TCM Greatest Classic Legends: John Wayne
With over two dozen extent DVD sets dedicated to John Wayne, the last item one needs is yet another. Nevertheless, one is pending release, entitled "TCM Greatest Classic Legends Film Collection: John Wayne."
Wayne was one of Hollywood’s most prolific actors, with nearly 250 movies to his credit. However, quantity did not always denote quality. He is in several top-notch classics. Other films range from mediocre to excruciating. The new TCM collection includes four naval dramas, but unfortunately, contains little with which to buoy itself.
Two Warnercolor, Cinemascope action flicks from the mid-1950’s feature Wayne as a sea captain transporting a woman on a perilous voyage. The first is William Wellman’s "Blood Alley," where he is a mercenary seaman hired to deliver a Hong Kong village and a missionary’s daughter (Lauren Bacall) to safety from the Communists. The chemistry never quite gels, with icy, Bryn Mawr-ish Bacall, who is mismatched to earthy Wayne. Yet, due mainly to Wellman’s solid direction, "Blood Alley" does manage a few thrills.
In the laughably, artificial "Sea Chase," Wayne plays an anti-Nazi, German captain departing Australia at the outbreak of WW II. Pursued by the British navy, he must bring his vessel and agent Lana Turner back to Germany. Lana looks as though she just arrived from the Stork Club. The dreadful script contains cutting-edge dialogue such as "You’re beautiful when you’re angry." Though Tab Hunter looks very hot in a supporting role, the beefcake, and a few unintentional laughs, cannot justify this dreary John Farrow misfire.
Another dud by a great director is the 1957 "Wings of Eagles," John Ford’s biopic of Frank "Spig" Wead, a daredevil Navy pilot who was paralyzed as a result of a household accident. The story chronicles his rehabilitation, subsequent WWII service, and screenwriting career. The first half is played as a comedy, replete with tedious, Ford, brawling scenes. Changing tone, the film becomes stagey and maudlin. Energetic song-and-dance-man, Dan Dailey struggles as Wayne’s cohort, but to no avail.
The saving grace of the new set is the nifty 1951 WWII yarn, "Operation Pacific." The black-and-white film has frustrated submarine captain Wayne losing out in action due to misfiring torpedoes. And the same applies to his love-life, when his attempts at reconciliation with his ex are spurned. As the former, torch-carrying wife, Patricia Neal proves a multidimensional leading lady, and the Neal/Wayne chemistry percolates. The love angles are interspersed with tense battle sequences.
There are no special features, save for a few trailers, so the films must stand on their own -- and they are just too weak. There are far better John Wayne collections and TCM DVD sets from which to choose.
TCM Greatest Classic Legends Film Collection: John Wayne