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Wagon Master Blu-ray Review

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“Wagon Master” is a good old fashioned John Ford western.

In 1950’s “Wagon Master,” the Patrick Ford and Frank S. Nugent scripted story finds two horse traders (Travis and Sandy) selling their horses to a group of Mormons with the caveat that the two men must lead the Mormon’s wagon train to the San Juan River Valley. While the trip has its fair share of complications, matters become further complicated when a group of 5 wanted criminals (the Cleggs) enter the scene and forcibly join the wagon train to hide out from the law.

“Wagon Master” may not be mentioned as much as John Ford western classics such as “The Searchers” or “Stagecoach,” but it’s a notable western nonetheless. On the surface it’s a very simple wagon train story filled with danger, trials and tribulations, unexpected encounters, romance, but the movie also dives into subjects of religion and humanity. Sure, it takes awhile to get going as the Cleggs enter the movie at around the 38 minute mark of an 86 minute movie, but you won’t mind journeying with these characters, getting to know everyone, and hearing the Sons of the Pioneers songs as if you were a member of the wagon train yourself. You might mind having to hear the most annoying horn in the world though (you’ll see what I mean when you see it).

Strangely, “Wagon Master” is one of Ford’s few films that didn’t boast major star power like John Wayne. The main players here are Ben Johnson (Travis), Harry Carey Jr. (Sandy) and Charles Kemper (Uncle Shiloh Clegg). Everyone fits their roles well, but it’s Ward Bond as the crotchety Mormon Elder who steals the show. Not only does he provide humor, but his presence elevates the movie overall.

It should go without saying that the real real star of “Wagon Master” is John Ford himself. The famed director crafted a visually stunning western spectacle like few filmmakers ever could or can. He makes it look easy and effortless.

Video/Audio:

Presentation: 1.37:1 1080p. How does it look? Expect a glorious B&W transfer.

Audio Track: 2.0 DTS-HD MA. How does it sound? This 2.0 track delivers a crisp audio experience.

The lone extra is a commentary by Harry Carey Jr., Peter Bogdanovich and John Ford. Bogdanovich talks about his admiration of the movie while Carey chats about filming experiences and career. Ford did not record with the two, but archival audio interview clips of Ford are played.

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September 1, 2019 - Posted by | Blu-Ray review | , , ,

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