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Jubal Blu-ray Review

Jubal Blu-ray

“Jubal” is an admirable, but flawed western.

After literally stumbling upon a cowhand named Shep, the kind hearted Jubal is both rescued and hired on as a foreman by Shep. Jubal, who is literally and figuratively on the run from his past, cannot find peace in his new line of work, however, when he meets Shep’s wife Mae and a lying, unpleasant, untrustworthy co-worker named Pinky who seems to have it out for Jubal. Mae, who is unhappily married to Shep, has a severe crush on Jubal, but Jubal wants nothing to do with her because she is married. Pinky, meanwhile, is jealous of the attention Jubal is getting from both Shep and Mae (who Pinky greatly desires). The woman that Jubal really has his eye on is Naomi, a kind young woman who is part of a religious based wagon train. Unfortunately, she is set to wed a member of the wagon train (even though she is against this). To no surprise, all of the storylines come to head at the end as poor Jubal becomes wrapped up in a heap of trouble and lies.

Right off the bat, it’s clear that Delmer Dave’s “Jubal” is not your ordinary western. This film doesn’t rely on clichés, gunfights, or recycled b-movie western storylines. Instead, the story is rather layered and deep as it explores topics such as romance, religion, lust, jealousy, betrayal, and good and evil. While it’s admirable to see a different type of western, it’s a shame that “Jubal” comes off as more of a melodramatic morality tale more than anything else. Now, don’t get me wrong, the movie is entirely watchable thanks to some well developed characters and exquisite acting. Alas, I can’t help but feel like this could have a been stronger drama overall. For me, the story wraps up a bit too nicely and the romantic storylines all feel a bit too forced. I’m never convinced why Mae pines for Jubal or why Naomi pines for Jubal. The women barely know Jubal at all and they’re throwing themselves at him.  

As for the performances, it is Ernest Borgnine and Rod Steiger that steal the show here. Borgnine (who plays the sympathetic victimized Shep) gives one of his most underrated performances here. You don’t often hear “Jubal” mentioned in his filmography, but you should. The real highlight, however, is Rod Steiger who plays the despicable Pinky. I don’t know how he does it, but Steiger is the master of making a loathsome character come to life. It may not be glamorous to play characters the audience hates, but it takes real skill to be so convincing as a morally bankrupt baddie. The other performances by Charles Bronson. Glenn Ford, Valerie French, and Felicia Farr are also worthy of acclaim here as well.

Video/Audio:

Presented in 2.55:1 1080p with a 4K digital restoration, this transfer is sadly a bit underwhelming. While it doesn’t happen in every shot, a lot of the exterior scenes are distractingly fuzzy. It may be “organic” as the video enthusiasts so love to say, but it doesn’t look pleasant. On the plus side, the interior scenes seem to fare better here and some of the exterior shots do look rather picturesque at times. In other words, it’s all rather hit-and-miss.

On the other hand, the Uncompressed Stereo track really impresses. There’s a surprising amount of depth here and you can tell the crisp audio has truly been cleaned up.

The lone extra is the typically excellent Criterion booklet. This one features an essay by film critic/author/director Kent Jones along with some glossy photos from the film.

June 1, 2013 - Posted by | Blu-Ray review | , , , , ,

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