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DVD Review Seven Angry Men DVD Review (1 Viewer)

Richard Gallagher

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Seven Angry Men DVD Review

Seven Angry Men marks the second time that Raymond Massey played the abolitionist John Brown on the silver screen. The first, of course, was Santa Fe Trail, a 1940 production by Warner Brothers. In Seven Angry Men (an Allied Artists release) Brown is the central character, and the film depicts his battle against slavery from "Bleeding Kansas" in 1855 to his ill-fated attack on the United States Armory in Harpers Ferry Virginia in 1859. The new DVD-R from the Warner Archive is not flawless, but it surpasses any version of the film which I have seen on television



Studio: Warner Brothers

Distributed By: Warner Archive

Video Resolution and Encode: 480P/MPEG-2

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

Audio: English 2.0 DD

Subtitles: None

Rating: Not Rated

Run Time: 1 Hr. 32 Min.

Package Includes: DVD

Standard DVD Keep Case

Disc Type: DVD-R

Region: A

Release Date: 03/31/2015

MSRP: $21.99




The Production Rating: 4/5

Your father's finished. And so is his dream of freedom. - Ned Green, a free black man, at Harpers Ferry, Virginia

The "angry men" in the title are John Brown (Raymond Massey) and six of his sons: Owen (Jeffrey Hunter), Oliver (Larry Pennell), Frederick (John Smith), Salmon (Guy Williams), Jason (James Best), and John Jr. (Dennis Weaver). During the 1850s a struggle was underway throughout the border territories to determine whether slave states or free states would dominate the Federal government. The balance of power which had been achieved through the Missouri Compromise of 1820 was threatened when it was decided to allow the residents of Kansas and Nebraska to vote on whether those territories would allow slavery. Pro-slavery factions, largely from the slave state of Missouri, began to move into Kansas in advance of the vote. Abolitionists responded by sending "free soilers" to live in Kansas. "Border Ruffians," armed pro-slavery men, came to Kansas by the thousands and often resorted to violence to intimidate the "free soilers."

That little history refresher sets the stage for Seven Angry Men. John Brown has begun to establish a compound of "free soilers" near Lawrence, Kansas. On their way to join him are two of his sons, Owen and Oliver. While riding the train to Kansas they meet Elizabeth Clark (Debra Paget), a beautiful young woman who is on her way to Lawrence to meet her father. She is attracted to Owen until she learns the identity of his father. Although Elizabeth is opposed to slavery, she disapproves of John Brown's sometimes violent methods.

Trouble simmers under the surface until a band of "Border Ruffians" led by Martin White (Leo Gordon) sacks and burns Lawrence, an anti-slavery town, killing several innocent people in the process. John Brown responds by capturing and summarily executing several men who participated in the Lawrence raid. This shocks Brown's son, and is particularly difficult on John Jr., who comes close to having a nervous breakdown. Tensions within the Brown family grow greater as the threat posed by the "Border Ruffians" becomes graver in advance of the vote. Brown manages to keep most of his followers in line through his commanding and seemingly righteous presence.

Raymond Massey is unforgettable as John Brown. While on an intellectual level his fervor and willingness to take the law into his own hands is frightening, he projects the same kind of charismatic personality which we have seen in religious fanatics such as Jim Jones. Jeffrey Hunter is adequate as Owen, the son who plays the largest role in the film, but Dennis Weaver and John Smith show more range as the sons who are appalled and repelled by their father's behavior. Debra Paget is pretty and sturdy as Owen's love interest, showing significant gumption when she defies the family patriarch. Leo Gordon is, as always, an effective villain. Keep your eyes open for some familiar faces in uncredited roles.

Seven Angry Men is kept moving at a lively pace by director Charles Marquis Warren, and unlike Santa Fe Trail it hews fairly close to the historical record. It is an enjoyable film and is a welcome addition to the Warner Archive library.



Video Rating: 3/5  3D Rating: NA

The black and white image is properly framed at 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen, which is good to see because every time I have seen the film on television it has been cropped. Fine detail is good most of the time, although the image gets somewhat soft at times. Film grain is a bit on the heavy side, but not enough to be distracting. Contrast fluctuates some but for the most part is strong. Occasional speckles are evident, but they are fleeting. Warner obviously did not do a full restoration for this release, but it is head and shoulders above the dreadful Retroflix DVD which was released five or six years ago.



Audio Rating: 3/5

The Dolby Digital 2.0 audio is undistinguished mono. Dialogue is clear and understandable. There is little in the way of dynamic range, but the soundtrack is free of hiss, clicks, and other age-related anomalies, and the music score by Carl Brandt is free of distortion.



Special Features Rating: 0/5

There are no extras on this Warner Archive release.



Overall Rating: 3.5/5

Seven Angry Men is an enjoyable and generally accurate portrayal of the violent and fanatical abolitionist, John Brown. Fans of the film will be thrilled to see that it is finally available in anamorphic widescreen, notwithstanding the fact that the transfer is less than perfect. Readers interested in purchasing it can find it at the Warner Archive website.


Reviewed By: Richard Gallagher


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sonomatom1

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Tom Martin
"Seven Angry Men marks the second time that Raymond Massey played the abolitionist John Bronx on the silver screen." Oops, John Brown... Richard must have been watching Escape from New York before watching Seven Angry Men... lol
 

Richard Gallagher

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Senior HTF Member
Joined
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Messages
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Location
Fishkill, NY
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Rich Gallagher
sonomatom1 said:
"Seven Angry Men marks the second time that Raymond Massey played the abolitionist John Bronx on the silver screen." Oops, John Brown... Richard must have been watching Escape from New York before watching Seven Angry Men... lol

Actually I had the Bronx on my mind because I have to go there on business next week! Thanks for the tip, I have corrected the typo.
 

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