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Release Date(s)1948 (February 21, 2012)
Studio(s)RKO (Warner Bros.)
Fort Apache (1948, RKO) is the first film of and my favourite in John Ford's cavalry trilogy (the others being She Wore a Yellow Ribbon and Rio Grande), though just marginally so as all three films offer immense viewing pleasure.
It stars Henry Fonda as a stubborn, martinet-like officer whose assignment as the commander of the title cavalry base in Indian territory and his ill-conceived handling of his command leads to an unnecessary disaster. His second-in-command (John Wayne), clearly a favorite of the men, is unable to persuade Fonda of the error of his ways and unwilling to question the latter's authority. The disaster of Fonda's ultimate decisions becomes the stuff of legend through the efforts of the press - a result characteristic of Ford films (and one that he explored to its ultimate conclusion in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance). Fonda and Wayne are both typically superb in their respective roles while the Ford stock company of supporting players is strikingly present, lending on the one hand comedy and music support (Victor McLaglen, Dick Foran, Pedro Armendariz, Hank Worden) and solid competence and character reliability on the other (Ward Bond, George O'Brien). John Agar and Shirley Temple provide a pleasing romance angle to further temper the stresses of the plot workings. Monument Valley is once again used to grand effect by Ford. Action content is limited, but very well orchestrated. Fort Apache is a further example of how well black and white film can benefit from the Blu-ray treatment. Warner Bros.' full-frame 1.37:1 image is sharp, bright, and boasts a very detailed gray scale with excellent contrast. Detail is noticeably good both in close-ups and in the longer shots. The Monument Valley vistas fair very well in that regard. Moderate grain is pleasingly present. The mono DTS-HD Master audio track does a good workmanlike job, providing clarity and even suggesting a measure of good dynamic range in the isolated action sequences with marked sound effects such as charging horses and echoes of gunfire. A Spanish DD mono track and English, French, and Spanish sub-titles are included. The supplement package features an interesting audio commentary by film historian F.X. Feeney and carries over both the theatrical trailer and the good featurette Monument Valley: John Ford Country from the earlier DVD release. Highly recommended.