Falcon’s Wings (Blu-ray 3D Review)
1953 (February 9, 2021)
Universal Pictures (Kino Lorber Studio Classics)
- Film / program rating: B-
- Video quality: B +
- Audio level: A-
- Category of extras: B +
During the golden age of 3D movies, many genres of movies were shot in stereoscopic formats at all major studios, including Universal Pictures which controversially built its own 3D camera system to do so (controversial in the extent to which they were pursued by a rival, but in the end nothing came of it). One of those films was the Western directed by Budd Boetticher Falcon wings, only the second Universal 3D feature at this point after He comes from outer space. Fresh out of the success of Shane in the lead role was Van Heflin, who took on the role when Glenn Ford finally gave up. Julie Adams played the role of her compatriot and her eventual love interest (genre fans will no doubt be more familiar with Adams for her performance in Creature from the black lagoon, which was published a year later Falcon wings). Unfortunately, Falcon wings It was only a month after its release when the studio started offering it in both 2D and 3D, with 2D eventually winning the day. As such, few have seen the film in its intended format since its release in August 1953. The 3D movie archive not only restored it to its original glory, but also provided the three-part stereo soundtrack. movie channels.
At the start of the Mexican Revolution, a prospector nicknamed “Irish” (Heflin) and his loyal partner Marco were peacefully mining for gold in Mexico when they discovered a seemingly rich vein. Their celebration is short-lived when the corrupt and powerful Colonel Ruiz (George Dolenz) arrives, demanding that the Irish hand everything over to him. He refuses, pushes his way out of the colonel’s clutches and loses Marco because of the well-aimed rifles of Ruiz’s men. Irish is then saved by a group of rebels, bringing him to their secret camp and their leader, Arturo (Rodolfo Acosta). They decide to help him after he saves Arturo’s bride-to-be, Raquel (Adams), from a recent and potentially fatal gunshot wound. As Irish and Raquel get closer, Arturo becomes enraged, ultimately betraying them to the enemy. Soon Colonel Ruiz and his men attack the Outmatched Insurgents, but Irish has something up his sleeve to fight them.
Falcon wings was shot by cinematographer Clifford Stine on 35mm film using Universal’s own 3D camera, which used two Mitchell NC cameras filming two separate filmstrips to achieve the desired effect. The results were photochemically finished and framed in a 1.85: 1 format (a relatively new process at the time). Kino Lorber presents the restoration of the film by 3-D Film Archive in 2D and in polarized 3D on the same disc. The 2D presentation is pretty rough in comparison as it has thick grain, faded edges, clipping issues, and flickering. The Technicolor shades are what shines the most, as rich swatches of green foliage, blue suits, and Julie Adams’ lipstick stand out (maybe a little too much). Shadows are often blue instead of black, but the presentation looks natural and true to its source. The 3D presentation is the preferred way to view the film, and it is very pretty. Since Boetticher and Stine composed the film with great depth in many shots, the quality of the 3D really skyrockets. Sometimes gimmick moments are used which means objects are flying towards the camera, but these are rare. The real piece of resistance is the enormous depth of the image. Everything looks crisp with excellent definition, and ghosting is never an apparent problem. It’s a wonderful 3D presentation.
The audio is delivered in the aforementioned original three-channel stereo as the DTS-HD English 3.0 main audio track. Another DTS-HD 5.1 main audio track in English is also available, taken from a ‘2020 compressed Midnight Movie mix’ (more on that in a moment). Optional subtitles are provided in English. Unlike many multichannel soundtracks of the day, audio for Falcon wings was not created during post-production. Several microphones recorded the audio on the set to give more dimension to the sound of the film. If you’ve ever seen this movie with only mono sound (which most people do after the movie was released) then you’ve never heard how powerful a soundtrack it can be. The explosive moments really made the windows shake (which were so loud during filming that they actually rattled the windows of nearby businesses, prompting the police, military, and FBI to investigate where it was coming from). The dialogue is noticeable and the sound effects, such as gunshots and punches, have a nice impact. Frank Skinner’s lush score (The naked city, Abbott and Costello meet Frankenstein) is also well balanced and efficient. The 5.1 track is provided for those who are unable to hear the three-channel soundtrack in a suitable environment. This means that if you only hear the movie through a soundbar, the 5.1 track is a good alternative as it is essentially a compressed version in a 5.1 medium, minus the rear and low frequency channels. It is a good way to provide consumers with a way to watch the movie if they are unable to hear it properly. But for those who can, the exceptional three-channel track is all the ball game.
The following extras are included:
- Audio commentary by Jeremy Arnold
- Mike Ballew audio essay (HD – 24:38)
- Hypnotic Hick – 3D (HD – 6:32)
- Hypnotic Hick – 2D (HD – 6:32)
- Theatrical trailer (SD scaled – 2:12)
Film historian Jeremy Arnold provides a very informative audio commentary on the production. Since he was a close friend of Budd Boetticher, he shares the director’s feelings about the last film and his time at Universal before he started making films with Randolph Scott at Warner Bros, which became known as “Ranown. Cycle”. It also examines the skills and techniques used to create the film and covers the career of not only Boetticher, but members of the cast and crew as well. 3D expert Mike Ballew’s audio essay (presented here as an audio commentary, although presented separately from the main feature film) is an extremely well-researched and lengthy look at the film’s production, its physical challenges, and techniques and the state of 3D film making. at this moment. It’s an incredible resource for those who are curious to find out more about the film in more detail. Next is the newly restored Woody Woodpecker cartridge Hypnotic hick, presented in 2D and 3D. Compared to the main functionality, this is a more traditional 3D, which means there are a lot of times when things come off the screen. As this is Universal’s first 3D animated short, it’s a wonderful addition. Last but not least is the main feature trailer. The disc sits inside a blue amaray case with artwork depicting the original theatrical sheet.
As usual, the 3D movie archives saved another 3D gem from the depths of darkness and breathed new life into it wonderfully. If you are a 3D Blu-ray fan, you owe it to yourself to pick up Falcon wings and continue to support the company’s efforts. Highly recommended.
– Tim Salmon