Red River on Blu-ray

Thursday, 31 October 2013 05:33

Red River comes to Blu-ray“Red River” is the work of legendary director Howard Hawks (“Rio Bravo”, “The Big Sleep”). It stars Western icon John Wayne as intrepid rancher Thomas Dunson. Following the Civil War, Dunson (Wayne – “The Searchers”, “True Grit”) vows to establish a successful ranch on the Texan border of the Red River. 14 years later, in 1865, he is forced embark on a long and dangerous cattle drive to Missouri to sell his livestock.

Helping to steer the 10,000 head of cattle are Matt Garth, an eager youngster adopted by Dunson (Montgomery Clift in his movie debut – “From Here to Eternity”), Nadine Groot (Walter Brenan – “To Have and Have Not”), a life-long friend of Thomas’, and gunman Cherry Valance (John Ireland – “Spartacus”). Dunson strikes a hard bargain with his men and as the trek unfolds, the true cost of their venture threatens to be their undoing.

“Red River” is an epic Western shot through with jaw-dropping scenery, strong characters, a series of trials and plot twists worthy of “The Lord of the Rings” and plenty of humour to offset the more tragic events that occur along the way. Danger lies everywhere, be it at the hands of extreme weather, spooked cattle liable to stampede, opposing Indians or dissatisfied insiders considering mutiny.

Wayne is utterly compelling in the central role, both appealing and appalling depending on the situation facing him and the level of desperation involved. Matt and Cherry’s uneasy alliance as Thomas’s right-hand men creates plenty of friction and one-upmanship as they try to prove who is the better shooter. Groot is generally the source of levity, for example when he loses some false teeth to an Indian in a card game and then is forced to grovel for them back at mealtimes.

My only grumble would be that the plot is occasionally trite or too convenient, but I am probably being too harsh on a film that was made in quite a different era. Ultimately it is an extremely accessible and entertaining Western, strong on spectacle and drama.

Special features include:

  • New high-definition 1080p presentation
  • Original theatrical trailer
  • Option to play the film with English SDH
  • Option to play the film with a music and sound effects track
  • Exclusive lengthy video conversation about “Red River” and Howard Hawks by filmmaker and critic Dan Sallitt, conducted by Jaime Christley, and shot by Dustin Guy Defa and James PGannon
  • Lux Radio Theatre – 1949 radio play of “Red River”, with John Wayne, Walter Brennan and Joanne Dru reprising their film roles
  • A booklet featuring the words of Howard Hawks, rare imagery, and more!

The 1.37:1 (non-wide-screen), black and white presentation is impressive for a 65-year-old movie. The sky shots often feature noticeable, fine graining but the movie’s vistas are breathtaking none-the-less.

The conversation between the Sallitt and Christley makes for slightly uncomfortable viewing, primarily because it feels too forced and unnatural (they are filmed sitting opposite each other in somebody’s lounge, and do not look very relaxed). However, the two experts do have plenty of insight into the film’s production and Hawks. Also, watch out for the none-too-subtle Lux soap advert that precedes the radio play!

“Red River” (1948) is out now on Blu-ray, courtesy of Eureka Entertainment. The main feature has a running time of 133 minutes approx, carries a ‘U’ certificate and retails for £19.99 on Blu-ray, or less from www.culttvstore.com

 

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