Alamo. John Wayne's 1960 pet project had a ton riding on it. It
seemed that nobody in Hollywood felt that the Duke could pull of a 3-hour
retelling of one of the most enduring legends of American, Tejano, and Texan
history. To be sure, it's not as if Hollywood felt that Wayne couldn't firmly
plant butts in theaters; we're talking about The Duke himself here.
He shot Liberty Valance, for crissakes! (OK,
two years later, but still...)
No, Wayne's box-office clout
was unquestionable. But could he successfully direct an
epic-length, big-budget production that would cost upwards of $12 million
in 1960s dollars? Studio execs weren't convinced. They'd back the project, but
only if he were to step away from the director's chair and use the talents of an
established director, like his frequent collaborator John Ford. In order to
secure financing, he had to mortgage his homes and secure loans using various
assets (including his beloved yacht) as collateral. He was able to convince
local Texas businessmen to finance the movie, but only if he would shoot the
film in Texas and take on more of a starring role in the film. Wayne ended up
directing and starring as the legendary Davie
Crockett in a leading role, a dual feat that
taxed the first-time director considerably.
The end result? A rousing,
entertaining, overlong, maudlin, cloying, exciting, and jingoistic effort that,
if not a great movie, certainly ranks as one of the juiciest slabs of cinematic
bravado and testosterone ever committed to film. Wayne's direction certainly is
creaky around the joints. While he was more than capable of shooting the action
scenes with swagger and impact, his handling of character moments and subtle
interactions were slightly slacking. There's nothing small about this film, even
in the quietest of moments. The heroic scenes are drenched in self-righteous
derring-do. The tender moments are bathed in thick orchestrations and wide-eyed
simplicity. The action is loud and sweeping and kinetic, and the posturing and
constant reinforcement of traditional American frontier bravado
and values is handled with the subtlety
of a King Diamond video.
The cast is something of a
mixed bag. I enjoyed Richard Widmark's portrayal of Jim Bowie, but Laurence
Harvey's William Travis seems a little too forced. I found most of Harvey's
lines to have been some of the most overwritten and exposition-driven in the
film, so perhaps the actor was given too little to work with. And Linda
Cristal's portrayal of Flaca is so pious I half-expected her to sprout wings and
halo and float away at any given moment. But for all of my criticizing, I still
. For years I never missed the film whenever it came on
television, and believe you me watchingThe Alamo
on a 3-inch black-and-white TV takes
a lot of gumption. John Wayne's film is larger-than-life, a slice of Hollywood
magic that unabashedly wears its heart on its sleeve.The Alamo
a filet mignon, but it's a damn good serving of prime rib on the bone
with a bowlful of drippings. Meaty and
delicious, if a tad overdone.
Alamo is presented in a widescreen aspect ratio of 2.35:1, and
has been anamorphically enhanced for your widescreen-viewing whoop-de-doo.
Overall the transfer presents a positive viewing experience. Colors are
generally bright and finely rendered, with the magnificent hues that only
Technicolor delight can deliver, while only a few scenes seem slightly
flat and drab. Image detail is reasonably sharp, displaying fine picture quality. My
only complaints lie in the quality of the print used for this transfer.
There is noticeable wear, debris, specks, and grain throughout the print. Compression
noise is minimal to non-existent, but edge-enhancement is quite evident throughout the transfer.
Still, this is the best I've ever seen the film look, and overall this
is a positive (if slightly flawed) transfer.
The audio is presented
in a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix, with optional French and Spanish 2.0
six-channel remastering does a fairly serviceable
job in expanding the film's soundfield. Orchestrations sound stronger and broader, and the expanded
stage allows for a more engaging audio experience. There isn't
in terms of discrete
imaging and pinpoint directionality, and the delivery remains solidly frontstage throughout most
of the film. Dialog levels are pleasant if a
tad thin at times. The inclusion of the film's original soundtrack would
also have been a boon. Still, the soundtrack provides a respectable and
occasionally engaging presentation.
supplement is the 40-minute documentary entitled John
Wayne's "The Alamo". This feature is a thorough look at the genesis,
production, and response to the film. There are copious amounts of
behind-the-scenes and interview footage featured throughout the documentary,
which takes a "no holds barred" look behind the entire production. Overall this
is an informative and entertaining documentary, well worth your time
The film's theatrical trailer
is also included.
Not a perfect film, but always a hugely entertaining
one, fans ofThe Alamo
will be pleased with this DVD. The film is has never looked
or sounded better, and the inclusion of that wonderful 40-minute
documentary will further their appreciation of the movie. If anything, I'd like
to see the film revisited again, with a remastered transfer, feature-length
commentary, and so forth. But if you like your two-fisted action loud, fast, and
more than a little simplistic,The Alamo
is your DVD.