The setting is turn-of-the-century Wales, and a way of life is coming to an end as economiccrises hit. The film chronicles the saga of the Morgan family, headed by stern but lovingpatriarch Donald Crisp, and we get all this through the eyes of young Roddy McDowall. Analternative title might be “Cavalcade of Misery” and the answer to the film’s question might be“not very,” given the endless tragedies that afflict our loving family. The film hasn’t weatheredthe passing years …s well as some others, since the sentimentality is so over-the-top that it has asomewhat distancing effect (at least on this reviewer). The cinematography, however, is nothingshort of stunning, and the performances all top-notch (Walter Pidgeon’s fluctuating accentnotwithstanding).
The sound options are mono and 2.0 stereo. The stereo mix is pretty rudimentary: it is limitedto the music, and even then only sporadically. Furthermore, when the music is in full surround,it drowns out the dialogue (which at least avoids the problem of being in surround too). All in all,you’re better off sticking with the original mono.
There is some edge enhancement and haloing visible, but these are minor flaws. The printitself is in terrific shape, almost completely free of speckles or damage, and is a glorious exampleof high-contrast black-and-white at its very best.
Film historian Joseph McBride and star Anna Lee provide the commentary. Lee is prettyvenerable now (the movie is over 60 years old, after all, and I’ve seen her in film going back atleast as far as the early 30s), and McBride does the lion’s share of the speaking. His knowledgeis wide-ranging, and he presents it well. The AMC Backstory episode is very interesting too, andchronicles (among other things) the difficulties the film encountered in getting made. The otherextras are a still gallery and trailers for How Green Was My Valley, All About Eve andGentleman’s Agreement. The menu is basic.
This is one of the most relentless yanks on the heartstrings I’ve ever seen. How you respondto that will determine how you like the film. But even if you resist, the beauty of the picture isundeniable.
Special Features List
- Audio Commentary
- AMC Backstory Episode
- Still Gallery