As I’ve noted in my regular Watched Films posts, I recently got Warner’s 2009 collection of six John Ford films that feature John Wayne from 1945 to 1957. Although I got the set for just $16.99 during Amazon’s flurry of post-Thanksgiving/pre-Christmas DVD sales (I also got the Bogie & Bacall set for $17.99), today I finally watched the last film in the set. So, here’s a run-down of the set:
- They Were Expendable – 1945 – I saw this yesterday, so you can read my thoughts here.
- Fort Apache – 1948 – I loved this film. It’s the first of the ‘cavalry trilogy’ and stars Henry Fonda as well as Wayne. Fonda is absolutely marvelous as the head-strong, glory-seeking new commander of a cavalry unit and Wayne is great as his opponent, a grizzled veteran who knows the lay of the land.
- 3 Godfathers – 1948 – I wrote about this one here. It’s a lighter film and one that I enjoyed. Not a classic, but it is still a powerful film with a great last act.
- She Wore A Yellow Ribbon – 1949 – You can find my thoughts on this one here. It’s the second of the ‘cavalry trilogy’ and it is purely entertaining. The third film in the series, Rio Grande (1950), despite also being produced by Ford and Marian C. Kooper (of King Kong fame), was released by Republic Pictures and thus is not owned by Warner.
- The Searchers – 1956 – This is the headliner of the set. It’s the first one listed on the back and the only one with a second disc of bonus features. There really isn’t much for me to say about the film other than it is a masterpiece, there’s simply no denying it. It’s just a powerful film that can move anyone, even those who don’t enjoy westerns. (Coincidentally, this is the only film in the set that was actually released by Warner – …Yellow Ribbon and Fort Apache were released by RKO and The Wings of Eagles and They Were Expendable are from MGM.)
- The Wings of Eagles – 1957 – This is the worst film in the set and feels a little self-indulgent. It’s not as bad as I thought it would be, but the gaping plot hole of Spig’s wife (played by Maureen O’Hara) is too big for me to not point out. I mean, she gets upset that Spig decides to re-enlist after Pearl Harbor and… we subsequently never hear from her again. Sure, there is a little moment towards the end where Spig looks at photos of her and his daughters, reminiscing about them, but personally I didn’t feel like that was an adequate resolution. In the end, it’s still slightly enjoyable, but had it’s still easily a step under everything else in the set.
Aside from the films themselves, this set has close to nothing in every category – no inserts, hardly any extras and a package design that a two-year old with no Photoshop skills could design. Two of the discs (3 Godfathers and She Wore A Yellow Ribbon) are even single layered and all are housed in those flimsy, recyclable cases. Beyond the 15-minute Monument Valley feature on Fort Apache, the four minutes of home movies on …Yellow Ribbon and The Searchers‘s second disc, the only features are the trailers on each disc. Also included is Peter Bogdanovich’s Directed by John Ford documentary on its’ own disc (this is now available separately).
When I got this set, each film amounted to about $3. With Amazon selling it now for $23.99, it comes to about $4 a film. It’s still a great deal, considering the only one in the set you can find in stores is The Searchers and an even better deal if you’ve never seen any of them. For most of them, Warner will never bring them to BluRay or give them deluxe editions. The only one I’d like to see given a good re-issue is Fort Apache, though. Seeing that one alone made the set worth it. However, if you already own The Searchers and have no desire to dig deeper into Ford and Wayne’s careers, there’s not much reason for you to get this.