directed by John Ford
USA 1939

 

Based on the best selling novel by Walter D. Edmonds, “Drums along the Mohawk” became Ford’s first color film. A huge commercial hit, mainly because of its two stars, Fonda and Colbert, it went on to be an overlooked, thus by many considered a minor, film by Ford in the shadow of “Young Mr. Lincoln” and especially “Stagecoach”.

The story deals with a newly wed couple, who travels from “civilised” New York to the Mohawk valley and settles downs as farmers. Hardly have they arrived, before they are caught up in the revolutionary war.

Where Ford’s westerns are about history, about the men and women, especially men, who created the USA, “Drums along the Mohawk” differs in motif, as its not so much about the war itself or the men, but about a woman, as the story concentrates on the transformation of Lana from na´ve rich girl to an independent frontier woman. Initially, she gets into a hysterical fit when seeing an Indian for the first time, but towards the end, she is a woman of action, fearing not even death, in protecting her community. This transition is beautifully underlined by her costumes. as she to begin with comes complete with bonnet and huge dresses, then changes into rural farmer clothes and finally she wears a revolutionary army coat.

Alongside this stands the parallelism of duty (military) and faith (church). It is by the words of the church unity is formed, which is underlined time and time again, from the speeches of the minister to the notion, that only a Christian Indian is a good Indian. At the end, however, the church is replaced by the American flag, in a very moving sequence, where the American flag is placed upon the church tower, juxtaposed by images of men, women, black, white and Indian, all in awe of their flag, accompanied by the end tunes of “Star Spangled Banner” (Home of the free, Land of the brave).

The problem with “Drums along the Mohawk” is however, that it shifts focus on and off. Where the overall text deals with how American arose by victory over the Tories, the story never leaves Mohawk Valley, so when the men are off to war, we stay with the women, especially Lana. Thus it becomes a story about Gil and Lana, which uses the war as a dramatic sub theme.

But despite being a minor Ford with an uneven structure, this is still a beautiful film. It is full of Fordish humor and humanism and deserves attention.

Henrik Sylow

Poster

Theatrical Release: November 3, 1939

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DVD Comparison:

20th Century Fox - Region 1 - NTSC vs. Optimum - Region 2 - PAL

(20th Century Fox - Region 1 - NTSC - LEFT vs. Optimum - Region 2 - PAL - RIGHT)

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Distribution

20th Century Fox

Region 1  - NTSC

Optimum Releasing
Region 2 - PAL
Runtime 1:43:52 1:39:47 (4% PAL speedup)
Video

1.33:1 Original Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 5.47 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

1.33:1 Original Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 5.12 mb/s
PAL 720x576 25.00 f/s

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate:

Fox

 

Bitrate:

 

Optimum

 

Audio English (Dolby Digital 2.0), English (mono), DUBs: Spanish (mono), French (mono)

English (Dolby Digital mono) 

Subtitles English, Spanish, and none None
Features Release Information:
Studio: Twentieth Century Fox

Aspect Ratio:
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1

Edition Details:
• Theatrical trailer
• Restoration Comparison

DVD Release Date: May 25th, 2005
Keep Case

Chapters 24

Release Information:
Studio: Optimum

 

Aspect Ratio:
Fullscreen - 1.33:1

 

Edition Details:
• None

DVD Release Date: August 23, 2004
Keep case

Chapters 12

 

Comments

Same deal as "Forty Guns" and "Warlock" as in this comparison. The Optimum is slightly sharper although differences are pretty negligible.  The Fox has well-appointed optional subtitles and the Optimum has none. The Fox has a trailer for the film and a restoration comparison, where the Optimum has nothing. The Fox offers a Stereo option where the Optimum is only monaural. I don't see any significant cropping issues and as both are very reasonably priced.

 

Gary W Tooze


This is a DVD5. The film itself only takes up 3.8GB. But despite this and minor compression problems, it looks beautiful. Flesh tones are natural and colors are solid.

The presentation has some problems. In a few scenes, the Technicolor stripes are out of alignment, which causes the image to become dull. Further, while some scenes are crisp and very sharp in detail, a few others lack definition.

The mono sound is free from any noises and shows no signs of age.

Being a low budget release, the DVD has no additional features nor subtitles.

 - Henrik Sylow

 





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20th Century Fox - Region 1 - NTSC - LEFT vs. Optimum - Region 2 - PAL - RIGHT)


 

 

 


 

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NO SUBTITLES ON OPTIMUM DISC

 


(20th Century Fox - Region 1 - NTSC - TOP vs. Optimum - Region 2 - PAL - BOTTOM)

 


 

(20th Century Fox - Region 1 - NTSC - TOP vs. Optimum - Region 2 - PAL - BOTTOM)

 

 


(20th Century Fox - Region 1 - NTSC - TOP vs. Optimum - Region 2 - PAL - BOTTOM)

 


 

(20th Century Fox - Region 1 - NTSC - TOP vs. Optimum - Region 2 - PAL - BOTTOM)

 

 


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Distribution

20th Century Fox

Region 1  - NTSC

Optimum Releasing
Region 2 - PAL

 


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Report Card:

Image:

as good as a tie

Sound:

20th Century Fox

Extras: 20th Century Fox
Menu: 20th Century Fox





 

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