Drums Along the Mohawk (1939)

Drums Along the Mohawk (1939), directed by John Ford.

Town-born Claudette Colbert, newly married to pioneer Henry Fonda, has a hard time adjusting to the frontier of upstate New York in 1776. After a period of shrieking she settles in just in time for the Revolutionary War with it's depredations by hostile Indians incited by Tory agents. Deaths, battles, birth, and a climactic siege.

It has been so long since I had seen this that I did not realize it was in color. I remember one scene from seeing it as a kid: a woman searches a long line of soldiers slogging through the rain. The last man tells her: "There's nobody back of me alive". She lifts her lantern and continues into the darkness. (Military wives waiting for their men is a common image in Ford; this time it was particularly moving, maybe because she's not just waiting).

It has the customary Ford realism, within the allowed standards of the time. (He can't prevent penciled eyebrows on the leading lady). Homely, witty Edna May Oliver is always a hoot. Impossibly thin John Carradine is reliably sinister. Patriotic finale.

Filmed in Pennsylvania and Utah. The echoing gunshots are much better than in your average western, actually sounding like real events in open spaces. Alfred Newman score.

Twilight Time limited edition Blu-ray. The commentary track with two film scholars is deadly dull, with lots of "umm...you know..." It seems to be for viewers who've never heard of 1776 or pioneering. Maybe it gets better after the first 15 minutes.

The image is pretty good; I saw some vertical striping in a couple of night scenes. Unusually, the contrast in the sunlit scenes is not as good as slightly darker sections.

Includes a 1h33m standard definition extra: Becoming John Ford.