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Category:    Home > Reviews > Drama > Western > Great Depression > War > Melodrama > Film Noir > Murder > Thriller > Serial Killer > The Henry Fonda Film Collection (1939 – 1968/Fox DVD Box Set)

The Henry Fonda Film Collection (1939 – 1968/Fox DVD Box Set)


Picture: C+     Sound: C+     Extras: B     Films: B-



Henry 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.


Films include the following, including links where applicable.



The first 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.


Fonda 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:




That is 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.


Of 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.


We covered the last two films and you can read about them at their appropriate links.  The Longest Day (1962)



The Boston Strangler (1968)





The 1.33 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.


The 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.


All DVDs 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.


Extras 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 in all, this is a great set that will keep you tied up with great films and great extras for days.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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