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HTF REVIEW: The High and the Mighty - Special Collector's Edition

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#1 of 19 OFFLINE   Scott Kimball

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Posted August 01 2005 - 12:41 PM

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The High and the Mighty

Special Collector's Edition

Two Disc Set

Studio: Paramount

Year: 1954

Rated: NR

Length: 148 minutes

Aspect Ratio: Estimated: 2.55:1

Audio: Dolby Digital English 5.1, English 2.0

Subtitles: English

Special Features: Commentary, 110 minutes (+/-) of Featurettes, Trailers, Gallery

Suggested Retail Price: $19.98 USD
Release Date: August 2, 2005

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.

Special Features

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.

Theatrical Trailer
Television Trailer
Batjac Montage

The High and the Mighty Premiere Footage (0:49)

Photo Gallery

Final Thoughts

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...

Highly Recommended

#2 of 19 OFFLINE   Jordan_E



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Posted August 01 2005 - 01:10 PM

This is one of those movies I've always heard about but never seen, and I intend to see it now. Great review.Posted Image
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#3 of 19 OFFLINE   TonyD


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Posted August 01 2005 - 02:25 PM

i've heard there is a scene that has wayne slap robert stack and stack actualy says,"thanks i needed that."

is it true?

anway i cant wait to see this and island in the sky.

both movies for under $20.

#4 of 19 OFFLINE   oscar_merkx


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Posted August 01 2005 - 07:43 PM

thanks for the great review
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#5 of 19 OFFLINE   William Miller

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Posted August 02 2005 - 05:13 AM

Since Circuit City had the High and the Mighty and Island in the Sky in their weekly circular at a good price, I went there at 10 A.M. (when the doors opened). I walked in with 2 other people and we all wanted the same titles. One man bought 2 of each. That left one copy of each at 10:05. Then another person came in and bought the last copies of each. They were sold out at 10:07. By the time I left the store, 2 other customers came in and wanted them and were not very happy when they were told they were sold out already. How in the world can they only get 5 copies of each when it is in their circular?

The Best Buy down the street got 4 copies of each one in and they were sold out by 10:25 A.M. when I got there to buy The Thin Man box which they were selling at list price.

So I went to a nearby Sam's Club to see if they had The Thin Man box , which they did not. And they did not have either of the John Wayne titles either.

It's hard to believe that a total of 9 copies of High and the Mighty were in stock at 3 major retail chains. Who does the buying for these chains? Did they not know the background of these John Wayne releases and the major publicity they have received in the last few weeks?

#6 of 19 OFFLINE   Jordan_E



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Posted August 02 2005 - 06:28 AM

Did they not know the background of these John Wayne releases and the major publicity they have received in the last few weeks?

They probably have the "it's just an old movie and won't sell" mentality that seems to cover how the manager of my local video store gets movies!Posted Image
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#7 of 19 OFFLINE   James@R


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Posted August 02 2005 - 07:07 AM

I've noticed that my local Best Buy just doesn't stock older titles the way they used to. My guess is that it has a lot to do with the deluge of television shows that are arriving on dvd. They're constantly shuffling things around to maintain shelf space for them.

#8 of 19 OFFLINE   Harry-N



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Posted August 02 2005 - 08:04 AM

I poked around some online sites this morning and both Sam Goody.com and Suncoast.com listed THE HIGH AND THE MIGHTY as backordered.

At lunchtime though, I visited the local Sam Goody and with my $10 Replay coupon got both HIGH AND THE MIGHTY and ISLAND IN THE SKY for a grand combined total of $15.

My DVD Collection

A fugitive moves on, through anguished tunnels of time, down dim streets, into dark corners. And each new day offers fear and frustration, tastes of honey and hemlock. But if there is a hazard, there is also hope. - Closing narration to THE FUGITIVE, "Death Is The Door Prize".

#9 of 19 OFFLINE   Steve Schaffer

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Posted August 02 2005 - 01:48 PM

I had no trouble finding it at my local WalMart, and since it's a widescreen-only release I didn't have to hunt for it on some bottom shelf. Apparently WallyWorld stocked plenty for the senior citizens like me who appreciate a real movie instead of some current piece of crap "action flick" consisting of a series of cgi laden special effects set pieces strung together by a former music video director.
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#10 of 19 OFFLINE   FrancisP



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Posted August 02 2005 - 03:00 PM

I never got to Best Buy or Circuit City. To my surprise,
Walmart had a number of copies on hand. Walmart does not usually stock older films on their initial release.

I also think that Paramount did a great job of selling
these movies. I heard the radio spots for these movies
incessantly while listening to Rush Limbaugh. I don't know whether they bought the time nationally or locally but I thought that was a master stroke.

#11 of 19 OFFLINE   Douglas R

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Posted August 05 2005 - 10:00 AM

The seating configuration of the plane as shown in this film really bothers me because it seems to make no sense. Long shots of the aircraft cabin show two sets of seats, two abreast on each side of the plane. However when we see medium shots of the boy asleep at the back of the plane he seems to be lying in two centre seats.

When we see characters on the left side of the plane (when viewing toward the rear of the plane) the camera seems to be positioned in an impossible position outside the plane because we can see the sides of the seats when there are obviously no sides because the seats are set right against the fusilage (watch the scenes with Robert Newton).

Additionally, the rear of the cabin looks quite different in long shots compared to close shots when characters are at the rear. Has anyone else noticed this or is it just me?

#12 of 19 OFFLINE   Steve Schaffer

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Posted August 06 2005 - 08:06 AM

Perhaps the boy was asleep in the very back of the plane. The aftmost row of seats in these old prop airliners was often just solid row of seats against the rear bulkhead of the cabin with no aisle between them.

I've flown on Constellations and DC-7s in the late 50s, and they often had this sort of arrangement. One DC-7 had a little lounge like area at the back of the cabin with something similar to a curved sectional couch surrounding a table in the center. The plane in High and the Mighty is either a DC-4 or DC-6, precursors to the DC-7.

Also, in this period coach class and first class were not mixed on a single plane as they are now. There were coach aircraft and First Class aircraft, the coach planes typically had 2 seats on one side of the aisle and three on the other, while the First Class were 2x2.
Steve S.
I prefer not to push the subwoofers until they're properly run in.

#13 of 19 OFFLINE   Jefferson


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Posted August 07 2005 - 02:32 AM

I never expect to find old classics in stock at any retail chain, even the one where I work. I usually just order it online.

I havent seen this since i was young and HBO showed it, and I remember it being a big deal that they got permission to do so.
I took out my little cassette recorder to capture the main title in tinny, hissy sound, because I didnt own a VCR yet.

How welcome this is.

Now, Wayne estate....its time for MCLINTOCK!

#14 of 19 OFFLINE   Robert Crawford

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Posted August 07 2005 - 02:56 AM

Now, Wayne estate....its time for MCLINTOCK!

In October!



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#15 of 19 OFFLINE   Steve JD

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Posted August 08 2005 - 01:44 AM

Finally saw this after waiting an eternity. Found it quite entertaining. Great picture and sound. My only complaint: Why the Paramount logo added to the beginning/end? It's not a Paramount film! It's as annoying as Leo the Lion now roaring at the beginning of all those United Artist films.

#16 of 19 OFFLINE   Ken_McAlinden



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Posted August 08 2005 - 02:23 AM

The Paramount logo is the modern one and represents the company who is releasing the film on DVD. Paramount was also classy enough to leave the WB logo untouched on the film proper. I see nothing wrong with this at all.

Ken McAlinden
Livonia, MI USA

#17 of 19 OFFLINE   Larry House

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Posted August 08 2005 - 02:41 AM

Not to get too far off topic, but one of my complaints about MGMs discs is that (most of the time) they don't have the correct UA logos at the beginning of their films, they've replaced them with a modern one. It's frustrating when they include trailers for the film, which include the original UA logo, when the one at the beginning of the movie has been replaced. For me it just ruins the mood of the picture.

#18 of 19 OFFLINE   Ken_McAlinden



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Posted August 08 2005 - 07:26 AM

Back in Ye Olden Days (i.e. before DVD) Universal released "Rear Window" on VHS and laserdisc with the Paramount logo removed. To add insult to injury, the Paramount logo was graphically incorporated in a shot of the lowered blinds in James Stewart's character's apartment. The restoration and subsequent DVD release have put things back the way they should be.

Ken McAlinden
Livonia, MI USA

#19 of 19 OFFLINE   PaulEB


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Posted August 10 2005 - 10:55 AM

(decided to update this with the content from the Robert Harris/ A Few Words thread)

Has anyone noticed background sound dropping out, specifically the propeller noise heard from within the plane. At about 33 minutes into the movie, when the pilot is talking to the woman who wants to exit from the front of the plane, the prop sounds is heard from one camera angle and not from another. I believe this happens later on as well.

I was wondering if this is a DVD problem or just the way the movie was made.

Okay, got to finish the movie tonight and noticed more sound problems. At 2:19:45 the sound drops almost entirely except for the effects channel. I switched to the 2nd audio track, Digital 2/0 (dvd player lists it this way) and the sound was fine. I went back to the earlier part (0:33) of the movie where I noticed the problem and switched to the 2nd Audio track and the sound seemed good. So it appears that the Digital 3/2.1 (dvd player lists it this way) audio track has some problems.

The DVD package lists Dolby Digtal 5.1 and 2.0 tracks, so it appears this first one has the issues.