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SPECIFICATIONS
  • 1.33:1 Standard
  • English PCM Mono
  • English subtitles
  • 1 Disc
FEATURES
  • A BBC profile of John Fordís early career
  • A talk show episode featuring Henry Fonda
  • Archival audio interviews with John Ford and Henry Fonda, conducted by the filmmakerís grandson Dan Ford
  • Academy Award Theater radio dramatization of Young Mr. Lincoln, downloadable as an MP3 file
  • Booklet featuring critic Geoffrey O'Brien and an homage to Ford by Sergei Eisenstein
  • New audio commentary featuring film scholar Joseph McBride (Searching for John Ford: A Life)

Young Mr. Lincoln

Blu-ray
Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: John Ford
1939 | 100 Minutes | Licensor: 20th Century Fox

Release Information
Blu-ray | MSRP: $39.95 | Series: The Criterion Collection | Edition: #320
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Release Date: January 9, 2018
Review Date: January 7, 2018

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SYNOPSIS

Few American historical figures are as revered as Abraham Lincoln, and few director-star collaborations embody classic Hollywood cinema as beautifully as the one between John Ford and Henry Fonda. This film, their first together, was Fordís equally poetic and significant follow-up to the groundbreaking western Stagecoach, and in it, Fonda gives one of the finest performances of his career, as the young president-to-be as a novice lawyer, struggling with an incendiary murder case. Photographed in gorgeous black and white by Fordís frequent collaborator Bert Glennon, Young Mr. Lincoln is a compassionate and assured work and an indelible piece of Americana.


PICTURE

After receiving a new 4K restoration John Fordís Young Mr. Lincoln receives a new Blu-ray from Criterion, presented on this dual-layer disc in its original aspect ratio of 1.37:1 with a 1080p/24hz high-definition encode. The restoration was primarily sourced from a new scan of the 35mm nitrate negatives, with a 35mm safety fine-grain to fill in any missing scenes or sequences too badly damaged on the negative. The notes state this restoration was undertaken by both 20th Century Fox and Criterion.

There is a slight softness to the image that did surprise me but on the whole the level of detail and the general clarity and crispness of the image vastly improves upon Criterionís already decent DVD edition. Some daylight scenes are especially bright, with whites that borderline blooming (though donít quite do it), but contrast is far better as well, with excellent grayscale and strong black levels, leading to excellent shadow detail. As to the slight softness (which does get softer when a soft focus is being applied) it looks more source related than an issue with the scan or restoration: film grain is still there, very fine but clean and natural.

The restoration work on the DVD was impressive but this goes to the next level, just about scrubbing away all damage, and the encode doesnít present any digital anomalies. The notes did make mention that they had to jump between sources but I canít say I noticed any severe drops in quality, so these jumps arenít easily apparent. In all it is a stunner of a presentation and a striking improvement over the previous DVD.

9/10

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AUDIO

The lossless PCM 1.0 monaural presentation is fine but shows its age. Dialogue is clear but I always felt there was this tinge of distortion behind voices, music, and sound effects that gets a bit more obvious during the scoreís higher moments. But there are no drops, pops, cracks, or other signs of significant damage.

6/10

SUPPLEMENTS

Criterion carries most of everything over from their previous 2-disc DVD edition while also, surprisingly, adding one significant feature. New to this edition is an audio commentary by Joseph McBride, author of Searching for John Ford: A Life. The original DVD was missing a bit of an academic slant and this new feature nicely fills that. McBride considers this film one of his favourites from the director despite some initial reservations to it (he admits an original disappointment to the courtroom drama jump the film takes in the last section). While also covering the filmís narrative and structure, as well as its production, McBride also offers some historical context, even pointing out references in the film foreshadowing events that would happen in Lincolnís life, and also talks about other films that revolve around the man. McBride keeps it moving and engaging throughout, and if heís reading or referencing notes it never feels like it. Certainly worth a listen.

The rest of the features are hold-overs from the old DVD. Thereís the first episode (only) of a two-part episode of the BBC program Omnibus. The 42-minute segment is a pretty standard biography, going over Fordís early career from his early silent work up through World War II. I assume they only include the first part since it covers the period in which Young Mr. Lincoln was made but itís a good program and itís a shame that the second part wasnít also included (I assume the cost to license it maybe wasnít worth it in the end).

There are then a few archival interviews. Henry Fonda, sporting blonde hair (which he explains) is first interviewed in a 1975 episode of Parkinson, there to promote his one-man show about Clarence Darrow that was showing in London at the time. For the next 49-minutes the two go over Fondaís rich career and his more significant roles, with a surprising amount of attention paid to Young Mr. Lincoln early on. Itís a terrific and charming interview.

Criterion then includes two excerpts from two separate audio interviews conducted by Dan Ford, one with John Ford and the other Henry Fonda, the former from 1973 and the latter from 1976. The excerpts, running 8-minutes and 5-minutes respectively, focus on Young Mr. Lincoln. Some of the details from each are repeated in other features, like the Parkinson interview or the McBride commentary, but itís funny hearing two very different stories behind Fondaís casting and his screen tests, each man remembering things a bit differently. Itís also funny hearing Fonda drop F-bombs when quoting things Ford said to him (Fonda also mentions these things in the Parkinson interview but omits the foul language obviously).

The features then close with the Academy Award radio adaptation of Young Mr. Lincoln, featuring Fonda reprising the role. It runs only 29-minutes and focuses on the last section of the film, omitting just about everything that happens before the murder. On the original DVD it was included on the disc as an MP3 file you could download off of the disc but doing a quick scan of this discís contents on my computer doesnít reveal an MP3 file.

Criterion also ports over the booklet from the DVD edition, which again features a short essay on the film by Geoffrey OíBrien, along with an essay written by Sergei Eisenstein written in 1960, where the filmmaker expresses his love for the film.

Criterion doesnít port over a gallery from the DVD, which is a real shame. It presented photos of the final screenplay, presenting a number of scenes or bits of dialogue not in the final film. It also had an image of the filmís poster and photos of a fan letter that Eisenstein wrote to Ford.

Despite the missing gallery (which was a really great one on the DVD) Criterion includes a strong set of material, offering an excellent examination at this period in Fordís career and the film itself.

8/10

CLOSING

A really strong upgrade that carries over most of the features from the old DVD (while adding a new commentary) and offers a significant upgrade in the picture department. It comes highly recommended.


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