RIVER OF NO RETURN
RIVER OF NO RETURN is one of my favorite Marilyn Monroe movies. Letís face it, with the combined talents of Monroe, Robert Mitchum and Otto Preminger- how could this be anything but great old-style motion picture entertainment on the grand CinemaScope scale. RIVER OF NO RETURN fuses elements of the western and adventure genres into an entertaining little package that allows Monroe to perform two musical numbers. RIVER OF NO RETURN also makes the most of its Canadian locations, by utilizing the CinemaScope frame to capture some incredible vistas.
Set in the Northwest Territory during the gold rush, RIVER OF NO RETURN tells the story of farmer Matt Calder (Mitchum), who is awaiting the arrival of his young son Mark (Tommy Rettig), whom he hasnít seen in years. Picking up the boy in a boomtown, Matt finds his son in the care of a beautiful saloon singer Kay Weston (Monroe), to whom the motherless boy has become instantly attached. After heading back to their home, Matt and Mark cross paths with Kay again, when she and her fiancť Harry Weston (Rory Calhoun) are rafting down the dangerous river that flows past Mattís farm.
As it turns out, Weston is taking Kay on this ill-advised journey, in order to file a claim on a gold strike that he won in a card game. When Matt warns Weston about the dangers of traveling down this particular river by raft, the gamble thanks Matt by knocking him out and stealing both his horse and gun. Unwilling to leave the man that her fiancť injured, Kay stays behind to care for Matt and his son. However, when hostile Indians attack his farm, Matt is forced to climb on board the raft with Mark and Kay, fleeing down the river of no return.
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment has made RIVER OF NO RETURN available on DVD in a wide screen presentation that has been enhanced for 16:9 displays. RIVER OF NO RETURN is an early CinemaScope movie that should have an aspect ratio of 2.55:1. However, the transfer comes up a bit short, around 2.35:1, cropping a small amount of information from the extreme edges of the frame. Other than the aspect ratio being off, the transfer of RIVER OF NO RETURN is quite pleasing- making this DVD a significant improvement on every home version of the movie ever released or broadcast.
The image on the DVD is sharper and better defined than I have ever seen. Of course, the clarity of the transfer brings out the significant deficiencies in the film rear screen projection and optical effects work. Colors are a little inconsistent, but most of the time they give a good idea what an original IB Technicolor print of RIVER OF NO RETURN might have looked like. Blacks appear accurate, contrast is pretty smooth and the level of shadow detail is more than respectable for a film from 1954. The restored film element used for the transfer appears free from age related blemishes, but there is a noticeable amount of film grain throughout most of the presentation. The cleanly authored DVD doesnít display any noticeable signs of digital compression artifacts.
RIVER OF NO RETURN is presented with a Dolby Digital 4.0 soundtrack that is representative of the filmís original sound mix. This is that big, wide, exaggerated fifties stereo, designed for the cavernous movie palaces of yore and to complement super wide CinemaScope framing. There is plenty of directional information in the forward soundstage, including directional dialogue that follows the actors on screen positions. The surround channels are dead silent a lot of the time, except for a few climatic sequences on the river and to add musical fill to passages of Lionel Newmanís score. Fidelity is pretty good on these nearly fifty-year-old stereo tracks, so you will want to add more than a bit of amplification. Background hiss and surface noise have been minimized to a great extent on the track, making for a fairly clean aural presentation. Dialogue is always crisp and completely understandable. An English Dolby Surround and French stereo track are also provided on the DVD, as are English and Spanish subtitles.
The basic interactive menus provide access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as a few extras. As with the other titles in Foxís Marilyn Monroe series, RIVER OF NO RETURN includes a comparison of how the movie looked in previous video incarnations and how it now looks now with both film and video restoration. Theatrical trailers for DONíT BOTHER TO KNOCK, MONKEY BUSINESS, NIAGRA, RIVER OF NO RETURN and LETíS MAKE LOVE have also been provided on the DVD. A still gallery closes out the DVDís extras.
RIVER OF NO RETURN is available individually on DVD for $19.98 or as part of the Marilyn Monroe: The Diamond Collection Volume II for $79.98.
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