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Fox Home Entertainment presents
What Price Glory (1952)

"It's a lousy war, kid. But it's the only one we got."
- Captain Flagg (James Cagney)

Review By: Jon Danziger   
Published: May 26, 2004

Stars: James Cagney, Corinne Calvet, Dan Dailey
Other Stars: William Demarest, Craig Hill, Robert Wagner, Marisa Pavan, Casey Adams, James Gleason, Wally Vernon, Henri Letondel
Director: John Ford

Manufacturer: M*A*S*HMPAA Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: 01h:49m:45s
Release Date: May 25, 2004
UPC: 024543115434
Genre: war

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
C+ C-DB- D

DVD Review

Jingoistic cheerleading aside, everything from The Iliad to Troy reminds us that war is hell, with or without Brad Pitt's killer abs. Here John Ford revisits the war to end all wars, and though he's one of the great Hollywood directors, and is working with an iconic leading man, What Price Glory never much rises above the overworked clichés of movies of this sort. Looking back at it now, it doesn't seem nearly as unflinching as other war films (take your pick, from Full Metal Jacket to Samuel Fuller to Saving Private Ryan ), nor does its comedy pack much of a mordant punch—Ford made some great films, but he was always a little clumsy with comedic elements, and this has none of the battle-weary grimness and dark humor of a film like M*A*S*H. (The presence of a couple of underutilized actors point this up still further: a young Harry Morgan, decades away from his years as Colonel Potter, and William Demarest, a decade past his indelible turn in maybe the best war comedy, Hail the Conquering Hero.) The unfortunate comparisons that may recur with What Price Glory are with other films about World War I, and this one isn't in the same battalion as All Quiet on the Western Front or (perhaps the greatest war film) Paths of Glory. It's not entirely without virtues, though, most of them coming from the movie's star.

James Cagney plays Captain Flagg, a natural leader of men, given a ragtag bunch of doughboys stationed in France (or what passes for France on the Fox backlot, anyway), taking on the Germans. Reporting for duty is his new top soldier: Sergeant Quirt (Dan Dailey), deputized to turn the latest fresh-faced recruits into lean, mean fighting machines. Flagg and Quirt are old pals, and love nothing more than throwing back a few and exchanging blows—the real combat between them comes not on the battlefield, but in the boudoir, when Quirt tries to put the moves on Flagg's girl, Charmaine (Corinne Calvet), the buxom daughter of the local innkeeper. Cagney is a fiery little sparkplug of a captain, but he isn't given much more than attitude; unfortunately the wisecracks don't seem too wise, and there's not a lot else here, other than a weak little subplot about a young soldier (Robert Wagner) who falls hard for a girl at the local school run by the nuns.

The film is based on a play by Maxwell Anderson, written not longer after the World War I armistice; it set the tone for a lot of the war drama that followed, the brave, wry, self-effacing soldiers making jokes before, during and after their deeds of glory. But in that respect it's a piece with more historical than dramatic interest; and the best efforts of husband-and-wife writing team Phoebe and Henry Ephron (parents of Nora, by the way) can't breathe much life into this. The big recurring joke is that the French don't speak English, and don't understand much of what the Americans say. Ha ha ha.

There are a couple of efforts late in the game to give it some life—the unit is ordered to bring back a live German officer, for interrogation - but there isn't much to it; and given that Charmaine seems like little more than a tramp, the battle for her hand doesn't have much dramatic impact. There are some unsubtle but nonetheless true remarks about the ravages of war, and the men serving under Flagg, "little boys who have no business being here at all," but ultimately this seems like warmed-over stuff.

Rating for Style: C+
Rating for Substance: C-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The transfer seems to have been made from a very erratic print, and it's a sloppy bit of work, full of scratches, debris, inconsistent colors, and muddiness. The glossy colors of the 1950s occasionally shine through, but overall, this is a very poor job.

Image Transfer Grade: D


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
MonoEnglish, Spanishyes
DS 2.0Englishyes

Audio Transfer Review: Both the mono and stereo tracks are serviceable, with a certain amount of buzz and room tone persisting on both.

Audio Transfer Grade: B-


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 20 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
2 Original Trailer(s)
3 Other Trailer(s) featuring Crash Dive , The Hunters, Morituri
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: Nothing but trailers, chapter stops and subtitles.

Extras Grade: D


Final Comments

Despite the game efforts of Ford and Cagney, there's not a lot that seems fresh, pungent or powerful about this film, and its shoddy presentation on DVD doesn't much help the cause.


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