Another fine film from the first wave of Fox's new MOD line
of movies, Fox Cinema Archives, Kidnapped (1938) is a fun adventure
child star Freddie Bartholomew and Academy Award winner Warner Baxter. Though it strays from the original Robert Lewis Stevenson novel in places,
the film still retains the feel of a classic drama.
in 1747 was a dangerous place. The
Scotts has rebelled against their British rulers twice, and been
defeated both times. There was a lot of
resentment against the British and their heavy taxes, and the flames of
were being flamed by the charismatic and popular Alan Breck (Warner
Baxter - The Prisoner of Shark Island).
He's wanted by the British and the 500 Pounds
Sterling reward on his head makes him
fugitive that many people would like to find.
Young David Balfour (Freddie Bartholomew - David
Copperfield) is away at boarding school,
and a loyal subject of King George, when he hears that his father has
died. He's not too upset at this, since
he hardly knew the man, but the headmaster at his school was given
send David to his uncle, Ebenezer Balfour, who is a lord and lives in a
in Edinboro (sic) a two-day journey on foot.
While traveling to his only living heir, David stops in a
village where he sees a British tax collector murdered by one of Alan
men (again the leader's orders.) Being
the only witness, Alan can't let the boy go, but he can't kill a child
either. He decides to send the assassin to
he'll be safe, and then let David go on his way. But
first Alan, with David, must fetch the
killer's fiancé, Jean MacDonald (Arleen Whelan - Young Mr.
Lincoln), and take her to the ship he's due to sail
During their travels the rebel and the young loyalist become
friends, and Jean becomes attracted to the rugged leader too. After evading the Redcoat soldiers looking
for Breck, Alan sends David on his way to his uncle's castle.
There the child gets a couple of surprises. First,
his uncle tries to kill him. Second he
deduces that he's the rightful
owner of the castle, as his father was the elder of the two brothers. Ebenezer admits that with his father's death
David becomes Lord Balfour and reluctantly agrees to take him to his
office. On the way there they stop by
the docks where, according to Ebenezer's plan, David is kidnapped and
There's a lot to like about this film, even though there are
a few minor flaws. The story has a lot
of action and adventure, with sword fights, soldiers kicking in doors,
daring escapes. Though the film is not
as dynamic as today's action flicks, something exciting always seems to
The acting is very good too.
It's easy to see why Freddie Bartholomew was the sensation that
(the highest paid child actor at the time, after Shirley Temple). He's really takes on his part and adds a
touch of humor that works very well.
Likewise Warner Baxter plays his role wonderfully, with one
exception: he doesn't sound Scottish in
the least. That's one of the films
flaws. Every once in a while a minor
character will talk with an accent and that just reminds viewers that
one should sound like an American. It's a
minor flaw, but it does pop up occasionally.
The other mistake that was made is adding an unnecessary
love subplot. It didn't ring true in the
least, a Hollywood creation more than the way people naturally act. Every time Jean stares into Alan's eyes with
a wistful look the movie slows down too.
The movie is a creature of its time however, and when the major Hollywood studios made movies back in the late
male and female leads ended up together and that's all there is to it.
The mono soundtrack is generally clean and clear with only
faint traces of background noise. The
dialog is easy to discern and the music comes through nicely, even if
dynamic range is rather limited due to the technology of the time.
The full frame image looks very good. The
unrestored movie obviously comes from a
very nice print and is clear with excellent contrast.
The level of detail is very good too. The
only real problem is some light cross
colorization that appears throughout the film from time to time, and a
specks of dirt.
Like most MOD releases, this does not contain any bonus
A very enjoyable action/adventure film from the late 30's, Kidnapped
is well worth checking
out. It gets a strong recommendation.