Blu-Ray Review: The Sun Shines Bright

John Ford was undoubtedly on of the greatest American directors of his generation. Over the course of six decades, he made well over one hundred films. Starting his career in the silent era and ending it during the 1960s. Making a number of iconic westerns, such as Stagecoach, The Searchers, My Darling Clementine and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, but also many more lesser-known films which tackled the American experience. In 1953, he directed The Sun Shines Bright.

Set in Kentucky at the turn of the twentieth century, the popular and well-respected Judge Priest (Charles Winninger) is standing for re-election. He faces tough competition from a Yankee prosecutor (Milburn Stone). His chances are impeded by his dedication to fairness in the way he presides over his court and responsibilities to the citizens of the town. This sense of justice is sorely tested when a young woman is assaulted and racial tensions come to the fore.

Ford has referred to The Sun Shines Bright as one of his favourite films and this undoubtedly stems from the trouble he had in adapting the Judge Priest short stories for the big screen. Finally managing to get a lynching scene included years after release. It’s a good-natured drama which tackles some of the most pressing issues of the time in the American South. The melding of three stories together generally works and there are good performances throughout. The Sun Shines Bright provides a snapshot of small-town politics at the beginning of the twentieth century.  

Special features:

  • 1080p presentation on Blu-ray
  • Optional English SDH Subtitles
  • Brand new audio commentary by film historian Joseph McBride (author of Searching for John Ford)
  • New video essay by Tag Gallagher (author of John Ford: Himself and His Movies)
  • A collector’s booklet featuring a reprint of Judge Priest short story The Lord Provides; a new essay by James Oliver; and an essay by Jonathan Rosenbaum

The Sun Shines Bright is released on Blu-ray by Eureka Entertainment as part of their Masters of Cinema collection on 24 January.

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