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The Fugitive
cast: Henry Fonda, Dolores del Rio, Pedro Armend�riz, Leo Carrillo, and Ward Bond

director: John Ford

100 minutes (PG) 1947
Universal DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 8/10
reviewed by James A. Stewart
For some movies it can take years before their genius is recognised. Commercial success is not readily forthcoming upon release, and critical acclaim takes that wee bit longer to arrive than a director may wish. A slow burn is what they call such pictures, and a slow burn would be an appropriate turn of phrase for John Ford's The Fugitive.

2007 is the 60th anniversary of this film, which is based on The Power And The Glory by the exceptional Graham Greene, and represents the opportunity to introduce it to a whole new generation of film buffs. Just to be clear, this is not in any way related to the Harrison Ford film, or the earlier TV series, with which it shares its moniker.

Set in Central America, Henry Fonda plays a catholic priest attempting to evade the anti-catholic authorities that have denounced his beliefs. He befriends 'the woman', whose character name all but sums up one of the endearing pieces about this film; all the characters are as described, no names are required or given. There is the 'the fugitive', 'the police informer' and so on. The woman helps the fugitive (Fonda) on his quest to reach Puerto Grande in the hope that he can board a ship to America, the land of the free.

A man who is not all that he seems (and, indeed, is no friend at all) befriends the fugitive. This setback serves only to send him on further travails. The authorities are dogged in their pursuit of the fugitive with Pedro Armend�riz first-rate as a lieutenant of the police - ably assisted by J. Carrol Naish as the police informer.

Arguably the movie's only sticking point is the pace at which it moves along. It can feel a bit forced at times. But this is offset greatly by the wonderful landscape and settings, the church scenes particularly resonant and the use of some of the outdoors scenery is just perfect. Fonda puts in a steady performance as the fugitive, but not stellar. However, his depiction of the pastor's honesty, courage and indefatigability in the face of relentless pursuit is most warming.

John Ford directed many more films, such as The Quiet Man, the Oscar-winning film starring John Wayne. There is no comparison between these films. How The Quiet Man received Oscar recognition while The Fugitive was less acclaimed is a mystery beyond this review. It is written in some quarters that The Fugitive held a special place in Ford's heart and was one of his favourite films.

The Fugitive is a delight for the movie aficionado. It is beautifully shot by Gabriel Figueroa and was released in a world recovering from a most horrific global conflict. Taking this and the situation in Spain into context, it was a brave and powerful message in its day. Today that slow burn has become a bright flame.

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