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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » Foxfire (Blu-ray)
Foxfire (Blu-ray)
Kl Studio Classics // Unrated // December 11, 2018 // Region A
List Price: $21.89 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Stuart Galbraith IV | posted January 28, 2019 | E-mail the Author
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C O N T E N T
V I D E O
A U D I O
E X T R A S
R E P L A Y
A D V I C E
Highly Recommended
E - M A I L
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P R I N T
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For some, the attraction of Kino's new Blu-ray of Foxfire (1955) will be its place in movie history, for it was the very last feature photographed in Technicolor's lush three-strip process, though another Universal-International title, the sci-fi classic This Island Earth, was released almost simultaneously.

The Blu-ray of Foxfire, in its correct 2.00:1 widescreen and photographed by William H. Daniels, certainly looks gorgeous, but the movie itself, adapted from Anya Seton's novel, is a major surprise. Here, in the famously repressive, a-woman's-place-is-in-the-kitchen 1950s, Jane Russell portrays a sexually liberated, assertive woman who loves her man (Jeff Chandler) but, once married, isn't about to be tamed, play by gender expectations or take crap from anyone, especially him. The normally manly Chandler, by contrast, is something of a weakling, spending almost the entire film crippled by self-esteem and cultural identity issues.

Russell had played tough women before, using her buxom features to manipulate the men who tried to woo her. In Foxfire, however, she's a strong character almost in spite of her sex appeal. It may be her best performance on film, a revelation.

After her car gets a flat in the Arizona desert, Amanda Lawrence (Russell) thumbs a ride from half-Apache mining engineer Jonathan Dartland (Chandler) and his alcoholic friend, Hugh Slater (Dan Duryea), the local doctor. Amanda, initially unaware Jonathan is a "half-breed," jokes about the local Indians, but she's attracted to him and both men lust after her. She invites them to a dinner party hosted by her rich mother (Frieda Inescort).

At the party, Jonathan is sheepish even about going inside, worried about stirring things up among the local racist whites. But Amanda will have none of it. Not only does she virtually drag him inside, but within minutes they're making out. Jonathan reveals his half-Apache blood but she's unconcerned. The next day she proposes to him and they're married soon after.

Though Amanda takes a strong interest in her husband's roots, even breaking into his footlocker full of mementos, he's reticent about his past and, though to his credit he is a strong leader-liaison with the local Indians at the mine. Nevertheless, he has such low self-esteem he's certain that Amanda will eventually tire of him, their spartan, cockroach-infested home, and dump him like a hot potato.

Despite almost emblematic ‘50s U-I moments of melodrama, including, inevitably, a cave-in at the mine, Foxfire is almost shockingly ahead of its time. She doesn't bat an eye when he explains that he's half-Native American, nor after introducing herself to two neighbors (Grace Lenard and Vici Raaf) that turn out to be the local hookers, does she treat them any differently. That she remains friendly with them, and hangs out with Hugh, even though he's clearly hoping to get her in the sack, causes a stir in the small, gossipy town. But she couldn't care less. When Jonathan clams up about his Apache past, she takes it upon herself to hop aboard a tour bus bound for the nearby reservation, assertively introducing herself to Jonathan's intimidating, traditional Apache mother (Celia Lovsky).

Rock Hudson had played sensitive lovers in several U-I films for director Douglas Sirk, but in Foxfire, rugged Jeff Chandler's Jonathan is awkward as hell around Amanda, even after they're married. Only when they're making love does he assert any confidence. "You loan yourself to me to make love," she observes, "But you didn't really need me. You're afraid to be in love my way." And she makes it clear as crystal that she's not going to put up with him much longer.

Not having read the novel by Anya Seton (Dragonwyck) I can't vouch for the film's fidelity, and maybe all the meat on Foxfire is due to Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Ketti Frings's screenplay. Her novels include Hold Back the Dawn and screenplays for Come Back, Little Sheba (1952), About Mrs. Leslie (1954), and The Shrike (1955).

Seton's script refreshingly soft peddles the undercurrent of racism within the town, and its gossipy nature. Only mining supervisor Mablett's (crotchety Barton MacLane) is out in the open, though the chip on his shoulder seems directed at virtually everybody.

Surprisingly, the project was for a time earmarked for June Allyson. Maybe somebody was thinking of having her play against her painfully wholesome screen persona, but one doubts that would have worked. Russell, on the other hand, is authentically forthright and no-nonsense. She's no shrinking violet, and only uses her charm once, really, to help her husband win over a potential investor (Robert F. Simon).

This was an A-feature for Universal, though they gave it to journeyman U-I helmer Joseph Pevney. Like many actor-turned-directors, Pevney gets better than usual performances out of the cast but exhibits little visual flair. Everything is competently done and even rather glossy, but not staged especially well.

Video & Audio

Visually, Foxfire is a treat. The widescreen compositions combined with the often-brilliant Technicolor hues make this stunner on big screens. The predominance of Arizona desert exteriors adds to the beauty of the show. The 2.0 mono DTS-HD Master Audio is also very good; Henry Mancini was among the uncredited contributors to the score, per U-I's policies of the time, and Jeff Chandler wrote the lyrics and sings the curious title song. Region "A" encoded.

Extra Feature

Supplements consist of a trailer and an audio commentary by Kat Ellinger. Given Kino's puny supplement budgets and one-take manner of recording them (generally), her track comes off way above average.

Parting Thoughts

Kino is apparently mining Universal's newly-licensed library and, so far, have done an exceptional job selecting popular, cultish, and lesser known gems, of which Foxfire falls into the latter category. Highly Recommended.






Stuart Galbraith IV is the Kyoto-based film historian largely absent from reviewing these days while he restores a 200-year-old Japanese farmhouse.

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