Drums Along the Mohawk (Blu-ray)
Twilight Time / 1939 / 104 mins / NR
We tend to go gaga over new directors whose first films are huge successes; they are the wunderkinds that we will follow every move anxiously waiting (and expecting) a new cinematic work of art each and every time they attach their name to something. But for every Orson Welles and Christopher Nolan there are dozens of filmmakers who worked up through the ranks for years before hitting the big time. One such director from the golden age of movies is legendary Western director John Ford.
1939 was certainly the year Director John Ford arrived. He directed not one, not two, but three certifiable classics in that magic year alone: STAGECOACH redefined the Western genre for decades to follow; YOUNG MR. LINCOLN teamed Ford with a young Henry Fonda in one of his earliest successes; and finally DRUMS ALONG THE MOHAWK brought Ford and Fonda together for one of 20th Century Fox's biggest Technicolor event films of the decade. It may seem that Director John Ford burst onto the scene in 1939 with this trifecta, but he had already made dozens upon dozens of films dating back to 1917. It was a long and hard 20 plus years before director John Ford became Director John Ford.
Whereas his earlier black and white STAGECOACH chronicled a single fateful trip in the titular vehicle, DRUMS ALONG THE MOHAWK spans the final five years of the Revolutionary War in vivid color. Newlyweds Gilbert and Lana Martin (Fonda and Claudette Colbert) arrive in their new home, a small cabin in the Mohawk River Valley to start a new life. However, the west is still wild and hardship hits the couple at every single turn. From Indian attacks to conniving Tories, the Martins go through a seriously tough five year stretch in this film.
DRUMS ALONG THE MOHAWK benefits tremendously from the one-two punch of Ford and Fonda. Fonda plays the type of character that will define him throughout his career: the salt of the earth everyman. His Gilbert Martin is a decent, kind, hardworking soul that is immediately identifiable to everyone, but he is no pushover. He will stand up and fight for what he believes in and Fonda drives this persona home in every scene.
Ford brings his years of directing talent with him showing that he has truly become a master storyteller. DRUMS ALONG THE MOHAWK is episodic by nature but Ford keeps a rhythm and a pace that makes the movie feel as though it is one continuous story time frame rather than the start-stop-start-stop feeling so many films covering this length of time have. DRUMS ALONG THE MOHAWK may not be the first film to come to a movie lover's lips when discussing John Ford, but it is by no means a title to be ignored or forgotten.
If THE WIZARD OF OZ didn't already leave me speechless at the wonder and glory of a 75 year old films' restoration, DRUMS ALONG THE MOHAWK certainly would. This is a magnificent looking 1.33 transfer. Colors are bright and vivid, blacks are rich and inky and the detail simply astonishes. Films made 20 and 30 years later don't look this jaw-dropping.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 mono soundtrack may not blow your mind as much as the picture quality, but I defy you to find anything wrong with it. Dialogue is remarkably crisp and clear and Alfred Newman's lush score sounds perfect. Twilight Time has released some spectacular looking discs so far, but a title this old looking this good is nothing short of a cause to celebrate.
Film historian Julie Kirgo and BECOMING JOHN FORD director Nick Redman deliver and very analytical commentary track.
BECOMING JOHN FORD is a full 90-minute documentary from 2007 about the maverick director. Covering his entire career, this is a very informative film but I also found it to be on the dry side. A LOT of people chime in on the director and while I do highly recommend it, I also say be prepared for a more academic documentary rather than an entertainment based one.
The original theatrical trailer rounds out the goodies.
** Twilight Time's signature supplement, the isolated music score, is not included as the original music track is considered lost. **
A stunning blu-ray release of an early masterpiece, Twilight Time has delivered the definitive DRUMS ALONG THE MOHAWK. Highly Recommended!
** DRUMS ALONG THE MOHAWK is available exclusively via www.screenarchives.com... an excellent soundtrack and film specialty site **