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Red River Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack Review

Red River Blu-ray-DVD Combo Pack

“Red River” is a classic Hawks/Wayne western.

After running a successful cattle business in Texas, the headstrong Thomas Dunson and his smart adopted orphan son Matt Garth embark on a treacherous cattle drive to Missouri. As the journey lingers on, an option to drive the herd to a closer and more profitable destination in Kansas presents itself, but the selfish Thomas ignores the idea. As frustration takes hold of Dunson’s crew, a mutiny (led by Matt) breaks out which forces Thomas out of the new drive to Kansas. Feeling angry and betrayed, Dunson vows revenge against his son, but what will he really do when he catches back up with him?

In the first half of “Red River” (1948), it’s easy to see why this Howard Hawks film is often regarded as one of the greatest western films ever made. Not only is it ambitious and epic in scope, but it’s filled with rich characters, great acting (especially by Walter Brennan and John Wayne), breathtaking location shooting and shots, and grandiose sequences (like the stampede and the end cattle drive through town). Sure, there are a few missteps along the way (especially the racist Indian stereotypes), but overall, it felt like a good old fashioned western. The second half of the film, however, is a different story.

As tension builds between the characters (namely Matt and Thomas), one expects the narrative to at least lead to an interesting climax. Sadly, however, that never occurs as we are forced to watch a clumsy forced romance between Tess and Matt (which is more of a plot device than anything else) and a cheesy climactic tussle between Dunson and Matt. While the end reconciliation works from a character standpoint, the way it unfolds feels as entirely out of place as the random song that plays near the beginning of the film. Still, with all of that said, the bumbling second half somehow never ruins the movie thanks to three stand-out performances.

John Wayne gets a lot of flack for his acting at times, but when he’s at the top of his game, you see why he was such a cinematic star. His portrayal of the authoritative, regretful, gruff Thomas Dunson is one of his all-time best performances alongside his work in “True Grit” and “The Searchers.” Likewise, the always underrated Montgomery Clift and the scene stealing and humorous Walter Brennan hold their own as Matt Garth and the loyal trail hand Nadine respectively.

Video/Audio:

Presentation: 1.37:1 1080p. How does it look? The 2K Digital Restorations for both the B&W theatrical and pre-release cuts is a bit disappointing due to the overly wavy and grainy certain picture quality in certain scenes. Granted, some scenes look crisp and clear, but the transfers are certainly inconsistent. I hate to say it, but the DVD transfer is actually preferable at certain points because the print flaws aren’t highlighted as much in standard definition.

Audio Track: Uncompressed Mono tracks both versions. How do they sound? Whether there’s a shootout on screen or a quiet character centric moment, these Mono tracks are better than one would expect.

Extras:
* If you’re looking for some new reading material, this “Red River” set contains Borden Chase’s western novel “Blazing Guns On The Chisholm Trail.” This is the novel “Red River” was based on.
* “Red River” trailer.
* A booklet featuringan essay by author Geoffrey O’Brien and an interview excerpt with editor Christian Nyby from a newspaper article.
*
“Bogdanovich On Red River”- Famed director Peter Bogdanovich talks about his love of the movie, John Wayne, Howard Hawks, and the two versions of the movie.
*
“Hawks and Bogdanovich”- Audio excerpts from an interview between Peter Bogdanovich and Howad Hawks.
* The Lux Radio Theatre radio drama adaptation of “Red River” featuring John Wayne, Joanne Dru and Walter Brennan. I’m a sucker for radio dramas so this was fun to listen to.
* Separate interviews with Molly Haskell, author/scholar Lee Clark Mitchell, and an audio interview with author/screenwriter Borden Chase.

Overall Thoughts: Flaws aside, “Red River” is a classic western that deserves to be seen.

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July 2, 2014 - Posted by | Blu-Ray review | , , , , , , , ,

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