A Few Words About A few words about... John Wayne: An American Icon -- in Stardard Definition

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Robert Harris, Jun 1, 2006.

  1. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    Along with their new DeMille Collection, Universal has released an odd, yet important group of John Wayne films.

    Pittsburgh (1940) and Seven Sinners (1942) are both Universal productions which are actually Marlene Dietrich vehicles with Mr. Wayne receiving second billing. Both are interesting films, and well presented.

    The Shepard of the Hills (1941) is a three-strip Technicolor production, which I had only seen previously in black & white. Finally being able to view this beautifully shot film in color is a treat as the elements have been well handled. A fine film which has taken a long time to make its way to DVD.

    And not the two oddballs...

    The Conqueror is a film notorious in cinema history as the possible cause of cancer to many of its leads and crew. Photographed on location nearby nuclear test sites, The Conqueror is one of the strangest films ever made, with Mr. Wayne in the role of Genghis Kahn. The film was directed by Dick Powell, and cannot be recommended as quality cinema.

    The other production is Jet Pilot.

    A film which had everything going for it.

    Photographed c. 1950 in three-strip Technicolor under the supervision of producer Howard Hughes and famed director Josef Von Sternberg, this might have been something very special, but isn't.

    With second rate aerial cinematography -- think the extraordinary quality of Hell's Angels; odd casting with a young Janet Leigh as a Russian spy; a story line which doesn't seem to know which direction to head when it comes to drama, comedy or action; and an overcropped look, which because of its 1957 release, saw the film re-formatted for wide screen...

    all leaves the film as an important footnote in cinema history along with Conqueror.

    The first three films are absolutely worthwhile, and as a whole this set moves us quite a bit closer to having a compleat John Wayne collection, with the exception of those of questionable quality from Artisan. The Quiet Man, which would be essential Wayne / Ford is still one of the travesties of home video.

    Of the approximately 90 Wayne vehicles after Stagecoach (1939), there are about a dozen films not yet on DVD of reasonable importance.

    As an aside, a great deal of restoration and preservation work is currently occurring at Paramount to preserve Mr. Wayne's 1930s Republic product. Hopefully, this will soon make its way to DVD and will find a audience to support the expense of preservation.

    All in all, five films for $19 is still a suberb price and should be considered as a virtual gift from Universal. On two DVD-18s, we will acknowledge that some may fear the format, but in our test screening, there were no problems.

    Recommended.

    RAH
     
  2. Jeff Swindoll

    Jeff Swindoll Supporting Actor

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    I hate to question the Master [​IMG], but I read that this set was 1 DVD-9 and 1 DVD-14. Though frankly, I couldnt tell just by looking at them, they looked like 18s to me.
     
  3. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    You can question all you like, as my area is limited to sprocketed film, with a bit of knowledge as to how it is transferred to home video. The specifics of discs are not my forte.

    Shepard of the Hills and Seven Sinners are on one side of a single disc, which I'm assuming is a DVD-9.

    The Conqueror and Pittsburgh are on one side of a dual layered disc, while Jet Pilot is on the flip. Not certain if it is an 18.
     
  4. Matthew Burdette

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    The Conqueror was a sad film to me too as the film was shot nearby nuclear test sites (That was when the Americans were doing nuclear testing!) and that many of it's cast and crew died of one form of cancer to another.
     
  5. Doug Bull

    Doug Bull Advanced Member

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    This set is truly fabulous and must be the bargain of the year, or any year for that matter.

    The Picture quality is excellent on all, bar The Conqueror and I believe that it is probably as good as it could be, considering that it was an early Cinemascope production and those scope lenses at the time were not what you would call sharp or distortion free.
    The big plus for me is that The Conqueror is in sweeping STEREO and not Mono as it has been listed elsewhere.
    Both The Conqueror and Jet Pilot are Anamorphic.

    I continue to be in awe of Universal's handling of old 3 Strip Technicolor.
    While Warners and Fox get all the acolades for their work with older classics, Universal keep releasing superb transfers and get very little credit for it.
    Shepherd of the Hills looks beautiful and is a true representation of early Technicolor. Sharpness, Grey Scale and Skin Tones are spot on perfection.
    Jet Pilot also looks extra special.
    The Black and White features are sharp and also have perfect grey scales.
    Sound is very good on all 5 titles.
    My only negative is that Compression artifacts are rampant on still images such as titles, Sky, etc.
    But with the eye watching the action, they tend to go unoticed most of the time.

    To get 5 great looking and truly entertaining features for around $20 is value plus.

    This set deserves to be a economic success for Universal.

    ( Now if only they would look at Trail of the Lonesome Pine )
     
  6. John Hodson

    John Hodson Producer

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    I heartily agree with all your comments Doug, and particularly the one above; it's sometimes easy to hurl brickbats at Universal for some breathtakingly poor decisions, but credit where credit is due.
     
  7. Joe Caps

    Joe Caps Cinematographer

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    The Conqueror was also stereo on its previous release from goodtimes. There it was 2.0. Did they go for 4.0 on the new release - and is Conqueror now anamorphic?
     
  8. John Hodson

    John Hodson Producer

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    Can't answer the sound question Joe (I've only had a brief run through of my set), but it surely is anamorphic.
     
  9. JohnPM

    JohnPM Second Unit

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  10. Jeff Swindoll

    Jeff Swindoll Supporting Actor

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  11. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator
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    It's still 2.0



    Crawdaddy
     
  12. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator
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    Probably because it's already out on dvd.




    Crawdaddy
     
  13. Jeff Swindoll

    Jeff Swindoll Supporting Actor

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    Well, technically so were Jet Pilot and Conqueror. [​IMG] I only chose Spoilers because it had the Wayne, Scott, Dietrich team up that Pittsburgh had. Whatever it could've been, they still had room to fit another movie or maybe even a Wayne documentary.
     
  14. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator
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    Except those two releases were Goodtimes releases that are now OOP while The Spoilers dvd is still available for sale.
     
  15. Jeff Swindoll

    Jeff Swindoll Supporting Actor

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    Well, they coulda put something. How about those secret tapes of John Wayne in a dress taped through newly installed two way mirrors?? [​IMG]

    Maybe those were lost when the Repo-Man repossessed his car? [​IMG]
     
  16. jim_falconer

    jim_falconer Supporting Actor

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    Just finished watching 'The Shepherd Of The Hills', and have to agree with others here...the print looks outstanding! In my opinion, this was definitely John Wayne's best role between 'Stagecoach' and 'They Were Expendable'. Wonderful story, along with great lead and secondary actors, make this an absolute MUST own collection. I then started watching 'The Conqueror', and found myself noticing some flaws, compared to the previous Goodtimes version. There appears to be certain out-of-focus long range shots, and the 2.0 stereo doesn't seem as vibrant as was on the previous release. Guess I'll hold onto the Goodtime's one for now. As for the other 3 films, I'll eventually watch the 2 with Dietrich, but they won't be high on my 'to do' list. Basically just wordy costume dramas, with Duke playing second fiddle to Dietrich. And I refuse to watch the cropped version of 'Jet Pilot'. Universal really dropped the ball on releasing the faux pas version of this fine film, and not putting out their previous full-screen laserdisc version. When the time comes to revisit that movie, at least I still have the proper OAR version burned to DVDR from my laserdisc.

    So, to sum up...this is a must buy, based solely on the fabulous 'Shepherd Of The Hills'.
     
  17. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator
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    Maybe so, but both films have some of the best fight scenes ever filmed.
     
  18. jim_falconer

    jim_falconer Supporting Actor

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    That's a bit of a stretch....I'll take the fight scenes in 'The Spoilers' and 'The Quiet Man' over these two anyday.

    Plus, having to watch the other 85 minutes of Dietrich being smug is certainly not worth the payoff of the small action...
     
  19. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator
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    A stretch? Well, I guess to each his own about fight scenes and John Wayne films. Anyhow, I'm happy with these releases.




    Crawdaddy
     
  20. Jim Bur

    Jim Bur Stunt Coordinator

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    Shepherd of the Hills is a wonderful slice of Americana and worth the price of the set alone. One could perhaps consider the additional four films in the set as the special features.

    Thanks to Robert Harris for his excellent review. However, in the review, while discussing "The Conqueror", the following statement was made:

    "The film was directed by Dick Powell, and cannot be
    recommended as quality cinema"

    I hope this comment is not interpreted as a slight on Dick Powell. Dick Powell was one of the greatest all around talents the entertainment industry has ever had. He recorded numerous hit records in the 1930's, and starred in many of the top musicals of that decade. In the early 40's, he starred in some excellent romantic comedies (i.e Christmas In July, etc) From 1945 through 1951 he reinvented himself by starring in 9 top notch thrillers in various settings (Murder My Sweet, Cornered, Johnny O'Clock, To the Ends of the Earth, Station West, Pitfall, Rogue's Regiment, Cry Danger, and The Tall Target). He also had what was arguably the best private detective show on radio, "Richard Diamond". In the 1950's he was one of the founders of Four Star Productions and was thereafter the driving force behind some of the best shows and series ever shown on television. In the 1950's he also took the time to direct 5 motion pictures, of which The Conqueror was the second. I have seen four of the five pictures he directed. The first "Split Second" for RKO was a very good thriller (incidently with atomic testing having a key part in the plot). The last two films he directed for Fox were "The Enemy Below", a great World War II submarine film, and "The Hunters", which is a very good Korean War flying film, both films starring Robert Mitchum. Of the four films of his that I've seen, three of them were "quality cinema", which is a good batting average in any league. It's a shame that so far only 1 of the 9 outstanding thrillers he starred in are out on DVD, and Split Second has also not yet been released on DVD. c Jim Bur
     

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