The San Francisco Story (1952) DVD Feb 7, 2010 16:23:00 GMT -5
Post by Erik Rupp on Feb 7, 2010 16:23:00 GMT -5
Joel McCrea was never a huge star, but he was something of a box office draw and was a leading man in dozens of movies from the mid 1930's to the late 1950's. At a certain point in his career he focused mainly on Westerns, just like his friend Randolph Scott had (Scott's last 15 or so years in the business were spent solely making Westerns).
One of those Westerns was The San Francisco Story, which, as the title implies, takes place in San Francisco - circa 1856. McCrae plays Rick Nelson, who five years earlier had been part of a vigilante group that cleaned up San Francisco, running off or hanging the criminal elements in town. Coming back to San Francisco after becoming a successful mine owner/operator he finds that the town had once again become rife with criminal activity and political corruption. This time, however, he's not looking to save the town, he's just looking for a good time.
Along the way he meets a beautiful woman (Adelaide McCall, played by Yvonne DeCarlo) who just happens to be with the unelected (and extremely corrupt) town boss, Andrew Cain. Cain is behind all sorts of criminal activity as he is looking to build an empire in California. He wants to be the power broker who controls the state - and the men who run it, no matter what it takes. He is smooth, calm, and completely ruthless. His low key persona belies his true nature.
Nelson finds himself caught between his old friend, Jim Martin (played by the always reliable, and often quite good, Onslow Stevens), and the girl that he has his sights set on. Martin is the town's newspaper publisher - and the leader of the new vigilante group that has been slowly moving against the criminals in town, trying those they have evidence against in their own makeshift court (and hanging those that are found guilty of murder). Martin wants Nelson's help, but Adelaide is on the side of Cain (as she is his, "Girlfriend," of sorts), and Nelson wants Adelaide.
The story is well told, with a solid plot and some occasionally very good dialogue. Some of the dialogue is actually very intelligent and often witty. This is a well written movie with some nice twists and turns along the way. Nelson's initial indifference to San Francisco's plight slowly makes way to an understanding that Cain cannot be allowed to gain control of California behind the scenes. The final resolution is the one weak spot in the film - as it's just a little too easy and convenient. It isn't a deal breaker, though. The film is still very satisfying, and quite entertaining, with a good lead performance from McCrae.
As for the DVD from Timeless Media, it isn't bad. It's nothing to write home about, but it isn't bad. This was an independent production picked up for distribution in 1952 by Warner Brothers. This would appear to be a public domain title, as the print used is clearly not studio quality. It would appear to be a print for television broadcast, and may even have come from a professional videotape used for such a broadcast (there is a scene with some haloing, which is often created by a transfer to videotape).
The picture is just a little soft, but not too much. There is still plenty of detail to be seen. The contrast is often a little weak, and the picture in some scenes looks a tad washed out, while in others (outdoor daytime shots) it's just a little too bright. Those spots, however, remain a small minority of the running time of the film, and the rest of the movie looks fine.
The sound is a bit muffled, but not too bad, although there is a slight humming or buzzing in the background that is noticeable in quieter scenes. Still, it doesn't sound bad, and if you're not listening for the minor audio issues you might not notice them.
For the money (it has a list price of only $7.98) this is a pretty decent DVD. And the movie itself is pretty darned good, so all in all this is a recommended title for Western fans.