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The Quiet Man: Collector's Edition

John Ford's 1952 The Quiet Man was one of the director's favorite films, and over the years many fans and critics have come to regard it as his best. However, like many great films from Hollywood's classic era, this one almost didn't get made. Ford owned the rights to the short story "The Quiet Man," which first appeared in The Saturday Evening Post in the 1930s, but the major studios he had worked with over the years (MGM, RKO) refused to finance it, figuring a movie about a mysterious American who moves to the Irish village where he was born wouldn't make a plug nickel. By the late '40s, Irish-born Ford ( Sean Aloysius O'Fearna) was so determined to get The Quiet Man made that he contacted B-movie studio Republic, who were accustomed to cranking out an entire year's worth of matinee potboilers for the amount of money Ford needed to make just one film. However, with John Wayne already under contract at Republic, the studio agreed to green-light The Quiet Man, provided Ford and Wayne would first release a profitable film for the small studio (Ford's Rio Grande made good on the deal). Wayne stars in The Quiet Man as retired American boxer Sean Thornton, who turns up one day in the secluded Irish village of Inisfree determined to buy the cottage where he was born. With both parents and all other relatives dead, Sean meets several folks who are glad to see a Thornton back in the town, but that doesn't include his neighbor, Red Danaher (Victor McLaglen), who has no love for Yanks and would love nothing better than to punch Sean right in the nose. Additionally complicating matters is a newfound love between Sean and free-spirited Mary Kate Danaher (Maureen O'Hara), Red's sister. By Ford's standards, The Quiet Man is a low-key affair, with none of the action sequences that punctuated such westerns as Stagecoach and The Searchers, or his U.S. Cavalry movies like Fort Apache and She Wore a Yellow Ribbon. Nonetheless, the story is a rich, nuanced, and funny clash of cultures, as the hard-headed Thornton sorts his way through various Irish customs and idiosyncrasies, including the antiquated rules surrounding courting and marriage. Those who think that John Wayne was a sub-par actor owe this one a look — it's a rare turn for him in what amounts to a romantic comedy. And while John Ford became best-known over the years for his iconic westerns, this simple love story embodies his renowned sense of humor, particularly with the eccentric townsfolk of Inisfree who wait for the day that Sean Thornton and Red Danaher trade a few punches. Also starring Barry Fitzgerald, Ward Bond, and Mildred Natwick. Republic/Artisan's DVD release of The Quiet Man: Collector's Edition offers quite a bit of improvement over the original Artisan disc. Gone is the over-saturated transfer of the Technicolor print, which was marred by a poor telecine transfer that didn't always keep the three-strip process aligned. However, the source-print still isn't ideal — it's obvious this film will require a full-scale restoration someday, as the overall image is soft throughout and dark in some sequences. Still, it's a perfectly watchable disc, and the quality of the movie warrants its place in the collections of serious Ford fans. Audio is available in the original mono (DD 1.0) or a new "enhanced" Dolby Digital 3.0 mix that offers a wider soundstage — both are clear and pleasant. Features include a full-length commentary by Maureen O'Hara, who offers several recollections of the location shooting in Ireland. Also on board is the featurette "The Making of The Quiet Man" hosted by Leonard Maltin (21 min.), the featurette "The Joy of Ireland," with comments from O'Hara and others (30 min.), cast/crew notes, and a "Remembering The Quiet Man" film-clip montage (3 min.), incongruously set to synth-pop music. Keep-case with paperboard slipcover.
—Robert Wederquist

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