• Quiet Man, The



    Released by: Eureka Masters of Cinema
    Released on: November 30, 2014
    Directed by: John Ford
    Cast: John Wayne, Maureen O’Hara, Barry Fitzgerald, Victor McLaglen, Ward Bond, Mildred Natwick, Francis Ford, Arthur Shields
    Year: 1952

    The Movie:

    Pittsburgh resident Sean Thornton (John Wayne) has come to Ireland to purchase the small farm where he was born. There, he spies the feisty but seductive Mary Kate Danaher (Maureen O’Hara) herding sheep. He seeks to court her, but her brother, Squire Will “Red” Danaher (Victor McLaglen), blocks his attempts. (Danaher is upset that Thornton outbid him for the farm.) The townspeople, who develop an instant liking to Thornton, plot to convince Danaher to offer his sister’s hand in marriage, which includes lying to him about the intentions of the Widow Tillane (Mildred Natwick) to marry him. Soon Thornton and Mary Kate are married, but on their wedding night, Danaher learns that he’s been duped and that the widow has no plans to become his betrothed. He denies Mary Kate her dowry, and in turn Mary Kate refuses to consummate her marriage. She demands that her husband defend her honor by claiming her birthright, but, because of an incident in his past, Thornton refuses, causing a seemingly insurmountable rift in their marriage.

    The Quiet Man was a departure for actor John Wayne and director John Ford. The two men usually collaborated on Westerns or action films, but here they switched gears to romantic comedy. It wasn’t easy: studios fought them all the way, including Republic, with whom Wayne had a contract. Ford had purchased the rights to Maurice Walsh’s 1933 short story in 1936, but it took years of cajoling to get his dream project off the ground. The film was finally released in 1952 and met with both commercial and critical success. Republic had spent two million dollars on the project, and the gamble paid off. The Quiet Man quickly became the studio’s highest-grossing picture ever and also the first to be nominated for a Best Picture Oscar. It lost the following year to The Greatest Show on Earth, but Ford won for Best Director, as did Winton C. Hoch and Archie Stout for Best Color Cinematography.

    While The Quiet Man has a terrific and wry script, it never would have worked without suitable actors in the leading roles, and here’s where the film really comes to life. Wayne has been accused of being stiff and of limited range, but he had deft comedic timing that never interfered with his realism. Fiery Maureen O’Hara was the perfect foil to his strong-willed but pacifist Thornton. The two were a match made in celluloid heaven, and without them, the film never would have worked on the same primal level. The sexual tension between Wayne and O’Hara is palpable, and the film’s ardent refusal to shy away from it caused problems with some censors, including those in Ohio, who demanded that one scene be cut because it seemed to suggest a romp in the hay that didn’t actually happen in the film.

    The Quiet Man comes pretty close to perfection. If this reviewer has any complaint at all, it’s that the conclusion goes on a bit too long and sinks a bit too deeply into silliness. Still, The Quiet Man is a great moment in the careers of all involved, especially Wayne, O’Hara, and Ford. It may be the pinnacle of their careers, and as such, it’s worthy of multiple viewings and in-depth analyses.

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    The Quiet Man has been released in Ireland and the United Kingdom as part of Eureka’s The Masters of Cinema Series with an MPEG-4 AVC encode in 1080p high definition. The film is presented in full frame in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.37:1 and is locked to Region B. The image is stunning, to the say the least, and the fact that Eureka has opted for a 50GB disc as opposed to Olive’s 25GB disc allows for more information at less compression. Colors are lush, particularly the greenery of the Irish coast, small towns, and forests. There’s so much green, in fact, that when other colors appear, they stand out against the verdant panorama. The Technicolor reds, blues, and yellows practically pop off the screen. Detail is extraordinary, and given that so much of the film takes place outside amidst trees and tall grasses, there’s plenty to be had. Take, for instance, the scene in which a sexually frustrated Thornton traipses angrily along an Irish hillside; in the background you can see a small island with what appears to be a stone building, perhaps the remains of an ancient castle. In high definition, the detail is remarkable, and it only contributes to the overall look Ford was so obviously trying to achieve. The film has such an artistic sense of the picturesque that if you freeze almost any frame, you can see the influence of Norman Rockwell, which is fitting given the story’s origin in The Saturday Evening Post. Grain is entirely organic, and black and gray levels are nice, with terrific depth. There’s no crush, dirt, or debris. Scratches have been wiped away, though there doesn’t appear to have been any kind of digital noise reduction. Skin tones are entirely natural, and nothing about the image looks waxy.

    Eureka has opted to place the film’s soundtrack in LPCM Mono. While it may not be directional, it’s as clean as a whistle, with nary a problem to report. Victor Young’s original score, which is mostly comprised of Irish songwriter Richard Farrelly’s “Isle of Innesfree” and accentuated with “Rakes of Mallow” and “The Wild Colonial Boy,” sounds terrific. English subtitles for the deaf and hearing impaired are included. Unfortunately, there are no isolated score and effects or commentary tracks to review.

    The Quiet Man comes to Blu-ray with a couple of notable extras, including one exclusive to Eureka’s release. A video essay by film historian Tag Gallagher, author of the definitive book about John Ford and his films, runs a little over seventeen minutes and features the historian discussing The Quiet Man in relation to other Ford productions. It verges on the pretentious and repetitive but should be of interest to fans for whom The Quiet Man is their favorite film. Far superior is “The Making of The Quiet Man,” which is hosted by Leonard Maltin and was included on the special edition DVD release. The documentary runs approximately half an hour in length and operates as the perfect accompaniment to the feature-length John Ford: Dreaming The Quiet Man (released on Blu-ray by Olive and which has also been reviewed by Rock! Shock! Pop!). There are plenty of archival photographs, interviews, and television and film excerpts, as well as new interviews with people who were on the set, including Michael Wayne, Toni Wayne LaCava, and Andrew McLaglen.

    Some sources are reporting that the trailer is included on the disc, but it does not appear on the test disc provided to Rock! Shock! Pop! Eureka has also reportedly included a booklet with their release that contains the original short story on which the film is based.

    The Final Word:

    John Ford’s classic The Quiet Man was a departure for Western star John Wayne, a gamble that paid off both commercially and artistically. Wayne and O’Hara are in fine form, and Eureka’s disc provides the perfect visual and aural showcase for their acting talents. And, while the film has never looked better, it’s topped off with some nice extras, particularly the Leonard Maltin-hosted “The Making of The Quiet Man.” In short, this is the perfect release of a film that comes close to perfection.

    Christopher Workman is a freelance writer, film critic, and co-author (with Troy Howarth) of the Tome of Terror horror film review series. Volume 2 of that series (covering the 1930s) is currently available from Midnight Marquee Press, Inc.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!