Another fine film from the first wave of Fox's new MOD line of movies, Fox Cinema Archives, Kidnapped (1938) is a fun adventure flick with 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.
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 orders to send David to his uncle, Ebenezer Balfour, who is a lord and lives in a castle 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 Breck's 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
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 lawyer's office. On the way there they stop by the docks where, according to Ebenezer's plan, David is kidnapped and taken off to sea.
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, and daring escapes. Though the film is not as dynamic as today's action flicks, something exciting always seems to be happening.
The acting is very good too. It's easy to see why Freddie Bartholomew was the sensation that he was (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 that no 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
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 the 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 few specks of dirt.
Like most MOD releases, this does not contain any bonus features.
A very enjoyable action/adventure film from the late 30's, Kidnapped is well worth checking out. It gets a strong recommendation.