town's newspaper proposes to bring down the evil Surrett. The editor, Joe Clemons (played by Frank McHugh) has uncovered irrefutable proof linking Surrett to a number of serious crimes including the murder of a local cowman, Matt Cole (played by John Litel). However, on the eve of the trial, the affable newspaper man is found murdered with the evidence stolen. The race is now on to see if Sheriff Hatton and his deputies can restore justice in Dodge, once and for all.

There is a great bar room brawl fight scene, outrageously overdone, resulting in the near total destruction of the saloon - and there’s not even as much as a bloody nose. Ex-Union soldiers begin singing "Marching Through Georgia," which annoys the Confederate veterans who strike up, "Dixie." The two groups face off and sing at one another in what was undoubtedly the inspiration for Michael Curtiz and his upcoming direction of Casablanca during the “Wacht am Rhein” versus “Les Marseilles” musical duel.

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The film was directed by hard-driving Michael Curtiz who, despite the personal animosity between himself and his star, made Flynn unforgettable, directing twelve of his better films. Once again, here he is teamed with Olivia de Havilland, with whom he made eight films.

Unfortunately, Flynn's off-screen persona was even more colorful than most of his movie characters. Known as a voracious womanizer and bad-boy prankster, he was notorious for his nonstop drinking. At the height of his popularity in 1942, he was charged with statutory rape. Although he would eventually be acquitted, the ordeal crushed Flynn's spirit. Plagued with innuendo of scandal and financial despair, Flynn slid into a gradual but steady decline, resulting in the majority of his better films, behind him. Flynn's health also deteriorated as well, following years of hard drinking and drug abuse. Sadly, several of Flynn’s final films saw him cast as an alcoholic - The Sun Also Rises (1957) and Too Much, Too Soon (1958). Perhaps his greatest final appearance was in the Adventures of Don Juan (1949) as he revealed some of the magic that appeared in his earlier works.

Following Dodge City, Flynn plays an ex-Union officer in Virginia City (1940). In his third western, Flynn starred as cavalry officer Jeb Stuart chasing abolitionist John Brown (Raymond Massey) in Santa Fe Trail (1940) (with Ronald Reagan as General George A. Custer), and then he portrayed the flamboyant General Custer in an historically inaccurate biography from director Raoul Walsh, the romanticized They Died With Their Boots On (1941), also included in the Signature Collection. In three of these four western films, his romantic interest was played by Olivia de Havilland, and the 1941 film would be Flynn's last on-screen teaming with de Havilland.

There is a curious twist at the film's end. With Dodge City now tamed, Col. Dodge informs our heroes that another community, Virginia City, needs their help, in what looks like an obvious lead-in for a sequel. While Virginia City would be made in 1940, again directed by Curtiz, with a Max Steiner score that repeated the Dodge City themes, and starring Flynn, Hale, and Williams, their character names would be different, and thus, the film would not be a sequel to Dodge City. With the success of Dodge City, Errol Flynn proved his profitability in westerns, which would became a staple of his career. He made a total of eight at Warner Brothers over eleven years, and surprisingly in fact, made more westerns than swashbucklers or war movies.

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The Feature: 4/5
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Video:
Dodge City was one of only a handful of films to be photographed in the new three-strip Technicolor process for release in 1939. It would appear that the film has not gone through a digital clean-up but it doesn't look any worse for wear because of it. There is an excellent RAH thread relating to technical points and the limitations of the period and the Technicolor process which can be found here.

That’s not to say the film is perfect and without imperfections, but it’s virtually as good as we have any right to expect. As we would imagine, the colors rendered by the Technicolor process are wonderfully vivid and slightly on garish side and we’d have it no other way. Skin colors were only slightly erratic, but looked fine – perhaps slightly red. Blacks were deep and lush while whites were crisp and clean.

In terms of image definition, there were some sequences that looked as good as any Technicolor film I have ever seen – very impressive. There were however occasional scenes that looked rather soft, lacking the fine detail that appears elsewhere in the film. Oddly enough, this presented itself mostly with outdoor shots. But overall, the detail of this film is quite impressive.

There was a moderate amount of fine film grain present which resulted in a gorgeous film-like image full of depth and dimensionality. There were signs of various scratches and blemishes but nothing that would interfere with anyone’s enjoyment of this classic. The stability of the film was mostly solid with only infrequent signs of jitter or shimmer, presumably due to slight registration issues.

A great looking transfer for a great looking film.

Video: 4.5/5
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Audio:
The disc is DD monaural encoded and for the most part is near flawless.

As has been the case with many of WB’s classic titles, the track is absolutely hiss free and its fidelity doesn’t appear to have been hampered in any way, always sounding natural. There were no other noisy cracks or pops present either. Dialogue was always exceptionally clear and bold. I noticed a couple of minute examples of lip-synch issues but they were short lived and barely worth mentioning.

A standout of the film is the wonderful Max Steiner score which works impressively well to capture the overall feeling and mood of the film. It is obviously anchored front and center but is rendered quite nicely and never sounding thin or strained when accompanying some of the action sequences – and there’s plenty – anyone else notice the similarities between this score and Gone With The Wind?

A full and rich soundtrack and a great example of how good a monaural track can be – particularly one from a 65+ year old film. Great job.

Audio: 4.5/5
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Special Features:
As has been typical with many of the recent Warner classic releases, this disc features the fan favorite;

Warner Night At The Movies which simulates a typical theatrical moviegoer’s experience of the period. This commences with:
[*] An Introduction by Leonard Maltin, who does a great job here navigating these WNatM inclusions and putting them in proper context. Duration: 3:31 minutes.
[*] First up is The Oklahoma Kid Theatrical Trailer which stars a very young looking James Cagney and Humphrey Bogart. The trailer is in reasonably good condition. Duration: 2:44 minutes.
[*] The next inclusion is a Newsreel. With the world on the brink of war, this feature shows the German invasion of Poland and also includes American soldiers being shipped off to protect Puerto Rico. Duration: 1:44 minutes.
[*] Sons Of Liberty is a 2 reeler Technicolor short which was also directed by Michael Curtiz. Set during the American Revolution, this colorful short tells the story of Haym Salomon, American patriot and financier of the American Revolution and went on to win the Academy Award for Best Short Subject – Two Reel. The short, features Claude Rains, Gale Sondergaard and Donald Crisp and looks terrific. Duration: 20:34 minutes.
[*] Dangerous Dan McFoo is a Tex Avery MM short which appropriately takes place in a saloon setting where you'll hear a character sounding eerily similar to Katharine Hepburn and at times, resembling Bette Davis. I don't believe the short has seen much in terms of restoration but it looks quite good. Duration: 7:52 minutes.


The next two standalone features are:
[*] Dodge City: Go West, Errol Flynn is a documentary based on the film and its cast. A number of heavy hitters appear here including Lincoln Hurst, Robert Osborne, Rudy Behlmer who go on to discuss the importance of the western genre at the time including the status of Flynn's stardom at the time. The rare for-the-time Technicolor process which was used for the film was discussed as was the director of the film, Michael Curtiz. Background information and brief bios are offered up on most of the major cast members. Rather brief but interesting. Duration: 8:34 minutes.
[*] The last special feature is entitled Theatrical Trailer but is in fact, footage from the World Premiere of Dodge City which took place in that very city in Kansas. The city rolls out the red carpet for not only the cast of the film but other Warner staples as well including Humphrey Bogart. The gala event is described as perhaps the greatest premiere of any film - ever due to the overwhelming response and reception of attendees. Duration: 3:15 minutes.

There is a unique bonus disc that is included exclusively with the Signature Collection entitled, The Adventures Of Errol Flynn. This is a superb feature which was produced by Emmy winning documentarians Joan Kramer and David Heeley (Bacall on Bogart, The Spencer Tracy Legacy, The John Garfield Story and Katharine Hepburn: All About Me – all of which are fascinating). The feature is narrated by Ian Holm and covers everything from Flynn’s Tasmanian childhood to the height of his legendary career. Aside from the obvious biographical inclusions, the feature covers Flynn’s love of the sea, his legal and financial woes and his love for beautiful women. There are a significant number of home movie clips and various interviews including comments from his long time co-star, Olivia de Havilland. Rudy Behlmer, Jack Cardiff, Delmer Daves, Richard Dreyfuss and Joanne Woodward as well a number of family members among many others, make appearances throughout the feature. If you’re a fan of classic film, you’ll appreciate this documentary as much as any of the featured films – not to be missed. Duration: 86:41 minutes.

Special Features: 4.5/5
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**Special Features rated for the quality of supplements, not the quantity**



Final Thoughts:
Dodge City is a genuine classic featuring some of the most memorable sequences in the history of westerns, such as the spectacular saloon fight - many times imitated in later films but never surpassed. It also enjoys a good witty script and wonderful performances from Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland as well as from the rest of the cast. As is typical with most of Flynn’s films, Dodge City is a lot of fun and a pure joy to watch.

Aside from a fabulous presentation and outstanding special features, Warner Brothers has made the purchase of the Errol Flynn Signature Collection a no-brainer if you are a fan of classic film. Purchasing these titles individually makes very little sense when the entire collection can be had for what amounts to half the price of the single discs collectively, not to mention the wonderful bonus disc, The Adventures Of Errol Flynn, which is only available with the set. After a cursory look at this Signature Collection I would already go so far as to say that this collection will be among those considered for my top 10 favorites of 2005.

Overall Rating: 4.5/5 (not an average)
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Disc and Signature Collection – Highly Recommended…!



Release Date: April 19th, 2005

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My Top 25 Noirs:

25. 711 Ocean Drive (1950), 24. Odds Against Tomorrow (1959), 23. Desperate (1947), 22. Pushover (1954), 21. The Blue Dahlia (1946), 20. The File on Thelma Jordon (1949), 19. He Ran All the Way (1951), 18. The Asphalt Jungle (1950), 17. The Killing (1956), 16. I Walk Alone (1948),...

#2 of 17 OFFLINE   Steve...O

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Posted April 17 2005 - 02:17 PM

Thanks for the well written and informative review Herb!

I've seen some Flynn movies before but mostly those not in this set. I'm really looking forward to seeing these films for the first time.

This set is a perfect example of how Warners' excellent reputation (& value in their box sets) has spurred me to buy something mostly blind and expand my appreciation of classic film.

Steve
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#3 of 17 ONLINE   Robert Crawford

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Posted April 17 2005 - 04:56 PM

Herb,
Again, another great review and after watching this boxset completely, I can't wait for a second Errol Flynn boxset.






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#4 of 17 OFFLINE   Herb Kane

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Posted April 17 2005 - 05:11 PM

I’m presently working on The Sea Hawk and just finished watching They Died With Their Boots On… and I am thoroughly pleased and impressed with both presentations.

So far, this is a fantastic set.
My Top 25 Noirs:

25. 711 Ocean Drive (1950), 24. Odds Against Tomorrow (1959), 23. Desperate (1947), 22. Pushover (1954), 21. The Blue Dahlia (1946), 20. The File on Thelma Jordon (1949), 19. He Ran All the Way (1951), 18. The Asphalt Jungle (1950), 17. The Killing (1956), 16. I Walk Alone (1948),...

#5 of 17 OFFLINE   John Hodson

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Posted April 18 2005 - 01:33 AM

Bring 'em on Herb!
So many films, so little time...
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#6 of 17 OFFLINE   alistairKerr

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Posted April 18 2005 - 05:31 AM

I can remember viewing this on UK television a few years ago - and seeing a radio or power mast in the background of one of the shots during the opening train sequence - it'll be crystal-clear now - on DVD!
My box set is on the way .........

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#7 of 17 OFFLINE   oscar_merkx

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Posted April 18 2005 - 08:16 AM

cannot wait to finally see this for the first time

great review as always
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#8 of 17 OFFLINE   ArthurMy

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Posted April 18 2005 - 09:41 AM

Lovely review. However: Lincoln Hurst and Robert Osborne are "heavy hitters"??? Posted Image

Rudy Behlmer, maybe. But Mr. Hurst and Mr. Osborne do not cut it for me, nor does Mr. Maltin for that matter. One of the reasons I enjoyed the documentary in the set is because they concentrate on interviews with people who actually have some knowledge of the subject and some tie to the subject. There are still the few odd people who don't, but they are not that prevalent here.

#9 of 17 ONLINE   Robert Crawford

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Posted April 18 2005 - 11:15 AM

Rudy Behlmer, maybe. But Mr. Hurst and Mr. Osborne do not cut it for me, nor does Mr. Maltin for that matter.

I have a very high opinion of Rudy Behlmer, Hurst and Robert Osborne. Maltin is good at what he does and serves a good role for educating those with little knowledge of classic films. Also, I met him once and thought he was a very nice man.





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#10 of 17 OFFLINE   Steve...O

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Posted April 18 2005 - 12:23 PM

Robert Osborne has a genuine love for classic film and is interesting and that makes him a welcome addition in my book. Ditto for Maltin. These guys get knocked occasionally, but they all contribute to the cause and all seem like genuinely nice people who are eager to share their knowledge and love of old film with others.

Sometimes I think that if it wasn't for guys like Maltin fueling the "nostalgia boom" in the late 60s/early 70s that many of these films would have been forgotten by now and the market wouldn't be as strong as it is.

Steve
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#11 of 17 OFFLINE   ArthurMy

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Posted April 18 2005 - 12:32 PM

And that, as they say, is a difference of opinion. Lincoln Hurst is, for me, completely pedantic and uninteresting. Maltin and Osborne obviously have a love of film, true, but again, for me they are boring and have nothing enlightening to say - maybe for the plebes, yes, but I'm so bored of seeing them on every WB DVD I frequently skip the extras now. Behlmer is entertaining and has a wealth of knowledge. Him I like.

#12 of 17 ONLINE   Robert Crawford

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Posted April 18 2005 - 07:24 PM

Lincoln Hurst is, for me, completely pedantic and uninteresting. Maltin and Osborne obviously have a love of film, true, but again, for me they are boring and have nothing enlightening to say - maybe for the plebes, yes, but I'm so bored of seeing them on every WB DVD I frequently skip the extras now.

Fine, now that we have that understanding, there won't be a need for you to comment any further on something that is obviously beneath you and is totally a waste of your time. Furthermore, much of the bonus material is not intended for the more knowledgable videophile and instead is directed towards the more casual film fan. In short, the mass market consumers.







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#13 of 17 OFFLINE   Barrie Maxwell

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Posted April 19 2005 - 01:20 AM

I get exceedingly tired of people slamming the likes of Leonard Maltin and Robert Osborne. These are individuals with vast stores of knowledge about classic films who often have to temper the nature of their comments for the mass audience. Anyone who knows anything about their backgrounds will also know that they have probably forgotten more about classic film than you or I will ever know. To look down one's nose at them is simply to show one's own ignorance of the classic film history field.

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#14 of 17 OFFLINE   Paul_Scott

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Posted April 19 2005 - 02:04 AM

thanks for highlighting this particular title with a review Herb.
i mentioned in another thread that while i was picking up the set, it was more out of convienence (fulfills a CH club obligation in a very economical way), and wanting to pick up one of the pirate films, than from a burning desire to watch any of the other titles soon.
especially the westerns.
i could always buy Flynn as a pirate, or as 12th Century English outlaw- but the thought of him as a western 'star' never seemed to jibe with me.
but now, seeing that one screencap of Flynn and DeHavilland on the prairie...i'm actually begining to very much look forward to the set.

and this film in particular.

#15 of 17 OFFLINE   Rob Willey

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Posted April 19 2005 - 07:52 AM

Quote:
At the height of his popularity in 1942, he was charged with statutory rape. Although he would eventually be acquitted...

"In Like Flynn" Posted Image

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#16 of 17 OFFLINE   Paul_Scott

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Posted April 28 2005 - 02:33 AM

my set finally came in tuesday, and couldn't wait to put in Dodge City.
a lot of fun.

Quote:
In terms of image definition, there were some sequences that looked as good as any Technicolor film I have ever seen ? very impressive. There were however occasional scenes that looked rather soft, lacking the fine detail that appears elsewhere in the film. Oddly enough, this presented itself mostly with outdoor shots. But overall, the detail of this film is quite impressive.


a couple thoughts kept going thru my mind as i watched this.
one was- like you say above Herb, some of these shots are as mouth watering/swoon inducing and just flat out breath-taking as any technicolor dvd i've ever seen.
but yet a significant amount of the time i was very conscious of mal-registration.
every Ultra resolution disc that has followed Singin' In The Rain has left me with a sense of "yeah it looks solid, but ...eh- it just not thrilling the way SITR was".
well, after seeing Dodge City, my perspective has changed.
when things are 'right' (like in every UR release following SITR) i guess i take them more for granted until i realize how things could have been.
someday it would be nice to see this title get re-registered, but it probably won't be for a good long while (and i expect the first HD release will be from this same transfer).
so as amazing as some of the close-ups could look here, and as brilliant as some of the colors can be- after the film was over i couldn't help but think about how much room for improvment there was. (i would guesstimate about 20-25% of the screentime i was seeing color fringing and poor detail due to compromised registration)

sampling some of the other discs i was happy to see that Captain Blood doesn't seem to look as bad as people have been saying.
i've definitely seen worse from Warner lately on some 30s titles.

looking forward to going thru the rest of the set at leisure.

#17 of 17 OFFLINE   Randy Korstick

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Posted April 28 2005 - 07:30 AM

Thanks for the great review Herb. Can't wait to watch this great and criminally underrated western again.
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