John Wayne/John Ford Film Collection Warner Home Video, $79.98

wayne-ford-collectionThe Duke is back.

 

On March 13, 1956, The Searchers opened across America in all its VistaVision glory, and if you’d asked John Wayne back then whether people would still be honoring—or even watching—that brilliant film 50 years later, the likely response would have been, “that’ll be the day.”

But for those who love America’s Westerns, this box set is an answered prayer. Here’s why: Fort Apache (1948), the first and darkest of Ford’s three cavalry pictures, has never been available as a DVD except as an expensive Korean import, until now. The disc also includes a sweet, short documentary on Ford and his love affair with Monument Valley. Stagecoach (1939) is presented as a double disc with a solid dissertation by Ford biographer Scott Eyman on disc one, while the second disc contains the American Masters PBS Ford/Wayne documentary, a new Stagecoach doc and the original radio broadcast starring Randolph Scott and Claire Trevor. The set also offers the first-ever DVDs of The Wings of Eagles (1957) and The Long Voyage Home (1940), as well as Three Godfathers (1948), She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1948) and They Were Expendable (1945).

But the beating heart of the collection is The Searchers “Ultimate Collector’s Edition,” which has a stunning remastered print and Director Peter Bogdanovich’s anecdotes on the separate audio track. Disc two has the rest of the goodies—a half-hour appreciation of the film by directors Martin Scorsese, Curtis Hanson and John Milius, the 1998 Nick Redman documentary, A Turning of the Earth, and several fascinating black-and-white location shorts, hosted by actor Gig Young, that were produced at the time to promote the film.

On top of all that, you get a batch of production stills, a reproduction of a 1956 Dell comic adaptation, a digest-sized reproduction of the original press book (very nifty, but get out the magnifying glass for the small print), a coupon for a free poster and a handsome box to put it all in. About the only thing missing is Mose Harper’s rocking chair and a snip of calico.