This round 20th Century Fox Studio Classics releases gives a wide range of movies for any fan of the era going from the 1930s to the 1960s. Each movie provides excellent video and audio transfers and although the features are limited, those with commentary tracks are well worth listening to.
20th Century Fox Studio Classics (1935-1969)
Genre(s): Drama, Western, Various
Fox | NR – NA min. – $24.99/each | December 3, 2013
MOVIE INFO (CALL OF THE WILD):
Directed by: William Wellman
Writer(s): Gene Fowler, Leonard Praskins (screenplay)
Cast: Clark Gable, Loretta Young, Jack Oakie
Theatrical Release Date: August 9, 1935
MOVIE INFO (JESSE JAMES):
Directed by: Henry King
Writer(s): Nunnally Johnson (screenplay)
Cast: Tyrone Power, Henry Fonda, Nancy Kelly
Theatrical Release Date: January 27, 1939
MOVIE INFO (THE BLACK SWAN):
Directed by: Henry King
Writer(s): Seton Miller (adapted by), Ben Hecht and Seton L. Miller (screenplay)
Cast: Tyrone Power, Maureen O’Hara
Theatrical Release Date: December 4, 1942
MOVIE INFO (THE GHOST AND MRS. MUIR):
Directed by: Joseph L. Mankiewicz
Writer(s): R.A. Dick (novel); Philip Dunne (screenplay)
Cast: Gene Tierney, Rex Harrison, George Sanders, Natalie Wood
Theatrical Release Date: May 1947
MOVIE INFO (CARMEN JONES):
Directed by: Otto Preminger
Writer(s): Harry Kleiner (screenplay)
Cast: Harry Belafonte, Dorothy Dandridge, Pearl Bailey
Theatrical Release Date: October 28, 1954
MOVIE INFO (DESK SET):
Directed by: Walter Lang
Writer(s): William Marchant (play); Phoebe and Henry Ephron (screenplay)
Cast: Spencer Tracy, Katharine Hepburn
Theatrical Release Date: May 1, 1957
MOVIE INFO (NORTH TO ALASKA):
Directed by: Henry Hathaway
Writer(s): Laszlo Fodor (play “Birthday Gift”), John Kafka (idea); John Lee Mahin, Martin Rackin and Claude Binyon (screenplay)
Cast: John Wayne, Stewart Granger, Ernie Kovacs, Fabian
Theatrical Release Date: November 7, 1960
MOVIE INFO (THE UNDEFEATED):
Directed by: Andrew V. McLaglen
Writer(s): James Lee Barrett (screenplay)
Cast: John Wayne, Rock Hudson
Theatrical Release Date: November 27, 1969
Features: Audio Commentaries, Movietone News, Theatrical Trailers
Number of Discs: 1/movie
Call of the Wild – English (DTS-HD MA 1.0)
Jesse James, The Ghost and Mrs. Muir – English (DTS-HD MA 5.1), English (DTS-HD MA 1.0), Spanish (Dolby
Digital 1.0), French (DTS 5.1)
The Black Swan – English (DTS-HD MA 1.0), Spanish (Dolby Digital 1.0), French (Dolby Digital 1.0)
Carmen Jones – English (DTS-HD MA 4.0), Spanish (Dolby Digital 1.0)
Desk Set – English (DTS-HD MA 1.0), Spanish (Dolby Digital 1.0)
North to Alaska – English (DTS-HD MA 4.0), Spanish (Dolby Digital 1.0), French (DTS 4.0)
The Undefeated – English (DTS-HD MA 5.1), English (DTS-HD MA 1.0), Spanish (Dolby Digital 1.0), French (DTS 5.1)
Video (All in 1080p):
Call of the Wild, Jesse James, The Black Swan, The Ghost and Mrs. Muir – Full Frame 1.33
Carmen Jones – Widescreen 2.55
Desk Set, North to Alaska, The Undefeated – Widescreen 2.35
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish
Disc Size: NA
Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Note: This is a quick review of the 8 Blu-rays released by Fox as part of their “Studio Classics” series. There’s going to be some repetitiveness with the audio and video sections but it gives you an idea on the quality and whether or not the title(s) you’re interested in is worth buying.
Call of the Wild (1935)
Clark Gable stars in this searing adaptation of the celebrated Jack London novel. Jack Thornton (CLARK GABLE) is a prospector who travels the Yukon in search of gold. When Jack buys Buck, a strong and loyal sled dog with part wolf ancestry, their thrilling adventure through the Alaskan wilderness begins.
Jesse James (1939)
Tyrone Power stars as the daredevil bandit who galloped out of the Ozarks and into American folk history with his guns blazing. Jesse James is forced outside the law after ruthless agents for the coming transcontinental railroad kill his mother and steal his family’s land. Together with his brother Frank (HENRY FONDA), Jesse forms a gang of masked outlaws to strike back at the railroad company and the banks that swindle oppressed farmers.
The Black Swan (1942)
Tyrone Power and Maureen O’Hara cross romantic swords in this epic Oscar-winning blockbuster. Reformed pirate Jamie Boy (POWER) is supposed to be helping the new governor of Jamaica rid the Caribbean of black-hearted buccaneers. But when he falls head over keel for Lady Margaret (O’HARA) he kidnaps her and sets sail for the adventure of a lifetime.
The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (1947)
Newly widowed Lucy Muir (GENE TIERNEY) moves with her daughter (NATALIE WOOD) into a seaside cottage haunted by the handsome Captain Gregg (REX HARRISON). Lucy eventually captures the captain’s heart, but their spirited love affair is challenged by a flesh-and-blood suitor.
Carmen Jones (1954)
Dorothy Dandridge delivers a star-making performance in the title role, as a femme fatale who seduces a handsome soldier (HARRY BELAFONTE), setting in motion a classic tale of betrayal and jealousy. With the music of Georges Bizet and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II, this musical feast sets the screen on fire with passion.
Desk Set (1957)
Bunny Watson (KATHARINE HEPBURN) heads up the research department at a TV network. Richard Sumner (SPENCER TRACY) arrives to introduce computers into the department. When electricity sparks between Bunny and Richard, Bunny’s boyfriend Mike (GIG YOUNG) is not happy. As the tension mounts in the office, so do the laughs.
North to Alaska (1960)
Sam (JOHN WAYNE) and George (STEWART GRANGER) finally hit the mother lode while prospecting in Alaska. In search of a sweetheart for George, Sam brings a saloon dancer (CAPUCINE) back to Nome – but the plan goes awry when Sam falls in love too.
The Undefeated (1969)
To explore uncharted territories and begin new lives, Union cavalry officer John Henry Thomas (JOHN WAYNE) leads his men west while southerner James Langdon (ROCK HUDSON) takes his soldiers to Mexico. When the two forces find themselves caught between Mexican rebels and the Emperor’s army, they must fight side by side to survive.
Call of the Wild — 1.5/5
Commentary by Author Darwin Porter – The track is what could be referred as scholarly and although Porter does provide some useful info, it’s a dry track in need of additional participants. The Theatrical Trailer (1:45) is also provided.
Jesse James — 0.5/5
Only items on the disc are two Fox Movietone News for “Jesse James at the Roxy” (0:33) and “Hollywood Spotlight” (1:26) and the Original Theatrical Trailer (2:14).
The Black Swan — 1.5/5
This comes with a revealing Commentary by Rudy Behlmer and Maureen O’Hara where both participants use each minute to provide BTS factoids and other bits if info; and the Theatrical Trailer (2:02) is also included.
The Ghost and Mrs. Muir — 2.0/5
The disc comes with Two Audio Commentaries, the first with Greg Kimble (visual effects supervisor) and Christopher Husted (historian); and the second with Jeanine Basinger (film historian) and Kenneth Geist (Mankiewicz biographer). Each one of the participants was recorded separately but gives some interesting trivia about the movie. Also included is the Theatrical Trailer (2:39).
Carmen Jones — 0.5/5
The only feature is the Theatrical Trailer (2:47).
Desk Set — 1.75/5
|Features include an Audio Commentary with actor Dina Merrill (Sylvia Blair) and John Lee recorded separately with Lee providing a historical perspective and Merrill giving a BTS view; a Fox Movietone News: Designers Inspired for New Creation by film Desk Set (0:59); and a Theatrical Trailer (2:19).
North to Alaksa — 1.0/5
The only features are a Fox Movietone News: North to Alaska Premiere Besieged by B’way Throngs (0:50) and the Theatrical Trailer (3:00).
The Undefeated — 0.5/5
Only features are the Theatrical Trailer (3:01), Spanish Trailer (3:01) and the Portuguese Trailer (3:01).
Call of the Wild — 4.5/5 | 4.0/5
The oldest film of this selection (78 years as of this writing), Call of the Wild looks pretty pristine on Blu-ray; any dust and dirt looks to have been removed while still keeping the integrity of the picture. Detail levels are quite good and the B&W elements look stark.
While only a DTS-HD MA Mono track, it’s obvious good work was done on the audio. Given all action is centrally located, it might not be a dynamic track, the audio is clear and any pops or crackles weren’t apparent and dialogue is clear throughout.
Jesse James — 4.0/5 | 4.25/5
The film arrives on Blu-ray with a good-looking 1080p high-definition transfer shown in its original 1.33 full frame aspect ratio. Colors here look pretty good and, considering the age, as vibrant as possible without tampering too much. Black levels also look good and I didn’t notice any major instances of dust marks or scratches.
On the audio front, you get the choice of a 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track (default) or, for more authenticity, a 1.0 track. I went back and forth between the two and I probably prefer the mono one as the multi-channel option seems to only spread the audio through the five channels and doesn’t offer much depth. Still, either way, it’s a nice sounding upgrade.
The Black Swan — 4.5/5 | 4.0/5
The movie comes to Blu-ray presented with a 1080p high high-def and in its original 1.33 full frame presentation. The colors are especially vibrant being one of the early Technicolor releases and detail levels are nice and sharp without seemingly overly tinkered with.
The disc comes with a regular DTS-HD Master Audio Mono track which gets the job done with crisp and clear dialogue levels while any audio effects still is dynamic enough, though it’s nothing incredible.
The Ghost and Mrs. Muir — 4.75/5 | 4.5/5
TGAMM debuts on Blu-ray shown in stark black & white and looks absolutely brilliant. It appears Fox, or which company they outsourced the restoration to, did a fantastic job as the picture retains its natural film grain yet no major instances of dust marks, scratches or other ailments that plague older movies.
Similarly, the movie includes two lossless tracks: 5.1 and 1.0 DTS-HD Master Audio tracks, both offering their own substance. Of course, the highlight for both is Oscar winner (for All That Money Can Buy, also nominated for Citizen Kane and Taxi Driver) Bernard Herrmann’s incredible score but dialogue sounds clear throughout and even the 5 channel track is quite dynamic and doesn’t top out as I expected.
Carmen Jones — 4.25/5 | 4.25/5
The movie makes its arrival on Blu-ray presented with a near-stellar looking 1080p high-definition transfer. CJ is shown in its original 2.55 widescreen aspect ratio and while some scenes don’t quite come across that well, in fact colors aren’t overly bright, others look real nice with some natural film grain and good detail level.
The DTS-HD Master 4.0 track shows off real well with the music and score while dialogue is more centrally located. Because it’s only 4 channels, it’s not an entirely dynamic track or anything but more than suitable.
Desk Set — 4.5/5 | 4.25/5
The movie is released on Blu-ray presented in its original 2.35 widescreen aspect ratio and with a 1080p high-definition transfer. The picture actually looks quite good with nice detail levels whether it’s close-up or distant shots and there’s a fair amount of natural film grain. It also looks like a nice restoration job was done as any scratches and other distortions have been adequately removed.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 track is more than sufficient for this romantic-comedy. Dialogue levels are clear and any bits of music or score comes through the center channel nicely enough. For being a mono track, the audio never tops out and comes out evenly.
North to Alaska — 4.5/5 | 4.0/5
This rollicking John Wayne comedy comes to Blu-ray arriving with a 1080p high-def transfer and presented in its original 2.35 widescreen aspect ratio. Save for a couple quick scratch marks, this is a mostly pristine transfer, colors seem well balanced and there’s a evenly spread of natural film grain aiding to the sharp detail levels.
The 4.0 DTS-HD Master Audio track meanwhile sounds good, bolstered by John Wayne’s deep voice while the score is rather robust and spread across each of the four channels. As with the others in this collection, I wouldn’t call it astounding but I was rather impressed.
The Undefeated — 4.5/5 | 4.5/5
This Wild West action-er makes its way onto Blu-ray presented with a 1080p high-definition transfer and revealed in its original 2.35 widescreen aspect ratio. The transfer is pretty impressive with good detail levels, an even amount of film grain and colors look well balanced throughout going towards warmer brown hues, of course.
The disc includes the choice of either 5.1 or 1.0 DTS-HD Master Audio tracks and either one good with the latter being used for those who want to keep a more authentic vibe for the movie. The 5 channel track spreads out the audio across all the speakers though primarily for the score and some of the action while keeping the dialogue through the center speaker.
Overall, this round 20th Century Fox Studio Classics releases gives a wide range of movies for any fan of the era going from the 1930s to the 1960s. Each movie provides excellent video and audio transfers and although the features are limited, those with commentary tracks are well worth listening to.