The Grapes of Wrath (DVD-2004)
Century Fox Home Entertainment
Reviewed by Dennis Kwiatkowski
Century Fox has finally released on DVD one of the great films of all time: The Grapes
1940 and based on the novel of the same name by John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath
stars Henry Fonda, Jane Darwell and a stunning ensemble cast. The story, about impoverished
migratory workers and their struggle to move from the Midwestern dustbin to California in order to find work, was directed by John Ford.
sources such as The Movie Guide state that The Grapes of Wrath documents an American
social tragedy, giving voice to the victims, through art. The Filmgoer’s Companion
calls the film one of the earliest exposes of social injustice and one of the most moving and beautiful films to come out
star, a young Henry Fonda, gives a superb classic performance as Tom Joad. Jane Darwell, playing his mother, Ma Joad, won
an Oscar for her brilliant and moving performance. And the best director Oscar went
to director John Ford.
a haunted quality about images in The Grapes of Wrath. Music is used sparingly, and the film is as much a film about people as it is about events.
comes from the magnificent Gregg Toland, who died young at the age of 44, and who also photographed Citizen Kane and Wuthering Heights. Indeed, the cinematography is one of the
most striking aspects of the film. Shot in an amazing documentary style, and masterfully
using light and shadow, the photography seems to literally capture reality as its images move the viewer in the most visceral,
poignant and powerful way.
negative for the film no longer exists so restoring image and sound proved problematic. A
restoration comparison is included on the DVD (which incidentally is a deluxe 2 disc DVD set).
This film has never looked as good as on this DVD and the sound is superb. Extras
include a documentary on the film’s noted producer, Daryl Zanuck, founder of 20th Century Fox. The Grapes of Wrath is only one of his many important or groundbreaking
films. Did you know he also produced the first major sound film, The Jazz Singer and the first Cinemascope film, The Robe?
American Film Institute voted on the 10 greatest American Films ever made, The Grapes
of Wrath was one of them, high up on the list. Even in subsequent re-votings by
the Institute of the great films over the years, it has always maintained a distinguished and prominent place. It is easy to see why. This is a film that is ahead of its time, unique,
gripping and powerful, moving and unrelenting. It has scarcely dated in 64 years and
certainly lost none of its power. Once seen, it is unforgettable. The Grapes of Wrath is an essential item for any film library.