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The Informer [VHS]
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Four years before he revived and elevated the Western in Stagecoach, director John Ford guided this atmospheric melodrama to multiple Academy Awards, proving that his underlying skills as a storyteller, visual designer, and dramatic guide didn't need epic scale, sweeping action, or favorite star John Wayne to achieve dramatic impact. Based on Liam O'Flaherty's novel set during the Sinn Fein rebellion in 1922, Dudley Nichols's script offers an intimate portrait of Gypo Nolan, a violent, alcoholic Dubliner who betrays a friend (Wallace Ford) for £20, setting in motion a downward spiral of fear, anger, and drunken oblivion.
The Imposter captures Ford and filmmaking at an evolutionary balance point between the purer visual storytelling of silent film and the emerging literary possibilities of sound: on the one hand, Ford paints a nocturnal Dublin of deep shadows and billowing fog in which his characters are placed in pointed tableaux, and project their actions and attitudes with stylized, theatrical gestures that seem naive alongside later, more naturalistic films; on the other, the director pushes his star, Victor McLaglen, past traditional stagecraft toward a truly harrowing, authentic performance. Pauline Kael has noted the Hollywood legend that Ford induced McLaglen's Oscar-winning turn by keeping him too drunk to embellish his work. Whatever the cause, the actor achieves a lumbering, out-of-control power that traces the rage, confusion, and ultimate despair that Nolan's descent describes. That gripping performance is the film's most modern aspect and riveting dramatic hook and more than justifies watching. --Sam Sutherland
Top Customer Reviews
BUT it was transmitted in 16 x 9 format. This 1935 film was composed and photographed in the then-standard 1:37 x 1 screen shape, and the stretched image was very distracting. Every figure is too wide! Victor McLaglen was a big person, and in this transmission became about 1/3 wider. Profiles give actors long noses.
This could not be corrected with any settings of my TV.
Unless an older motion picture can be viewed in the format in which it was photographed, I'll skip them in the future.
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