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Image Entertainment presents
John Ford Goes to War (2005)

"Having known him a bit—you know, I knew him for about ten years. I would say that there was no way he was going to stay out of the war."
- Peter Bogdanovich

Review By: Nate Meyers   
Published: March 23, 2006

Stars: John Ford, Scott Eyman, Leonard Maltin, Joseph McBride, Bob Thomas, Dan Ford, Oliver Stone, Andrew Sarris, Richard Schickel, Gavin Lambert, Kathleen Parrish, George Hjorth, F.X. Feeney, Peter Bogdanovich, Kris Kristofferson
Director: Tom Thurman

Manufacturer: deluxe digital studios
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (archival footage of war)
Run Time: 00h:55m:45s
Release Date: December 20, 2005
UPC: 014381205527
Genre: documentary

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B- BC-B-

DVD Review

What can be said about John Ford that hasn't already been said? The man is...well, he's the man. Arguably standing as the greatest director in American cinema, his masterful command of the artform is the perfect compliment to his complex personality. While films like The Searchers and The Quiet Man may prove to be Ford's greatest artistic contribution to cinema, one cannot forget about his involvement in the World War II war effort. Like many other Hollywood celebrities, Ford put his considerable talents to good use as he made movies to both chronicle the war's harsh realities and rally the public to its support.

In this new documentary, John Ford Goes to War, various critics and filmmakers opine on the man's involvement in the Navy's Field Photographic Unit. Narrated by Kris Kristofferson, the movie spends little time on Ford's upbringing and career prior to World War II. With the likes of Leonard Maltin and Richard Schickel quickly establishing Ford's unique, Catholic-guilt-ridden persona, director Tom Thurman quickly places his emphasis on the specific movies Ford made for the Navy. Incorporating comments from Ford's grandson, Dan Ford, and George Hjorth, one of Ford's cameraman, Thurman paints a strong portrait of the director's domineering personality. Some of the most involving moments in the film are about how Ford used his previous experience with studio executives to cut through the federal government's red tape.

However, the documentary seems to be more interested in analyzing his films than in truly examining how the war influenced him. With the exception of screenwriter Gavin Lambert, very few of the interviewees actually devote their comments to describing Ford's sense of duty and motivation for heading into war. I would prefer a movie that focuses more on Ford himself, but Thurman's work here is a nice alternative. Film critic F.X. Feeney analyzes the Oscar-winning The Battle of Midway quite well, giving an intelligent look at the importance of the film for offering American audiences a vivid look at the battle. There's also an informative section on December 7th, a shameless piece of propaganda that Ford hated being associated with, but agreed to edit for friend Gregg Toland.

John Ford Goes to War is a brief look at this period in the man's career, but Thurman still delivers an entertaining and informative documentary. He mixes archival footage and audio recordings of Ford with clips of the movies well. For those who want a quick introduction to Ford's work during World War II, this fits the bill.

Rating for Style: B-
Rating for Substance: B


Image Transfer

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

Image Transfer Review: The old World War II footage and home movies of Ford are in rough shape, showing many scratches, dirt, and just about every other flaw one can think of. This can be forgiven, but in the interviews the skin tone is far from accurate, with many of the men looking as though their skin is orange. Additionally, I noticed artifacting on some of the these segments.

Image Transfer Grade: C-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access

Audio Transfer Review: The monaural English mix is clean and crisp. The track permeates from the front sound stage when played in the Stereo setting, which helps open up the whole listening experience. Dialogue is always audible and the music comes across nicely.

Audio Transfer Grade: B-


Disc Extras

Static menu with music
Scene Access with 12 cues and remote access
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: There is no supplemental material on this disc.

Extras Grade:


Final Comments

This bare-bones release probably will only appeal to the famed director's fans. The image and sound transfers are nothing exceptional and the documentary is so brief that this is a difficult title to recommend. Perhaps it would be better suited as a supplemental on a release containing all of Ford's war propaganda films.


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