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Wilson DVD Review

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#1 of 15 OFFLINE   Matt Hough

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Posted March 31 2013 - 08:18 AM

Wilson DVD Review

Darryl F. Zanuck was one of the more progressive of the big studio moguls during Hollywood’s heyday, and his dream project had always been to make a film about the political career of Woodrow Wilson. Henry King’s Wilson fulfilled those expectations for Zanuck, but he was bitterly disappointed that the film wasn’t embraced more wholeheartedly by the general public. Still in the midst of World War II, America didn’t seem to want to endure a two and a half hour biography of the 28th President looking instead for entertainments that helped them forget the trials and tribulations of war rather than allowing the film to emphasize the parallels of the war principles Wilson espoused a generation earlier to what was going on in the world at that time.

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Studio: Fox

Distributed By: N/A

Video Resolution and Encode: 480I/MPEG-2

Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1

Audio: English 2.0 DD

Subtitles: None

Rating: Not Rated

Run Time: 2 Hrs. 33 Min.

Package Includes: DVD

Amray

Disc Type: DVD-R

Region: 1

Release Date: 02/01/2013

MSRP: $19.98




The Production Rating: 4/5

As the president of Princeton University, Woodrow Wilson (Alexander Knox) earned the respect of many with his dogged determination to abolish organizations at the college that made various campus factions feel inferior to others. He’s persuaded to run for governor of New Jersey which he wins and later is drafted to run for the Presidency. At the 1912 convention, there are many who support other candidates more than Wilson, but eventually after forty-six ballots, Wilson becomes the compromise candidate and eventually the 28th President. With his loving wife Ellen (Ruth Nelson) by his side, he pushes through many progressive bills and legislation and manages to keep America out of World War I after the Lusitania is sunk as radical hotheads begin to call him weak and indecisive. Though his second election in 1916 is anything but a foregone conclusion (and early returns had him losing), he wins a second term only to be forced into the war when Germany backs out of formerly made promises. By then, Ellen had died and widow Edith Bolling Galt (Geraldine Fitzgerald) comes into his life leading to his second happy marriage despite his party’s fear that the country would not approve of the President taking a second wife. When the war ends, Wilson is devoted to pushing through America’s membership in the League of Nations in the hopes of circumventing any future wars, but he’s met by determined opposition at home.Lamar Trotti’s Oscar-winning screenplay hits all of the high points in the political career of Woodrow Wilson, and he manages to cover so much ground rather expediently through various kinds of montages and by cleverly using vintage footage to cover vast amounts of history (for example, the mobilization for war is handled wonderfully through old Fox newsreels, and Wilson’s stumping for the League of Nations near the end of his term is covered effectively in another montage showing its wear and tear on his constitution.) Director Henry King has the Herculean task of covering all of these monumental events while still making the film easily identifiable to people who might have been unaware of the political chaos of the era, and he does best in the 1912 Democratic Convention coverage which almost makes the viewer think he’s stepped back in time to watch the extended parades and demonstrations surrounding the candidates. Allegedly costing $5.3 million (Gone with the Wind had only cost $4 million), it’s little wonder Wilson didn’t turn a profit, but in hindsight, the depiction of the man hits the right historical points and covers just as well the rather large contingency who were against his idealism and strong sense of morality.A rather unknown B-level actor at the time, Alexander Knox is wonderfully erect and determined as Wilson. We emerge from the film knowing exactly what the man stood for and his methods of attempting to achieve his goals, and Knox’s easy-to-assimilate performance is invaluable in that regard. Both Geraldine Fitzgerald and Ruth Nelson well represent the women in his life with Fitzgerald evincing more vivacity and Nelson more settled domesticity. Thomas Mitchell has a great early scene as a spectator questioning Wilson’s beliefs and policies and who later become his longtime trusted secretary Joseph Tumulty. You’ll want to boo and hiss Senator Henry Cabot Lodge played by Sir Cedric Hardwicke, a spoiled, arrogant Washington power broker who waits his turn to rule the roost and thwart Wilson whenever he can.


Video Rating: 2/5 3D Rating: NA

The film is presented in its theatrical 1.33:1 aspect ratio, but the transfer is a crushing disappointment. Color is wan almost throughout with only the scene where Wilson confronts the German consul in the second half of the movie suggesting anything of the richness and grandeur of the Oscar-winning color cinematography. Otherwise, the image looks dated and insubstantial, and there is a great amount of speckling and colored debris. Sharpness is all right, but black levels are very milky and indistinct. It’s overall a very unsatisfying viewing experience. The film has been divided into 16 chapters.



Audio Rating: 3/5

The Dolby Digital 2.0 sound mix is decoded by Dolby Prologic into the center channel. To prevent distortion, one must turn down the excessive level of volume at which the film has been encoded. Then, the pleasures of the film’s dialogue, music, and sound effects come through much more clearly. There are occasional pops, some crackle, and some soft hiss which become evident in quieter scenes, but in general it’s an acceptable sound mix for a film from this era in an Archive release.


Special Features Rating: 0/5

There are no bonus features in this made-on-demand disc.


Overall Rating: 3.5/5

An enjoyable epic biography of our country’s 28th President, Wilson is deserving of a far better home video release. With an extremely lackluster picture, the film simply isn’t given its due in this Fox Archive release.


Reviewed By: Matt Hough


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#2 of 15 OFFLINE   David_B_K

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Posted March 31 2013 - 12:17 PM

I think I'll stick with my version that was DVD-R'd off Fox Movie Channel or TCM a few years ago. But I do like the cover art.

#3 of 15 OFFLINE   Lromero1396

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Posted March 31 2013 - 12:22 PM

It figures. Fox has long neglected this title and it seems the neglect goes on. A shame. 



#4 of 15 OFFLINE   Techman707

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Posted March 31 2013 - 02:05 PM

Wilson DVD Review

..... Henry King’s Wilson fulfilled those expectations for Zanuck, but he was bitterly disappointed that the film wasn’t embraced more wholeheartedly by the general public. Still in the midst of World War II, America didn’t seem to want to endure a two and a half hour biography of the 28th President looking instead for entertainments that helped them forget the trials and tribulations of war rather than allowing the film to emphasize the parallels of the war principles Wilson espoused a generation earlier to what was going on in the world at that time.

 

It's too bad that the film was so poorly received.  Had people shown more interest in Woodrow Wilson and his world vision, especially the League of Nations, maybe we wouldn't have had a World War II, or the necessity for people to "....forget the trials and tribulations of war....".



#5 of 15 OFFLINE   Richard Gallagher

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Posted March 31 2013 - 04:45 PM

I think I'll stick with my version that was DVD-R'd off Fox Movie Channel or TCM a few years ago. But I do like the cover art.

 

My feelings exactly. I was ready to spring for this if it had a decent transfer. but it sounds like it is no improvement over the Fox Movie Channel prints.

 

If anyone at Fox is reading this thread, take heed. Many of us have DVD recorders and we aren't going to pay for MOD discs which don't look any better than our DVD-Rs.


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#6 of 15 OFFLINE   benbess

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Posted April 04 2013 - 03:33 PM

I think Fox threw away the 3-strip Technicolor negative of Wilson sometime in the 1970s. A top notch visual presentation of this important film is simply no longer possible.



#7 of 15 OFFLINE   ahollis

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Posted April 04 2013 - 04:34 PM

I have seen so many bad transfers from the Fox MOD program that I actually felt relived when I saw this. The problem I had was a small hum in the soundtrack but it soon became lost as I immersed myself in the film. I enjoy this movie and have not seen it in about 20 years until I popped the DVDr in. It equalled my memories and expectations. It is a shame that Zanuck and Fox orphaned this film. It is truly a classic.
"Get a director and a writer and leave them alone. That`s how the best pictures get made" - William "Wild Bill" Wellman


#8 of 15 OFFLINE   Adam_S

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Posted April 12 2013 - 02:47 PM

I really enjoy this film and wish Fox had gone to the effort of securing the Academy restoration that was done five or six years ago.  This film could be spectacular. 

 

I especially like the editing and montages in this film, the late, great editor Barbara McLean finally earned her well deserved oscar for Wilson, she was one of the great unheralded artists of the studio era, and if Fox were to put together a good edition of Wilson, they should focus a special feature on her remarkable career and achievements.  It's only recently that Michael Kahn and Thelma Schoonmaker have matched and surpassed her nomination total.


 

#9 of 15 OFFLINE   Lromero1396

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Posted April 14 2013 - 11:12 AM

I really enjoy this film and wish Fox had gone to the effort of securing the Academy restoration that was done five or six years ago.  This film could be spectacular. 

 

I especially like the editing and montages in this film, the late, great editor Barbara McLean finally earned her well deserved oscar for Wilson, she was one of the great unheralded artists of the studio era, and if Fox were to put together a good edition of Wilson, they should focus a special feature on her remarkable career and achievements.  It's only recently that Michael Kahn and Thelma Schoonmaker have matched and surpassed her nomination total.

A restoration by the Academy has been done? In that case, Wilson should be released on Blu-ray as part of the Studio Classics series. This wonderful film has been neglected for too long.



#10 of 15 OFFLINE   Matt Hough

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Posted April 14 2013 - 12:11 PM

A restoration by the Academy has been done? In that case, Wilson should be released on Blu-ray as part of the Studio Classics series. This wonderful film has been neglected for too long.

 

I could not agree more. It's deserving of far more respect on home video than this half-hearted release from what looks to be an ancient video master.



#11 of 15 OFFLINE   Lromero1396

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Posted April 14 2013 - 04:58 PM

I could not agree more. It's deserving of far more respect on home video than this half-hearted release from what looks to be an ancient video master.

Perhaps Twilight Time will take interest in this title. A small record label (either Intrada, La-La-Land, or FSM) recently released the score to Wilson. Therefore TT would be able to make use of the restored soundtrack elements as well as the Academy's restoration. That is, if Fox is willing to create an HD master. But creation of an HD master from the restoration would not be difficult or very costly. I seriously hope a TT release comes to fruition.



#12 of 15 OFFLINE   bujaki

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Posted April 14 2013 - 05:15 PM

Has anybody seen and can report on the Academy's restoration of Wilson?

I started to watch the TCM broadcast and had to turn it off so I could hold on to my memory of a gorgeous Fox archival 35mm Technicolor print that played at MoMA during its Henry King retrospective.

I'm sure that print is long gone...



#13 of 15 OFFLINE   Lromero1396

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Posted April 15 2013 - 04:36 PM

Has anybody seen and can report on the Academy's restoration of Wilson?

I started to watch the TCM broadcast and had to turn it off so I could hold on to my memory of a gorgeous Fox archival 35mm Technicolor print that played at MoMA during its Henry King retrospective.

I'm sure that print is long gone...

I found the TCM broadcast absolutely horrific as well, but I never saw a Technicolor IB nitrate of this film projected. It must have been beautiful beyond words. When was said retrospective? If the print was stored at MoMA, it may still exist. Keep in mind that Fox was lazy when creating these video masters and probably only looked at in-house film elements.


Edited by Lromero1396, April 15 2013 - 04:38 PM.


#14 of 15 OFFLINE   bujaki

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Posted April 15 2013 - 05:30 PM

My memory is hazy these days when it comes to the years when retrospectives took place at MoMA. I attended many between 1972 (Paramount Studios) and 1988, when I moved to the Dallas area.

Retros that I remember off the top of my head:

Warner's; MGM; Universal; D.W.Griffith; John Ford; King Vidor; Henry King; Michael Powell; Raoul Walsh; MoMA's Films from the Archives series with plenty of Fox and 20th Century Fox nitrate prints; etc., etc.

Part of the pleasure of these retrospectives was watching many 35mm nitrate prints (some pristine, some ragged), and meeting some of the directors and actors who were still alive at the time.



#15 of 15 OFFLINE   Lromero1396

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Posted April 16 2013 - 01:49 PM

My memory is hazy these days when it comes to the years when retrospectives took place at MoMA. I attended many between 1972 (Paramount Studios) and 1988, when I moved to the Dallas area.

Retros that I remember off the top of my head:

Warner's; MGM; Universal; D.W.Griffith; John Ford; King Vidor; Henry King; Michael Powell; Raoul Walsh; MoMA's Films from the Archives series with plenty of Fox and 20th Century Fox nitrate prints; etc., etc.

Part of the pleasure of these retrospectives was watching many 35mm nitrate prints (some pristine, some ragged), and meeting some of the directors and actors who were still alive at the time.

If the afformentioned archives that supplied the nitrate were UCLA or MoMA, I would assume that the prints were preserved. If you saw the print post-1970s, there's a good chance that it survived Fox's nitrate purge of 1978.







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