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MGM Studios DVD presents

The Alamo (1960)

"We've already been cut down by a third, just how long do you think we can hold out?"- Jim Bowie (Richard Widmark)

Stars: John Wayne, Richard Widmark, Laurence Harvey, Richard Boone
Other Stars: Frankie Avalon, Patrick Wayne, Linda Cristal, Joan O'Brien, Chill Wills, Joseph Calleia, Ken Curtis, Carlos Arruza, Jester Hairston, Veda Ann Borg
Director: John Wayne

Manufacturer: IFPI
MPAA Rating: Not RatedRun Time: 02h:41m:41s
Release Date: 2000-12-05
Genre: western

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
A- AA-A- C+


DVD Review

In the stories of the Old West, there are places that have left a lasting mark on history. The story of the Alamo, an adobe mission in Texas, has gone down in legend. A group of 185 men, including Davie Crockett and Jim Bowie, fought a courageous battle there to hold off the massive Mexican army set on conquering those supporting the foundation of the Republic of Texas. Capturing the story of the Alamo was a mission for director, producer and star, John Wayne. It cost him his long-time association with Republic pictures, who refused to make the picture on his terms. Wayne was also refused by numerous other studios unless an established director, like John Ford, was at the helm. Eventually, after ten years developing the motion picture, a deal was struck with United Artists; but Wayne had to self-finance a large part of the production, placing his salary, homes, cars and yacht as collateral to get funding. After threats that no Texan would ever see the film if it were shot in its original locations in Mexico, shooting was done on location in Brackettville, Texas, a 400-acre set that took two years to construct.

The year is 1836, and Texas is currently part of Mexico, but plans to declare a Republic are being hatched to free the region from the tyrannical Mexican rule. Colonel William Travis (Laurence Harvey) is put in command of a small garrison, stationed at San Antonio de Bexar, a small town housing an old adobe church. His mission is to do whatever possible to delay the advancement of the Mexican army under General Santa Anna (Ruben Padilla), while greenhorn troops are trained for battle in the north. The Mexicans, numbering seven thousand men, are sweeping across the new Republic of Texas. Jim Bowie (Richard Widmark) doesn't think the idea of holding out in a fortress is a suitable battle plan, as he and his men are notorious in the region for his successful cut and run tactics. When 'coon capped Davie Crockett (John Wayne) and his Texicans arrive in town, Travis enlists their aid in his cause, knowing that their chances of survival are slim without reinforcements, which have yet to arrive. As time winds down to the inevitable encounter with the Mexican army, Crockett, Bowie and their men must decide whether to stand up and fight against unbeatable odds, or take their leave of the no-win situation. Their actions would go down in history as the battle that won the war, and make heroes out of each man who stood his ground for good of the Republic.

The production on The Alamo was huge, with an authentic recreation of the famed structure and its surroundings done up from the original drawings. The wide Todd-AO cinematography required nearly 7,000 extras and 1,500 horses to depict the oncoming Mexican army. Wayne also had to contend with the uninvited arrival of John Ford onto the set, who was sent off to shoot second unit scenes, of which only one or two sequences made the final cut. Wayne himself handpicked members of the cast and extras, leaving no detail to chance. Despite the opportunity to paint either side as the villains, Wayne chose instead to show each side's honor, and his treatment of the Mexican army demonstrates this. He also tried to separate fact from fiction and be as historically accurate as possible, removing a pivotal occurence that has been passed down with the legend, but for which there was not enough historical evidence to include. Though taking its toll on the star and director, he at last brought to screen a story he held in great importance. Due to a terrible marketing campaign, the film only garnered one Oscar® for Best Sound, though it was nominated for seven awards including Best Picture. Although MGM released the 192-minute roadshow version of The Alamo onVHS, they decided to release only the shorter, 162-minute cut on DVD. However, this does still contain an extra 22 minutes cut from its US theatricalrelease, which were excised after its theatrical premiere.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: A


Image Transfer

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 One Two
Aspect Ratio2.20:1 - Widescreen 2.35:1 - n/a
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: MGM has presented The Alamo with an anamorphic 2.35:1 transfer, which, while exhibiting a fair amount of grain, looks pretty decent overall. Colors, though, betray their vintage, but black levels are fine. There's the odd bit of dust and dirt, but nothing extreme.

Image Transfer Grade: A-

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Frenchyes
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: English audio is available in a new 5.1 remix, which while providing some limited additional directionality does not really expand on the soundtrack's frequency range. Dialogue is fine when center focused, but tends to muddy during offscreen sequences. A French stereo track and Spanish mono are also provided.

Audio Transfer Grade: A- 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 32 cues and remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL

Extra Extras:
  1. John Wayne's "The Alamo" featurette
Extras Review: Aside from the original theatrical trailer, the only on disc extra is a 40-minute television special looking back on The Alamo. Featuring interview clips from members of the cast and production, the show both praises and criticizes Wayne for undertaking such an all encompassing role in the film. While his dedication to bringing the story to the screen is lauded, his ability to direct, especially non-action sequences, is often commented on negatively. Some of the vintage promo shots of Wayne were interesting, as is the story behind the movie, but don't expect to get to know The Duke any better from watching this supplement, since the focus is very much on what the facts of the production were, rather than on the man behind it.

The insert "collectable" booklet features some production info and trivia on the film.

Extras Grade: C+

Final Comments

For those interested in historical pieces, The Alamo is a decent addition to the collection. Dialogue is somewhat long-winded in places, and feels fairly unnatural like many older films. However, nothing beats seeing 7,000 extras riding real horses over the landscape, and the spectacle of the battle sequences is even more impressive when you realize these are all real people. The presentation is fine, though the supplements are a little thin.

Jeff Ulmer 2000-12-19