The Petrified Forest (1936)
Main Menu Audio
Audio Commentary-Eric Lax (Bogart Biographer)
Featurette-Warner Night At The Movies, With Intro By Leonard Maltin
Featurette-The Petrified Forest: Menace In The Desert
Theatrical Trailer-The Petrified Forest
Theatrical Trailer-Bullets or Ballots
Short Film-The Coo Coo Nut Grove
|Year Of Production||1936|
|RSDL / Flipper||Dual Layered||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||2,4,5||Directed By||Archie Mayo|
Warner Home Video
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||Full Frame||
English Dolby Digital 1.0 (192Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 1.0 (192Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 1.0 (192Kb/s)
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||None|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.37:1||Miscellaneous|
English for the Hearing Impaired
Italian for the Hearing Impaired
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
Alan and Gabby immediately connect despite his disillusionment and the her optimism being at odds. Alan has already lived a life's worth; once an aspiring author he is now a cynical and misanthropic intellectual who realises there is no place in the world for his type. Gabby is a dreamer, reading the poetry of Francois Villon, and dreaming of joining her mother in France, a world of imagination and opportunity a long way from the dreary desert of her world.
Into this mix is thrown a rich society couple, Mr and Mrs Chisholm (Paul Harvey and Genevieve Tobin), and their chauffeur, Joseph (John Alexander), pompous and confident in their sheltered lives, until the hermetic world of the Bar-B-Q diner is thrown into turmoil, confusion, and a fair amount of fear with the arrival of on-the-run criminal Duke Mantee (Humphrey Bogart) and his small gang of bank robbers. Proudly displaying its stage origins, the drama of The Petrified Forest will be played out within the small confines of the diner and its immediate surrounds in the course of one eventful night.
Leslie Howard owned the rights to the original play, which he had performed to some acclaim on Broadway, and was able to exert a fair amount of control over the production of the film version. Amongst his demands was the casting of Bogart, who had performed the role of Duke on the stage with Howard. It was the mid-1930s and Bogart had been struggling to break out into full fledged stardom, and this is considered one of the important films that allowed him move up from bit parts. It is worth noting that he is actually way down in fifth place on the cast list, and it was Howard and Davis who were the big stars of the film. There is plenty of evidence of why Bogart received rave reviews for his performance of Mantee, apparently modelled on real-life gangster John Dillinger; with stooped shoulders, an unshaven face, and a vacant dead-eyed expression, Duke Mantee sits on a chair above his hostages, commanding attention in the Bar-B-Q diner as if on a throne. He's not the typical gangster, as Gramp explains, "he's no gangster. He's a real ol' time desperado. Gangsters is foreigners and he's an American."
The film is confined to the single location for almost the entire film, and the gritty and realistic art direction by John Hughes makes great use of the studio-bound production. Shot on studio sets and soundstages, the cinematography by Sol Polito is fantastic. The soft afternoon glow when Alan and Gabby first meet gradually shifts into the dark and oppressive night when Duke and his men take over the diner. The Petrified Forest starts slowly and gradually builds to an exciting climax, carried along by great story and performances.
The Petrified Forest is a black and white film. It is framed in the 1.33:1 ratio, close to the original frame ratio of 1.37:1, and of course is not 16x9 enhanced.
This film was made in 1935 (and released the next year), so you have to be forgiving of the myriad problems with the source. To have such an old film looking so good is a real treat. However, the problems are there, so we might as well get them out of the way first: scratches throughout, specks, heavy grain (18:56 - 19:20 and 39:16 - 39:27), the odd blotch (65:21 and 76:45), and the occasional missing frame (1:12). These problems are to be expected, and are more or less easy to ignore.
The shadow detail is fantastic, with very rich blacks throughout, as is the overall sharpness. There is the occasional lapse in sharpness, such as at 38:30, but it is mostly very clear. The style of the film favours a lot of deep focus, with characters framed in close-up, medium close-up, and medium long shot, all within the one composition. Considering the limitations of film stock and camera lenses, it is to be expected that this style would leave some actors slightly out of focus, and looking a little soft. However, this is not a problem with the transfer, and is definitely the intention of the cinematographer.
There is the very occasional low-level noise, and some faint pixelization, but it is very hard to detect, especially when the source print is already suffering from a lifetime of wear. And there is no edge enhancement at all.
The subtitles were very accurate and occasionally helpful for muffled dialogue.
There was no layer change to detect - the film file is only three and a half gigabytes and has probably been placed onto one layer, with the extras on the other layer.
There are three soundtracks: English, Italian, and the audio commentary. I listened to both the English and the commentary tracks. Each is Dolby Digital 1.0 encoded at 192kb/s, and both are very clear and free of distortion and hissing.
There is a lot of talking in this film, as Alan and Gabby have plenty to pontificate upon, from art, to travel, the desert, and poetry. Howard's English accent is very eloquent and easy to understand, Davis is always very clear, and Bogart's drawl is slow and to the point. Every now and then a stray word or comment was hard to pick up, but the subtitles cleared those up easily.Bernhard Kaun's score is used very sparingly throughout the film, and contemporary music from a radio in the diner is also heard. However, most of the film is without music, replaced with the howling wind of the desert dust storms that surround the diner. This constant background in the soundscape creates a very moody atmosphere which complements the film's drama.
This is a mono soundtrack, so there is no surround or subwoofer activity to be heard.
|Surround Channel Use|
This brings up another menu, which includes an introduction, plus access to a number of the DVD extras, but not all of them, as well as the film itself. (The film can also be accessed from the main menu of course, and there is a separate Special Features menu.) You can select the various extras separately off this menu or you can play all.
Leonard Maltin provides the introduction from on the famous Warner backlots, and gives a brief summary of the film and the features that are also on this second menu. His tone is light and enthusiastic, and it provides a nice segue into a night at the movies.
The newsreel footage is from 1936, and is predominantly concerned with King Edward 8th in England. He was a popular king after his father, King George 5th died, but soon abdicated (the first in England's history) so that he could marry a divorced American socialite, Mrs Wallis Warfield Simpson. The second part of the newsreel focuses on the American election of F.D. Roosevelt.
A very funny short film starring Hal Le Roy and Toby Wing. When a young man is slipped a wonder drug he is transformed into an amazing dancer. Soon he and his movie star partner are performing to sold out shows, but problems inevitably arise when his pills go missing. Le Roy's dancing is an absolute wonder to behold. Well worth watching.
The Coo Coo Nut Grove (6:44)
This is a Warner Bros. Merrie Melodies cartoon from 1936, and is very strange. Set in a nightclub, there is no discernable plot, just a collection of caricatures of 1930s movie stars, such as Groucho and Harpo Marx, Edward G. Robinson, George Raft, Katharine Hepburn, W.C. Fields, and Clark Gable. Amusing and entertaining, if a little long.
Theatrical Trailer: The Petrified Forest (4:13)
A long trailer, heavily promoting Howard and Davis from their recent box office successes, then moving into a succinct summary of the story. However, that's not enough, because it moves into a series of clips from the film, some of which provide far more narrative information than necessary, interspersed with big bombastic statements, such as "where nature makes man forget his conscience" and "You'll find yourself caught in a searing blinding tornado of emotions".
Featurette - The Petrified Forest: Menace in the Desert (15:49)
As with the other Warner classics, a number of cinema historians, academics, and writers have been assembled to provide a lot of detail and context for each film. They vary in their animation and enthusiasm, but the style of editing them together into relatively short sequences keeps it moving along well - there is a lot of information about the film to pack into such a short featurette, so it feels relatively short. Worth watching.
Eric Lax has scripted the vast majority of his commentary which is why it is so dull for the vast majority of the film. At the halfway point he even starts to read, possibly from his own work, even though he is giving a scene-specific commentary. This is not the way to give a good commentary. On the plus side, there is a vast amount of historical and biographical information about the film and the leading actors. Lax reports the problems of casting, how Bogart almost lost his star-making role to E.G. Robinson, the development of the project from its stage origins, and many other facts associated with the production. He knows his material very well and it would have sounded far more interesting if presented in a more conversational and anecdotal voice, rather the dry lecture he provides. Unless you're really keen on this kind of information (in which case you might prefer to actually read a proper biography), then it is best to give this commentary a miss.
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
The Region 4 version of this disc misses out on;
The video quality is very good for a film which is almost 70 years old.
The audio quality is also very good, and is crisp and clear with no distortion.
The extras are very enjoyable and the "Warner Night at the Movies" format enhances the enjoyment of the film.
|DVD||Philips 860, using RGB output|
|Display||Sony 76cm FD Trinitron WEGA KV-HX32 M31. This display device is 16x9 capable.|
|Audio Decoder||built in.|