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Artisan Home Entertainment presents
"Forget old times and traditions, this is a new country."
DVD Review"Ma'am, this is downright inconvenient for you." - John BreenJohn Wayne dons a coonskin hat in this 1949 film written and directed by George Waggner. Wayne's first credit as producer had been two years prior, with The Angel and the Badman, and as Republic's hottest commodity, Wayne would get his second credit for The Fighting Kentuckians, but not without compromise. The tradeoff would be starring opposite Vera Hruba Ralston, a former ice skater, and girlfriend of Republic president, Herbert Yates. Wayne knew her acting ability was limited from working with her on Dakota, and her heavy Czech accent meant casting other Czechs and Austrians to play French parts to keep the accents in line. Wayne also convinced comic veteran Oliver Hardy to join the production, who reluctantly agreed after the idea was blessed by his partner Stan Laurel, who was unable to work at the time. The year is 1818. With Napoleon's defeat and banishment at the end of the Napoleonic wars, a group of loyal and wealthy French expatriots have come to America, where they were given refuge in the territory of Alabama. They have settled in the town of Demopolis, where two hundred miles upriver in Mobile, a rank of Kentucky soldiers are passing through on their way to join Andrew Jackson in New Orleans. John Breen (Wayne) is one of them, but he is vying to get out of service. While fleeing his former army buddy, Willie Paine (Hardy), Breen commandeers a carriage belonging to the French general's daughter, Fleurette De Marchand (Ralston), and quickly sets his mind to courting. He soon discovers a rival in Blake Randolph (John Howard), a local business tycoon, who has been promised the girl's hand in marriage, but Fleurette is captivated by the rough-edged, but smooth-talking Kentuckian. However, her father (Hugo Haas) has other ideas. Understandably, Randolph also wants the ruffian out of town, but his motives and means are less honorable than might be expected. When Breen finds out there are some nefarious plans afoot that could jeopardize the entire French community, it is up to him and his fighting Kentuckians to come to the rescue. Wayne does what he does best, playing the suave but unsophisticated silver-tongued leading man. Vera Ralston—perhaps a credit to the director if the criticism leveled at her is to be believed—is up to his challenge, playing perfect counterpart to his advances. The pairing of Wayne and Hardy also works well. Not surprisingly, Hardy is the comic relief, being the brunt of many a stunt, and lightening up the tone. The Fighting Kentuckian makes for an entertaining picture, full of romance, slapstick comedy, adventure and a climactic showdown. There is mischief a plenty, and as expected the hero saves the day—what more could you ask from a picture?
Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B
Image Transfer Review: It is too bad a little more effort wasn't put into the presentation of this film. The source material is in pretty rough shape, with scratches and blemishes plentiful. The image is soft, murky and lacking shadow detail, and there is a fair amount of gate wobble in places. While compression issues weren't noticible, it is a shame it didn't get at least some restoration work.
Image Transfer Grade: B-
Audio Transfer Review: Two-channel mono is reasonably well presented, with nothing overly detracting. There is some hiss, and a bit of edginess in places, but this isn't too far off what I would expect for a picture of this era.
Audio Transfer Grade: B
Disc ExtrasStatic menu
Scene Access with 20 cues and remote access
Extras Grade: C-
Final CommentsWhile certainly not his best film, The Fighting Kentuckians manages to be a light-hearted, romantic adventure with John Wayne as the rebel who finds a cause. Oliver Hardy, in a rare solo outing, plays fall guy, while Vera Ralston succumbs to Wayne's charms as the daughter of a French general. Thoroughly enjoyable, this is good, old-time entertainment—too bad the source wasn't in better shape.
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