Release Date(s)1947 (October 17, 2017)
Studio(s)20th Century Fox (Twilight Time)
- Film/Program Grade: B
- Video Grade: A-
- Audio Grade: B+
- Extras Grade: B+
Hollywood producer extraordinaire Darryl F. Zanuck shepherded Captain from Castile from its early inception to its eventual theatrical release, presenting a grand historical epic in ravishing Technicolor fused with the star power of then-enormously popular screen presence Tyrone Power, fine direction from A Song of Bernadette’s Henry King, and a lush orchestral score from Wuthering Heights’ Alfred Newman. Based upon the novel by Samuel Shellabarger, this period piece takes place during Hernán Cortes’ conquest of Mexico, wherein a Castilian caballero is unjustly imprisoned by the Spanish Inquisition, only to escape and make his way to the New World in Cortes’ army with a loyal friend by his side and a servant woman who secretly loves him.
Although not a financially successful film due to its enormous production costs, 20th Century Fox’s big budget gamble was indeed popular with moviegoers, particularly women who were currently smitten with Tyrone Power as a leading man. The film also depicts a non-PC celebratory trek of Spanish conquest upon foreign lands with hopeful Christian values for all in its wake, something that isn’t quite as universally accepted since its preliminary release. However uneven the story might be though, particularly in the second half when it loses sight of itself and has some difficulty dealing with all of the established elements, Captain from Castile is a sumptuous presentation with beautiful vistas and excellent performances, including Power, but also those from the radiant and newly-discovered Jean Peters, Lee J. Cobb, and Cesar Romero as Cortes. Also noteworthy is Jay Silverheels, who would go on to famously portray Tonto on The Lone Ranger TV series.
Twilight Time’s Blu-ray debut of the film features a beautifully-recreated Technicolor presentation in its original 1.37:1 aspect ratio, which is as crisp as one could hope for with a solid grain structure and strong hues throughout – although foliage, period clothing, and skin tones sometimes waver. Black levels are deep with minor crush, and the overall presentation could have been brightened up a couple of notches. Film damage and digital noise are practically absent while no unnecessary enhancements appear to have been made. The audio selection comes with two options: English 1.0 and 2.0 DTS-HD with optional subtitles in English SDH. The 2.0 seems to be a slightly spread out version of the original mono and is relatively lower in register by comparison. The more center-driven 1.0 option is much more favorable. Dialogue is well-rendered while vintage sound effects have decent heft to them. Alfred Newman’s memorable score benefits the most from the overall fidelity, and the mix itself is well-prioritized without overt distortion. Only minor hiss is leftover during some of the film’s quieter moments, but otherwise, this is an excellent transfer of an attractive looking and sounding film.
Fans of Newman’s score will also be happy to know that it’s also featured as an isolated track in 2.0 DTS-HD with potent fidelity. Also with this release comes a vintage audio commentary from the film’s original DVD release with film historians Rudy Behlmer, Jon Burlingame, and Nick Redman (acting as a moderator), all of whom share some fine information about the film and the key players involved with it. Two vintage featurettes are also included: the A&E Biography special Tyrone Power: The Last Idol, as well as Tyrone Power and His Leading Ladies, both of which focus on the actor’s entire career, including Captain from Castile. Featured also is the film’s original theatrical trailer in black and white and standard definition, a scroll-through of the current Twilight Time catalogue, and as always with their releases, an excellent 8-page insert booklet with an essay on the film by Julie Kirgo.
Another fine Blu-ray presentation from Twilight Time of a somewhat obscure film in the scheme of things, Captain from Castile is a welcome surprise. With excellent A/V value and well-produced extras, including the audio commentary which is likely the best of the bunch, it’s a quality release of a mostly enjoyable film.
- Tim Salmons