Thursday, February 18, 2016

The Black Watch (1929)

Ford's first feature-length talkie (after the now-lost short "Napoleon's Barber" [1928]) is a stagy, creaky war melodrama, set at the outbreak of WWI, about a colonel with the "Black Watch" regiment of the British Army who is sent on a secret mission to India to prevent an uprising. Only the scenes dealing with themes of military ritual and honor among McLaglen and his comrades bear Ford's distinctive touch; the rest is pretty silly stuff, not helped at all by the stilted dialogue, stiff and unnatural performances, and ponderous editing and camerawork (the lengthy talking scenes were reportedly directed by stage actor Lumsden Hare, who also appears in the film, which accounts for the stark shift in style). Ford quickly adapted to the sound film medium, and soon learned how to suit it to his style, but this early effort is of historical interest only as part of that transition.

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