• Captain From Castile



    Released by: Twilight Time
    Released on: October 17, 2017
    Director: Henry King
    Cast: Tyrone Power, Jean Peters, Cesar Romero, John Sutton, Lee J. Cobb, George Zucco, Antonio Moreno, Marc Lawrence, and Thomas Gomez
    Year: 1947
    Purchase From Screen Archives

    The Movie:

    Captain from Castile has all the crucial ingredients to make a handsome epic costume drama capable of outlasting its competition in the relevancy stakes – authentic locations, committed ensemble acting, smart scripting, political intrigue, social commentary, and the occasional swashbuckling action scene. A rapturous and entertaining historical adventure helmed by one of 20th Century Fox’s top contract directors – the great Henry King (Twelve O’Clock High, The Sun Also Rises) – Captain remains a worthwhile achievement in the genre over seven decades after it failed to recoup its sizable production budget at the box budget despite selling an impressive amount of tickets for its time.

    Dashing matinee idol extraordinaire (and a damn fine actor as well) Tyrone Power commands the screen in Captain as Pedro de Vargas, a wealthy aristocrat from a respected family who is forced to free his home country of Spain after he is charged with heresy by the nefarious Inquisition enforcer Diego de Silva (John Sutton) and his younger sister is tortured to death by de Silva’s men. Joining up with the adventurous Juan Garcia (Lee J. Cobb) and the fetching, feisty barmaid Catana (Jean Peters), Pedro sets off with his new friends for Cuba to enlist with the ambitious Mexican expedition of Hernan Cortes (Cesar Romero). When Cortes reveals his intentions to conquer the land and horde its vast wealth, Pedro finds himself ascending the ranks and becoming a trusted captain to the explorer. However, he still has a score to settle with de Silva, who he supposedly killed back in Spain….

    Based on the best-selling 1945 novel of the same name written by Samuel Shellabarger, which was initially serialized in the pages of Cosmopolitan before being published in book form, Captain from Castile is a first-rate slice of rousing epic filmmaking from the post-war Hollywood studio system under the professional direction of Henry King. Screenwriter/producer Lamar Trotti (The Ox-Bow Incident) only adapted part of the Shellabarger novel and left some of its more disturbing content out of his script as it would have never passed muster with the pre-MPAA Motion Picture Production Code. What remained in the adaptation was meaty and challenging enough to attract a roster of big name acting talent to the project, a favored endeavor mounted under the patronage of executive producer and Fox head honcho Darryl F. Zanuck.

    The narrative focus in Captain is on Pedro’s evolution from well-meaning aristocrat to soldier and adventurer and the dueling quests for vengeance and a greater purpose that sets it in motion. There are a few exciting action scenes, including some energetic swordplay and horseback chases that are perfectly composed for the 1.33:1 full frame cinematography. This is where the natural intensity and physicality that helped make Tyrone Power one of the great stars of old Hollywood come into play, but King and Trotti never take the emphasis off character and relationship growth. Power is empathetic and authoritative as Pedro, his performance among the finest he gave on screen. He brings conviction to his character’s journey, which is given a leisurely-paced 141 minutes to fully develop and incorporates the role religious faith played in Pedro’s life in an organic manner.

    King surrounds his top-billed star with an excellent ensemble, the highlights being future Twelve Angry Men/On the Waterfront star Lee J. Cobb in an early breakthrough performance as the charming rogue Juan Garcia; the lovely Jean Peters (so tender and haunting in Samuel Fuller’s gritty noir crime drama Pickup on South Street) as Pedro’s headstrong love interest Catana; Pakistani actor John Sutton (Jane Eyre) as the utterly despicable villain de Silva; and the great Cesar Romero (perhaps best known as the Joker on the 1960’s Batman TV series) as the complex explorer Hernan Cortes, whose motivates his men with promises of fortune and glory while keeping much close to his vest. Smaller but no less noteworthy performances are contributed by George Zucco (House of Frankenstein), Marc Lawrence (From Dusk Till Dawn), and future Tonto Jay Silverheels in an uncredited role as an Aztec slave Pedro assists in escaping from the cruelty of de Silva.

    The score composed by the great Alfred Newman (Fox’s music director at the time) is a rapturous affair that swoons with excitement and emotion, providing the ideal musical compliment to the on-screen action and drama. It has often been singled out as one of the best film scores ever created. I wouldn’t say I loved Newman’s soundtrack that music, but it is a damn fine one and the music that works best to help bring the world of Shellabarger’s novel and the historical events that inspired it to bold cinematic life.

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    Captain from Castile comes to limited edition Blu-ray release from Twilight Time with a terrific new high-definition transfer in full 1080p resolution prepared and supplied by 20th Century Fox. Presented in the film’s original 1.33:1 full screen aspect ratio, the transfer is a feast for the eyes and the soul, with the lush, sweeping Technicolor cinematography of Charles G. Clarke (Miracle on 34th Street) and Arthur E. Arling (The Yearling) looking virtually spotless and saturated with rich royal blues, golden browns, and deep, dark reds. Colors in certain scenes tend to shift at times, but the bump up in resolution unearths renewed texture in the location photography and set design. While close-up details don’t bear an abundance of detail, they don’t look like the victims of excessive digital noise reduction either. This is a crisp and bright transfer that represents the best this film has ever looked on home video.

    Twilight Time offers dual English DTS-HD Master Audio sound options in 2.0 and 1.0 audio. Captain from Castile was original released with a mono soundtrack and the 1.0 most accurate recreates that single-channel mix with clarity, balance, and a lack of distortion. The 2.0 offers a spacious arrangement of the dialogue, music, and ambient effects, remaining respectful to the intentions of the filmmakers while giving home viewers a more immersive listening experience, though neither track can be considered reference quality. English subtitles have also been provided.

    The extra features were ported over from Fox’s 2007 Region 1 DVD release (also available as part of a box set of Tyrone Power swashbucklers that included Blood and Sand, Son of Fury, Prince of Foxes, and The Black Rose). The requisite audio commentary brings together film historian Rudy Behlmer and music expert Jon Burlingame, with future Twilight Time co-founder Nick Redman acting as moderator, for a lively and wide-ranging discussion of the film’s colorful production history, production background, and more. An additional audio track isolates the Newman score on its own channel and appears to have been mastered from the original recording sessions as you can hear in-studio chatter between music cues. Film score aficionados will surely enjoy this feature.

    “Tyrone Power & His Leading Ladies” (12 minutes) is a sweet and charming featurette composed of interviews with several actresses, including Terry Moore and Patricia Neal, who shared the screen with Power and here offer their fond memories of their time working with and getting to know him up close. Twilight Time has also included “Tyrone Power: The Last Idol” (45 minutes), an episode of A&E Biography from 1996 dedicated to the iconic movie star and his life and amazing silver screen career. Disc-based extras wrap up with the original theatrical trailer (3 minutes), which is presented in black & white here, and a catalogue of other releases from Twilight Time. Julie Kirgo once again contributes a booklet of informative liner notes, illustrated with stills from the film and original poster art.

    The Final Word:

    Captain from Castile is a flawed but intelligent and absorbing historical adventure featuring top-notch direction from Henry King, a terrific cast headed by a rarely-better Tyrone Power, and some well-executed action shot in glorious Technicolor. Twilight Time has done right by this ravishing epic with an excellent Blu-ray release that includes the best home video transfer of the film to date. Highly recommended.

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