DVD Review HTF REVIEW: The John Ford Film Collection (RECOMMENDED).

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Herb Kane, May 27, 2006.

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  1. Herb Kane

    Herb Kane Screenwriter

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    [​IMG]
    John Ford is best known for his memorable series of classic western films (Stagecoach, The Searchers), however, and ironically, his impressive four Best Director Academy Awards were for titles outside the western genre; The Informer (included in this set), The Grapes of Wrath, How Green Was My Valley and The Quiet Man.


    Sergeant Rutledge

    Ford crafts the story of Sergeant Rutledge (Woody Strode), a 9th Cavalry officer on trial for rape and murder in 1866. Lt. Cantrell (Jeffrey Hunter) defends Rutledge as witnesses give testimony (relived in flashbacks) revealing the sergeant's gallantry - and the shocking truth behind the alleged crimes. Ford, who attacked racism in The Searchers, explores similar territory in this landmark Western, the power of which still rings out with uncommon force decades later.



    Mary of Scotland

    Directed by the legendary John Ford and adapted from Maxwell Anderson's powerful play, Mary of Scotland gave Katharine Hepburn (Bringing Up Baby, The Philadelphia Story) one of her finest early roles. Both fierce and fragile as the headstrong queen, Hepburn is brilliantly matched by Fredric March (Anna Karenina, I Married a Witch) as her courageous lover Bothwell and by Florence Eldridge (March's real life wife) as Elizabeth, who is everything Mary is not: physically plain, politically shrewd...and victorious.



    Cheyenne Autumn

    The last Western from director John Ford ranks as one of his most ambitious and moving works. Ford outfits his Trail-of-Tears-like saga with a strong cast, stunning cinematography by long-time collaborator William Clothier and a stirring Alex North score. To play the Cheyenne nation desperately struggling to return to the Yellowstone homeland across 1,500 treacherous miles, Ford recruited hundreds of Navajo tribesmen, many of them veterans of Ford movies dating back to 1939's Stagecoach. The location (which Ford used for the ninth time) is "John Ford Country" - the canyons, buttes and mesas of Monument Valley. Cheyenne Autumn is compassionate, epic artistry from one of Hollywood's most revered filmmakers.

    Its all-star cast was headed by Richard Widmark (The Alamo, How the West was Won), Carroll Baker (Baby Doll, Harlow), Karl Malden (On the Waterfront, Gypsy), Sal Mineo (Rebel Without a Cause, Exodus), Dolores Del Rio (Wonder Bar, The Fugitive), Ricardo Montalban (Star Trek: The Wrath of Kahn, "Fantasy Island") and Gilbert Roland (Our Betters, The French Line).



    The Informer

    In this RKO film set in Dublin circa 1922, John Ford earned his first Best Director Academy Award and star Victor McLaglen took home a Best Actor statuette. Timely in its portrait of murderous political strife between occupier and insurgent and timeless in its exploration of the tortured netherworld of human guilt, The Informer is filmmaking for the ages.



    The Lost Patrol

    Filmed in the scorching Arizona desert, John Ford guides this powerful tale of men and mortality set in World War I Mesopotamia. Victor McLaglen, who would claim the following year's Best Actor (1935) Oscar® as Ford's protagonist in The Informer, plays a stalwart sergeant who takes charge as he and his men try to escape the unseen snipers who felled their captain. Boris Karloff (Frankenstein) is a religious firebrand whose zeal turns to feverish madness. And the unforgiving terrain is as much an enemy as the snipers it conceals.

    The Features:
    Sergeant Rutledge 3.5/5 [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]
    Mary of Scotland 2.5/5 [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]
    Cheyenne Autumn 3.5/5 [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]
    The Informer 4/5 [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]
    The Lost Patrol 3.5/5 [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]



    Video:
    The weakest or perhaps more accurately put, most weathered of the group is The Lost Patrol (which starts with windowboxed credits - in fact all three of the earlier B&W titles start with windowboxed credits) is presented in 1.33:1 and shows reasonably well. You'll notice some heavy grain and a fair amount of shimmer (presumably due to shrinkage) which is more noticeable during the lighter background shots (i.e. shots with the desert in the background). Image detail is excellent - on par with what we would expect for a film 70 years old, and the grayscale is satisfactory. Contrast and shadow detail are fine. There are more marks and blemishes here than I was anticipating, but still, given the period, this is a fine effort. The Informer is a definite step up in terms of a cleaner image with terrific blacks and exceptional detail. The image is still somewhat jittery but not as noticeable as The Lost Patrol. Mary scores slightly higher marks with a cleaner print, superior grayscale and a slightly more stable image.

    Sergeant Rutledge shows up in it's OAR of 1.85:1 enhanced for widescreen and looks very good. Colors are vivid - but slightly less than vibrant - though skin tones are slightly pasty. Blacks and shadow detail are excellent. Image detail is terrific and the film is full of texture. The print appears mostly clean and stable. Cheyenne Autumn - GORGEOUS. Presented in it's OAR of 2.20:1, this transfer has everything going for it; fantastic color, smashing blacks and razor sharp definition. The print is exceptionally clean and terrifically textured with plenty of depth. Most definitely the crown jewel of the collection in terms of video.

    Overall Video: 4/5
    [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]



    Audio:
    I found my notes relating to the audio portion of these films rather redundant, so I'll summarize the grade overall. The three older films are most similar in terms of fidelity. A faint amount of hiss can be heard throughout; however, it never becomes distracting or bothersome. The overall depth of the track is rather thin and dialogue can be slightly on the edgy side, however, these are mere limitations of the period rather than problematic transfers. SR is slightly more forward with a greater sense of fidelity and heft to the dialogue which was always bold and intelligible. The track was absolutely clean and free of any hiss or other noisy distractions. Similar, is the track for CA, which is presented in stereo with the original track intact. The track does a good job at providing the audio portion of this film - very nice.

    Overall Audio: 3.5/5
    [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]



    Special Features:
    Not a lot here in terms of special features. The set looks like this:

    The Informer

    The Informer: Out of the Fog is a short but informative featurette which discusses the premise of the film and the various influences Murnau and Lang had on Ford and his handling of the film. The production is also discussed including the set, the film's miniscule budget and the film’s colorful star, Victor McLaglen. Among others, Peter Bogdanovich appears relating various Ford anecdotes. Duration: 9:59 minutes.

    The Theatrical Trailer is also included and shows fine - albeit contrasty and slightly soft. Duration: 1:25 minutes.


    Sergeant Rutledge

    The only feature present here is the Theatrical Trailer which looks slightly muddy and is presented in full screen. Duration: 2:26 minutes.


    Cheyenne Autumn

    First up is a Commentary By Joseph McBride. The John Ford researcher and biographer is probably more qualified than anyone on the planet to provide two+ hours of running Ford trivia and information. McBride starts with a brief overview of Ford's film career and his emphasis on the western genre. He spends a great deal of time talking about the treatment of Indians in Ford's films and the general perception (or acceptance) of movie-goers at the time and how that theme became almost obsessive to him over time. Though the commentary isn't all that scene specific, Mr. McBride offers up a boatload of information relating to Ford and his film.

    Narrated by Jimmy Stewart, Cheyenne Autumn Trail is a featurette which focuses on the Cheyenne Indian band - which is presented in fullscreen. Duration: 18:36 minutes.

    And lastly, the Theatrical Trailer appears here and shows in excellent condition. Duration: 4:34 minutes.

    Special Features: 3/5
    [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]

    **Special Features rated for the quality of supplements, not the quantity**



    Final Thoughts:
    Described as "the greatest director who ever lived" by Ingmar Bergman and "the greatest poet movies have given us" by Orson Welles, there is very little room for argument that John Ford was responsible for some of the greatest American films ever produced - period. Known for his simplistic style, Ford perfected the "invisible technique" whereby making the audience forget they were watching a movie. Nominated for an astounding seven Academy Awards (and winner of four), Warner Home Video finally brings many of Ford's earlier works to DVD and has given them their just due. Though the Collection is light on special features (and that's forgivable given the content and era), the presentations surpassed my wildest expectations. June 6th is a big day for Ford fans and I can't imagine any fan of classic film not being interested in this important set.

    Overall Rating: 4/5 (not an average)
    [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]

    Recommended...!!



    Release Date: June 6th, 2006
     
  2. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator
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    It's too bad that this boxset never touched on the fact that Katharine Hepburn and John Ford had a deep romantic relationship back in the 1930s and if Ford had divorced his wife, she probably would've married him.

    Anyhow, I can't wait for my boxset to arrive because I'm a big John Ford fan and he's probably my favorite director along with Hitchcock.

    Herb,
    Thanks for the review, I imagine now you're getting involved in the Wayne/Ford boxset? Also, I added some spoilers because there might be some members that haven't seen some of these films and might be buying these on a blind buy.



    Crawdaddy
     
  3. Herb Kane

    Herb Kane Screenwriter

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    Working on it as we speak Crawdaddy... hope to have it up by mid-week -- it is huuuge. I will say this; I watched The Searchers - Ultimate Collector's Edition the other night and although it's early in the game, it might very well be the classic release of the year. I was very very impressed.
     
  4. JohnPM

    JohnPM Second Unit

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    Can't wait to see that longer version of "The Lost Patrol", and a high-quality "Informer" will be an event in itself. With this and the Ford/Wayne coming, what a week this will be for John Ford fans.

    http://greenbriarpictureshows.blogspot.com/
     
  5. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    Herb,

    Very nice work.

    I'll offer a few additional points which may be helpful.

    The Informer, a superb film, shows a bit more wear than has been acknowledged, but is as it survives. It has been well loved over the years.

    Sergeant Rutledge is an odd, yet interesting film. Herb notes that one gets the feeling viewing Cheyenne Autumn that Mr. Ford seemed tired. This is another of those projects that comes off as lesser Ford -- ie. one of the vacation projects done between those of more major importance. In this case, The Horse Soldiers (1959) and Two Rode Together (1961), still missing in action from Sony. The major production following these is quintessential Ford, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence (1962) from Paramount.

    Rutledge gives us a very interesting performance from former Olympian Woody Strode, who will be remembered as Kirk Douglas' sparring partner to the death in Spartacus. The film appears to be derived from separation masters. As a 1960 production, the worst of the Eastman fade era, it has re-comped quite nicely. I found the color spot on, with blue eyes coming through with a piercing appearance.

    The aspect ratio of Cheyenne Autumn should have come through as 2.2, as it was shot Super Panavision 70. The poker sequence has been re-inserted, and now appears strangely connected, as if either something else is still missing or as the following sequence probably should have had a transition.

    All in all, a very important set, which along with the Ford / Wayne productions will help to fill many a hole in collections.

    This would be the perfect time for Fox to release more of their Ford holdings, which have been appearing slowly, but after being cleaned and prepared for DVD in proper manner. The most recent release, Young Mr. Lincoln arrived via Criterion.

    RAH
     
  6. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator
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    RAH,
    It's funny that those early 1960s films from Ford are among my favorities even though they're far from his best, probably due to the fact I was old enough at that time to actually watch those films in a movie theater instead of just watching Ford's earlier and more thought of films on a television screen. I guess it's simply more of an emotional connection for me from my childhood than anything else as to why those films are some of my personal favorites.





    Crawdaddy
     
  7. Herb Kane

    Herb Kane Screenwriter

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    Thanks for the added information Robert. The sets along with the recent release of YML and R2's recent release of The Prisoner of Shark Island (1936) have managed to fill a lot of Ford holes.
     
  8. oscar_merkx

    oscar_merkx Lead Actor

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    I will be getting this fairly soon as well
     
  9. oscar_merkx

    oscar_merkx Lead Actor

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    double post
     
  10. Joe Caps

    Joe Caps Screenwriter

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    " Similar, is the track for CA only this track is encoded with a modernized 5.1 track which is really, nothing more than a slightly spruced up version of mono - albeit with a decent spread. Not at all gimmicky or fake sounding, the track does a perfect job at providing the audio portion of this film - very nice. "


    This statement in the review of Cheyenne autumn has me woprried. This film was a full six channel stereo film with stereo dialog.
    The film also had Overture, Intermission musis and possibly exit music. Are any of these on the new dVD ??
     
  11. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    To Joe Caps...

    Nothing to fear.

    Herb's receiver may have been giving a false readout.

    The audio for Cheyenne Autumn is its original 6 track magnetic 70mm format.

    RAH
     
  12. Russell G

    Russell G Fake Shemp

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    Man, I was all ready to pass on this set, as the Ford/Wayne box has been a wanted title for me for a while. Based on the many reactions here, I might have to blind buy this one to.

    Great review Herb, as well as the interesting as always contributions by Mr. Harris and Crawdaddy.
     
  13. Bill Parisho

    Bill Parisho Stunt Coordinator

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    Titles will not be sold separately? That's what WB video said when they released the later Marx Brothers set. Then they released the double feature DVDs separately.
    Bill Parisho
     
  14. Ken_McAlinden

    Ken_McAlinden Producer
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    With the Marx Brothers set, it was select titles that started off as exclusive to the box. In this case, it is the whole box -- for now, anyway. Does anyone know if the individual discs are in regular amaray-type cases or in slim cases. I was surprised that they did not include "Mogambo", Ford's "Red Dust" remake which was already mastered and released in R1 exclusively through Target stores. The other Target exclusive was "Three Godfathers" which is included in the concurrent Ford-Wayne box set.

    Regards,
     
  15. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator
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    Ken,
    The Mogambo title is in the Clark Gable Signature boxset which is coming out on June 20th.




    Crawdaddy
     
  16. Herb Kane

    Herb Kane Screenwriter

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    Regular Amaray keepcases Ken - as are the ones in the Wayne/Ford Collection.
     
  17. Paul Rossen

    Paul Rossen Supporting Actor

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    Hopefully the dvd does have the Overture and Entr'acte music as in the original Roadshow version. Good to learn that it is indeed in stereo as the VHS tape was. I recall that in the film completely covered the huge Cinerma screen at NYC Loew's Capitol.
     
  18. Douglas R

    Douglas R Cinematographer

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    Cheyenne Autumn does indeed have the original Overture & Entr'Acte and the DVD looks magnificent. The Intermission comes at the end of the Dodge City sequence although I seem to recall that the Intermission was originally in the middle of this sequence (after James Stewart patches up the Texan who has shot). In his commentary track Joseph McBride confirms that the Intermission was originally in the middle of the Dodge City sequence when shown theatrically.

    I saw the film in 70mm when it first opened in the UK in London and visually it was one of the most splendid 70mm films I'd ever seen. The picture was so sharp that you seemed to see every individual grain of sand. Incidentally, despite being in 70mm with Overture etc the London showings were not presented as a roadshow attraction. Presumably Warner Bros realised that the film was not going to be very successful and cancelled any roadshow plans.

    I must take issue with Herb's review when he says the sound is "really, nothing more than a slightly spruced up version of mono". Sorry Herb but you are totally wrong. The spacious stereophonic soundtrack is excellent. Neither do I agree that the Dodge City sequence is the best thing in the film. Personally I think the whole comic sequence should have been cut before the film was released. It makes me cringe seeing it; being totally out of place and jarring compared to the rest of the film.
     
  19. Herb Kane

    Herb Kane Screenwriter

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    I wouldn't worry too much about this comment - it wasn't necessarily meant in the literal sense... I think many (most) would argue that much more than this should have been cut from the film.

    H.
     

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