My Darling Clementine appears in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. The film came with a splendid transfer.
Sharpness appeared positive. Any softness was minor and inconsequential, as the vast majority of the movie displayed strong clarity and definition. I noticed no signs of shimmering or jaggies, and edge haloes remained absent. With natural grain, I didn’t suspect any digital noise reduction shenanigans, and print flaws never became a factor in this clean presentation.
Black levels seemed quite deep and rich, and contrast looked concise and well developed. A couple of moderately dense “day for night” shots occurred, but those were unavoidable, and most of the movie showed nice detail in its low-light shots. Across the board, this became a terrific visual presentation.
While not as impressive, the film’s LPCM monaural soundtrack held up well over the decades. Dialogue seemed fine, as the lines usually appeared concise and natural.
Music tended to be reasonably peppy and full, as the track reproduced the score well. Effects also seemed pretty good; they didn’t show the greatest range, but they were more than adequate for their age. Nothing problematic occurred during this generally good track.
How does the Blu-ray compare to the 2004 DVD? Audio was more distinctive and clear, while visuals seemed tighter, cleaner and smoother. Especially in terms of the picture, this was an enormous improvement.
The Criterion release mixes old and new supplements. In the “new” category, we locate an audio commentary from film scholar Joseph McBride. He offers a running, screen-specific discussion of director John Ford's life and career and work on the film, cast and crew, sets and locations, visual design, story/characters and themes, historical fact vs. the movie’s fiction, and related areas.
While I’ve heard more complete historical commentaries, McBride still manages to give us a good array of notes here. He adopts more of an introspective look than usual, with an emphasis on the movie’s story/themes as well as how it fit with Ford’s career. We find a nice array of details in this consistently informative piece.
Next comes a very intriguing extra: the pre-release version of Clementine. This last one hour, 43 minutes, 18 seconds and gives us a take of the flick before changes imposed by studio head Darryl F. Zanuck occurred. I didn’t watch this because I didn’t think I’d really see many differences; I’ve only watched Clementine twice over 10 years, so I don’t know it well enough to grasp many variations. Nonetheless, it’s a very cool addition to the disc.
I also felt I could skip the alternate edition because the package includes Version Comparison Narrated by Robert Gitt of the UCLA Film and Television Archive, this 41-minute and 49-second documentary discusses the origins of the pre-release version and details the differences between the two.
Gitt gets into the history of the various editions and we see clips exclusive to the pre-release one as well as comparisons with release material. It’s an interesting and informative program that also serves as a nice short cut for those of us without deep knowledge of Clementine.
Under Print the Legend, we find a 14-minute, 29-second interview with western scholar Andrew C. Isenberg. He covers facts about Wyatt Earp, the events in Tombstone and connected topics. In this commentary, McBride discusses some of this, but Isenberg delivers a more thorough examination and he makes this a good piece.
From April 1963, David Brinkley Journal: Tombstone fills seven minutes, 41 seconds. Hosted by famed newsman Brinkley and with information from history professor John A. Horgan, it looks at the real-life location in which the movie’s events took place. I wouldn’t call this a hard-hitting show, but it offers an enjoyable view of Tombstone.
Another archival TV piece, Today: Report on Monument Valley goes for five minutes, 30 seconds and delivers a view of John Ford’s favorite location. We learn about the valley’s history in this short but informative program.
A “video essay” called Lost and Gone Forever takes up 18 minutes, 12 seconds. Led by film scholar Tag Gallagher, it gives us a mix of movie shots and archival elements as well as comments about parts of the film. Gallagher offers an introspective view of Clementine and turns this into a fairly useful featurette.
A 1916 short film, Bandit’s Wager runs 14 minutes, five seconds. Created by John Ford’s older brother Francis, it gives us a silent western. John Ford himself appears on-screen in a role as well. While I don’t think the flick itself offers much entertainment value, it becomes a fine addition for its historical value.
In addition to the film’s trailer, an episode of Lux Radio Theatre finishes the set. From April 28, 1947, the adaptation of Clementine lasts 58 minutes, four seconds and stars Henry Fonda and Cathy Downs in their movie parts. As expected, this gives us a truncated version of the story, but it turns into a likeable piece of history.
Like all Criterion releases, this one comes with a booklet. The 12-page piece includes an essay from film writer David Jenkins about Clementine. It’s not one of Criterion’s best booklets, but it adds value.
I don’t think My Darling Clementine offers a genuinely great film, as it meanders too much and seems too erratic. However, it comes together well in the end and seems quite satisfying if you meet it on its own terms. The Blu-ray boasts excellent picture as well as satisfactory audio and a strong package of bonus materials. Across the board, this becomes a terrific release.
To rate this film, visit the 2004 review of MY DARLING CLEMENTINE