Here's a rare treat for film buffs: in addition to the original theatrical cut, Fox has included a rare preview version of Ford's iconic western (with original mono sound, and removable English & Spanish subtitles). In an age where deleted scenes are almost standard for tentpole pictures, it's remarkable that much more than a few deleted scenes exist of “My Darling Clementine.”
Transferred from a really beautiful nitrate source, the pre-release “Clementine” is the edit Ford delivered to the studio, before the film was tightened, and later scored by composer Cyril Mockridge. Though the first quarter of the pre-release version no longer exists, the surviving reels contain longer scenes, substantial chunks of additional dialogue, and the director's original ending.
A featurette regarding the newly discovered material compares the changes authorized by 20th Century Fox chief Darryl F. Zanuck with the final film, and John Ford fans will find the differences both fascinating, and perhaps a little controversial. Bob Gitt provides a good commentary, and using surviving correspondences, maintains objectivity by explaining the alterations – which included additional material directed by Lloyd Bacon – and their effect on the film's overall tone. (An even greater surprise, however, is how the film feels without an orchestral film score; for those familiar with Sergio Leone's deliberate evocations of small-town nuances, “Clementine” is oddly modernistic, with Ford's superb use of a rich sound effects track, and periodic folk songs superior to Mockridge's rather emphatic music.)
In his informative commentary track, film scholar Scott Eyman (strangely, not billed on the DVD cover) gives a good overview of the film within the director's oeuvre, with background details on the supporting actors and key crew members. Eyman also cites some of the film's weaknesses – particularly Linda Darnell's preposterous role of Chihuahua, the saloon crooner, and girlfriend to the self-loathing Doc Holliday; basically a love foil for the titular character, Darnell comes off looking very Forties, with a massive aerodynamic do, and makeup reminiscent of a very peeved Joan Crawford.
Eyman also separates fact from fiction, and interlaced with comments by Wyatt Earp III, we get a good chronology of the real events that surrounded the shootout at the O.K. Corral, and altered chronology. Earp's comments overall are very sparse, but his explanation of the changes (hardly atypical of studios at the time) are apt: “You don't come to the film looking for the facts. You come to the film looking for the poetry.”
And in poetry we also get the now-standard gorgeous cinematography for what was Ford's first western, since “Stagecoach,” in 1939. There's some subtle differences in print quality between the pre- and final release versions; though both are very sharp with excellent grey levels, the final version has a harsher contrast, and the pre-release source has more balanced shades. There's also some rough spots due to missing frames around the middle of the pre-release version, but it's a marked difference from Avid dubs that are generally the source for early edits of more recent films.
A fascinating DVD release for film buffs and western fans!
© 2004 Mark R. Hasan