My Darling Clementine (1946)

If you create a user account, you can add your own review of this DVD

Released 8-Jun-2004

Cover Art

This review is sponsored by
BUY IT

Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Western None
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 1946
Running Time 92:59
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By John Ford
Studio
Distributor

Twentieth Century Fox
Starring Henry Fonda
Linda Darnell
Victor Mature
Cathy Downs
Walter Brennan
Tim Holt
Ward Bond
Alan Mowbray
John Ireland
Roy Roberts
Jane Darwell
Grant Withers
J. Farrell MacDonald
Case ?
RPI $19.95 Music Cyril J. Mockridge
David Buttolph


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame 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 None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.37:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles Danish
Dutch
English for the Hearing Impaired
Finnish
French
German
Italian
Norwegian
Spanish
Swedish
French Titling
German Titling
Italian Titling
Spanish Titling
Smoking Yes, Lots - this is the Old West!
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    I am a huge fan of director John Ford. You will find The Searchers in my list of top 10 DVDs, and I also count The Quiet Man, The Grapes of Wrath, and Stagecoach among my favourite films. It has been a VERY long time since I have seen My Darling Clementine, so I was really excited to be allocated this DVD for review. As it turns out, I think the film is one of Ford's best, though the DVD itself leaves something to be desired.

    The story begins in Monument Valley. Ford must have spent a large portion of his life in that valley as many of his films have at least one scene shot there, and films such as The Searchers and Clementine are shot almost entirely on location there. I must say that the amazing backdrop has a mythic feel which suits the mood of this film very well - we are in O.K. Corral territory here, with Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday and the Clantons just around the corner.

    We soon meet the 4 Earp brothers moving cattle through the valley. Pa Clanton (Walter Brennan in a brilliant portrayal of evil) and one of his sons arrive and offer them an insultingly low price for the cattle, which is duly turned down. The three older Earp brothers ride into Tombstone for a bit of entertainment leaving the youngest brother James to mind the herd. Wyatt Earp (Henry Fonda in one of his best performances) finds that he can't even get a shave in town without being in danger from random gunshots. As it turns out he has an impressive reputation as former Marshall of Dodge City, and is offered the Tombstone job, but turns it down.

    When the brothers return to their camp they find most of the cattle gone, and after a short search find James dead, face down in the mud. In no time Wyatt is the new town Marshall, and he enlists the aid of his brothers Morgan and Virgil in his quest to clean up the town and find those responsible for the death of his brother. In a nicely judged subplot we meet Doc Holiday (Victor Mature in possibly his best ever role) and his girlfriend from back east, Clementine Carter (a radiant Linda Darnell). Well, you have probably already worked out that the Clantons are behind the murder and the cattle rustling, and events eventually move towards the famous climactic gunfight at the O.K. Corral which plays such a large part in Western mythology.

    I say eventually because this a carefully paced film, a fact which has led many critics to condemn it for seeming too long in spite of its relatively short running time. In fact, Ford wanted the film to be much longer and was forced to cut it at studio insistence. It is as much a character piece as a Western and in my view nicely contrasts scenes of domesticity and encroaching civilization against the random acts of violence which characterize our view of the American West. As Pa Clanton says at one stage "when you pull a gun, kill a man" - this view of life is at the heart of his clash with the Earps.

    The film itself is brilliantly directed, with Ford and his cast at the top of their form; it evokes a mood, and a sense of time and place, which few other films have managed as effectively. This is not an "edge of your seat" film, though the famous gunfight is exciting enough. My wife found the film boring at first, though by the end she was enthralled. If you have read many of my earlier reviews you will know that I am generally a pretty down-to-earth viewer, but this is one time that I was happy to sit back and watch a genius of the cinema weaving his artistry on the screen.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality

Video

    This is a pretty old film now, and the print appears to have had no restoration. Luckily, the original seems to have been in reasonable shape.

    The aspect ratio is 1.33:1, and so is not 16x9 enhanced. This is pretty much the original theatrical aspect ratio.

    Overall sharpness is good, and in fact the picture looks crisp at times, with little of that 'fuzziness' which sometimes affects older film stock. Shadow detail is rather poor (as at 6:07 and 42:34). This is unfortunate as there are quite a few night shots. Part of the darkness may be artistic as many scenes appear to have been shot outdoors at night, with simulated natural light; but other dark frames appear to be due to the age of the film and subsequent fading (even some of the daylight scenes can appear too dark at times). There is little low level noise.

    This is a black & white film with a nice range of shades in between. The blacks are strong and the harsh desert lighting shows to good effect during the famous dancing scene at the church.

    For a film of this age damage is minimal, though there is a lot of grain apparent and occasional vertical black lines (as at 58:42). There is also some edge enhancement visible at times. On balance, I have seen a lot worse on films this old and you should be reasonably satisfied with your viewing experience.

    The English for the Hearing Impaired subtitles are a mixed bag. As often happens the odd phrase is missing, but the overall meaning of the action is still clear. There are also frequent notations such as (WYATT WHISTLING), but they fail to mention which tune, which is crucial in the scene at 55:54 (he is whistling the tune made famous by a certain cartoon Hound, and fails to notice Clementine sitting nearby - both she and the audience are now aware of his growing interest in her). There are 13 other subtitle tracks for you to choose from.

    I did not notice a layer change.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The audio transfer is showing its age even more than the video transfer, and was rather unpleasant overall.

    There are 5 audio tracks on offer, all of them Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo remix tracks encoded at bitrates of 192 Kb/s. I listened to the English track, and parts of the Italian. You also have French, German and Spanish on offer. As is often the case, I found the foreign language track rather poor, as the actors who dub the key roles frequently sound very different to the way you expect the person to sound, given their image on the screen. Henry Fonda has a distinctive voice which has a strong impact in this film - all that is lost in the Italian track; and the actor filling in for Ward Bond has none of the deep and imposing presence required in his voice.

    The dialogue quality is variable and is recorded at a very low level. It also sounds very harsh on the ears. At times it was hard to pick up some of the drawl which is spoken at low volume levels - turning up the volume made some of the music and effects too loud. Audio sync is acceptable in both dialogue and sound effects (gunshots and the like).

    The music by Cyril Mockridge is subdued, but nicely underscores the action. This is a film where silence is often as important as sound in building the mood (which makes the violent eruption of gunshots all the more telling), and the composer has clearly understood this and contributed just as much as he needed to. Like the dialogue, the music can be strident at times.

    There is no surround presence here, but then there was none in the original. The subwoofer takes a holiday.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    I will save my rant about the lack of Extras for my comparison of the Region 1 and Region 4 versions of this DVD.

Menu

    The menu is static with no accompanying music. You can choose to Play Film, go to Language Selection or Scene Selection. There are 32 chapter stops to choose from.

Other Extras

    None.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The film I reviewed just before this one (The Mark of Zorro) is also from Fox Home Entertainment. In Region 1 both films are part of the 'Studio Classics' series, and despite the lack of film restoration they are supported with a good range of Extras. I don't know how they are being marketed here (perhaps 'Studio Cast-offs'?) but their presentation here is a disgrace. At a time when the studios are cracking down on video piracy and complaining about parallel imports they have the cheek to offer these half baked discs to the local audience. For this film we are missing out on:

    I hope I don't need to spell out which is the preferred version?

    The Region 1 version misses out on:

    The language tracks may be a consideration depending upon your language preferences.

Summary

    This is a classic film from multiple Academy Award winning director John Ford. It is a carefully paced character study which evokes a strong sense of time and place while building upon the myth of the American West. The picture on offer here is average, the sound less than, but the film demands to be watched by the thoughtful viewer. It is a pity then that we are so poorly served by the local release - if you want to watch this film and have multi-region capability, it would seem that the Region 1 version is the way to go.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Tony Robert Davison (read my bio)
Sunday, June 06, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDToshiba SD-K350, using Component output
DisplaySONY VPL-HS10 LCD projector, ABI 280cm 16x9 screen. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderKenwood. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationKenwood
SpeakersKenwood

Other Reviews
DVD Net - Anthony Clarke
AllZone4DVD - TerryJ

Comments (Add)
A Bit Silly - Anonymous REPLY POSTED