Drum Beat (1954)

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Released 14-Sep-2011

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Western Main Menu Audio-Victor Young score
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1954
Running Time 102:44
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Delmer Daves
Studio
Distributor

Beyond Home Entertainment
Starring Alan Ladd
Audrey Dalton
Marisa Pavan
Robert Keith
Rodolfo Acosta
Charles Bronson
Warner Anderson
Elisha Cook Jr.
Anthony Caruso
Case Amaray-Opaque
RPI $14.95 Music Victor Young


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.55:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures Yes
Subtitles None Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

†††† It will be good news to lovers of classic films that Bounty Films have added three more interesting titles to their catalogue, each originally from a major Hollywood studio. From 20th Century Fox comes the 1967 comedy The Flim-Flam Man starring GGeorge C. Scott, Sue Lyon and Michael Sarrazin, delivered by Bounty in a sparkling anamorphic transfer very close to the original CinemaScope ratio of 2.35:1. From Universal comes the Audie Murphy 1958 western Ride a Crooked Trail, again the original CinemaScope width, and a good anamorphic transfer. Finally we have the 1954 Alan Ladd western Drum Beat originally released by Warner Brothers in 1954, the first offering from Ladd's Jaguar Productions. At Sydney's marvellous Hoyts Plaza, where the decor was so right for any western, Drum Beat filled the huge CinemaScope screen at 2.55:1, and was enhanced by "Genuine 4-Track Stereophonic Sound", then the norm for Hoyts presentations. Probably Bounty have used the best source currently available for this long unseen western, but while the image quality is acceptable, we get an anamorphic transfer at approximately 1.87:1, thus losing a considerable slice from each side of the image. The print still carries the Spanish translation Tambores de Guerra under the original title, so I assume the print used is the same as for a Region 2 Spanish DVD still listed by Amazon. Maybe someone in the Ladd family is holding better prints of his independent films - 1958's The Proud Rebel with Olivia de Havilland please - and one day we will have the final films of this major star available in better transfers.

†††† In 1932 at age nineteen Alan Ladd was an American diving and swimming champion when he became an actor at Universal. With a blonde, prettily handsome face and splendid athletic physique, the young would-be actor was only five feet five inches tall. Finding himself dropped by Universal after only four months he found employment as a grip at Warner Brothers, eventually making his way back in front of the cameras. After many bit parts, often unbilled as in the final scene of Citizen Kane, Alan Ladd found fame at Paramount in This Gun For Hire (1942). The actor's niche was to be the pretty tough guy, a persona that registered strongly with World War II audiences making Alan Ladd Paramount's biggest male star of the forties. Often paired with the similarly and suitably diminutive Veronica Lake, further successes came in The Glass Key, Two Years before the Mast, The Blue Dahlia, The Great Gatsby, Whispering Smith and Shane, George Stevens' classic 1953 western. After ten years, his looks and popularity waning, Ladd was out of his Paramount contract and, after a few years freelancing, the actor formed his own production company, Jaguar Productions.

†††† As unbilled producer Alan Ladd did an excellent job with the first Jaguar production, Drum Beat. He engaged as credited producer Delmer Daves, whose name appears on the credits of films as diverse as Dark Passage, An Affair to Remember and Broken Arrow, which in 1950 notably treated the Indian as a complex and sensitive individual, making a star of Jeff Chandler in the role of Cochise. Daves' screenplay for Drum Beat centred around the Modoc war, a lesser known conflict between the white newcomers and the Native Americans. "Based on historical fact" with "fictional incidents and characters ... introduced only where necessary to dramatize the truth", Davesí screenplay begins and ends with two historically accurate recreations, the first being the meeting between Johnny MacKay (Alan Ladd), "the best Indian fighter in the state of Oregon", and President Ulysses S. Grant (Hayden Rorke of I Dream of Jeannie). McKay leaves the meeting with orders from his president to negotiate with the Modocs of northern California and southern Oregon, and to escort lovely young Easterner Nancy Meek (Audrey Dalton) to the home of her uncle and aunt. Hindering McKay in his assignment is Modoc renegade Kintpuash (Charles Bronson), called by the "white men", Captain Jack. After various ambushes, treacheries and atrocities, McKay and Captain Jack confront one another in the climactic man-to-man fight with guns, knives and fists, their hand to hand combat ending in the sweeping cascades of a picturesque river.

†††† This is an extremely well made western. As he had done four years earlier in Broken Arrow, Daves' screenplay treats the native Americans with sensitivity, voicing interesting attitudes to a number of complex questions such as intermarriage. It appears that the budget was generous, as sets and locations are excellent, all grandly captured - though not quite so grand in this transfer - by cinematographer J. Peverel Marley, whose Warner Brothers credits included Life with Father, The Spirit of St Louis and House of Wax, the 3D original with Vincent Price and Charles Bronson, then Charles Buchinsky. Extras abound, with stretching lines of cavalry, and action scenes are genuinely exciting. Greatly enhancing the viewing experience is Victor Young's soaring and melodic score, which reaches some spectacular moments during large action scenes, even punctuating his work with integrated cannon fire. The cast is extremely good, with a mixture of old stalwarts, such as Hayden Rorke, Robert Keith, Warner Anderson, Elisha Cook Jr., and fresh younger faces. Audrey Dalton (My Cousin Rachel) looks lovely, and brings an intelligence not generally found in such a role, while Marisa Pavan (The Rose Tattoo), the twin sister of Pier Angeli, brings depth to her role as the noble savage, Toby - paired with the excellent Anthony Caruso as her brother. Unfortunately Alan Ladd looks rather bored and sullen through most of the film, only sparking in his final scene with Charles Bronson. Bronson, physically splendid and a star waiting to be born, steals the film, making the most of every second on screen.

†††† This is an impressive, exciting and thoughtful western, certainly better than it was thought at the time. Unfortunately the image quality of this transfer does the film a disservice, and we can only hope that one day a better print will surface. Some interesting titles are finding their way to the American public via MOD programs, and maybe that will happen for Drum Beat.

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Transfer Quality

Video

†††† As I have said in the body of the review, there are definite problems with this transfer. The original ratio of the film is given by the IMDB as 2.55:1, which would be accurate for this film, made in WB first year of CinemaScope production. This transfer used by Bounty is 1.87:1, with information lost at the sides of the image. There appears to have been some scanning involved, as there are a few momentary jumps at the beginning of some takes, which I attribute to a shift in the scan. There is also a slight fattening of the image, which does no favours to the already stumpy image of the leading man.

†††† The image, though better than watchable, is rather soft, with a consequent loss of detail. There is evidence of digital manipulation in the image, particularly with edge enhancement and pixelating of the water in the final fight in the river.

†††† The print is in very good condition, with only a few minor blemishes.

†††† The colour, Warnercolor, is reasonably good, with an attractively wide spectrum of colour. The spectacular scenery still looks impressive, even in this presentation, which is a tribute to mother nature, and the work of cinematographer J. Peverel Marley.

†††† There are no subtitles.

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

Audio

†††† There is one audio stream, Dolby Digital 2.0 surround encoded at 192 Kbps. The disappointing visuals of the disc are somewhat compensated for by the very good sound.

†††† Despite the fact that we do not have the full stereophonic experience audiences would have had at the initial screenings, what is left is very good indeed. Dialogue is crystal clear, front and centre without any sync problems. There is minimal use of the fronts for ambience, but occasionally we get a surprise from the rear channels in the form of a single gunshot or other effect. However, it is the music that absolutely sparkles. From the opening credits, with the corny but greatly enjoyable theme, Ned Washington's lyrics set to Victor Young's music and stirringly beefed out by a huge male chorus, every piece of music wraps around us from all speakers. Without any particular instance to mention, there is considerable bass depth to the music and the effects in general, particularly the cannon. Turn the volume up and the soundtrack will help you forget the inferior image.

†††† There was no apparent hiss or crackle and no dropouts.

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

Extras

†††† There is nothing on this disc apart from the film and its Main Menu.

Main Menu

†††† A coloured still with orchestral score over.

Censorship

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R4 vs R1

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

††† This rare title is not currently available in Region 1.

Summary

†††† There is much here for western lovers to enjoy. There is an iconic star - though his lustre was fading - and very high production values. The screenplay is thoughtful in its depiction of the native Americans, and performances from a well chosen supporting cast are fine. The scenery is magnificent and the action sequences very well staged. It has its dull moments, but there is a lot to enjoy in Drum Beat - particularly the wonderful Victor Young score in full surround. Though the transfer is anamorphic, the original CinemaScope image loses some of its width in a disappointing transfer.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Garry Armstrong (BioGarry)
Friday, October 28, 2011
Review Equipment
DVDSONY BLU RAY BDP-S350, using HDMI output
DisplaySamsung LA55A950D1F : 55 inch LCD HD. Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD player. Calibrated with THX Optimizer.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-DS777
SpeakersVAF DC-X fronts; VAF DC-6 center; VAF DC-2 rears; LFE-07subwoofer (80W X 2)

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