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Blu-ray Review

DVD cover

Inherit the Wind (1960)
(Blu-Ray & DVD Dual Format)


Starring: Spencer Tracy, Fredric March, Gene Kelly, Dick York, Donna Anderson and Harry Morgan
Distributor: Eureka Entertainment
RRP: £17.99 (Blu-Ray & DVD Dual Format)
Certificate: U
Release Date: 14 May 2018

When a school teacher in the bible belt is arrested for teaching Darwinism his case becomes a cause célèbre attracting the attention of both attorney Henry Drummond and previous presidential candidate, Matthew Harrison Brady. The rationalist and the fundamentalist face off across a courtroom with the fate of belief vs science in the balance...

Inherit the Wind (B&W. 1960 2 hr, 07 min, 57 sec) is a courtroom drama directed by Stanley Kramer (On the Beach (1959), Judgment at Nuremberg (1961)). This is the first time that the film is available as a Blu-ray in the UK.

The story is based around true events which happened in the 1925 Scopes ‘Monkey’ Trial where an identical case was heard. The film was an adaptation of a play by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee. The film was nominated for ten awards, including four Oscars and won a further three.

Central to the success of the film is the portrayal of Henry Drummond by Spencer Tracy. Tracy had had an illustrious career stretching right back to the nineteen thirties and is especially fondly remembered for his pairing with Katharine Hepburn and their successful run of comedies in the late forties. Tracy had an impressive range, just as comfortable playing comedy as he was biting drama and his performance drives the film forward.

Facing across the courtroom is Matthew Brady, played by Fredric March who likewise had an impressive filmography before appearing in this film. Against Drummond's continued insistence in the logic of science Brady finds his own faith tested. As an unsuccessful two-time presidential candidate, the film never really explains what motivates Brady to take the case for the prosecution, except possibly vanity and hubris. On arriving in the bible belt town, he is greeted like a long-lost hero and quickly settles into a level of pomposity.

That is not to say that the character is unredeemable. When the local priest, who is manically played by Claude Akins denounces his own daughter, this is too much for even Brady. His small chance at redemption slips through his hands when during the cross examination of the reverend's daughter Brady becomes just as guilty of abusing the woman.

Being a cause célèbre means that the national papers become interested and it is through the intervention of reporter E. K. Hornbeckm (Gene Kelly) that Drummond is summoned to defend Bertram T. Cates (Dick York, famous as Darren from Bewitched, the original TV series, not the crappy film). In truth, while they are good actors, they add little except background exposition and motivation for the main two characters. Some of the film's most gripping scenes are when Drummond and Brady are going head to head and the two actors riff off each other perfectly. The last actor of note is Harry Morgan, who plays the judge, better known as Col. Sherman T. Potter from the long running M*A*S*H TV series

Obviously, the film takes some liberties with historical truth, making the battle between creationism and Darwinism more dramatic than the real trial. We are left in no doubt whose side we are supposed to be on with the townsfolk showing almost complete intolerance to any idea which may shake their faith that every word in The Bible is the truth. Considering when it was made, this is a very brave film as it casts doubt that The Bible is the last word of God, not many films would be so brave in these PC times.

The film is presented in 1080p on the Blu-ray and apart for a fine grain, which would have been part of the original film stock, the picture is impressively crisp and clean. The film is encoded with MPEG-4 AVC with an aspect ratio of 16:9. The film has a resolution of 1920 x 1080 with a frame rate of 23.00 and a bitrate of 31.55 Mbps. On the audio side you get a two channel LPCM 48 kHz with a bitrate of 2304 Kbps.

There are only a couple of extras. The PR blurb reports that the final product comes with a limited-edition collector’s booklet. On the disc you get the Original Trailer (4 min, 06 sec) presented by Kramer himself. You also get an interview with Neil Sinyard (24 min, 51 sec), Film writer and professor in the Department of Film Studies at the University of Hull who has a lot of fascinating things to say about the film, well worth a watch as he delves not only into the film but the truth behind the real trial.


Charles Packer

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