DVD Review HTF Review: The Four Feathers

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Jason Perez, Apr 11, 2005.

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  1. Jason Perez

    Jason Perez Second Unit

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    [​IMG]

    The Four Feathers




    Studio: MGM
    Year: 1939
    Rated: Not Rated
    Running Time: 115 minutes
    Aspect Ratio: Full Frame (1.33:1)
    Subtitles: English, French, and Spanish
    Audio: English – Monaural





    Release Date:
    April 19th, 2005



    The first non-silent production of A.E.W. Mason’s classic adventure yarn, Zoltan Korda’s adaptation of The Four Feathers chronicles the story of Harry Faversham (John Clements), a British officer who resigns from his post even as his country’s cavalry fights to capture the African city of Khartoum. Basically, Harry, who is gentle and loves poetry, has always been sickened by the brutality of war, and eventually decides he wants no part of it.

    Further, although Officer Faversham attended a very highly regarded military academy, he believes in his decision so strongly that he sticks to it steadfastly, though he knows it will bring great shame on his family (his forefathers were decorated military men), and bows out of the conflict. Of course, being the good military men they are, Harry’s friends Peter Burroughs (Donald Gray), John Durrance (Ralph Richardson), and Arthur Willoughby (Jack Allen) are angered by his decision to leave the service.

    His fiancée, Ethne Burroughs (June Duprez), whose father is a renowned General, is no less upset, and believes that Harry is dishonoring his family name by making a rash decision based on fear. As a result of their disappointment and anger, each of these four people gives Officer Faverhsam a white feather, which symbolizes cowardice.

    Interestingly, Harry is soon overcome by feelings of shame that outweigh his fears and hatred of fighting, so he vows to redeem himself by returning to action. By following this course of action, young Mr. Faversham hopes to regain his honor and fight alongside the former friends he left behind, who have now left for Sudan (and war). To accomplish his goal, Harry disguises himself as a tribesman and heads out into the desert, hoping to be reunited with his regiment.

    Unfortunately for Harry, not all is so simple in love and war, and fate intervenes, in the form of enemy attacks and brutal environmental conditions. The question is, will Harry Faversham ultimately be able to redeem himself by rescuing his brothers in arms, or will he succumb to the hostile environment he has placed himself in?

    Well, that is a brief outline of the plot, so let’s talk a bit more about a few other things related to the film. Beginning with some trivia, The Four Feathers, based on the classic story by A.E.W. Mason, has been adapted for the screen on several different occasions, including a lackadaisical recent release starring Heath Ledger. After silent pictures dating back as far as 1915, this particular take on it hit the screen in the year 1939, only a few decades after the real military campaign it involved, but remained no less focused on Harry Faversham’s heroic attempt to prove redeem himself for his cowardly behavior.

    The film also paints a rather rosy portrait of Britain’s colonial past, but aside from that The Four Feathers holds up remarkably well, and for a film from 1939, the production values are certainly impressive. The actors all turn in fine performances, especially Clements and Richardson. The cinematography, which includes some outstandingly orchestrated battles sequences, is absolutely wonderful, and certainly deserving of the Oscar®-nominations given to Georges Périnal and Osmond Borradaile. Director Zoltan Korda’s direction is sound as well, as he keeps things moving at a brisk pace throughout the feature.

    As I just alluded to, the glorification of British colonization has the potential to be a bit much for viewers raised in the hypersensitive times we live in today. However, if you like war films, and do not take umbrage at said tone, this adaptation of The Four Feathers is definitely worth a look.







    SO, HOW DOES IT LOOK?
    The Four Feathers is presented by MGM in al of its Technicolor glory, and although the image is not perfect, it certainly looked good for a 66-year-old film. Colors, in particular, were appropriately saturated, and flesh tones looked relatively natural as well. Contrast and black level were also above average, so the image has a fair amount of depth to it. Although there are some imperfections in the image, the transfer is relatively clean for a film of this vintage, and print defects never became anything more than a minor distraction

    While the image is not brimming with detail the way the image of recent productions tends to, detail in the gorgeous cinematography of Georges Périnal and Osmond Borradaile also rises to the forefront nicely. Indeed, about the only issue I had with the transfer is that a bit of haloing is visible at the edges high contrast areas, a flaw that is visible throughout the film. Honestly, I do not believe the presence of this ringing will detract from most viewers’ overall viewing experience too much, but it is definitely noticeable enough to warrant mentioning.

    Were it not for the presence of the aforementioned halos, The Four Feathers’ image quality could have almost been called great, but even so, it still looks good enough that I have to imagine fans of the film will be pleased.




    WHAT IS THAT NOISE?
    As monaural tracks go, this one is pretty good, and presents dialogue, effects, and the wonderful score by Miklós Rózsa about as clearly and warmly as I could have hoped for. Of course, the soundstage is not exactly expansive, but it did remain composed, and there are no audible distractions, such as distortion or sibilance that detract from the listening experience. The soundtrack’s frequency response is also a bit better than I had expected it to be. All in all, it is a fine presentation of the source material!





    EXTRAS, EXTRAS!!!


    Trailer
    The theatrical trailer for The Four Feathers is available.



    SCORE CARD

    (on a five-point scale)
    Film: [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]
    Video: [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]
    Audio: [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]
    Extras: [​IMG]
    Overall: [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]



    THE LAST WORD
    Though it is a bit dated, and its glorification of the British empire may be a bit much for some viewers, The Four Feathers is a grand old epic that chronicles the tale of Harry Faversham’s attempt to atone for his cowardice. Among the reasons to watch are the breathtaking cinematography, well-orchestrated battles (especially for the time), and solid performances in most of the leading roles.

    As far as extras are concerned, all you get is the theatrical trailer, but the image and sound quality are quite nice for a film of this vintage. As such, I recommend giving some thought to a rental or purchase of The Four Feathers, especially if you are fond of such films.


    Stay tuned…
     
  2. John Hodson

    John Hodson Producer

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    Sure you mentioned that enough times Jason?
     
  3. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator
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    Yes, the same could be said about countless American films like westerns and WWII war movies with inaccurate glorification. It's all about filmmakers making movies to entertain people and not give them accurate history lessons.







    Crawdaddy
     
  4. John Hodson

    John Hodson Producer

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    This film was made in 1939, with Britain on the verge of war and was intended as a flag waver, and wave the flag it most vigorously did.

    I'm old enough, and I'd like to think sufficiently educated enough, to realise that The Four Feathers is what it is - as is Gunga Din or They Died With Their Boots On (and 100s of others). These films no longer meet modern guidelines for political correctness but they are very entertaining when viewed within their historical context. Jason made his point, and it's an otherwise fine review, but IMHO, I rather think he overegged the pudding.
     
  5. Eric Peterson

    Eric Peterson Cinematographer

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    I'll be picking this one up, so I can finally complete the "HTF Top 100 Films of the 19030s" list.

    I'm glad to hear that it the transfer is decent, and if the price is similar to recent releases, I should be able to pick this up for under $11.
     
  6. DaViD Boulet

    DaViD Boulet Lead Actor

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    I absolutely adore this movie. One of the classics. It's getting ordered today!!!

    thanks Jason for the great review...

    dave [​IMG]
     
  7. MichaelSloan

    MichaelSloan Stunt Coordinator

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    I hope the 1929 version is on DVD some day. Does anyone know if that version's Movietone soundtrack still exists?
     
  8. Amy Mormino

    Amy Mormino Supporting Actor

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    Regarding the "glorification of British colonialization" issue, the biggest problem with the recent remake was that it tried to deal with this issue in a modern way. The only way this story works is if you accept the values of the time period. I'm sure some people will have problems with that, but if so, there are plenty of other films out there.

    I'm glad to hear the visuals are acceptable, though it is too bad that this gem of a film can't go to a studio that would really appreciate it.
     
  9. Garrett Adams

    Garrett Adams Supporting Actor

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    How come folks don't complain about Gladiator? Correct me if I'm wrong, but weren't the Romans a tad colonial? [​IMG]
     
  10. Ira Siegel

    Ira Siegel Stunt Coordinator

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    Thanks for the excellent review, Jason. Even though I saw Four Feathers many times as a kid, I did not remember the Technicolor® credit, and so I am happily surprised to learn that it was in color! Great.

    By the way, when I read Jason's review, I had the same reaction as John Hodson. Thank people like him from the UK for enriching our English language. I did a Google™ search and found this for "over-egged the pudding":

    "When making a pudding, there are certain ingredients that are ''obviously good'', such as milk, fruit, eggs, etc. However, all cooks knows that if - in their enthusiasm - they add too much of an ingredient (even an ''obviously good'' one), the result can be to spoil the final product."
     

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