Inherit the Wind (1960)

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Released 14-Jul-2004

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama None
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 1960
Running Time 122:59
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Stanley Kramer
Studio
Distributor

MGM
Starring Spencer Tracy
Fredric March
Gene Kelly
Dick York
Donna Anderson
Harry Morgan
Claude Akins
Elliott Reid
Paul Hartman
Philip Coolidge
Jimmy Boyd
Case ?
RPI $19.95 Music Ernest Gold


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.66:1
16x9 Enhancement
Not 16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.66:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired
French
Dutch
Greek
Romanian
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    It may seem extraordinary to some, enjoying our modern day social climate of relative liberalism and secularism, that in the 1920s a schoolteacher was dragged before a court in Tennessee charged with violating a law which forbade the teaching of Charles Darwin's theories of evolution. Such an act was in contravention of teachers' obligations to not deny the literal truth of the bible. The tension between the evolutionists and creationists extended far beyond the realms of the small southern town, attracting former presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan to prosecute the case against the twenty-four year old science teacher and the famous advocate Clarence Darrow to defend him. The 'Monkey Trial', as it became known was adapted into a successful and highly regarded Broadway play, which served as source material for this 1960 film, Inherit the Wind.

    Acclaimed director Stanley Kramer, whose other films include Judgment at Nuremberg and Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?, directs acting legends Spencer Tracy (the first and until Tom Hanks only actor to win consecutive Best Actor Oscars) and Fredric March (also a dual Oscar winner) as characters based closely on Darrow and Bryan respectively and is successful in 'opening up' this theatrical piece for the cinematic medium whilst preserving its razor sharp dialogue. Gene Kelly also stars as the cynical journalist, who has some of the best lines in the film (and there are many of them). Whilst in the film he is E. K. Hornbeck, a journalist for a Baltimore newspaper, his character is based on the sometimes abrasive, inevitably brilliant writer H. L. Mencken. A known liberal, Kramer directs with the same force (and arguably the same lack of subtlety) that informs the performances of the leads. Apparently he saw the film as being as much an indictment of the closed mindedness of McCarthyism, which had plagued America during the 1950s as of the intolerance bred in the insular town of Hillsboro (Dayton in real life). The film does retain a stagy, 'theatre as film' quality, but I felt this ensured our attention focussed squarely on the verbal jousting between two extraordinary actors, who seem to relish every syllable. Scenery chewing has never been so entertaining.

    Ominous scenes of a large crowd blithely singing Give Me That Old Time Religion on their way to demand the teacher's conviction contrast starkly with a haunting rendition of the same song, transposed into a minor key, performed by a lone female voice as the film opens, the camera taking in symbols of 'justice'. Frequent close ups of smiling and chanting individual faces inter-cut into these crowd scenes reminded me somewhat of similar moments in Soviet propaganda films, which one now can view with sad irony. I don't know whether that was Kramer's intent, but it was particularly effective at evoking the 'mob mentality'. As already mentioned, liberties were taken with the facts and the courtroom scenes are a little too theatrical and unrestrained to be considered authentic, but the film is a celebration of smart, incisive dialogue, and raises questions few studio films, if any, have dared to since. Some may think that the film doesn't delve deeply enough into the central debate, but could any film even hope to do more than scratch the surface? After all, the film concerns itself more with the importance of freedom of thought than the relative merits of either theory. I should point out that the title is owed to a proverb: "He that troubleth his own house shall inherit the wind."  If meditating on such a notion holds appeal, then I would urge you to see this excellent film. Even if you have no such inclination, seeing figures such as Tracy, March and Kelly at the height of their considerable powers should be incentive enough.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    This 1960 black and white film is presented at an aspect ratio of 1.66:1, without 16x9 enhancement. In spite of some slicing off of credits in the opening sequence I believe that this was its original theatrical aspect ratio. If anyone knows definitively, please don't hesitate to let me know.

    Sharpness is of a respectable standard, especially considering the lack of enhancement for widescreen TVs. Shadow detail suffers on occasion, particularly in some evening scenes, but much of the film was shot indoors, and maintains a good level of clarity.

    The black and white photography is well reproduced, with generally clear blacks and good gradation in the shades of grey.

    Film to video artefacts are fairly minimal. There are some occasional intrusions of grain and a few MPEG artefact worries but they do not present a major problem.

    The film print used for the transfer was obviously a little scratched, and particularly during the first five minutes of the film, film artefacts are quite common. Occasional specks of dirt are noticeable throughout but there are only a couple of instances when any significant blotches appear onscreen, and these are only momentary.

    In sum then - a pleasing transfer that with a little more effort could have been better.

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

Audio

    The audio is unremarkable but does its job well. We get five languages to choose from - English, French, Spanish, Italian and German, all presented in Dolby Stereo 2.0.

    Dialogue is presented cleanly and only on occasion did I find the clarity a little wanting, particularly during some of Fredric March's speeches. Audio sync is excellent.

    Typically for an older movie the dynamic range is a little compressed, and there is a little hiss to put up with, but there are certainly no major disruptions or crackles.

    The surrounds and subwoofer remain silent.

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

Extras

    There are no extras whatsoever.

R4 vs R1

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:

    The Region 1 release misses out on:

    For me, the extra and scene access don't justify abandoning our local product. If it were an epic film I may be more inclined to opt for a disc with chapters but using the skip button isn't that difficult.

Summary

    Inherit the Wind is a fascinating film with a strongly conveyed moral message and fine acting.

    The video quality is reasonable, but could have been better.

    The audio delivers all it needs to.

    There are no extras.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Scott Murray (Dont read my bio - it's terrible.)
Thursday, August 19, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDYamaha DVR-S100, using Component output
DisplaySony 76cm Widescreen Trinitron TV. Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD Player, Dolby Digital and DTS. Calibrated with THX Optimizer.
AmplificationYamaha DVR-S100 (built in)
SpeakersYamaha NX-S100S 5 speakers, Yamaha SW-S100 160W subwoofer

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