Gregory Peck plays Francis Chisholm. After losing his parents as a young boy, and then his sweetheart (to moral turpitude, it seems), Francis enters the priesthood. His unorthodox ways make him a failure initially, but kindly bishop and mentor Edmund Gwenn sees potential in the man, and sends him off to China to be a missionary. There too, things get off to a rocky start, but a turnaround happens when he saves the son of a local mandarin. His struggles are far from over, but through it all, he remains a triumphantly decent man.And one would expect no less from Gregory Peck, now would we, in this, his screen debut. This is old-fashioned religiosity following in the vein of The Song of Bernadette and Going My Way. It certainly is easy to cynical about it, and there is more than a whiff of cultural imperialism about the affair. Even so, and in spite of the very stately pace, the film is so fundamentally sweet-natured that it is very hard not to be caught up in it.
Once again, you guessed it, this entry in the Studio Classics series has both mono and stereo versions of the sound. The mono is strong, crisp and clear. The stereo is pretty much that as well, with added richness to the score, but the usual trade-off of indiscriminate use of the rear speakers. The wrong sounds coming out of them are noticeable, but not overwhelming.
The print is generally in close to mint shape. Now and then there are faint traces of damage (some guitar string pop up briefly, then go away), but the grain is minimal, and the black-and-white tones look great (most of the time, that is – a couple of outdoor day scenes are a bit bleached). The edge enhancement is visible, but minor, the image is sharp.
Chris Mankiewicz, son of producer and co-writer Joseph L. Mankiewicz, and Mankiewicz biographer Kenneth Geist trade off (recorded separately) on the commentary track. Mankiewicz does tend to spend too much time on obvious plot summary, and Geist gets a little formulaic in itemizing who each actor was, but the overall result is still quite informative. The promised still gallery is not, in fact, here. All you have otherwise are trailers for this and a bunch of other Peck films, and some brief liner notes.
They don’t make ’em like this anymore, and nor should they, but still, this sort of thing can be a lot of sentimental fun to watch.