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Archie Mayo
Leslie Howard, Bette Davis, Genevieve Tobin, Dick Foran, Humphrey Bogart, Joe Sawyer, Porter Hall, Charley Grapewin
Writing Credits:
Robert E. Sherwood (play), Charles Kenyon, Delmer Daves

A rundown diner bakes in the Arizona heat. Inside, fugitive killer Duke Mantee sweats out a manhunt, holding disillusioned writer Alan Squier, young Gabby Maple and a handful of others hostage. As trapped as his captives, Mantee admits: "It looks like I'll spend the rest of my life dead." The Petrified Forest, Robert Sherwood's 1935 Broadway success about survival of the fittest in the modern world, hit the screen a year later with Leslie Howard and Humphrey Bogart magnificently recreating their stage roles and Bette Davis ably reteaming with her Of Human Bondage co-star Howard. Sherwood initially wanted Bogart for a smaller role. "I thought Sherwood was right," Bogart said. "I couldn't picture myself playing a gangster. So what happened? "I made a hit as the gangster." So right was he that Howard refused to make the film without him ... and helped launch Bogie's brilliant movie career.

Box Office:
$500 thousand.

Rated NR

Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
English DTS-HD MA Monaural
German Dolby Digital Monaural
Latin Spanish Dolby Digital Monaural
Portuguese Dolby Digital Monaural
Latin Spanish
Supplements Subtitles:
Latin Spanish

Runtime: 82 min.
Price: $19.97
Release Date: 5/21/2013

• Audio Commentary with Bogart Biographer Eric Lax
• “Warner Night at the Movies”
• “The Petrified Forest: Menace in the Desert” Documentary
• Radio Broadcast
• Trailer


Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Harman/Kardon DPR 2005 7.1 Channel Receiver; Toshiba A-30 HD-DVD/1080p Upconverting DVD Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


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Petrified Forest [Blu-Ray] (1936)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (May 16, 2013)

1936’s The Petrified Forest maintains a place in movie history as the flick that made Humphrey Bogart a star. This factoid pops up in almost every program that discusses the actor, so I felt like I knew the movie pretty well when I first saw it in 2005 even though that screening represented my first viewing of it.

Set at a desolate gas station/diner in the middle of the Arizona desert, we meet its operators: Jason Maple (Porter Hall), his daughter Gabrielle (Bette Davis), “Gramp” (Charley Grapewin), and football-obsessed Boze Hertzlinger (Dick Foran). Boze is also sweet on Gabrielle and pushes his affections on her. The locals worry that violent gangster Duke Mantee (Bogart) and his gang are headed their way.

Into this setting steps effete writer Alan Squier (Leslie Howard). The mysterious Alan wanders in out of nowhere as a nomadic hitchhiker. Alan eats as he gets to know Gabrielle and vice versa. The two quickly develop affection for each other, which provokes jealousy in Boze.

The film’s first act follows the romantic angle and also introduces a few other characters like wealthy Mr. (Paul Harvey) and Mrs. Chisholm (Genevieve Tobin) when they stop in for gas. Gabrielle arranges for them to give Alan a lift and they leave. Matters take a negative turn when they pass Mantee and his gang near their broken-down car. The gangsters accost them and steal their vehicle.

Eventually Mantee and company wind up at the diner. Alan returns to warn them but he’s too late. Mantee holds the locals hostage while he waits for his girlfriend to arrive with a new car. The rest of the film follows this drama as well as a few character issues.

Before I saw Forest, I expected it to be more of a straight gangster flick. Granted, I knew that Bogart played a supporting role, but I didn’t anticipate that so much of it would play as romance.

Surprisingly, I don’t find those elements to present negatives. Instead, they add depth to the movie, partially due to the good chemistry between Howard and Davis. They allow us to believe their “love at first sight” as they create likable characters.

When Mantee arrives, I can’t say it comes as a surprise since the movie builds up his presence in the area. However, it still creates an interesting twist, one that the film exploits well. We don’t really expect this quiet romance to turn into a hostage drama, but the movie makes the transition smoothly.

Much of the fun comes from the various interactions in the diner, especially whenever we see Gramp. Best known as Uncle Henry in The Wizard of Oz, Grapewin’s quirky turn steals the show. The old-timer admires the murderous Mantee, and he lights up at the possibility that killing will occur. Oddly but wisely, the movie plays these elements for laughs, and Grapewin’s giddiness creates an amusing counterpoint to the darkness. (Grapewin would later play another delightfully over the top role as Grandpa in 1940’s The Grapes of Wrath.)

Despite somewhat limited screen time, Bogart definitely makes a strong impression. He offers a cruel and insolent performance as Mantee that also aptly conveys the killer’s weariness. Dark and vicious but oddly sympathetic, Bogart uses his shots to form a full-blooded character.

Forest shows its roots as a stage production since the vast majority of the action takes place in one room. We occasionally venture outside, but not with much frequency. Happily, this benefits the movie, especially once the hostage section of the film starts. The limited use of locations adds to the claustrophobia of the situation. Director Archie Mayo keeps the pacing peppy, and that also brings life to a story that could have turned slow and dull.

The Petrified Forest definitely suffers from some flaws. Most of the personalities fail to develop beyond one dimension, and the tale occasionally drags. However, the film usually overcomes obstacles, so it adds up to an enjoyable and mostly engrossing flick.

The Blu-ray Grades: Picture A-/ Audio B-/ Bonus B+

The Petrified Forest appears in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. This was a consistently satisfying presentation.

Sharpness worked well. Only a smidgen of softness materialized, and when it did so, it seemed to reflect the original photography. The majority of the film showed solid delineation and accuracy. I noticed virtually no issues with jagged edges or shimmering, and edge enhancement was absent. With a nice layer of grain, I witnessed no indications of intrusive noise reduction.

Blacks looked tight and deep, and contrast seemed solid. The movie exhibited a nicely silver sheen that depicted the black and white photography well. Print flaws were a non-factor, as the movie suffered from nary a speck, mark or other defect. This was a strong representation of the source material.

In addition, The Petrified Forest presented a more-than-adequate DTS-HD MA monaural soundtrack. Nothing about the audio excelled, but it seemed solid for its age. Speech demonstrated pretty positive clarity and appeared surprisingly natural. Some lines were slightly edgy, but the dialogue didn’t seem as thin and shrill as I expected. Effects were acceptably clean and accurate; they didn’t demonstrate much range, but they lacked distortion and were fairly concise.

Music seemed similarly restricted but sounded fine for its age. The songs were reasonably full and replicated the source material acceptably. Hiss appeared through the movie, but it lacked other source flaws like pops or clicks. Ultimately, Forest provided a fine track for a flick from 1936.

How did the Blu-ray compare to the original 2005 DVD? Audio was similar; the lossless mix here might’ve been a little clearer but not much. However, the visuals showed a notable upgrade, as the Blu-ray cleaned up various print flaws and seemed better defined and smoother. This was a solid step up in quality.

We get the DVD’s extras here and we begin with an audio commentary from Bogart biographer Eric Lax. He presents a running, screen-specific chat heavy on details about the various participants during its first half.

Occasionally we learn a bit about the production of Forest itself, but notes about the cast and crew dominate. At times these come across as annotated filmographies, but some parts dig into the folks more deeply. Given Lax’s background, that’s especially true for Bogart, as the biographer tells us more about that actor compared to the others.

Matters change during the track’s second half. During that span, Lax gets into a synopsis of the evolution of Warner Bros. and many specifics of how Forest came to the screen. He balances out a mix of issues well and makes this a uniformly enjoyable and informative commentary.

A creative and fun addition to the set, Warner Night at the Movies attempts to replicate the cinematic experience circa 1936. As explained via a three-minute and 14-second introduction from Leonard Maltin, this feature includes a trailer for Bullets or Ballots - a flick from the same era as Forest - plus a period newsreel, a cartoon called Coo Coo Nut Grove and a live-action musical short entitled Rhythmitis.

These are the kinds of pieces that might have preceded a theatrical showing of Forest, so if you activate this feature, you get an attempt to duplicate a night at the cinema. I like this program and think it’s quite clever. Use the “Play All” option to run each of these features and then automatically launch into Forest.

In addition to the film’s trailer, the disc includes a modern featurette called The Petrified Forest: Menace in the Desert. This 15-minute and 50-second piece melds movie snippets, archival materials, and interviews. We get remarks from Lax, filmmaker/film historian Alain Silver, author Mark A. Vieira, author/film professor Robert Sklar, author/film critic Andrew Sarris, and film professor Dr. Drew Casper.

The participants discuss Bogart’s need for a success on the screen and his work in Forest, the film’s use of the western myth and the gangster genre, the early signs of film noir and the movie’s staging, and its ending and legacy. Some information repeats from the commentary, but because it mostly stays with an interpretation of the performances and themes, that doesn’t happen too often. Instead, it digs beneath the surface of the production with good insight. This allows it to compliment the commentary and create a good examination of the flick.

Finally, the extras end with a January 7, 1940 Gulf Screen Theater Radio Broadcast. This 28-minute and 58-second program features a performance of Forest that uses actors Tyrone Power as Alan, Joan Bennett as Gabrielle, and Bogart as Mantee. This presents a very abbreviated version of the tale; it loses a number of characters and moves at a ridiculously fast pace. Still, it’s an interesting historical curiosity. Make sure to stick around to the end; the program concludes with a weird quiz show that involves the actors.

While its stars would all go on to greater glory in later endeavors, The Petrified Forest provides a satisfying flick. It meshes the romantic and gangster genres to create a lively and involving character drama. The Blu-ray presents terrific picture quality along with more than acceptable audio and a nice roster of supplements. I like the film and think the Blu-ray reproduces it about as well as I could imagine.

Note that The Petrified Forest can be purchased on its own or as part of a four-film “Ultimate Gangsters Collection”. That package also includes Little Caesar, The Public Enemy and White Heat. With a list price of $50, the “Collection” costs $30 less than the roughly $80 MSRP of the four individual Blu-rays and comes with additional bonuses.

To rate this film visit the original review of THE PETRIFIED FOREST

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