Category Archives: Western

Blu-ray for Cult Films

We live in a wonderful age of film restoration. It’s easy to understand why films such as Citizen Kane, Don’t Look Now, and All About Eve receive refurbished pictures, reconstructed soundtracks and loads of extra features.  Through the wonder of Blu-ray and HD television screens, we probably see classic movies as well as when they were originally released. In between then and now they’ve been shown in torn and tattered prints, interrupted by car commercials, and worse. Taking that into account we see classic films better than those who were stuck with the in between times. But what about cult films? These have usually hung on in VHS quality prints and worse, unless they were produced by a major studio. But when they were released, many of them enjoyed photography and processing equal to their A-quality cousins. Well, rejoice fans of cult films! MVD Entertainment Group has begun releasing films from Arrow Films (UK) to a North American audience. The latter vows a “major investment in restoring original material through modern techniques”

Day of Anger

Day of Anger, starring Lee Van Cleef and Giuliano Gemma is my pick as best of the first group, which also includes Mark of the Devil and Blind Woman’s Curse. It’s a spaghetti western about corruption as an aging gunman (Van Cleef) teaches an enthusiastic young man (Gemma) how to follow in his trade.  It was directed by Tonino Valeri, who was a former assistant to Sergio Leone, the grandaddy of the genre. Van Cleef had scored in For A Few Dollars More and The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, so stayed in Italy to film a number of westerns. Arrow’s print is spectacular, wide screen (Techniscope) with gorgeous color and razor sharp definition.  There are three interviews, one with Valeri, another with screenplay co-writer Ernesto Gasdtaldi, and an extensive one with Italian Critic  Roberto Curti. There are also three trailers in the bad quality we used to expect for this sort of film, which make one so very grateful for the new print and transfer. Next up for MVD/Arrow: Massacre Gun, a violent yakuza yarn which will be released with copious extras. Note: Each set also includes a DVD but the producers have given us so much quality that it’s the Blu-ray you want to see.

“High Noon” on Blu-ray

How can it be that a movie that just celebrated its 60th anniversary in 2012 is still one of the most entertaining and suspenseful films ever made? Because it was made so well, without a weak link in the process, and because it deals with universal issues. As if to prove that, the story was successfully made again in 1981 with Outland, where the story is set in outer space.  Both films address courage under fire and how fear and courage often work together when one is trying to do the next right thing. In High Noon, it’s Gary Cooper who stars as Marshall Will Kane. On his wedding day he receives news that a killer he put away five years ago is pardoned and coming to town on the noon train to kill him. When he tries to get help from the townspeople he has protected and served, they turn their backs on him. A lesser man might run, but Kane steps up to the plate.

High Noon Blu

We can thank Olive FIlms for this release, a company whose sworn duty is to release the great films that studios won’t put out because they’re afraid they won’t be commercial successes.  High Noon was filmed in glossy black and white and the Blu-ray transfer shows images that look like they were minted yesterday. Detail is sharp, with close ups on the actors’ faces particularly impressive, likewise all the clocks that make the count down to noon more suspenseful. Shadow detail is excellent as well, though the film was shot entirely in the daytime. The soundtrack is clean mono sound, good for both dialog and the Oscar winning title song and film score. This disc belongs in every collection of great films; it’s one you can come back to again and again. Outland, too, which is also on Blue ray at bargain price and features one of Sean Connery’s best non-Bond performances.