After the tremendous success of "The Adventures of Robin Hood," Warner Bros. reunited that film's five top stars - Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland, Alan Hale, co-director Michael Curtiz, and Technicolor - for another mega-production, and according to historians Robert Osborne and Rudy Behlmer in the DVD's short but informative featurette, "Dodge City" elevated the western genre from B-picture status, to a feature attraction.
The story is completely ridiculous and wafer-thin: in his first of many oaters, Flynn is a morally grey buffalo herdsman who eventually stops turning a blind eye to Bruce Cabot's evil doings in Dodge, yet the film has so many show-stopping sequences, the plot becomes unimportant. Opening with a superb visual depiction of the steam locomotive's superiority over the horse-drawn carriage, "Dodge City" also contains one of the best saloon brawl ever; the latter sequence also has former North and South combatants signing their respective anthems, and it uncannily echoes the famous scene in Michael Curtiz' "Casablanca" (1941), where French and German patrons duel by singing their own anthems in Rick's Place.
Warner Bros.' print is very nice, and though some wide shots show some colour registration weaknesses at times, it's still an excellent transfer which glows whenever handsome Flynn and ravishing de Havilland fill the screen in close-ups.
Technicolor wasn't cheap in its early years, and it's surprising that the studio also used it for the film's trailer - a quasi-newsreel that documents the arrival of Flynn and some of the studio's top stars for the massive premiere in Dodge City, Kansas, with snapshots of a local parade, the opening the city's new stadium, and the glossy movie premiere in three theatres.
As with many of their classic film DVDs, Warner Bros. have included a series of vintage shorts that can be individually selected (though why there's no Play All option, as with "The Adventures of Robin Hood," is a bit odd). The Tex Avery cartoon, "Dangerous Dan McFoo," is memorable for Dan having an Elmer Fudd voice; and insane fight scenes with hysterical freeze-frames, as Dan and the villain duke it out, while the former's girlfriend (sporting a Katherine Hepburn voice) watches from the sideline.
The political Movietone newsreel summarizes Hitler's assault on Poland, and forms an unofficial prologue to the high-strung short, "Sons of Liberty," (1939). Starring Claude Rains as Jewish-American Haym Salomon, the short dribbles with patriotic babble as it depicts, at comic-book speed, the vital role Salomon played in gathering enough funds to help keep George Washington's army going strong, and further expunge the British redcoats out of the nascent United States. It's a fascinating piece of ephemera; while Hollywood regularly depicted America as a homogenous glob with a singular religion, "Sons of Liberty" has Rains gathering support from the congregation inside his temple. It's a rare moment of religious pluralism within a studio production, although Rains' ability to perfectly quote from the Bible at a pivotal juncture is meant to unify the two faiths as vital weapons against Fascist sympathizers during WWII's outbreak. The short's in adequate shape, and was directed by Michael Curtiz, and also co-starred Technicolor.
This Warner Bros title is available as part of the “Errol Flynn Signature Collection” that includes “Captain Blood,” “The Sea Hawk,” “They Died With Their Boots On,” “The Private Lives Of Elizabeth And Essex,” and “Dodge City” and a bonus documentary disc “The Adventures Of Errol Flynn.”
© 2005 Mark R. Hasan