My Darling Clementine Blu-ray Review

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Auteur John Ford directs one of his most celebrated films

by Simon Crust Aug 15, 2015 at 4:16 PM

  • Movies review

    My Darling Clementine Blu-ray Review
    SRP: £20.00

    Film Review

    I ain't gonna kill you. I hope you live a hundred years...

    In My Darling Clementine former Dodge City marshal, Wyatt Earp, and his brothers are driving cattle near the lawless town of Tombstone. That night while Earp and his brothers are trying to get a shave, a wild drunk shoots up the town and the cowardly marshal refuses to do anything so Wyatt takes charge. On returning to his little brother left in charge of the herd and finding him murdered with all the cattle gone, Wyatt takes up the offer to become marshal of Tombstone, using his influence to bring the murders to justice. As the relations with the Clanton clan become ever more fractious, and more blood is spilled, a showdown at the O.K. Corral is the inevitable conclusion.
    Auteur, John Ford, directs one of his most celebrated films, telling the story of lawman Wyatt Earp in the lead up the O.K. Corral gunfight. Based largely on what is now known to be a fictitious biography of Earp by Stuart N. Lake, Ford’s retelling is itself even further removed (aside from the actual gunfight which was apparently told to him by Earp himself) but nevertheless encompasses much of what Ford stood for in his films about the West: relationships between men, their grip on law and the struggle between good and evil. All are discussed and make for a thrilling story. Henry Fonda as the titular character is stalwart in the role, but it is Ford’s storytelling and visual grandeur that propels the narrative into one of the Great Westerns.

    Picture Quality

    My Darling Clementine Picture Quality
    The discs present fullscreen 1.33:1 1080p transfers using the AVC codec and Region locked to B.

    Both the theatrical and pre-release version have had extensive restoration carried out by Criterion and Twentieth Century Fox, while Frontier Marshal has been re-mastered by Fox alone, and all three films are licenced to Arrow through Fox – they are the same prints used on the US releases of last year.

    All three prints are identical to their US respective releases

    Theatrical Version

    Has had the most extensive work carried out on it (scanned in 4K, cleaned up and graded) and consequently the image is clean, bright and detailed. Skin (and stubble) has decent texture, clothing has discernible weaves, the dusty trails look dirty enough to leave muck in your living room, and the saloon bar is slick enough to slide along. The clouds are pin sharp against the sky, while the landscape of Monument Valley is picture postcard perfect in its perspective. The dirt and grime of Tombstone, both the alleyways and frontier shop fronts, is tangible enough to peel off.

    Contrast and brightness are set to give extraordinary grey scale, with extremely good tone to the black level; night shots are pitch, while day shots benefit from added punch and depth to frame. Shadow detail is well catered for and the darkest portions never devolve into a murky mess.

    The original print has been extensively cleaned up exhibiting virtually no signs of dirt, scratches or tramlines. The frame is held very steady and there are virtually no signs of contrast/brightness wavering. Now, all the above has not been totally eliminated and there is the odd shot that does show some remnants of the film's age (one showing the stage coach carrying Doc Holliday on his escape down a steep slope has a prestigious drop in quality) but on the whole the re-mastering has brought the film into stunning high definition.

    The grain structure has mostly been retained, again a couple of instances of digital crawl, but for the most part it still has a nice organic feel and no unruly use of DNR to wipe the image clean, though blink and you’ll miss instances of softness are occasionally noticed. Digitally there were no compression problems, even the dust billowing over the screen does not descend into blocks, and edge enhancement was not an issue. Greyscale grading was fine with no posterization or banding; excellent stuff.

    Pre-release Version
    Slightly less work has been carried out (2K scan and clean up) but the image still looks remarkably good. One thing to note is the amount of damage that the image still retains, and this is throughout the runtime; nothing too onerous, but compared to the theatrical version, it is positively filthy! Brightness and contrast are set to give darker blacks, though the whole film is slightly darker in tone, and the clean-up tools have been used far less (hence the amount of damage), this, believe it or not, gives the image, to my eyes, an even greater sense of depth and presence with detail and grain structure having better definition. Digitally there were no compression problems, there is good grey scale grading but a whiff of edge enhancement was seen.

    Frontier Marshal
    Like the pre-release version this has had good restoration work along the same lines; detail is very good with contrast and brightness giving a good sense of depth and presence containing nice shadow detail. Original print damage is minimal and there is a decent grain structure with no digital artefacts.

    Sound Quality

    My Darling Clementine Sound Quality
    All three films have their respective original English LPCM 2.0 mono sound tracks and all have cleaned up well.

    The Theatrical Print, much the same as its video, has had the most clean up; it sounds clean, clear, well layered and natural. Dialogue is clear with good tonality and sits well within the mix. The score is strong while the effects are decent. Bass, as you would expect, is very limited, though the score and gunshots do benefit from good low end. It is free from hiss, pops and crackle and has no background noise or distortion even at reference.

    The Pre-release Print is a different sound track to the one above and has a good clean-up. It is not quite a clear as the theatrical though it is never muffled, but the top end is slightly lacking giving a tonally ‘thick’ sound to the voices; in some respects some might think this an improvement (perceivable bass extension) but it lacks the natural sound of the theatrical print. Effects and score fair just as well. The occasional pop and hiss are also apparent.

    Frontier Marshal is another good clean up, sound clear and precise. Dialogue is natural sounding and well layered into the mix with effects coming across with gusto, the score has a good range, though bass, again as you would expect is somewhat lacking.


    My Darling Clementine Extras
    Disc 1
    My Darling Clementine (Theatrical Version)
    Audio Commentary – Author Scott Eyman discusses the film, it’s themes, John Ford, the landscape, setting and themes in a somewhat dry and scripted, but nevertheless informative chat, while Earp’s grandson, Wyatt Earp III comments on the historical accuracy (or not) of the script.
    John Ford and Monument Valley – A 2013 documentary on the director’s lifelong association with Utah’s Monument Valley containing interviews with Peter Cowie (author of John Ford and the American West), John Ford, John Wayne, Henry Fonda, James Stewart and Martin Scorsese.
    Movie Masterclass – A 1988 episode of the Channel 4 series, devoted to My Darling Clementine and presented by Lindsay Anderson
    Lost and Gone Forever – A visual essay by Tag Gallagher on the themes that run through My Darling Clementine and the film’s relationship with John Ford’s other works
    Stills gallery
    Theatrical Trailer

    Disc 2 (Limited Edition Exclusive)
    My Darling Clementine (‘Pre-release’ Version) – Not a ‘director’s cut’ but a version closer to Ford’s original vision before being re-edited by the producer; contains slightly different scenes, a different sound track and most significantly an altered ending.
    Frontier Marshal – First adaptation of Stuart N. Lake’s largely factious biography of Wyatt Earp starring Randolph Scott and directed by Allan Dwan in 1939.
    What is the Pre-Release Version? – A documentary by Robert Gitt, Senior Film Preservation Officer at the UCLA Film and Television Archive, comparing the two versions of My Darling Clementine scene by scene and talks about the changes made by himself to preserve the flow of the feature.
    Two Radio Plays – A 1947 Lux Radio Theater adaptation of My Darling Clementine starring Henry Fonda as Earp and Richard Conte as Doc Holliday and a 1949 Hallmark Playhouse production in which Conte played the role of Earp
    Frontier Marshal Stills Gallery
    Frontier Marshall Theatrical Trailer

    40 Page Booklet – Containing new writing on My Darling Clementine by Kim Newman (author of Wild West Movies) and on Frontier Marshal by Glenn Kenny, plus an extensive archive interview with screenwriter Winston Miller, illustrated with original archive stills and posters
    Reversible Sleeve

    Blu-ray Verdict

    My Darling Clementine Blu-ray Verdict
    My Darling Clementine is regarded as one of director John Ford’s most accomplished pictures, filled to the brim, as it is, with his ideas, grandeur and themes of the Old West. The story is based on a largely fictitious biography of Wyatt Earp’s life, specifically the lawman’s time in Tombstone and the lead up and climatic gunfight at the O.K. Corral. With stalwart Henry Fonda in the lead role and ably supported by Linda Darnell, Victor Mature, Cathy Downs and Walter Brennan, Ford tells his story in the backdrop of Monument Valley giving the whole a feeling of epic scale. Peppered throughout with neat scenes that describe Ford’s obsession with the West and terrific ideas on law, order, good and evil – it is a testament to the film’s greatness that it is still so highly regarded today.

    Arrow have out done themselves with regard to the Limited Edition package

    As a Blu-ray set, Arrow have out done themselves with regard to the package. It contains two versions of the film; the theatrical cut, which is the one most people are familiar with, as well as a ‘pre-release version before it was re-edited and scored by the producer, as well as Frontier Marshal a 1939 retelling of the same story by Allan Dwan (three films in one limited edition set). All prints have been well restored; My Darling Clementine (both cut’s) by Criterion, so the picture is bright, clean and very filmic, and Frontier Marshal by Twentieth Century Fox; it also looks fine. The sound tracks of all three films are of the LPCM 2.0 mono flavour and all are well matched to their respective visuals. But that is not all; there is an exhaustive extras package that includes an audio commentary and documentaries about Ford, his themes and locations, video essays and a comparison piece between the two versions of the film, as well as a booklet with new essays. It is the limited edition that contains all this extra material and is the one that ought to be seen.

    You can buy My Darling Clementine on limited edition Blu-ray here

    Suggested retail price when reviewed: £20.00

    The Rundown



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