How Green Was My Valley: Special Edition

January 28, 2012 7 Min Read

Review by: Fusion3600

Plot: What’s it about?

Now sixty years of age, Huw Morgan’s memories are all he has to keep his younger days close at hand. Morgan remembers the details of his youth, his family, and the small town where he grew up. As he reminisces, he see the world of the small town begin to develop, and by the end, we know much about the town and the Morgan family. The town was best known for it’s mining resources, so the local mine was the focus of employment for the residents. The story deals with how the mine is brought into a union based system, and how his family slowly drifts and breaks apart. But the main focus is in Huw himself, who endures countless hardships, usually involving his social peers. He and his family have little to count on outside of their precious family unit and with financial strain bearing down, even that doesn’t seem as stable anymore. This is a general overview of the plot movement, but as you’ll see when you watch the movie, there is so much detail and subtle touches, it’s hard to summarize.

How Green Was My Valley is a classic film, which is critically acclaimed as well as well received by the public. In 1941, it took home five Oscars; Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor, Best Art Direction, and Best Cinematography were the awards it walked away with. I liked the movie quite a bit, mainly due to the fact that it seems real. I can see this happening in small towns even know, the collapse of local families and problems with the primary employer are troubles that face towns everywhere. I also like the fact that the movie lacks the usual Hollywood shine, it doesn’t sugarcoat the issues found inside the town. If you’re a classic movie buff, or are just looking for a great classic to enjoy, I recommend this movie highly, and this new disc is a real knockout. So whether you own the previous edition or not, Fox’s new Studio Classics version of How Green Was My Valley is highly recommended.

The acting in this movie is excellent, but the directing really steals the show. A legend in the directing field, John Ford added yet another epic to his roster with this movie. Ford used some outstanding framing and “mise en scene” with this picture, some of the best from this time period. While Ford is best known for westerns, such as The Searchers and Stagecoach, he also mastered the other genres, especially those which explored the human process, such as How Green Was My Valley. The cast is also good, with strong leading performances by Walter Pidgeon (Forbidden Planet, Funny Girl) and Maureen O’Hara (Rio Grande, Miracle On 34th Street). Since the material calls for natural, subtle performances, the acting is reserved, but that is the intent here. Also starring in this movie are Donald Crisp (National Velvet, The Man From Laramie), Michael Greer (Three Daring Daughters), Sara Allgood (The Spiral Staircase, The Lodger), and Roddy McDowall (The Legend of Hell House, Lord Love A Duck).

Video: How does it look?

How Green Was My Valley is presented in full frame, as intended. This is a dynamite visual effort, the kind of transfer you’d expect for a classic like this one. The print is in excellent condition, so grain and debris never prove to be an issue, which means the gorgeous black & white visuals can come through unhindered. The image is quite sharp and crisp, so little touches leap out at times, making this a wonderful all around effort. No problems in terms of contrast either, which is good, since black & white are the only shades this picture has. The black levels seem in tune and provide solid detail levels throughout. I am pleased to see Fox go back and improve this film’s visual treatment, let’s hope future Studio Classics look this good.

Audio: How does it sound?

The audio here is quite robust, with more presence than you might expect, given the age of the material involved. I won’t go out on a limb too much here, but this a very well mixed soundtrack, with just enough punch when needed. So instead of sounding flat and dated like a number of films from this time period, How Green Was My Valley has a more rich, though still somewhat dated audio texture. So no, you won’t be using this disc to showcase your home theater, but for what it is, this is a splendid presentation. This disc also includes a mono option, French & Spanish language tracks, and subtitles in English and Spanish.

Supplements: What are the extras?

An audio commentary starts us off, with film historian Joseph McBride at the helm and star Anna Lee on hand as well. McBride covers an immense amount of data in this track, so be prepared to learn a lot, especially about how the movie differs from the source novel. Lee sometimes chimes in and is enthusiastic when she does, but McBride is front and center in this session, delivering an insightful and worthwhile experience. A well crafted episode of AMC Backstory is also found here, which focuses on the details behind the creation of this picture, with special attention paid to Ford’s direction. I was pleased to see this Backstory episode included here and of course, I hope to see more as Fox expands its Studio Classics line. This disc also includes some still photos, as well as the film’s theatrical trailer.

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