In Old Arizona Blu-ray Review
One of the most successful genres in the early days of Hollywood was the western. Gunfights and bank robberies and ladies in distress. In 1928, the Fox Film Company released a tale of the Cisco Kid, titled IN OLD ARIZONA. 85 years later the film has made its way to Blu-ray.
The film begins with a musical overture, something I thought quite surprising. Normally overtures are reserved for musicals or epics but perhaps in 1928 they were the norm. We then meet a rather diverse group of people boarding a stage coach back east. Some of the passengers fret about robbers but are assured they are in safe hands. And they are, until the Cisco Kid (Baxter) shows up. All gleaming teeth and pencil-thin mustache, he resembles John Waters if the director were to don a cowboy hat. I should add here that I’ve known John Waters for over 30 years and have never seen him wear one. He takes the strongbox full of gold and flirts with the attractive woman on board, taking from her a broach. He then sends the coach on its way. An easy day’s work if you ask me.
Filmed in glorious black and white, IN OLD ARIZONA is a must see for fans of early cinema, especially those who are interested in the technical aspects of filmmaking in the early 20th century. Though there is a film editor credited, it looks like many of the shots were edited “in camera” – one scene ends as the actors approach a door and then jerkily jumps to them opening it on the other side. There are also a lot of standard two-shots when dialogue is exchanged – one continuous scene of the two actors in frame with very little close-ups. The script is fairly witty, and full of many surprisingly sexual innuendoes that I’m sure wouldn’t have made it past the Hayes office. One character actually mutters, “I’ll be damned,” though the last word is muted.
The film picks up its pace when the local military post is assigned the job of capturing the Kid. It seems that everybody in the town EXCEPT the local soldiers know who the Kid is so there is some fun to be had, especially in a scene at the local barber shop where the Kid is getting his hair cut and everyone around him is talking about what they’d do if they caught him. Production qualities are fine for the period as is the accompanying musical score.
IN OLD ARIZONA was reportedly nominated for (5) Academy Awards. I say reportedly because according to the Oscars web-site not only were there no official nominees announced that year, but there were actually TWO Academy Award ceremonies in 1930. Baxter took home the Best Actor trophy in the first series. I’m guessing if you had a movie come out the year before you could say you were an Oscar nominee. What I also found unusual is that one of the nominations went to director Irving Cummings, who is also credited as the only director of the film on the Internet Movie Data Base. Also, there is no mention of this film on Raoul Walsh’s page. However, both men are listed when the “Directed by” credit hits the screen.
IN OLD ARIZONA BLU-RAY REVIEW
Video: The film is presented in its original 1.20:1 aspect ratio. For a film that’s 85 years old, the source material isn’t too bad. Some scenes show heavy wear while others are almost pristine. It looks like the scratches all occur right at the beginning of what would have been a reel change back in the old days of projection.
Audio: Presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0, again you have to take in affect the age of the film. Some of the dialogue is muffled, though with his sharp enunciation you can hear every word the Kid utters. Some scenes have no sound at all. These usually take place between scene changes or when the film has excess black between edits.
There are no extras.