The High and the Mighty
Special Collector's Edition
Two Disc Set
Length: 148 minutes
Aspect Ratio: Estimated: 2.55:1
Audio: Dolby Digital English 5.1, English 2.0
Special Features: Commentary, 110 minutes (+/-) of Featurettes, Trailers, Gallery
Suggested Retail Price: $19.98 USD
The High and the Mighty is finally making its way to home video, on DVD. It has never seen a home video release before, and has rarely been shown in other formats over the last couple of decades. It’s a shame that the film was neglected for so long, but the wait is finally over. Paramount’s distribution deal with Batjac starts with this fine film, scripted by Ernest K. Gann, directed by William Wellman and starring John Wayne.
Often seen as cliched and quaint by younger audiences, The High and the Mighty is the granddaddy of the disaster film - a precursor to Airport and its sequels, and to a lesser extent a number of the disaster films of the seventies, and parodies like Airplane.
Unlike disaster films of today, this film isn’t about flashy visual effects and camera work. The story focuses on the human drama of people in crisis. How do people react when thrust into a dangerous situation?
In this film, John Wayne plays Dan Roman, a veteran pilot haunted by a tragic past, playing second chair as copilot to pilot John Sullivan (Robert Stack). The part of Dan Roman was originally to be played by Spencer Tracy, while Wayne was originally only going to produce the film. When Tracy backed out at the last minute, Wayne was talked into taking on the key role in this ensemble cast of Hollywood greats - including Claire Trevor, Laraine Day, Jan Sterling, Phil Harris, Robert Newton, William Campbell, John Qualen, William Schallert and others.
When the flight from Honolulu to San Francisco develops mechanical trouble over the Pacific, at the “point of no return,” it will take a miracle for the plane to make it to its destination. On board, we see the dreams and the fears of passengers and crew as they deal with the realization that they may be living their final hours.
The beautiful score by Dimitri Tiomkin earned an Oscar, and the film was nominated for five other awards.
This is an outstanding film, with far more heart than any disaster film of the last couple of decades.
Picture and Sound
The High and the Mighty was restored for this DVD release - picture by Cinetech and sound by Chase Audio.
The print looks very nice. Contrast is excellent, with strong black levels and good shadow detail. Color is beautiful and vibrant. The image is sharp and detailed, with only an occasional hint of ringing around high contrast transitions. Pieces of the original negative which were missing were seamlessly recomposited from separation masters by the folks at Cinetech, making it nearly impossible to tell where the missing original bits were located.
Paramount even retained the original Warner Brothers logo on the film.
Both the 5.1 soundtrack and the two channel track sound nice, with good frequency response and clean sound. The tracks are generally free of artifacts of age, and relay only a slight hiss audible during quiet passages.
Don’t expect the surround information to sound as active as a modern disaster flick. Surrounds are occasionally used for ambient effects, but are generally subdued.
Commentary by Leonard Maltin, William Wellman Jr., Karen Sharpe, Pedro Gonzales-Gonzales and Vincent Longo
Dominated by Maltin and Wellman, this is quite a nice commentary, serving up not only interesting bits of trivia on the cast, crew and film - but putting the film in historical perspective, as well - much of the historical perspective is offered up by historian Maltin. It’s nice that some of the actors chime in at key points in the film, as well. Entertaining and informative.
The Making of The High and the Mighty
This is a multipart, 90-minute total, documentary not only on the making of the film, but the formation of Batjac, and retrospectives on William Wellman, Dimitri Tiomkin and Ernest K. Gann.
The Batjac Story
Stories from the Set
On Director William A. Wellman
The Music and World of Dimitri Tiomkin
Ernest K. Gann: Adventurer, Author and Artist
Restoring a Classic
A Place in Film History
Of particular interest for me was the extended segment on Dimitri Tiomkin, but the entire 90 minute feature was above average.
Flying in the Fifties is a twenty-something minute piece on the airline industry and the public’s take on flying in the fifties - the period in which the film was made.
The High and the Mighty Premiere Footage (0:49)
An excellent rendering of this classic film is offered up in this Special Collector’s Edition. A solid transfer and some nice extras make this release...