I have to be honest, when I think of director John Ford, I think about the films he made with John Wayne. I do think his best films were made with Wayne, but Ford’s career was ripe with well crafted movies without The Duke, such as the ones found in this collection. Warner’s John Ford Film Collection offers up five of Ford’s pictures made from 1934 to 1964, so quite a large portion of his career. I’d rank Cheyenne Autumn and The Lost Patrol as my personal favorites of those offered here, but each film is worth a look. Some have extras, some don’t, but for fans of Ford’s work, this release is recommended.
1. The Lost Patrol- In the midst of World War I, a unit of British soldiers marches through the desert, with only the captain aware of their mission. But when he is shot and killed, the others are left in the dark, in a strange place with no sense of direction. As the rest of the unit hunkers down, they learn the area they are in was once known as the Garden of Eden. But this is not paradise, as unseen assassins remain active at all times, striking out at the unit without hesitation. Whatever the mission was, the survivors now have only one mission, a plan to escape the area and remain alive. But in an unknown land, surrounded by seemingly invisible snipers, can any of the men stay alive and leave the desert behind?
2. Mary of Scotland- Mary Stuart, Queen of Scotland (Katharine Hepburn) rules over the lands of Scotland and France, an immense amount of power. But even so, she isn’t always able to control her own life as well as she would like, especially in matters of the heart. Just as she is embraced, then reviled by the people she rules over, she is often flattered, then betrayed by the men in her life. She is even seen as rival by her cousin Elizabeth I, ruler of England. When she chooses to marry the soft hearted Lord Darnley over the powerful Earl of Bothwell, Mary’s fate is all but sealed. Her palace is taken in a coup and with her life in danger, she escapes to England, but what fate awaits her there?
3. The Informer- Gypo Nolan (Victor McLaglen) has just earned himself twenty pounds, a sizable amount in his mind. With the money, he can live a little and enjoy himself, indulge himself. But the money didn’t come without a price and as Nolan soon learns, that price is steep. When a bounty was placed on the head of his friend Frankie McPhillip (Wallace Ford), Gypo did what no man should do to his friends, he betrayed Frankie. He turned over his friend to collect the bounty, under the assumption the cash would cancel out any consequences. But now Gypo is haunted by guilt and remorse, unable to escape what he had done. Over the course of a single night, his fate will be decided, but what will become of Gypo in the end?
4. Sergeant Rutledge- The U.S. Cavalry’s 9th and 10th regiments, also known as the Buffalo Soldiers, braved some dangerous situations. The units were awarded with numerous medals, including a fair share of Medals of Honor, but not all of these courageous men were treated like heroes. Sergeant Braxton Rutledge (Woody Strode) is a member of the 9th regiment, a good soldier with no past incidents or infractions of the rules. But now he stands on trial for rape and murder, with his very life at stake. The task of defense falls to Lieutenant Tom Cantrell (Jeffrey Hunter), who faces and uphill struggle if he is to prove Rutledge’s innocence. While the case seems against him from the start, soon witnesses begin to tell other sides of the events, which cast doubt on his guilt and even paint a whole new picture of what happened. What really happened to Sergeant Rutledge on that occasion and will the truth be revealed, to save his life?
5. Cheyenne Autumn- The Cheyenne natives have been driven from their land, brutalized in battle, and given poor treatment in the wake of all this upheaval. The group has pleaded for assistance, as food and medical care are in desperate need. But years and years of being ignored have proven to be enough, despite being decimated, the Cheyenne are leaving to return home. The Oklahoma reservation hasn’t been a solution, just more of a problem, so the group plans to trek fifteen hundred miles to the Yellow River area. The journey is dangerous, as both nature and man present many obstacles, from exhaustion to harsh weather to harassment from the cavalry, but still the Cheyenne push forward. As treacherous and perilous as this long journey is, will anyone manage to survive and see their home land once more?
Video: How does it look?
Cheyenne Autumn is shown in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen, while Sergeant Rutledge is 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen and the other three are presented in full frame, as intended. So several aspect ratios on showcase here and in each case, the intended formats have been preserved. Cheyenne Autumn has been restored and is more recent than most of the films here, so it looks the best. The films from the 1930s look solid, but show more tolls of time, as expected. Even so, Warner has provided more than acceptable presentations of these movies, so I doubt many will complain. Of course, restorations for all five films would have been nice, but I’m satisfied with these presentations.
Audio: How does it sound?
Again, Cheyenne Autumn is given the special treatment, as a Dolby Digital 5.1 option is present, while only mono soundtracks are offered on the other inclusions. But as I said before about the video, the treatments are solid across the board, so no worries. As we should expect, the 5.1 option provides a richer, fuller experience, but the other movies sound fine also. A little worn in the cases of the films from the 30s, but still reasonable and no major woes to mention. Sergeant Rutledge also offers a French language track, while all five films provide subtitles in English, Spanish, and French.
Supplements: What are the extras?
Even in the supplements, Cheyenne Autumn is given the better treatment. In addition to an audio commentary with author Joseph McBride, we also have a vintage featurette and the film’s theatrical trailer. You’ll also find a theatrical trailer on Sergeant Rutledge, a featurette and theatrical trailer for The Informer, but no extras on the others.