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Category:    Home > Reviews > Adventure > Action > Drama > Comedy > Swashbuckler > Swords > Ships > Pirates > Nature > Literature > Crime > Ga > Black Swan (1942)/Call Of The Wild (1935/Fox Blu-rays)/Force Of Execution (2013/Anchor Bay Blu-ray w/DVD)/Jesse James (1939)/North To Alaska (1960)/The Undefeated (1969/Fox Blu-rays)

Black Swan (1942)/Call Of The Wild (1935/Fox Blu-rays)/Force Of Execution (2013/Anchor Bay Blu-ray w/DVD)/Jesse James (1939)/North To Alaska (1960)/The Undefeated (1969/Fox Blu-rays)


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



Genres can depend on several things for their identity and in some cases, they are defined by ideas and stereotypes of masculinity, which is more striking when comparing older films to newer releases. Here we have a new release we will juxtapose to reissues of classic hits recently issued in upgraded Blu-ray editions...



Henry King's Black Swan (1942) has Tyrone Power as a reformed pirate Jamie enlisted in and helping the legendary Captain Henry Morgan (yup, the one on the bottles of liquor, played here by Laird Cregar of This Gun For Hire) and finds himself suddenly interest of Lady Margaret Denby (Maureen O'Hara) so he kidnaps her! Part of an under-discussed cycle of sword, swashbuckler and adventure films that would also include the 1938 Adventures Of Robin Hood, Ben Hecht and Seton I. Miller co-wrote this high quality romp that also has a great supporting cast including George Sanders, Anthony Quinn, Thomas Mitchell and George Zucco that shows once again the top rate A-movie Fox was capable of making that put them up there with all the majors of the Classical Hollywood era.


The film may have dated in some ways and have some mixed moments, but this is some of Director King's best work and remains a very entertaining film. In that, I expected more extras, but we still get an exceptional feature length audio commentary track by Rudy Behlmer and Maureen O'Hara and the Original Theatrical Trailer.



We have previously reviewed these other Fox title on DVD in sets based on their stars, staring with Clark Gable in William Wellman's still-impressive adaptation of Jack London's Call Of The Wild (1935) from the Gable set we originally covered at this link:


http://www.fulvuedrive-in.com/review/4304/Clark+Gable+Collection+%E2%80%93+Volume+On


This holds up and again, I expected more extras, but we still get a feature length audio commentary track by Author Darwin Porter and Original Theatrical Trailer. Since this film, we have had several bad versions, including one in 3D! They usually try to hard, even sanding down the edges of the book to be safe family fare. This version does not.



Both of those films were smart adventure productions that were not heavy-handed with their portrayal of men and masculinity despite the chance to do so and being from a male-dominated so when we get feature-length narratives that go the other way, it can be embarrassing or even non-stop ideological confusion. Such is the case with the goofy, odd and mixed Keoni Waxman romp Force Of Execution (2013) which wants to be a rough guy fest, gangster genre piece and martial arts exercise, but is really, really, really bad at all of them.


Steven Segal is the head of a mob organization (if the lame-brained script had someone call him godfather one more time, Paramount and Mario Puzo's estate could have sued) giving one of his flattest and narrowest performances (that says something) while Ving Rhames and Danny Trejo show up in so-so supporting roles to boost the testosterone level. However, that cannot overcome the script or how much the whole project wastes co-star Bren Foster.


Bren is a kickboxing, mid-air-spinning, punching, chopping fighter who plays a guy who has not really done anything wrong to anyone, but for all his skills, keeps landing up in torture porn scenes including having his hand broken. The first such scene in this long, long, long 99 minutes ends any possibility this will work or do either the viewer or Mr. Foster any justice. He has enough to offer that if he had the proper opportunity, role and filmmakers, he could be a star. It will not happen off of this mess.


The only extra is a Behind The Story featurette and the DVD version if you wish to count it. Otherwise, you miss nothing and every genre and type of masculinity attempted is batched here.



Henry King also directed Jesse James (1939) with Power and Henry Fonda, a film that turned up on the Fonda DVD set we covered a while ago at this link:


http://www.fulvuedrive-in.com/review/12163/The+Henry+Fonda+Film+Collection+(1939+%E2%


It is not as good as Black Swan, but has its stars and is at least ambitious, yet I turn to it thinking it will age better somehow and it just disappoints instead. The year it was released, Hollywood's best, likely gives me that misimpression too. However, Randolph Scott shows up, making this even more of a Western than a crime drama and Fox went all out to make this, but it plays as much as a curio as anything.


Extras are minimal including two Fox Movietone Newsreel shorts tied to the film and Original Theatrical Trailer, but it could have used some kind of featurette if nothing else. If you see it, only expect so much.



Our final entries are two John Wayne films, Henry Hathaway's North To Alaska (1960) and Andrew V. McLaglen's The Undefeated (1969), both of which happen to appear on the same Fox/John Wayne DVD set we reviewed years ago at this link:


http://www.fulvuedrive-in.com/review/6974/John+Wayne


The other two films in that set, The Big Trail (1930) and The Comancheros (1961, reviewed elsewhere on this site on Blu-ray as well) were already issued in upgraded Blu-rays, so Wayne fans can upgrade in total. The films are mixed, but interesting widescreen productions meant to take advantage of the wide frame, Wayne and any of his co-stars like Fabian, Stewart Granger, Ernie Kovacs and Rock Hudson, so they reflect a changing masculinity and with Wayne's brand of being a tough guy, reflect changing times while still trying to hold onto old ones. However, some of this is obviously in vein and when viewed that way, both films have new sides to them.


Extras on both films include Original Theatrical Trailers, though Undefeated has several in various languages unlisted on the back of the case and Alaska adds a Fox Movietone Newsreel tied to the film.



To my surprise, the 1080p 1.78 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on the Force Blu-ray has more consistent definition and stability than it ought to considering it is darkened a bit, making it the best playback performer here. Being the newest entry by a few decades does not guarantee that, but it worked out that way this time, though the anamorphically enhanced DVD version is much softer and the poorest performer here, which makes sense being the only DVD on the list.


That leaves the Fox Blu-rays in a tie for second-place, all looking better than their DVD predecessors, but all with one slightly annoying common denominator. They are all a bit darker than they should be despite the restoration work done a few years ago on each, so definition, unnecessarily flatter Video Blacks and color range are held back slightly when they should have just been transferred as originally restored. That includes the 1080p 1.33 X 1 AVC @ 38 MBPS digital High Definition Technicolor image transfer on Black Swan, the 1080p 1.33 X 1 AVC @ 33 MBPS digital black and white High Definition image transfer on Wild, the 1080p 1.85 X 1 AVC @ 34 MBPS digital High Definition Technicolor image transfer on Jesse James, the 1080p 2.35 X 1 AVC @ 31.5 MBPS digital High Definition De Luxe color image transfer on Alaska and the 1080p 2.35 X 1 AVC @ 31 MBPS digital High Definition image transfer De Luxe color image transfer on Undefeated.


This especially effects the films issued in dye-transfer, three-strip Technicolor in subtle but unfortunate ways as if someone could not handle the formats range out of personal taste or a misunderstanding of its capacities. Hope any future Ultra HD editions will not repeat this.


The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 mix on the Force Blu-ray should be the best mix overall on this list for sound, but it can be too much towards the center channels, have dialogue recording limits and location audio issues, more problematic lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 on the DVD version. As a result, the DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) lossless mixes on Swan (1.0), Alaska (5.1) and Undefeated (a new upgraded 5.1 mix) can compete with the flaws of Force.


On the other hand, the DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) lossless mixes on Wild (1.0) and Jesse James (a new 5.1 upgrade) still show their age despite minimal gains over their lossy Dolby Digital DVD counterparts. I still though they sounded better than before just the same.



- Nicholas Sheffo


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