The Undefeated (1969)
|Category||Western||Theatrical Trailer-2.35:1, not 16x9 enhanced, Dolby Digital 2.0 (2:55)|
|Year Of Production||1969|
|RSDL / Flipper||RSDL||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||2,4||Directed By||Andrew V. McLaglen|
Twentieth Century Fox
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||
English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||2.35:1|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||2.35:1||Miscellaneous|
English for the Hearing Impaired
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
Well I suppose there is something to be said for going from one of The Duke's earliest starring roles to one of his last. The difference in the man is quite amazing - almost as amazing as the fact that he actually out-acted people here, including Rock Hudson (although that is hardly a great testimony to anyone's acting abilities). It really is quite fascinating to look at the relative book ends of The Duke's career though. You really get a large dose of appreciation as to just what a star he was, the likes of which we will never see again. It was a sad day when Hollywood lost The Duke.
Whilst I certainly was not that familiar with the previous film reviewed from the John Wayne Big Westerns Collection (The Big Trail), The Undefeated is a different kettle of fish entirely. This was one of those Saturday afternoon matinee staples that I thrived on as a kid, staples that almost had me thinking that there was only one movie star in the world - John Wayne. In some ways, that naive look at film was probably not too far from the truth! Whilst I certainly would not claim this to be one of the great films in his filmography, it certainly is one that I enjoyed returning to for this review session.
Whilst there are a few of the Western clichés here, what makes this film different is that the setting heads south of the border and dabbles in the tail end of the American Civil War - and what happens when the Southerners decide that they don't like losing. The film starts on the battlefield as another Union attack decimates the ranks of the Confederacy, with the charge being led by Colonel John Henry Thomas (John Wayne). The battle actually takes place three days after the surrender of General Lee - the news finally reaching this part of the army after the slaughter. The end of the Civil War sees Thomas resigning his commission and taking what is left of the 75 men who volunteered with him back to the West to earn some dollars. The intent is to rustle up a herd of wild horses for sale to the United States Army. When they prove to be too money-grubbing, he does a deal to sell the herd to Emperor Maximillian and heads south to Mexico with the horses. On the other side of the fence, Confederate Colonel James Langdon (Rock Hudson) returns home knowing that he is not able to keep his plantation. Rather than selling out to the leeches descending on the south from the north, he torches the homestead and packs his family and remaining troops into wagons, heading south to Mexico in aid of Emperor Maximillian - and determined to keep the fight against the Union going.
The two groups are heading in the same direction but unaware of each other - at least until Blue Boy (Roman Gabriel), John Henry's adopted Cheyenne son, finds evidence of banditos tracking the Confederates. Being right neighbourly, John Henry heads off to warn Colonel Langdon. Naturally the Yankees and the Rebels have a healthy disregard for each other, not aided by the fact that a certain Yankee Colonel was leading troops in the same battle that killed relatives of the Confederate Colonel. Still, healthy disregard turns to grudging acceptance as their paths cross several times on the way to Mexico - where things don't go exactly as planned. Also tossed into the mix are blossoming romances between Blue Boy and Charlotte Langdon (Melissa Newman) and John Henry and Margaret Langdon (Lee Meriwether) to spice things up, along with a rather enjoyable 4th July romp in the middle of nowhere.
Yes, the story is hardly Oscar-winning stuff, but it is an easy enough framework upon which to hang a vehicle for The Duke and Rock Hudson. Whilst they are hardly terrific actors, they produce amiable performances that suffer the years of matinee viewing with ease. Of course back in my younger days, aside from The Duke, the big attraction in the film was Melissa Newman... She had a very minor career in film (not as minor as ex-LA Rams quarterback Roman Gabriel's mind you) which I found rather surprising given how attractive she was (no comment about the acting). Throw into the mix the wide vistas of the American Southwest and the whole thing really is a very pleasant way to while away a couple of hours.
Nice scenery, John Wayne and a film that has been well based upon the lessons learnt over The Duke's thirty-odd year career. The old cliché that they don't make films like this any more is never truer - and cinema is the poorer for it in my view. Check this one out.
Whilst of far more recent vintage than The Big Trail, this still surprised in the transfer stakes. This was a lot better looking than I was expecting.
The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and it is 16x9 enhanced.
The transfer is pretty sharp throughout, with little variability at all. The transfer is also very well detailed and there is no problem in seeing things here. Shadow detail is very good, although it has to be said that there is not a huge chunk of the film where this comes into play. There is just some light grain here and there, which was perhaps the one big saving grace with the transfer as it meant that clarity was generally very good. Overall, there is little wrong with this transfer.
The colours are a little underdone in general, but this suits the bulk of the film well - the dusty desert certainly comes up quite dusty. The slightly muted look to the film in the latter part contrasts quite well with the brighter, slightly greener earlier part of the film. The colours have a decent consistency to them, and I have no problems with the depth of the blacks - they in general are not supposed to be solidly black, but rather a dusty black and that is precisely what we get here. This really is a very natural looking picture. There is no issue with oversaturation.
Whilst there are certainly some film artefacts floating around the transfer (34:20 being a particularly bad example), this was certainly a significantly better looking transfer than I was expecting. There was nothing in the way of significant MPEG artefacts in the transfer and film-to-video artefacts basically are comprised of some very minor and barely noticeable aliasing. Surprisingly good overall.
This is an RSDL formatted DVD but I failed to notice where the layer change occurred. As penance, I shall watch the film over and over again until I detect the change. Now there is an onerous task!
There is a modest collection of subtitles on the DVD. The English for the Hearing Impaired efforts are generally very good.
There are five soundtracks on the DVD, being an English Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack, a French Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack, a German Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack, an Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack and a Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack. I stuck with the English effort. It should be noted that this sounds like a mono soundtrack in effect.
The dialogue is generally easy to understand and audio sync seemed to be pretty much spot on.
The music score comes from the pen of Hugo Montenegro, and whilst is hardly a terrific example of the genre is certainly quite supportive of the film. The fact that it is rather unobtrusive is an indication of this.
As near as I could tell, this is a relatively blemish free soundtrack. Nothing really exciting is going on here though, and just sometimes I wished for a bit more activity such as a good six channel soundtrack would have given us. Still, there really is nothing wrong with this two channel effort, even if it is essentially mono.
|Surround Channel Use|
Well at least there is something this time!
Pretty boring but at least consistent with that afforded The Big Trail.
Theatrical Trailer (2:55)
Presented in the same format as the feature, the big difference to the feature is the plethora of film artefacts floating around it! If you want to see how bad the feature could have been, then here is your answer.
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
The Region 4 release misses out on:
There is once again very little to choose between the Region 4 and Region 1 releases.
The Undefeated is by no means the best film that John Wayne ever made but it is a rather enjoyable, if predictable, romp that will entertain most with ease. The video transfer is significantly better than was expected and this lifts the whole package quite enormously. A fine example of The Duke's work and of Westerns in general.
|DVD||Denon DVD-1600, using S-Video output|
|Display||Sony Trinitron Wega (80cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.|
|Speakers||Energy Speakers: centre EXLC; left and right C-2; rears EXLR; and subwoofer ES-12XL|