As a cineaste, I often find myself bumping up against the commonly held perceptions of great directors and having to evaluate my own feelings about these filmmakers and their films. John Ford is one of the great Hollywood directors whose films I often have the most trouble reconciling my thoughts about. Ford is certainly a greatly poetic and remarkable craftsman and certainly one of the best to stand behind the camera, but I cannot deny that I have issues with him and his approach to storytelling. Since they were contemporaries and both often used John Wayne, it's hard not to compare John Ford and Howard Hawks. I prefer Hawks by quite a bit and a lot of it has to do with his portrayal of female characters in his movies. Hawks films often feature stronger characters than the corresponding females in Ford films. While both directors often offer up females as figures to be rescued or saved, I feel like Ford is much more condescending about it somehow. To be fair, the prevailing public attitudes about women and "their place" may have been an influence on Ford, but I've always felt an imbalance in his movies on the male vs. female portrayal front. Ford certainly has some females in prominent and "strong-ish" parts in his films, but they often come off a bit shrill and shrewish to me. Both Ford and Hawks favor a lot of "man's man" type characters and camaraderie and that's understandable, but I always get a sense that Ford personally thought less of women based on the numerous portrayals of them in his movies. To be honest, I tend to think of Ford (despite some obvious sensitivity that comes through in his work) as a grumpy and frequently patronizing bully. I'm sure that similar accusations could be laid at the feet of Howard Hawks, but I just feel like there is more of a true romantic optimistic in him whereas Ford seems slightly embittered and melancholy. My other issue with Ford comes from an overarching sentimentality that I find in a lot of his films. It just really turns me off and takes me out of them. For me it basically comes down to Ford's movies ending up feeling more dated and old-fashioned because of his attitudes, whereas Hawks films mostly still play and hold up well even today. Apologies for the Ford character assassination here - I don't mean to say that I don't like his work (I absolutely do), but it is very much something I think about a lot and wrestle with as a movie fan.
THE QUIET MAN is, while not an exception, an interesting entry in his filmography in that Maureen O'Hara's character is one of the stronger females in any John Ford I can think of. The film also ends up emphasizing what I mentioned about feeling old fashioned in that it focuses very much on the romance between O'Hara and John Wayne's characters and how she is persistent about her viewpoint that he do things in the ways of old Irish traditions of courtship. I should explain that John Wayne plays Sean Thornton, an american boxer who returns to Ireland to purchase his old childhood house and ends up meeting an falling for a local Irish girl (O'Hara) and that their relationship is the centerpiece of the story. For all the negativity I've leveled at Ford above, I cannot and will never deny his power as a visual director. This greatly exemplified in his many western films, with their breathtaking Monument Valley backdrops as well as here in THE QUIET MAN. Though a good portion of the movie was made in a studio, there are many beautiful shots of Ireland locations that are just as lovely as anything Ford ever did. One particular scene shows Wayne coming back to the cottage where he grew up and all that needs to be conveyed about why he would want to come back is conveyed in the landscape and the expression on Wayne's face when he first sees the house again. It's one of Wayne and O'Hara's better performances and easily one of Ford's most romantic films so it is easy to see why it has endured of the years and has many passionate fans.
Being that this is another in the Olive Signature line, it comes with a healthy group of supplements:
-Mastered from 4K scan of original camera negative
-Audio commentary with John Ford biographer Joseph McBride
-Tribute to Maureen O'Hara with Ally Sheedy, Hayley Mills, and Juliet Mills
-"Don't You Remember It, Seánín?: John Ford's The Quiet Man" - a visual essay by historian and John Ford expert Tag Gallagher
-"Free Republic: The Story of Herbert J. Yates and Republic Pictures"
-"The Old Man: Remembering John Ford" - an appreciation of the director with Peter Bogdanovich
-"The Making of The Quiet Man" – Written and hosted by Leonard Maltin
-Optional English SDH subtitles
Buy the Olive Signature QUIET MAN Blu-ray here:
THE NIGHT OF THE GRIZZLY (1966; Joseph Pevney)
Having been a fan of "animals attack" or "nature gone wrong" movies for quite some time and having not seen this film made me quite curious about it. This one being from 1966 made me expect it to run a little slower than its counterparts from about a decade later, but it is interesting nonetheless. Clint Walker is one of those actors that has slowly grown on me as I've seen more of his work. His range can be a bit limited, but this is just the right kind of role for him. He plays Big Jim Cole, a retired sheriff and present-day family man who has who has brought his wife and daughters back to Wyoming to claim some land he inherited. The plan is to live out their days there peacefully, but Big Jim has two significant problems. The first comes in the form of a local rancher named Jed Curry (a very evil Keenan Wynn) who has designs on Jim's property and will do just about anything to get it. The second, as you might guess from the film's title, is an clever giant grizzly bear known as "Satan" who has been terrorizing Jim and his livestock and shows no signs of letting up. This movie takes some time to get going and has a good amount of setup (some of which is cushioned by folks like the great Jack Elam in a secondary role). About an hour in, a bounty hunter shows up that has a vindictive history with Jim Cole and things get more interesting. Both men want to kill the bear and Jim's ranch depends on him being the one to do it and collect the reward. The bounty hunter (played to psychopathic perfection by Leo Gordon) makes for one heck of a formidable but not caricatured villain along with the bear himself who is the other bad guy of the movie. One solid force of evil in a movie is enough to make it entertaining and engaging and this movie has three (if you count Keenan Wynn) so everything stacks up nicely for Clint Walker to overcome. There's some character death too, so that assists in bringing things up a notch dramatically in the last third of the movie. Those looking for something like GRIZZLY (1976) will be disappointed, but if you're willing to stick with it, this was a good time.
-New High-Definition digital restoration
-Audio Commentary by film historian Toby Roan
-"Blood on the Claw: How Cheyenne Bodie Became a Movie Star" - an essay by C. Courtney Joyner
-"The Legend of Big Jim Cole" – interview with Clint Walker
-The Night of the Grizzly World Premiere archival footage
-"At Home with Clint Walker and His Home Gymnasium" – archival interview
-Optional English SDH subtitles
Buy the Olive Signature NIGHT OF THE GRIZZLY Blu-ray here: