DVD Review HTF REVIEW: The Molly Maguires (Recommended)

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Scott Kimball, Apr 26, 2004.

  1. Scott Kimball

    Scott Kimball Screenwriter

    May 8, 2000
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    The Molly Maguires

    Studio: Paramount

    Year: 1970

    Rated: PG

    Length: 124 minutes

    Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1

    Audio: English Dolby Digital 5.1, English Restored Mono

    English Subtitles, Closed Captioned

    Special Features:None

    SRP: $14.99 US

    Release Date: April 27, 2004

    In 1876 Pennsylvania, coal miners sometimes went to extremes to protect worker’s rights and a fair week’s wages. The Molly Maguires was a secret society within a secret society - a group of Irish immigrant coal miners who met mine owner’s exploitations with violence, intimidation and murder.

    Jack Kehoe (Sean Connery) is the leader of the Molly Maguires. He’s the bad guy that you want to root for, because the good guys here are corrupt - not to mention less likable. James McParlan (Richard Harris) is the Pinkerton detective assigned to infiltrate the Molly Maguires under deep cover. McParlan takes a liking to Kehoe, and must battle his own conscience. He must either betray the company he works for, or betray his new friend Kehoe. After experiencing first hand the daily routine of the mine workers, and the corruption they face as a matter of routine, he sympathizes with the Molly Maguires. He also realizes that they are as dangerous as the corruption that rules the mines.

    This film has among the most impressive period set design and costumes ever put to film. It exudes realism through and through. You’ll want to brush the coal dust off of yourself when you’re finished watching.

    Martin Ritt (Hud, The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, Stanley and Iris) directed this slow but sure-footed social drama in such a way that you are completely immersed in the period setting. Never are you sure who you should side with - all the characters have flaws. They are all right, and they are all wrong. Harris’s character is at the core of this split - and he rightly takes top billing for the film. All the performances are strong and believable.

    The film also stars Samantha Eggar, Frank Finlay and Anthony Zerbe.

    Paramount continues to impress me with their treatment of catalog titles - at least with respect to the transfers. While special features are nonexistent on this title, the transfer is topnotch.

    The video is anamorphically enhanced with an aspect ratio of 2.35:1. While an occasional speck of dust or tiny scratch reveals the age of the film, it is remarkably clean. The image is detailed and sharp, with no obvious edge enhancement. Colors are wonderfully saturated and accurate. Contrast is good. My only complaint - and it is a minor one - is that black levels seem to be a bit inconsistent. All in all, this is a very fine transfer of another title from Paramount’s back catalog. The color, sharpness and fidelity make it easy to believe that the film was shot much more recently than 1970. This was a pleasure to watch.

    The audio comes to you in a nicely done Dolby Digital 5.1 remix, as well as a restored English monaural track. The mono track is clean with good frequency response. The 5.1 track adds a nice dimensional ambiance and opens up the front soundstage for the music. Paramount didn’t get carried away with directional effects. There is decent use of the LFE channel and some good ambiance from the surrounds - but the whole thing doesn’t come off sounding too “processed.” Either way, the soundtrack won’t disappoint.

    Special Features
    There are no special features.

    Final Thoughts
    The Molly Maguires is an impressive portrayal on the 1870’s - accurate to the smallest details. Even the window glass looks authentic for the period. This is a drama that is slow-moving at times, but also has periods of action and violence. It is a social commentary that is interesting - and entertaining - to watch. Paramount has delivered a solid transfer of an often overlooked classic.

  2. Bradley-E

    Bradley-E Screenwriter

    Nov 11, 2003
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    I picked it up. It looks great and is a overlooked gem as was many of the late great Martin Ritt.
  3. Brent Avery

    Brent Avery Supporting Actor

    Feb 19, 2002
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    I had this dvd on my list to purchase - a quick look on Amazon filled me in on the storyline as I had never heard of it before. I watched it a couple of days ago on a 107" dedicated 2:35 screen ( Panasonic AE500 )and found it had very good color balance and the black level was also very acceptable. The image was also above average in sharpness and I readily agree that the 5.1 mix was well done - never really noticed the rear channel come into use. I did notice a very irritating problem - throughout the film the image itself was shifting to a lesser or greater degree so I assume it was caused when it was authored onto dvd. Otherwise, I thought Sean Connery and Richard Harris were great together. It certainly gave you some insight as to the terrible working conditions endured by the miners. For the low price charged you do not get a liner. I should mention it was photographed by James Wong Howe.
  4. Gordon McMurphy

    Gordon McMurphy Producer

    Aug 3, 2002
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    Yes, awesome cinematography by James Wong Howe. Production design was by Tambi Larsen, with set decoration by the legendary Darrell Silvera - Citizen Kane, The Magnificent Ambersons, Notorious, The Devil and Daniel Webster, I Walked with a Zombie, The Thing from Another World, Cat People, and over 350 others. An awesome Hollywood production. The best film David Lean never made, I feel and like Lean's own, Ryan's Daughter, also released that year, a critical and commercial failure that has slowly been revealed as a bracing, provocative film, with uniformly excellent performances and fine scores.

    However, the DVD seems to be missing a great scene: In the church scene at the begining of the film, Connery has an altercation with the priest when he talks about violence, pointing out the the violence committed against the workers in mines. This is why Richard Harris, after the service, speaks of "arguing with the priest" to Connery. This is scene is missing on the DVD. I can vaguely imagine why, but it does strike me as pointless and silly. Any thoughts?

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