Seven Sinners      The Shepherd of the Hills      Pittsburgh     

 

The Conqueror      Jet Pilot


Synopses:


Seven Sinners
Bijou, a saloon singer with a reputation for insighting brouhahas, is one of several deportees from a south Pacific island to arrive at another U.S. protectorate, Boni Komba. She becomes very popular with U.S. navymen by performing at the 'Seven Sinners'. A navy Lieutenant is attracted to Bijou despite the Governor's machinations to keep them apart, and the competing affections of local mobster, Antro. Will the Lieutenant give up the navy for Bijou, and will he survive Antro's forces?

The Shepherd of the Hills
Young Matt Masters, an Ozark Mountains moonshiner, hates the father he has never seen, who apparently deserted Matt's mother and left her to die. His obsession contributes to the hatred rampant in the mountains. However, the arrival of a stranger, Daniel Howitt, begins to positively affect the mountain people, who learn to shed their hatred under his gentle influence. Still, Matt does not quite trust Howitt.....

 

Pittsburgh
Charles 'Pittsburgh' Markham rides roughshod over his friends, his lovers, and his ideals in his trek toward financial success in the Pittsburgh steel industry, only to find himself deserted and lonely at the top. When his crash comes, he finds that fate has dealt him a second chance.

 

The Conqueror
In ancient times, the Mongolian warlord Temujin must do battle against the rival tribe that killed his father. The battles pale in comparison with Temujin's home life, as he attempts to woo the heart of the red-haired Tartar prisoner Bortai whom he has captured in a raid. He must also deal with various intrigues within his palace. Eventually, Bortai falls to his manly charms, Temujin defeats his enemies within and without, and is crowned Genghis Khan.

 

Jet Pilot
Air Force Colonel Shannon is assigned to escort defecting Soviet pilot Anna. He falls in love with her, but she is scheming to lure him back to the USSR. But Shannon has a scheme of his own.

 

About the DVD package:  Universal comes through with another frugal DVD boxset - this is dubiously entitled John Wayne - An American Icon Collection and includes Wayne's films Seven Sinners, The Shepherd of the Hills, Pittsburgh, The Conqueror and Jet Pilot. None of them would be considered to be the best of the Duke's long and illustrious film career but the collection has some merit regardless. I suspect the Henry Hathaway directed 'The Shepherd of the Hills' may be the best film, but I enjoyed seeing the two (of three in total) Dietrich/Wayne pairings in the package - Seven Sinners and Pittsburgh. Plus the reputation of  The Conqueror precedes it - and although not the absolute worst film of all time it may be recognized justly as being in the top 10. For that reason alone it is a delight to have on my shelf. It is unintentionally hilarious. Even early in his career John Wayne could carry films on his broad shoulders, but the best part of this package is the price - you are getting 5 films, that look acceptable or better, for around $20. It's about $4 per film which even beats out the bargain bins at Wal-Mart. These DVDs, although devoid of supplements (aside from a few trailers) have optional subtitles, are progressively transferred and are a steal at this price - heck, I'd buy just to see Marlene Dietrich in 2 films that I had never seen before! We may be sold a mislabeled bill of goods but it is not all bad. I recommend on the basis of the price, Dietrich, a pre-Psycho Janet Leigh and the infamous reputation of The Conqueror.  

 


 

Directed by Tay Garnett
USA 1940

 

The title refers to the saloon in which the South Sea siren Bijou (Dietrich) asks for her singing job back. She has been deported from one island after another for causing mayhem among the male population. When she and her entourage end up at a new port of call she encounters a handsome naval lieutenant (Wayne) and zing goes the strings of their hearts. But fate and the Navy have other plans. Garnett directs with commendable directness, allowing the romance, three songs and the action to fill an enjoyable 86 minutes. It was the first of three movies co-starring Dietrich and Wayne.

Excerpt from Channel 4 located HERE

Posters

Theatrical Releases: October 25th, 1940

  Reviews    More Reviews     DVD Reviews

DVD Review: Universal - Region 1 - NTSC

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Distribution Universal Home Video - Region 1 - NTSC
Audio English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono)
Subtitles English (hearing impaired), Spanish, French, none
Features Release Information:
Studio: Universal Home Video

Aspect Ratio:
Original Aspect Ratios:  1.33 

Edition Details:

•  trailer

DVD Release Date: May 30th, 2006

Double slim keep case in cardboard box
Chapters: 18 18

 

 

Comments:

Decent detail with some digital noise help give this transfer effort, that shares the disc with The Shepherd of the Hills, a very nice appearance. It has moments of very strong clarity and some light scratch damage and flickering contrast. A trailer is included and, as with all the others, optional subtitles in a decent white font with black border. I liked the film and see some chemistry between Wayne and Dietrich. 

Gary W. Tooze

 


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Directed by Henry Hathaway
USA 1941

Henry Hathaway directs this first talkie remake of two prior films versions of The Shepherd of the Hills filmed in 1919 and 1928. It's based on Harold Bell Wright's novel; the writers are Stuart Anthony and Grover Jones. It's set in the Ozark mountains among a closely knit group of moonshiners that have been poisoned by hatred.

Matt (John Wayne) is an angry young man because his father abandoned him as a child and left his mother to die. He swears he would kill his father if he ever saw him again. Mild-mannered stranger Daniel Howitt (Harry Carey) arrives and treats Jim Lane's (Tom Fadden) gunshot wounds. His daughter Sammy (Betty Field) is appreciative. Daniel aims to settle in the region, but is coldly greeted by Matt. Anyway, Daniel buys Moanin' Meadow for a $1,000, the home of Matt's mother, which angers Matt. Sammy visits Daniel and he says that Matt is his son. Later we learn he abandoned the family because he murdered a man and was sent to prison. He's now a reformed man and has come back to make up for his mispent life and to reconcile with his son--to save him from taking the wrong path.

Excerpt from Dennis Schwartz's Ozu's Movie Reviews located HERE

Posters

Theatrical Releases: July 18th, 1941

  Reviews    More Reviews     DVD Reviews

DVD Review: Universal - Region 1 - NTSC

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Distribution Universal Home Video - Region 1 - NTSC
Audio English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono)
Subtitles English (hearing impaired), Spanish, French, none
Features Release Information:
Studio: Universal Home Video

Aspect Ratio:
Original Aspect Ratios:  1.33 

Edition Details:

• trailer

DVD Release Date: May 30th, 2006

Double slim keep case in cardboard box
Chapters: 18  18

 

 

Comments:

This is quite a spectacular image for a Technicolor film from 65 years ago. A few scenes tend to look a shade saturated with a greenish haze to them but overall it is very acceptable. I was impressed with the transfer which looks quite clean and audio is consistent. Wayne is very good in this fine film and it may be the strong suit of the boxset.      

Gary W. Tooze


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Having survived their clout-fests in "The Spoilers," John Wayne and Randolph Scott are again throwing their mitts high, wide and handsome for the sake of ideals and the woman—again, naturally, Marlene Dietrich. Against the brawling background of "Pittsburgh," now at the Criterion, they are repeating most of the shennanigans considered de rigeur in dramas about up-and-coming tycoons. As a pair of coal-mine lunkies who paw their way to the top, quarrel over noble principles, and finally are reunited by the war emergency, patriotism, and a stout speech for unity by Miss Dietrich, their story makes "Pittsburgh" another lusty and totally synthetic film.

Excerpt from the NY Times located HERE

 

Directed by Lewis Seiler
USA 1942

Posters

Theatrical Releases: December 11th, 1942

  Reviews    More Reviews     DVD Reviews

DVD Review: Universal - Region 1 - NTSC

DVD Box Cover

   

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Distribution Universal Home Video - Region 1 - NTSC
Audio English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono)
Subtitles English (hearing impaired), Spanish, French, none
Features Release Information:
Studio: Universal Home Video

Aspect Ratio:
Original Aspect Ratios: 1.33 

Edition Details:

•  trailer

DVD Release Date: May 30th, 2006

Double slim keep case in cardboard box
Chapters: 18 

 

 

Comments:

There is a fair amount of faux-grain / digital noise in this transfer but contrast is very good with black levels appearing strongly rendered. Detail is fabulous for a film of the early 40's. Dietrich looks as good as ever and I was anxious to see her, Scott and Wayne in the same film - Wow! The dialogue is not top-notch but delivered by these three icons it stand up well enough.     

Gary W. Tooze


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Directed by Dick Powell
USA 1956

 

A movie that lives down to its reputation. For reasons known only to himself, wilful producer and millionaire Hughes gave this Eastern 'western' to former crooner Powell to direct as his debut. A painfully archaic script in so-called 'period' falls leadenly off the lips of Wayne and Hayward. He plays Temujin a Mongolian warlord who is set on revenge against his tribal enemies after the death of his father. Eventually, he wins numerous bloody battles and becomes the notorious Genghis Klan. A solemn miscast failure, hard on audiences and even harder on the misused horses in the movie.

Excerpt from Channel 4 located HERE

 

Posters

Theatrical Releases: February 21st, 1956

  Reviews    More Reviews     DVD Reviews

DVD Review: Universal - Region 1 - NTSC

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Distribution Universal Home Video - Region 1 - NTSC
Audio English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono)
Subtitles English (hearing impaired), Spanish, French, none
Features Release Information:
Studio: Universal Home Video

Aspect Ratio:
Original Aspect Ratios:  2.35

Edition Details:

•  trailer

DVD Release Date: May 30th, 2006

Double slim keep case in cardboard box
Chapters: 18 

 

 

Comments:

Okay, okay, okay - we all know about the weak film, but almost fittingly, the transfer may be the weakest of the 5 in this boxset. There is digital noise but I found that the colors never really look 'right'. Skin tones tend to drift in hue but I really have no idea (thankfully) what this looked like theatrically. Frankly, I enjoyed my viewing as I was expecting so little. Susan Hayward looked great and there are a few unintentionally humorous moments and its is filled with totally ineffectual dialogue.     

Gary W. Tooze


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Directed by Josef von Sternberg
USA 1956

 

Josef von Sternberg opts for a broad, preposterous comic-book style in this piece of cold-war hysteria (1957), which completely undermines the Neanderthal intentions of the film's producer, Howard Hughes. Janet Leigh is a busty Russian spy pilot, shot down over the U.S. (her flying suit striptease, punctuated by the roar of offscreen jet engines, is unforgettably outrageous); John Wayne is the American officer who captures and eventually marries her. Their honeymoon includes a faked defection to the USSR, which turns out to be a broken-down boys camp ruled by Commissar Hans Conried. It was Sternberg's only work in color, and for all its silliness it remains fluid, elegant filmmaking.

Excerpt from Dave Kehr's capsule at the Chicago Reader located HERE

Posters

Theatrical Releases: October 1957

  Reviews    More Reviews     DVD Reviews

DVD Review: Universal - Region 1 - NTSC

DVD Box Cover

   

CLICK to order from:

Distribution Universal Home Video - Region 1 - NTSC
Audio English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono)
Subtitles English (hearing impaired), Spanish, French, none
Features Release Information:
Studio: Universal Home Video

Aspect Ratio:
Original Aspect Ratios:  1.85

Edition Details:

• none

DVD Release Date: May 30th, 2006

Double slim keep case in cardboard box
Chapters: 18 

 

 

Comments:

NOTE: Gary a comment on Jet Pilot from this set. Apart from being Sternberg's last American Film and of seemingly little more than Cold-War-camp value, it should be noted this picture was completed in 1950, pre wide-screen era and delayed by producer Howard Hughes, who continued to tinker with it until theatrical release in 1957 at which time he decided to release it in a dreadful, faux-widescreen process called "Superscope". To cut a long story short the movie was shot and intended to be projected in Academy ratio, and this reincarnation of an earlier DVD single disc edition by Universal repeats the error and presents a completely unacceptably cropped image. I think it should matter, at least to lovers of Sternberg, minor as the movie may be. Interestingly Universal's early Laserdisc is in the original full frame ratio, probably by default as a result of their habit of doing P&S transfers back in those days! (Should add the image on the LD is gorgeous and looks like it was derived from an IB positive.) - thanks David!

***

Although alone on one side of this last disc this is still only a single layered transfer. It still looks very acceptable and may be the best image quality of the boxset. Colors are bright, skin tones look un-manipulated but the digital noise continues to be prevalent (mostly in the 'open skies' scenes). It is anamorphic and progressive. Unlike the other films in this boxset package this has no trailer, and in fact, nothing in regards to extra features. I wouldn't totally dismiss the film it has some enjoyable moments to it and Janet Leigh looks as stunning as ever.  

Gary W. Tooze


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