3 Godfathers (1948)

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Released 15-Jul-2004

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Western Main Menu Audio
Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 1948
Running Time 101:54
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4,5 Directed By John Ford

Warner Home Video
Starring John Wayne
Pedro Armendáriz
Harry Carey, Jr.
Ward Bond
Mae Marsh
Mildred Natwick
Jane Darwell
Guy Kibbee
Dorothy Ford
Ben Johnson
Charles Halton
Hank Worden
Jack Pennick
Case ?
RPI $19.95 Music Richard Hageman

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 1.0 (192Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 1.0 (192Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 1.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.37:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
English for the Hearing Impaired
Italian for the Hearing Impaired
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    Three men ride into the small western town of Welcome. As we learn almost straight away, they are there to rob the bank. They have a conversation with Perley Sweet and his wife, and he turns out to be the local sheriff. Quickly excusing themselves, they make their way to the bank, but in the robbery one of them, the Abilene Kid, is wounded and the proceeds lost. Chased into the desert by Sweet and his deputies, they have no water and soon no horses. They make their way to a waterhole, but there is no water. However, there is a woman about to have a baby. The baby boy is born, but the mother dies after making the three men his godfathers and getting them to promise to take care of the baby. Pursued into the desert by Sweet and his posse, the men try to keep the baby alive and get him to the town on New Jerusalem.

    This is at least the fifth film version of the 1913 novel by Peter B. Kyne, and was directed by John Ford, who had made a silent film in 1926 called Three Bad Men which has a very similar story. The best version is supposedly the early sound film by William Wyler called Hell's Heroes (1929), but I have not seen that version and cannot comment on their relative qualities. This 1948 version is very well made and directed, and looks superb in this transfer, but the film is overlong and has too much religious symbolism. The final part of the film is also overly sentimental, not unusual in a Ford film, but this is inconsistent with the tone of the rest of the film and makes the ending not very believable.

    Apart from the excellent direction, the film benefits from some fine performances. The three "bad" guys are played by John Wayne, Pedro Armendariz and Harry Carey Jr.  The film is dedicated to the latter's father Harry Carey, who died the previous year. He had appeared in many Ford films, including his very first as director in 1917. Perley Sweet is played by another Ford regular, Ward Bond, in a good portrayal. His wife is played by Mae Marsh in what must have been one of her biggest roles in her later career. She had leading roles in numerous D. W. Griffith films, notably The Birth of a Nation and Intolerance. There are numerous other members of Ford's stock company in the film.

    What happens to Pedro Armendariz in this film is quite poignant in hindsight, given the manner of his own death. In 1963 he was diagnosed with terminal cancer. On his way to seek a second opinion in a different hospital, he purchased a Magnum pistol and some armour-piercing bullets. Once the diagnosis was confirmed, he shot himself through the heart in his hospital bed, the bullet going through the bed and lodging in the wall. Armendariz had appeared with Wayne in The Conqueror, a 1956 film made in the Nevada desert near an atomic test site, and many of the cast and crew would later die from cancer.

    Morbid digressions aside, this is a reasonably good film for most of its length, gloriously photographed by Winston Hoch and is worth seeing in this fine transfer.

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Transfer Quality


    The film is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, close to the original aspect ratio of 1.37:1.

    The transfer is very sharp and clear throughout. There is a fine level of detail present, and shadow detail is very good. Colour is excellent, with Technicolor elements used that were in very good shape and which look spectacular.

    There were some problems with edge enhancement throughout the film. Otherwise, I did not notice any film to video artefacts.

    At first there seemed to be very few film artefacts, but after the first third of the film these increased. There were a number of white spots and also imperfections in the film that appeared as coloured blotches for a frame or two. Otherwise this is a beautiful transfer.

    The film comes on a single-layered disc with a range of subtitles. The English subtitles are clear and match the dialogue quite well.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    The default audio track is English Dolby Digital 1.0 and has no surround encoding, as you would expect. There are dubbed alternatives in French and Italian.

    This is an excellent audio transfer for a mono soundtrack, with all dialogue coming across clearly, as do the sound effects and the music. While it is of course limited in comparison to today's recording technology, this probably sounds as good as it did in theatres in 1948.

    The excellent though occasionally syrupy orchestral score is by Richard Hageman, and fits the film like a glove.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


Main Menu Audio

    The main menu has some generic western music that does not seem to have come from the film as far as I know.

Trailer (3:13)

    The sole extra is an original trailer, and like the feature, this is an excellent print, albeit with more film artefacts.

R4 vs R1

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

    This film appears to have been released only in Region 4 at this time, so this is a no-brainer.


    A fine but overlong Western with a fine director and cast.

    An excellent video transfer.

    An excellent audio transfer.

    Just a trailer for an extra.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Philip Sawyer (Bio available.)
Wednesday, August 18, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-S733A, using Component output
DisplaySony 86CM Trinitron Wega KVHR36M31. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD player, Dolby Digital, dts and DVD-Audio. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationSony TA-DA9000ES
SpeakersMain: Tannoy Revolution R3; Centre: Tannoy Sensys DCC; Rear: Richter Harlequin; Subwoofer: JBL SUB175

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