The Alamo (1960)

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Released 23-Aug-2000

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Western Theatrical Trailer-2.35:1 (non-16x9), Dolby Digital 2.0
Featurette-John Wayne's Alamo
Booklet
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1960
Running Time 155:02 (Case: 154)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (96:52) Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By John Wayne
Studio
Distributor

Twentieth Century Fox
Starring John Wayne
Richard Widmark
Laurence Harvey
Frankie Avalon
Patrick Wayne
Linda Cristal
Joan O'Brien
Chill Wills
Ken Curtis
Carlos Arruza
Jester Hairston
Joseph Calleia
Richard Boone
Case DV-4
RPI $31.95 Music Dimitri Tiomkin


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (192Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (192Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (192Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.20:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
English for the Hearing Impaired
German for the Hearing Impaired
Dutch
Portuguese
Swedish
Danish
Norwegian
Finnish
Polish
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    The Alamo is set in 1836, a time when the Mexican government had control of the American state that is known as Texas, in spite of the fact that the citizenry was made up of many nationalities.

    A Mexican general by the name of Santa Anna (Ruben Padilla) was heading north across Mexico towards Texas, destroying anyone who would constitute opposition. Colonel William Travis (Laurence Harvey) is given the task of keeping the Mexican General busy until General Sam Houston (Richard Boone) can put together a regiment with which to fight Anna. To cut a long story short, the situation reaches a climax with just over a hundred American soldiers, Colonel Davy Crockett (John Wayne) and Colonel Jim Bowie (Richard Windmark) among them, facing off against the several thousand under Santa Anna's command.

    The story is a typical testament to the bravery shown in battles by the American Colonists in the days when the United States were anything but. In any case, the film contains a great deal of personality conflicts and skirmishes that lead up to a climactic final battle.

    Those of you who have read my review of Red River will know that I am not a fan of the American-made Western, but this is an example of the genre done in a manner that approaches being right. Sure, some of the dialogue is rather silly, and the obligatory John Wayne philosophy speech is not only present and accounted for, but is by far one of the most chuckle-inducing examples thereof. The brief use of a romantic subplot seems completely unnecessary, and I am sure that I am not the only one who feels that a further fifteen minutes or more could have been excised from this film. I cannot help but much prefer the lack of speech in the Spaghetti Western, as it is impossible to imagine the combatants of the nineteenth century speaking in the manner they do in this film.

    While we're on the subject of judicious editing, several versions of this film exist in the USA right now: A 192-minute roadshow version, a 167-minute edit, and a 140-minute re-release that was issued in 1967. Judging from the running time of this DVD, it would appear to be a PAL transfer of the 167-minute edited version, which would seem to be the definitive version from what I am able to make out. As is the case with most Westerns, the film is riddled with clichés and stereotypes, or performances that have become either of those two things in the years since the film was released. Still, it is easy to understand why this is considered to be one of the classic Westerns, and if you're not put off by the glorified view of the Colonial Americans, then this film is worthy of a look.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    Having just reviewed Red River, a fifty-two year old film from the same studio, I was pleasantly surprised to see that a forty year old film comes up remarkably well when produced by someone other than Columbia Tristar. Certainly, the film is not without its flaws, but this transfer is surprisingly easy to look at considering its age.

    The transfer is presented in the aspect ratio of 2.35:1, and it is 16x9 enhanced. This is slightly wider than the proper theatrical aspect ratio of 2.20:1, if you're particuarly fussy about that sort of thing.

    The transfer is as sharp and detailed as the film stock and photographic conditions allow, with a surprising clarity in the foreground that makes for a pleasant viewing experience. The shadow detail is fairly good for a film of this age, with all of the important details being well-lit in order to counter the lack of detail that comes from photographing unlit areas with a 1960s camera. There was no low-level noise at any point in the transfer.

    The colour saturation is typical of the time in which the film was shot, with a certain dullness being apparent.

    MPEG artefacts were not noted at any point in the transfer, with the lack of activity in most of the backgrounds making for imagery that would be more easily compressed. Film-to-video artefacts are a moderate problem from time to time, with hat brims and fine-lined Colonial furniture displaying a small amount of aliasing for a few minutes spread around the film. Some wobble, not necessarily of the telecine variety, is apparent during panning shots, with a shot of the Mexican regiment from 50:22 to 50:27 being the most noticeable example. Film artefacts were also a bit of a problem here and there, with medium sized scratches and lumps of dirt appearing on the picture for a few frames every now and again. However, when all is said and done, I have certainly noticed much younger films look a lot worse than this.

    This disc is presented in the RSDL format, with the layer change taking place between Chapters 25 and 26, at 96:52. This layer change was only noticeable because of the way my amplifier handled the brief change in the sound encoding, and it occurs in a natural fade to black that occurs between scenes. It is therefore completely non-intrusive.

Audio

Just as the video transfer mostly defies its age, the audio transfer also sounds a lot younger than it probably should.

    The transfer is presented in a choice of five soundtracks, with the original English dialogue in Dolby Digital 2.0 with surround-encoding. There are four foreign-language dubs, with a choice of German, French, Spanish, and Italian in Dolby Digital 2.0 that sounds like mono in spite of the redirection to two channels. I listened to the default English dialogue, while taking the time to sample some dialogue in German and Spanish for good measure.

    The dialogue was perfectly clear and easy to understand at all times, with every speech by John Wayne being unusually well-amplified. Audio sync didn't appear to be a problem either at the transfer or recording level.

    The score music by Dimitri Tiomkin is much like that which he contributed to Red River, with a warm, bouncy feel that made me think of a certain rendition of the theme from Rawhide as performed by the Blues Brothers in the film of the same name. As score music goes, you could certainly do a lot worse than this film, even if the themes used have a certain ring to them. A soundtrack CD is apparently available in the USA, which might be worth investigating considering the positive comments it has received from fans of the film.

    The surround presence of this film is somewhat limited, with the surround information being monophonic in nature, as you'd expect from such an old film. Some music found its way into the rear channels, as did some minor ambient sound. Fundamentally, this was simply a stereo mix with some support from the surround channels to create a more immersive listening experience than the original theatrical exhibition could probably provide. The subwoofer received some minor redirected signal during the battle scenes, but one could have easily turned off the subwoofer and not noticed any difference.

Extras

Menu

    The menu is another static design with a vague thematic relevance to the film. It appears to be 16x9 enhanced.

Theatrical Trailer

    Clocking in at three minutes and twenty-two seconds, this is a rather unusually long theatrical trailer for the time. It is presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1, without 16x9 enhancement. The sound appears to be Dolby Digital 2.0 mono, and the trailer has enough film artefacts to give you a good idea of what the black rain described by a survivor of the Hiroshima bombing in the film of the same name looked like.

Featurette - John Wayne's Alamo

   This featurette, which is not listed anywhere on the packaging, clocks in at forty-one minutes and thirty seconds. Essentially, it is a documentary about the many intricacies involved in making the film. It is presented in various aspect ratios (1.33:1 and 2.35:1) without 16x9 enhancement. The audio is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo. Generally, this featurette is of similar quality as the film itself, until footage from said film is shown, whereupon it takes on similar qualities to the Theatrical Trailer.

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 version of this DVD misses out on;

    An extended version of this film was meant to be released at some time in 2001, but it does not appear to have surfaced as yet. This makes the Region 1 version slightly preferable for the Dolby Digital 5.1 remix and the correct aspect ratio.

Summary

    The Alamo is an excellent example of the Western, a genre I've never really liked, in that I can enjoy the film in spite of itself.

    The video quality is excellent for a film of this age.

    The audio quality is very good for a film of this age.

    The extras are somewhat limited.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Dean McIntosh (Don't talk about my bio. We don't wanna know.)
Friday, June 16, 2000
Review Equipment
DVDGrundig GDV-100D/Toshiba 2109, using S-Video output
DisplaySamsong CS-823AMF (80cm)/Panasonic TC-29R20 (68 cm). Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationSony STR DE-835
SpeakersPanasonic S-J1500D Front Speakers, Philips PH931SSS Rear Speakers, Philips FB206WC Centre Speaker, JBL Digital 10 Subwoofer

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