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Long before Mel Gibson was THE PATRIOT, another photogenic leading man named Cary Grant donned revolution era garb to star in THE HOWARDS OF VIRGINIA ($25). Those expecting THE HOWARDS OF VIRGINIA to be a cut and dry tale of the American Revolution will be pleasantly surprised to find that the first half of this movie has a very spirited sense of fun. Cary Grant stars as Matt Howard, who hales from a dirt-poor family of Virginia farmers. Despite his family’s financial situation, Matt grows up educated thanks to family friendship with the well-to-do Jefferson clan.

Boyhood friend Thomas Jefferson (Richard Carlson) secures Matt a position as a surveyor with wealthy landowner Fleetwood Peyton (Cedric Hardwicke). During the course of his duties as a surveyor, Matt meets, falls in love with and marries Jane Peyton (Martha Scott), despite her family’s reservations. As the years pass, Matt’s political views bring him into conflict the British and he is among the first to volunteer for duty in the Revolutionary war, despite the effect it has on his wife and two sons, who are eventually old enough to join their father at the front. Hammer fans please note that THE HOWARDS OF VIRGINIA features an early (blink and you'll miss him) screen appearance by Peter Cushing.

Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment has made THE HOWARDS OF VIRGINIA available on DVD in a full screen transfer that frames the movie in its proper 1.37:1 aspect ratio. For the most part, this is a good-looking black and white transfer, although the film element does display more than a bit of wear early on. The image is reasonably crisp and provides good definition throughout. Some shots are a bit softer than others, but nothing too bad. Blacks are deep, whites appear clean and stable, plus there is a rather nice grayscale. Contrast is good and well-lit shots convey a nice sense of depth. A grain structure is somewhat noticeable, but doesn’t detract from the presentation, and instead creates a nice film like appearance. Digital compression artifacts never make their presence known.

THE HOWARDS OF VIRGINIA comes with a Dolby Digital monaural soundtrack that holds up well, despite being more than six decades old. Background his and overt signs of distortion appear to have been cleaned up, leaving a crisp, pleasing aural presentation. Dialogue is always fully understandable and the actors’ voices still resonate nicely. Limitations in fidelity leave the music sounding a bit reedy, but never particularly harsh. No other language tracks are provided, but the DVD does feature English, French Japanese subtitles. The basic interactive menus allow one access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as bonus trailers for HIS GIRL FRIDAY, LAWRENCE OF ARABIA, and MR. SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON.

THE HOWARDS OF VIRGINIA is a very likable revolutionary era costume drama that I am sure that movie buffs and Cary Grant fans will want to check out. Columbia’s presentation is quite good for an un-restored film from 1940, giving DVD collectors little to complain about.



Howards of Virginia (1940)


DVD reviews are Copyright © 2003 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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