image   I’ve always enjoyed  RKO’s The White Tower starring Glenn Ford, Alida Valli and Claude Rains and was pleased when Odeon Entertainment brought it out on dvd in their Hollywood Studio Collection. Described by Odeon as ‘digitally restored and remastered’,the one important fact they omitted was that this Technicolor film was being manufactured in black and white. I’ve seen The White Tower several times on BBC TV – in glorious color – and I would love to know why its only commercial release in the UK is in B&W. Is it simply cost?  I contacted Odeon Entertainment  and this was their reply:  “The Master copy we were supplied with by RKO was a Black and White version which we decided to go ahead and produce DVD’s from. We have recently been supplied with a colour version by the BBC, which we plan to use when we replenish stock,re-launching it as a colour version of the film. This may be a few months away.” image I wasn’t aware of RKO being a studio that ever filmed outside the US, but for The White Tower, the cast and crew were taken to Europe and the Swiss Alps.Second Unit filming with climbing experts and doubles was also done near Mont Blanc in France. This must have been an expensive project for RKO.They had it in mind to film James Ramsey Ullman’s novel in 1947, and Edward Dmytryk was to direct,with Paul Lukas and Lilli Palmer as the stars. However, by 1949,Dmytryk was a victim of HUAC and Ted Tetzlaff took over.

Claude Rains,Alida Valli,Glenn Ford, Lloyd Bridges on the Queen Mary crossing the Atlantic

Claude Rains,Alida Valli,Glenn Ford, Lloyd Bridges on the Queen Mary crossing the Atlantic

There is a nice mixture of characters in The White Tower. Alida Valli is Carla Alton who wants to conquer the mountain known as The White Tower – it had taken her father’s life and no one has ever reached the top. image
Lloyd Bridges is Hein,an unreformed Nazi who wants to prove he is still superior in every way. Claude Rains is Paul Delambre,an alcoholic writer who sees the mountain as some sort of salvation for him. image Cedric Hardwicke is a retired Geologist ,Nicholas Radcliffe  who lives near the little village of Kandermatt which is at the base of the mountain.
Oscar Homolka is a Swiss mountain guide ,Andreas who had led the climb that took Carla’s father’s life.
And Glenn Ford is a quiet spoken American,Martin Ordway who had been a flier during the War and was shot down in the area. image Carla had hoped Andreas would have assembled a climbing group by the time she got there,but none of the locals want to tackle the mountain.The only people she can call on are the few guests in the inn she is staying at. Martin’s attitude becomes clear – “Do you think it’s worth the energy? Delambre is keen – he’s an amateur climber. Nicholas agrees too and Carla reluctantly accepts Hein. Martin is attracted to Carla and says he’ll go part of the way. She tries to explain herself to him, “They say it is a sickness with me. Is it a sickness to have loved your father, to have the same dream he had. I will only find peace when I reach the top of that mountain.” image Hein only sees the group as a useful way to help him get to the top. When Delambre and Nicholas take a rest on the mountain, Hein quotes an old mountaineer song, “To rest is not to conquer.” image He later says to Martin, “This is no tea party,Mr Ordway,or even an ordinary mountain climb – it is a war. To win it, we must fight.” Towards the end of the tortuous climb, Hein is forced to take help from Martin, but says to him, “I will finish alone and you will not finish at all.I am strong and you are weak. It is because I have the will and you have not. It is because I am climbing for a principle,the principle of superiority, to live and fight and conquer again. You are like all the rest,you are not climbing for anything.” image Martin, through his love for Carla,accepts she must get to the top, he says to her,”Nothing is going to help you till you find something more important than that mountain or your father – that’ll never happen.” Does Carla change?….does Hein reach the top?…….who survives? image Scenes filmed in the studio are obvious but acceptable. The cast is very good. I await the color version to see this film properly.


Still no sign of Odeon  Entertainment

releasing  a color version.


15 responses »

  1. I’ve never seen this but, being a big fan of the stars, have always wanted to. I also greatly admire Tetzlaff’s THE WINDOW. That Odeon DVD put me off when I found out it was B&W so it’s good to hear that the company plan to issue a color version some time in the future.
    Thanks for the review and the welcome info.

  2. I hope more folk see The White Tower once it is available in color. I had a look at Ted Tetzlaff’s credits on IMDB. He’d been in Hollywood since the 20s and was cinematographer in over 100 movies (several Carole Lombard and Jean Arthur films) ,but it wasn’t till the late 40s,after photographing Notorious, he got the director’s chair.
    He only directed 16 films, including a couple with George Raft (Johnny Allegro,A Dangerous Profession) and two with Glenn Ford (The White Tower and Terror on a Train), plus Riffraff with Pat O’Brien.
    I’d like to see Gambling House (with Victor Mature) which he did in 1950.
    And of course,the excellent The Window.
    Tetzlaff lived till the mid 1990’s. Another missed opportunity for a long interview. What a tale Mr Tetzlaff’ would have had to tell!

  3. Those screengrabs look stunning Vienna;are they off the BBC broadcast?
    Warner Archive also say that they are going to give us a remastered version
    of this film.
    Also Warner Archive have recently released TERROR ON A TRAIN (aka
    TIME BOMB) in a lovely remastered version. The film is a very tense 72
    minutes. DVD also has a most diverting trailer where MGM tell us that they
    are able with their films transport us to countries that we would normally
    never see!

  4. If I could get a DVD with picture quality that matches
    those super screengrabs I would be very happy.
    Its funny how the RKO library is owned by both Warners and
    the BBC.
    There are a few RKO films that are turning up on TCM USA which
    normally means that a DVD release will follow shortly.
    GREAT DAY IN THE MORNING is pretty near of my wants list.
    There are quiet a few other sought after RKO films that Warners
    say they will release eventually like DEVILS CANYON,

  5. I’ve seen the color print on BBC several times and the quality is excellent.
    I read that the BBC have the UK television rights to the RKO library in perpetuity .
    I’d welcome a commercial copy of DEVIL’S CANYON.

  6. This sounds great – I’d love to see Claude Rains as the alcoholic writer. However, I will definitely avoid the black-and-white DVD, and hope that it turns up on the BBC again in colour. Great piece, Vienna, and a great idea to contact Odeon about the puzzling black-and-white release – good to hear that they intend to release it in colour eventually.

  7. I was surprised by how tightly woven “The White Tower” was. The cast was intriguing. I especially enjoyed Claude Rains who displayed great depth in portraying the sadness of his character. Technicolor gave this film a boost. Best scene: When Glenn Ford saves Lloyd Bridges’ s life on the cliff and the because of his insane ego turns away and ultimately falls to his death.

  8. I agree Rains was very moving and Lloyd Bridges did very well too.. Still waiting for the color DVD .
    Thanks for your comment.

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