DVD Review HTF REVIEW: In Old Chicago

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Michael Osadciw, Aug 17, 2005.

  1. Michael Osadciw

    Michael Osadciw Screenwriter

    Jun 24, 2003
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    Michael Osadciw


    Studio: 20th Century Fox
    Film Year: 1937

    U.S. Rating: NR
    Canadian Rating: G

    Theatrical Film Length: 94 minutes
    Road Show Version: 110 minutes
    Genre: Drama

    Aspect Ratio:[*] 1.33:1
    Colour/B&W: B&W

    Audio:[*] English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono[*] English Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo
    Subtitles: English, Spanish
    Closed Captioned: Yes
    SLP: CDN $16.98

    Release Date: August 9, 2005

    Film Rating: [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] / [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]

    Starring: Tyrone Power (Dion O’Leary), Alice Faye (Belle Fawcett), Don Ameche (Jack O’Leary), Alice Brady (Margaret O’Leary), Brian Donlevy (Gil Warren)

    Directed by: Henry King

    The great American motion picture![/i]

    In Old Chicago is a mixture of fact and fiction of the fire that destroyed Chicago in 1871. It is about a settler family who grew working together but end up rivalling each other of the future of the slums of Chicago. Dion is the son of Margaret O’Leary, a widow who started with nothing as a settler and then succeeded with a laundry business. Two of her sons also climb to power within the city; Dion runs a Saloon in the slums of old Chicago where poverty and rotting pine structures still exist. His twisted acquisition of power has helped him gain control of the area as well as helping his brother Jack become mayor of the city. Little does Dion know of Jack’s intentions as mayor is to clean up old Chicago of its filth. This would break down the power hold Dion has in the area and he’s unwilling to give it up.

    Jack and Dion end up in a power struggle that turns them against each other and the city in a spiral of anti-trust towards the O’Learys. Dion becomes extremely insensitive to his own family and his cabaret singer wife Belle Fawcett. He uses everyone for his own ambitions and doesn’t care whose feelings are hurt. In the midst of the struggle, the historical event of Mrs. O’Leary’s cow knocks over a lantern setting the barn ablaze in old Chicago. As citizens run for their lives during the climatic disaster at the end of the film, there may be enough time for Dion to absolve his differences with those he loves.

    [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] / [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]

    The image quality of the 1.33:1 film is fairly good. It’s slightly soft compared to other Fox Studio classics, but then this is a much older film too. The print is clean of most annoying artefacts and only small traces of dirt manage to appear. This is good news. When comparing the theatrical version to the Road Show version, I have found that the Road Show version looks a little better: there are fewer artefacts on the print and the contrast seems a hair better too. There are a few instances of edge enhancement as well as shrinkage in the print (in scenes during the final third of the film) that causes the film to “wobble” a little.

    [​IMG]AUDIO QUALITY [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] / [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]

    The original mono soundtrack is delivered using Dolby Digital in 2.0 form. There is a fake stereo version on the second audio track. I stuck with the mono soundtrack. It’s my preference because there is focus to the sound rather than everything being diffuse. The soundtrack is very good and thankfully it’s not bright and aggressive. It’s actually the opposite, really. There seems to be a lot of midrange and a respectable bottom end. Maybe the high frequency was rolled off a little – that I will never know but I enjoyed the tonal balance of the soundtrack. Dialogue and some music come across as being somewhat strained during the louder moments. Applying a star rating for quality is always difficult for a film this age because there is only so much one can do to make a dated soundtrack better. It’s a mixture of both quality and presentation.

    [​IMG]SPECIAL FEATURES [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] / [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]

    As mentioned, both versions of the film appear on this disc. The Road Show version is actually a “special feature” on side B of this DVD. All of the special features are found on this side which is rather odd if you think about it because the features are all on the side of the disc with the longer running film time.

    The other special features include the A&E Biography of Don Ameche: Hollywood’s Class Act”, an actor whose work and life I’ve come to respect. This is an excellent biography that follows the same style of these A&E specials. It’s highly recommended if you admire the work of Don Ameche.

    Lastly, Fox has included four movietone news clips that are about 5 min in runtime total. They show Alice Faye getting swamped by fans amongst other award clips.


    In Old Chicago is a dramatic fictional story based on the real fire that destroyed Chicago in 1871. With powerful performances from Power, Faye and Ameche and also the great special effects at the end of the film, this title is highly recommended.

    Michael Osadciw
  2. Jefferson

    Jefferson Supporting Actor

    Apr 23, 2002
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    I wasn't aware that there was a road show version of this film...how does it differ?
    Is the running time considerably longer?
  3. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator

    Dec 9, 1998
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    Read my comments in this thread about the differences in the two versions.

  4. Henry Gale

    Henry Gale Producer

    Jul 10, 1999
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    Looks like 16 minutes to me.

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