by HELEN GEIB
There are people who maintain that every movie ever made by Hollywood is available on DVD, or if not on DVD, then at least for viewing on some obscure satellite channel or download from some questionable internet source. These people are not classic movie lovers. Festivals, revival theaters, and the odd special event screening remain the only way to see most silent films and many early sound films as well. And it’s not just minor films that aren’t available. Major studio films and the greatest works of renowned filmmakers suffer in obscurity alongside forgettable programmers.
20th Century Fox has made a significant contribution to redressing this imbalance with the release this week of a boxset of 24 films directed by John Ford, called “Ford at Fox – The Collection.” The set includes five previously unavailable silents: Just Pals; The Iron Horse; 3 Bad Men; Four Sons; and Hangman’s House. Many of the sound films are also new to DVD. For the titles that are DVD reissues, the set tempts collectors with the promise of restored prints and new extras. The plentiful features include commentaries, stills galleries, and trailers for many of the films, a new documentary titled “Becoming John Ford,” and a hardcover book about Ford’s career illustrated with photos, lobby card reproductions, and production stills.
The silents are also being released as a separate set called “Epic Ford.” I have not seen Just Pals, but describing a five reel Buck Jones Western from 1920 as an epic seems a dubious claim. However, I can attest that it is a reasonable description for the other titles, and that The Iron Horse, 3 Bad Men, and Four Sons rank among the great American silents of the ‘twenties. Two other subsets of the collection are also being packaged as smaller sets, called “Ford Classics” and “Ford Comedies,” and some of the titles will be released individually.