Connect with us

Disc Reviews

Inherit The Wind | Blu-ray Review

Inherit The Wind Stanley KramerHaving finally found acclaim as a writer/director with critical successes like The Defiant Ones (1958) after a brief period serving as a producer for others at Columbia on films such as Death of a Salesman (1951), The Juggler (1953), and The Wild One (1953), Stanley Kramer took it upon himself to follow-up his politically controversial nuclear war drama On the Beach (1959) with yet another topically contentious production – Inherit The Wind. Based on the stage play of the same name written by Jerome Lawrence and Robert Edwin Lee, the film fictionalizes the famed 1925 Scopes “Monkey” Trial, in which a high school teacher named John Scopes was accused of violating Tennessee’s Butler Act, which made it unlawful to teach Darwin’s Theory of Evolution in any state-funded school. Riding high on the creation/evolution controversy, as well as a genius ploy to exploit the witch hunt narrative to discuss the dangers of McCarthyism, which had previously seen Nedrick Young, one of the film’s screenwriters, blacklisted, the film received rave reviews and a hail of award nominations, but ultimately was a box office failure.

Despite the financials, the film remains a courtroom masterpiece. Even back in 1925, the original trial was a media circus and Kramer makes wonderful use of the period hysteria within the small nameless southern town, employing Gene Kelly as the guile reporter, E. K. Hornbeck of the Baltimore Herald to stir the pot. Mobbed by simple townsfolk, the streets fill with god fearing devotees of the Christian faith who embrace Matthew Harrison Brady (played with lovably flawed enthusiasm) as their former presidential candidate prosecuting attorney, while the defendant,  fictionalized as Bertram Cates (embodied by a conflicted Dick York), is backed by Henry Drummond (played with a fiery verve by Spencer Tracy in a role he was born to play), one of the most controversial legal minds and a long-standing friend and adversary of Brady. To make matters worse, Cates’ fiancee Rachel (Donna Anderson) is at odds because she’s the daughter of the town’s fire and brimstone preacher.

Though the trial is painted as a war of religion vs science, Drummond sees it as a matter of an American’s right to think freely no matter the religious community that one lives in. Written with the wit of a quartet of brilliance, Drummond’s dialogue, both as a defense lawyer and as a man whose friendship has run its course, is nothing less than shock and awe incredible. Spoken with the wearily relaxed candor of a man confident in his moral standing yet aghast at the possibility that blind faith could win over scientifically supported logic, Drummond is one of the all time great on screen heroes of progress, the very embodiment of eloquence and moral standing. No amount of heat could crack his perseverance for the preservation of what’s right, and Tracy stands absolutely perfect within the role, eventually using Brady himself to logically prove his case, despite the legal outcome.

Most unsettling is the remarkable fact that Inherit The Wind remains as pertinent today as it did upon its release over 50 years ago. With tragic events like the Charlie Hebdo attack attempting to stifle the free thinkers of the world, Kramer’s film speaks volumes about how fear and ignorance still drive attempts to cage liberal thought and how we must stand up against such human rights violations. If ever there comes a day when Drummond’s stance becomes irrelevant, we should celebrate in the streets, but until then, we shall relish this magnificent piece of progressive filmmaking and hope for a better tomorrow.

Disc Review:

Though Inherit The Wind is carried along by a pair of stunning performances, it should be said that Ernest Laszlo’s stunning black & white cinematography frames the courtroom standoff with purposeful movement in anxiety inducing long takes. His work on the film gleaned his first of eight Oscar nominations, the first four of which were products of his partnership with Kramer. Twilight Time’s transfer captures the rich details and robust contrast of the picture with stunning aplomb, though there are a few instances in which the image could use to be cleaned up a smidge. Matching the visual quality, the DTS-HD master track that pushes a faithfully rendered mono soundscape is crisp and distinct, allowing the film’s finely tuned dialogue to come through without issue, and if you fancy Ernest Gold’s soundtrack, there is an optional isolated music and effects track available. The disc itself comes packaged in a standard Blu-ray case.

Theatrical Trailer
Taking on the Alfred Hitchcock method of promotion, Stanley Kramer himself appears on screen, speaking to camera, pitching his latest project with the help of poignant clips from the film.

As is regular for Twilight Time releases, this lovely little booklet contains various promotional materials produced at the film’s original release, as well as an insightful piece of film criticism by Julie Kirgo.

Final Thoughts:

Despite the various television remakes, one of which featured the likes of Jason Robards and Kirk Douglas and aired in 1988, while another featured  Jack Lemmon as Drummond and George C. Scott as Brady and aired in 1999, Kramer’s original vision of the 1925 Scopes “Monkey” Trial remains the defining achievement, full of passionate performances and a style that echoed of traditional Hollywood while embracing the heat of lingering McCarthyism and the return of the Blacklisters. With its first appearance on Blu-ray thanks to Twilight Time, the film moves into the realm of HD home video with visual grace while maintaining a tenacious fire for free speech everywhere. Highly recommended.

Film: ★★★★½/☆☆☆☆☆
Disc:          ★★★/☆☆☆☆☆

Click to comment

More in Disc Reviews

To Top