DVD Review HTF REVIEW: The Sea Chase

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Herb Kane, Apr 24, 2005.

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  1. Herb Kane

    Herb Kane Screenwriter

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    [​IMG]
    The Sea Chase






    Studio: Warner Brothers
    Year: 1955
    Rated: Not Rated
    Film Length: 117 Minutes
    Aspect Ratio: 2.55:1 Enhanced Widescreen
    Audio: Dolby Surround Stereo
    Color/B&W: Color
    Languages: English & French
    Subtitles: English, French & Spanish
    MSRP: $14.97
    Package: Single disc/Keepcase





    The Feature:
    The next entry into the Warner Brother's series of boxed sets (and thankfully, I seem to be typing this frequently) focuses on "The Duke", John Wayne. The set is called the John Wayne Legendary Heroes Collection and consists of the following titles: Tall In The Saddle (1944), Blood Alley (1955), McQ (1974), The Train Robbers (1972) and the featured film, The Sea Chase (1955) which will be released on May 3rd, 2005. The titles can be purchased individually and list for $14.97 each, while the boxed set lists for $49.92 - which means the savvier shoppers can pick these up for about $10 bucks and $35 bucks respectively.

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    As you might expect, The Sea Chase is a difficult film to sympathize with its characters. The stars of the film are John Wayne as a German sea captain obsessed with getting his freighter back to the motherland, while Lana Turner is a beautiful Nazi intelligence agent who must be returned to Germany for her own safety. The film does its best to make both of them into hero and heroine.

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    German Captain Karl Ehrlich (played by John Wayne) is in a Sydney, Australia, port just as Hitler invades Poland and WWII is declared. Though he's loyal to his homeland, he's opposed to the Nazi's and their actions and favors the old Imperial government. He is obsessed with getting his rusty old Ergenstrasse and her crew safely home. Before sneaking out of a foggy Sydney port he meets his old friend, British Naval Commander Jeff Napier (played by David Farrar), who introduces him to his future wife Elsa Keller (played by Lana Turner). Ehrlich recognizes her as a spy and can't let his old buddy go through with the marriage, so he tells her to leave Jeff or he'll spill the beans. But when he finds that she left him because of Ehrlich, their friendship is suddenly over. When Ehrlich's freighter gives him the slip and escapes internment, he becomes obsessed with capturing this worthless ship and doggedly pursues it.

    Captain Ehrlich encounters his fair share of problems along the way, none of which are greater than the fact he doesn't have enough fuel for the journey. He decides to stop at an Auckland Island to get provisions at a food station for wrecked ships but his Chief Officer Kirchner (played by Lyle Bettger) is a Nazi intelligence officer who has a different agenda from his. At the provision center, Kirchner kills four unarmed British fishermen and causes the freighter to be hunted down, legitimately now, as a criminal ship. Ehrlich doesn't learn of this incident until later, but when he does, he forces Kirchner to write down on the ship's log, exactly what happened.

    Kirchner eventually falls for Elsa, but Ehrlich manages to keep them apart as they head to the Pom Pom Galli, an island where they cut down trees for wood and where Ehrlich and Elsa fall in love. The crew is made up of an assorted group of captain-hatin' seamen including the rebellious Schlieter (played by James Arness). Schlieter has to be convinced his captain is really a good guy who is only working them long hours because he really cares about the crew and their safe return. After he's finally convinced of the captain's sincerity, he does an about face and quickly becomes the informal leader, who persuades his shipmates to work harder to ensure their return home.

    With the help of the captain's great seamanship, they reach the neutral port of Valparaiso ahead of the British in pursuit, and are given a hero's welcome for outfoxing the superior British ship. But the British falsely accuse Ehrlich of the murders on the Auckland island and want to bring him to justice. He could stay safely in Valparaiso, but chooses to take his chances on the dangerous seas. When he reaches the North Sea after fighting off a storm and is close to Norway, the Nazi government gives away his position to the British and Napier corners him. Ehrlich has his men go aboard Napier's boat with the log, and he remains with the ship and keeps his prisoner, Kirchner with him, but he's surprised that Elsa comes back to join him. While Napier fires on the freighter, will Ehrlich and Elsa make it to Norway before the British ship reaches them...?

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    While this is by no means John Wayne's worst film, it certainly isn't one of his better ones either. I have a plot-hole threshold as vast as anyone, but even I had difficulty with this film. The Sea Chase is a good looking film in terms of the cinematography and the beautiful tropical locales, however the dialogue is lifeless and the expectation of viewers buying into our famed hero - The Duke - a German compatriot was a tough sell. The film was directed by John Farrow who was responsible for the direction of The Big Clock (1948), Night Has A Thousand Eyes (1948), Alias Nick Beal (1949), His Kind Of Woman (1951) and Hondo (1953) among others.

    The single disc is housed in a single Amaray Keepcase and comes with a two-page folded insert advertising the John Wayne Collection as well the upcoming Warner sets; The James Dean Collection, The Essential Steve McQueen Collection as well as several individual titles that are due for release soon.

    The Feature: 2.5/5
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    Video:
    Though I can’t imagine this film seen much work in the way of cleanup, surprisingly, it looks quite good. A CinemaScope film (in Warnercolor) presented in a 2.55:1 aspect ratio is a visual treat.

    Most impressive, were the colors which were lush and vibrant. Saturation and hues were also fine. Black levels were nice and deep while whites were clean with a slight hint of a bluish hue to them. Skin tones looked quite real and accurate.

    Image definition was outstanding, particularly some of the close-up, while the wider and longer shots weren’t quite as well defined – very nice however. There was only a very slight amount of fine film grain visible and the overall look of the film had an exceptionally textured look.

    There were visible traces of some dust and dirt as well as infrequent scratches, but the print appeared to look quite nice. There was a fair amount of light speckle which was evident, particularly early on in the film, but it never became distracting. The image itself was very solid and stable.

    Authoring and compression appears to be fine as there were no compression issues, nor were there issues relating to edge enhancement.

    A very nice transfer of what must have been elements in top condition.

    Video: 4/5
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    Audio:
    The Sea Chase is presented in Dolby Surround Stereo and again is rendered quite nicely.

    Most importantly, dialogue was always exceptionally bold and clear. The track was free of any hiss or other distracting noises and the overall tonality sounded quite natural and uncompressed.

    The dynamic range was rather limited, even when a few of the action scenes kicked in, there’s not much here to boast about. However, the stereo track does sound rather spatial and offers up a decent amount of separation on the front soundstage. Unfortunately, there’s really not a lot of material present to take advantage of the format.

    There’s even some envelopment taking place in the surrounds, which includes waves and wind noise etc. Tactfully done.

    Audio: 4/5
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    Special Features:
    Not much here in the way of supplements as the lone feature is:
    [*] A Trailer Gallery. The gallery consists of 7 trailers including:

    - Tall In The Saddle 1944 - (1:46)
    - Fort Apache 1948 - (1:44)
    - Blood Alley 1955 - (2:35)
    - The Sea Chase 1955 - (3:28)
    - The Train Robbers 1972 - (3:33)
    - Cahill: United States Marshall 1973 - (2:43)
    - McQ 1974 - (2:13)

    All of the trailers are in reasonably good shape with the first two (the oldest two), in slightly rougher condition.

    Special Features: 2.5/5
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    **Special Features rated for the quality of supplements, not the quantity**



    Final Thoughts:
    While The Sea Chase is an interesting little sea hunt through the waters of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, it certainly isn't the highlight of John Wayne's or Lana Turner's distinguished careers. This was my first experience with the film and admittedly, I had a great deal of difficulty with the portrayal of The Duke as a German seaman, even though he wasn't necessarily a card carrying member of the Nazi party. It was interesting however, to see some early performances from the likes of Tab Hunter and Claude Akins.

    If only the film was as good as the presentation... but I digress. The CinemaScope presentation (in stereo surround) is impressive and the special features are limited to a grouping of trailers. If you are a fan of The Sea Chase, the disc shouldn't disappoint, especially considering the price point for which it (and the set) can be had.

    Overall Rating: 3.5/5 (not an average)
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    Release Date: May 3rd, 2005

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  2. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator
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    Other than Lana Turner and Cinemascope, you should've reviewed "Tall in the Saddle" one of my favorite Wayne films. Anyhow, I'm getting the boxset in my quest to have as many Wayne films on dvd as possible.







    Crawdaddy
     
  3. John Hodson

    John Hodson Producer

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    This set will be added to my ever-growing John Wayne collection too; keep 'em coming Herb. Gotta love the Duke...
     
  4. Joe Caps

    Joe Caps Screenwriter

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    This should look better than it did on Laserdisc.
    Too bad that both this and Blood Alley are being done only in 2.0 mixdowns rather than the original 4.0 tracks.
     
  5. Armin Jager

    Armin Jager Stunt Coordinator

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    Yes Herb, please review it and add some nice caps of Ella Raines [​IMG].
    Since the other four pictures are among Wayne's huge output of trash I'll certainly ignore the box and buy only the Ella Raines film also featuring John Wayne [​IMG].
     
  6. jim_falconer

    jim_falconer Supporting Actor

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    Great review...thanks! Looking forward to picking this box set up next week (especially if the other films look and sound as nice as this one).
     
  7. Jeff_HR

    Jeff_HR Producer

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    It has been a long time since my last TV viewing. My DVD is on order!
     
  8. John Hodson

    John Hodson Producer

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    What?! I'm already planning a double bill of McQ and Brannigan - sounds like a decent night in to me... [​IMG]
     
  9. Herb Kane

    Herb Kane Screenwriter

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    Done and done.... will be posted shortly. Tall in the Saddle is another winner (I was going to abbreviate the title name and thought better of it...).
     
  10. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator
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    [​IMG] Ella Raines was certainly a beautiful woman. IMO, she didn't make enough films.




    Crawdaddy
     

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