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What Price John Ford? September 5, 2007

Posted by John Hodson in : DVD News & Info, About John Ford , trackback

The news broke in New York Times columnist Dave Kehr’s blog some while ago; across ‘The Pond’, Fox is planning a quite spectacular film box set in tribute to one of the 20th century’s true giants of cinema, titled The Ford at Fox Collection.

Ford at Fox

Fox has taken a leaf out of Warners ‘Big Book of Marketing’ and began this drip feed of information back in June, a month later and at the new Fox Studio Classics site, up popped a review of The Iron Horse, one of the crown jewels of the set, which will apparently boast a score by Christopher Caliendo, the chap responsible for rescoring Peckinpah’s Major Dundee for Sony.

Now, today, we found out more details, courtesy of Movies Unlimited:

FORD HAD A BETTER IDEA: The diverse works of the great John Ford are on view in an incredible schedule of releases from Fox Video called The Ford At Fox Collection. This celebration of the master director’s labors for the studio will bring us many flicks from his folio that have never before surfaced in any home video format, much less on DVD.Most people know John Ford as the director behind such John Wayne classics as Stagecoach, Fort Apache, The Searchers, and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. But “Pappy’s” career encompassed several decades, beginning in the silent era. He worked on all sorts of films in all genres, which is evidenced in this impressive collection.

The Essential John Ford includes the currently available The Grapes Of Wrath, How Green Was My Valley, My Darling Clementine, and Drums Along The Mohawk, as well as the new documentary Becoming John Ford.

John Ford’s American Comedies includes Doctor Bull (1933), with Will Rogers as a country doctor whose affair with a widow causes waves in the area; and Judge Priest (1934), with Will as a judge trying to help his nephew find a girl and preside over a big case at the same time. When Willie Comes Marching Home(1950) offers Dan Dailey as a war hero whose reassignment to his hometown cause problems; and the prison break comedy-drama Up The River (1930) offers very early career showcases for Spencer Tracy and Humphrey Bogart. The previously available What Price Glory? and Steamboat ‘Round The Bend are also included.

John Ford’s Silent Epics includes Four Sons (1928), about how war affects a Bavarian mother and her quartet of boys; The Iron Horse (1924), a thrilling tale of building a railroad and a son’s vengeance for his father’s murder; 3 Bad Men (1926), where a trio of outlaws help a young woman when her father is killed; Hangman’s House (1928), a tale of a no-nonsense judge who meddles in his family’s affairs (look closely for John Wayne!); and Just Pals (1920), with cowboy star Buck Jones in a change-of-pace role as a ne’er-do-well who befriends a young boy who has been thrown off a freight train.

When Willie Comes Marching Home, The Iron Horse, Hangman’s House, 3 Bad Men, and Up The River will be available individually, as well as The Prisoner Of Shark Island (1936), centering on the doctor (Warner Baxter) who treated Lincoln assassin John Wilkes Booth, and his ordeals in prison; Pilgrimage (1933), in which a mother who disapproves of her son’s marriage enlists him in the army with disastrous results; and Born Reckless (1930), starring Edmund Lowe as the gangster who takes military service over a jail term and becomes a war hero.

The big shebang, however, is the voluminous Ford At Fox: Gift Set. ALL of the aforementioned Ford films are included, PLUS the following: The currently available Young Mr. Lincoln; Tobacco Road (1941), Erskine Caldwell’s rustic satire; the Shirley Temple vehicle Wee Willie Winkie (1937); the Madeleine Carroll costumer The World Moves On (1934); the WWI submarine saga Seas Beneath (1931); and the Loretta Young-David Niven adventure Four Men And A Prayer (1938). For good measure, you’ll be able to compare My Darling Clementine to Frontier Marshal (1939), Allan Dwan’s take on the Wyatt Earp legend starring Randolph Scott. These 25 films are contained on 20 DVDs in their own screw-bound folder. You’ll also get a hardback 172-page book, reproductions of souvenir books for The Iron Horse and Four Sons, and a separately packaged Becoming John Ford documentary, all packaged in a heavy duty vinyl box. This is easily one of the most impressive DVD packages of the year, if not ever!

I suspect that there are still many more goodies to be uncovered as Fox very sensibly, and cleverly, stokes up the anticipation of a legion of Ford fans; here’s hoping the reality meets those expectations. Ever the optimist, I’m willing to bet that Nick Redman’s feature length documentary, Becoming John Ford, will more than make up for his impoverished efforts in last year’s Sam Peckinpah boxset as Fox strives to set a new benchmark for quality, and we are sure to hear of more extra features in the coming weeks. Make no bones, though no official word has come on a final price for any of these titles (Dave Kehr reported the full box to be $299.98, but that could change), this will be an expensive set, relatively speaking, should the ‘big shebang’ be your choice. But while it involves duplicating several titles already sitting proudly on my shelves, this Ford fan is salivating at the prospect. It’s a gamble by Fox (offset by their decision to market the whole in subsets and single releases), should it pay off, there’s the dizzying prospect of other high end, cineaste targeted sets to come.

I’m saving my pennies even as I type…what price John Ford indeed?

Meanwhile for fans in the U.K., rights and other issues will no doubt mean that this set as announced above will not be making its way over here. In meagre compensation, Fox U.K. has announced a new line of film box sets - ‘Studio Stars’ - one of which will be devoted to Gene Tierney, inside the box will be Ford’s Tobacco Road, plus Thunder Birds, Laura, Leave Her To Heaven and The Ghost and Mrs Muir. By the way, other ‘Studio Stars’ sets will apparently be devoted to Gregory Peck and Tyrone Power, John Wayne, Marlon Brando, Elvis Presley and Annette Funicello, though I would hazard a guess that each will involve a deal of double-dipping to get at the one or two titles that have been previously unreleased.

On October first in the U.K. Fox will release a John Ford Collection, comprising of three previously released titles The Grapes of Wrath, My Darling Clementine and The Horse Soldiers, the latter included under Fox’s marketing deal with MGM. And Universal jumps in on the act on November 5 with the John Ford Director’s Collection: The Informer, The Fugitive, Mary Of Scotland, and Wagon Master.

Whoa, you might (or might not) say, The Fugitive and Wagon Master? However, dear reader, I would remind you that this is Universal U.K. we are talking about, whose every single R2 release of films held and released by Warners in R1 has been outshone by their U.S. equivalents (don’t expect transfers to equal the R1 The Informer or Mary of Scotland), and to whom quality can sometimes be a stranger. Oddly, and frustratingly, enough in the U.S., Universal is becoming one of the more reliable distributors of film on DVD with some quite excellent transfers in the last couple of years. While we should not prejudge, my money is on the U.K. leopard simply not changing it’s spots. We do, though, live in hope. Don’t expect any worthwhile extras in either box.

*September 6 update; full details on The Ford At Fox Collection have now been posted at the Fox Studio Classics website here.

More Things To Come?

A couple of snippets while I’m here; Criterion has admitted officially that they now hold the rights to such Alexander Korda titles as Things to Come, Rembrandt, The Private Life of Henry VIII, The Lion Has Wings and Lady Hamilton and will be getting to them ‘at some point’. As much as I admired Network’s recent R2 Things To Come SE, with it’s much improved transfer over the previous DDHE edition, and excellent extras, I can’t help wondering what else can be teased out by Criterion, especially with a view to the soundtrack and Arthur Bliss’s wonderful score.

One Korda film that is definitely coming from Criterion however is the sumptuous The Thief of Bagdad which is on their 2008 schedule; now that is a truly lip-smacking prospect.

I understand that there’s good news for fans of the aforementioned DD Home Entertainment; the company went into administration recently just as their titles from the licensing deal with Sony / Columbia - including the Special Edition of Night of The Demon and that slate of Hammer films I mentioned earlier in the year - were going into production. DDHE has since been rescued by the Simply Media Group and hopes to be back up and running at the end of this month as Simply Home Entertainment. What is still uncertain is the status of that now stalled licensing deal, and the deal DDHE held with Granada Ventures, which is thought to have ended the moment administrators took over.

I’m keeping both fingers and toes crossed, if only for Ford’s Gideon’s Day.

Finally, it’s probably apt I leave you with a John Ford bargain. They’ve also been rather troubled recently, but the signs are good that they are getting back on an even keel - CD Wow is selling the excellent Masters of Cinema disc of John Ford’s The Prisoner of Shark Island for only £6.99 if you use the DVD Forums affiliated link I’ve provided; a beautiful transfer with excellent extras, it’s well worth it, even if the film is part of that humongous Fox box. In fact, use the link and type ‘Masters of Cinema’ into their search box, up will pop a whole raft of bargains. Happy hunting!

Comments»

1. davekehr.com - September 5, 2007

[…] Courtesy of John Hodson’s blog at Film Journal, some more details about the big Fox Box o’Ford that I’m looking forward to with probably excessive expectations. John reprints a press release from Movies Unlimited: FORD HAD A BETTER IDEA: The diverse works of the great John Ford are on view in an incredible schedule of releases from Fox Video called The Ford At Fox Collection. This celebration of the master director’s labors for the studio will bring us many flicks from his folio that have never before surfaced in any home video format, much less on DVD.Most people know John Ford as the director behind such John Wayne classics as Stagecoach, Fort Apache, The Searchers, and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. But “Pappy’s” career encompassed several decades, beginning in the silent era. He worked on all sorts of films in all genres, which is evidenced in this impressive collection. […]

2. From the Cheap Seats… » Ford at Fox; The Wait is Almost Over… - November 30, 2007

[…] You’ll find details of the set in this earlier post, but as the great day approaches more information is coming out. Dave Kehr has got at least some of his review discs, and I’m heartened by his comments posted in response to that blog entry on the condition of Drums Along The Mohawk, a Ford film that rarely gets the plaudits of Pappy’s miraculous Fox output of only a year later, but which I think is a quite remarkable piece of work. […]


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