The Henry Fonda Film Collection (1939 – 1968/Fox DVD Box Set)
C+ Sound: C+ Extras: B Films: B-
Fonda was one of the biggest stars of the Classical Hollywood period and one of
several (like James Stewart) who became known for their strong connections to
what was considered Americana. He made many films for several studios
including 20th Century Fox and the new Henry Fonda Film Collection
has 10 of them, including three we previous covered and seven we were overdue
to finally look at.
include the following, including links where applicable.
five films show the growth of Fonda’s connection to Americana.
Nunnally Johnson’s Jesse James
(1939 with Tyrone Power and Randolph Scott), the spin-offish Fritz Lang’s The Return Of Frank James (1940 with
Gene Tierney and Jackie Cooper), John Ford’s Drums Along The Mohawk (1939 with Claudette Colbert, all Westerns),
Ford’s Great Depression classic The
Grapes Of Wrath (1940 in two versions here) and the now little-seen War drama
Immortal Sergeant (1943 with Maureen
O’Hara) from John Stall covered all the bases.
They are all good, watchable, Fonda is fine in all of them and they all
show Fox in early peak power.
grew quickly into the roles and narrative, always convincing as the underdog,
the hard worker, the worn out man or whatever else he tried out. His Western success quickly grew as Ford’s Stagecoach (1939) turned the B-Movie cycle
into a full-fledged genre. It also meant
the formula for and of a simple good/bad split was about to be challenged and as
key artists involved in the genre made more complex works. For Fonda, he would star in William A.
Wellman The Ox-Bow Incident (1943)
and Ford’s My Darling Clementine
(1946). You can read about Ox-Bow at this link:
the same DVD included in this set.
Clementine set up virgin/whore dichotomies for the women in the Classic
and Revenge Western and slowly started to take apart the myths and lies of the
West, including printing myth over facts and truth. Purists and traditionalists might not have
been happy, but it made for classic cinema and Fonda would continue in this
vein to films like Leone’s Once Upon A
Time In The West (now out in a great restored Blu-ray, see our DVD set coverage
elsewhere on this site) where he goes totally bad completing the deconstruction
of all good guy myths. In Clementine, he becomes the law but gets
enough power to get revenge for the murder of his brother. It holds up very well.
course, he also appeared in melodramas and Film Noirs. Otto Preminger’s Daisy Kenyon (1946) might not be a Film Noir outright, but it has
enough elements and he played opposite Dana Andrews and Joan Crawford. She plays a nice gal who is not so nice and
the film tries to have it both ways by being dark, but also being somewhat
melodrama-safe. All the actors are in
rare, top form and this film is a bit too underseen for my tastes.
covered the last two films and you can read about them at their appropriate
links. The Longest Day (1962)
The Boston Strangler (1968)
X 1 black and white image quality on The
Grapes Of Wrath, Immortal Sergeant, The Ox-Bow Incident, both versions of My Darling Clementine and Daisy Kenyon look good for the standard
definition format, but all deserve Blu-ray releases. The same can be said for the 1.33 X 1
three-strip, dye-transfer Technicolor images Jesse James, Drums Along The
Mohawk and The Return Of Frank James
which re-remind us how great the format was when it first arrived and how far
the best HD has to go to catch up with it.
anamorphically enhanced 2.35 X 1 black and white image on The Longest Day does not look as good as the Blu-ray, but is
passable here, while the anamorphically enhanced 2.35 X 1 DeLuxe color image on
The Boston Strangler holds up well,
but it too is overdue for Blu-ray.
have lossy Dolby sound including 1.0 Mono and bumped-up 2.0 Stereo for most of
the older films and Boston Strangler,
while Longest Day offers Dolby Pro
Logic surrounds for its 2.0 Mix that is very dated versus the DTS-MA 5.1
lossless on the Blu-ray.
include Original Theatrical Trailers for all respective films and the titles
reviewed before have the same extras. Jesse James adds two Movietone
News-related reels and trailers for other Fox Westerns. Drums
Along The Mohawk adds a Stills Gallery and exceptionally good feature length
audio commentary track by Julie Kirgo (who does all the essays for the Blu-ray
booklets of Twilight Time’s limited edition Blu-ray releases including many Fox
titles) and Nick Redman, The Grapes Of
Wrath adds a U.K. Prologue for their audiences to better understand the
film, a feature length audio commentary track by scholars Jim McBride and Susan
Shillinglaw, (continuing on the flip side of the DVD) Stills, Trailers for
other Fox DVDs, more Fox Movietone News shorts, a Restoration Comparison to
show how the film was fixed in 1993 and further upgraded in 2003 for this
release and a Biography episode on Darryl F. Zanuck.
The Return Of Frank James only has two trailers for other
Fox DVDs and not one for itself (?), Immortal
Sergeant adds four trailers for other Fox War Film DVDs, My Darling Clementine adds a feature
length audio commentary track by Scott Eyman and Wyatt Earp III for the theatrical
version on DVD Side A, while Side B adds Stills Gallery, the featurette What Is The Pre-Release Version featurette
hosted by Robert Gitt (just over 40 minutes long) for the original Ford cut of
the film and Daisy Kenyon adds a
Still Gallery, trailers for other Fox Noir DVDs, ‘Interactive’ Pressbook, two
featurettes (From Journeyman To Artist:
Otto Preminger At Twentieth Century Fox and Life In The Shadows: The Making Of Daisy Kenyon) and feature length
audio commentary track by scholar Foster Hirsch.
all, this is a great set that will keep you tied up with great films and great
extras for days.
- Nicholas Sheffo