Wednesday, May 23, 2007

week of the duke, pt. II

Alrighty gang, here we go with part II of our mega roundup. We've divided up the roundup into a three parter because there is just so much darn good stuff out there it just boggles the mind. If you are a classic film fan, you have a DVD player, extra time and have come into a sizable inheritance recently - well, this is your week! Realizing that most of us don't have sizable inheritances coming our way every week (we hope), The Shelf does our bit in the cause for the classic film fan, but telling you what we think is essential, what are retreads, and what is worth your hard earned dollars.

Today, in part II, we'll cover all of the John Wayne DVDs that are hitting the shelves this week. There are a lot, but there are really a few absolute must haves (after all, you need to save a little for what's coming up in part III). We've dissected ALL of them, and have layed out what's what. Is it new? Is it repackaged? Is it an upgrade from a previous release? We'll answer all those questions for all of the Duke's films hitting the shelves. We'll also link to several excellent recent reviews, so you can know more. If you don't have any of them on DVD, you've got an entirely different problem (see remark about "sizable inheritance" above). So, grab a snack and hang on 'cause here we go!

Worthy Upgrades
All of the DVDs in this section have been previously released in other DVD editions, but are definitely worth the expense in upgrading and highly recommended

Top Shelf Pick of the Week:
John Wayne Special Editions
Rio Bravo: Ultimate Collector's Edition

If you read our post about these special editions from last week, then you already now that Warner's went the extra mile in giving us some great special features and commentaries. If you haven't read it, do so for more information. Suffice it to say, this Rio Bravo: Ultimate Collector's Edition follows in the footsteps of last year's Ultimate Collector's Edition of The Searchers. This film is widely regarded as one of John Wayne's finest westerns, but it should be remembered also as one of Dean Martin's best performances and a great Howard Hawks film. Ricky Nelson makes his screen debut here, and handles himself fairly well with his co-stars.
Rio Bravo is the story of a Sheriff John T. Chance (Wayne), who comes to town and arrests Joe Burdette, the brother of the area's most prominent cattleman, Nathan Burdette, for murdering an unarmed man in a bar. Nathan is none to happy and has more than enough money to hire all of the gunman in the vicinity who don't already work for him. There plan is to free Joe before Sheriff Chance is able to move him to a safer jail and court venue out of Burdette's influence. Chance enlists the help of his former deputy, Dude (Martin), who is now a mess; drunk and transfixed on the woman who left him. With Dude, and the old jail guard, Stumpy (Walter Brennan) and a young gun man (Colorado Ryan (Ricky Nelson), the men attempt to hold off Burdette and his men in the small jail.
Rio Bravo is known as Howard Hawks and John Wayne's answer to the film High Noon, which starred Gary Cooper as a lawman left alone by the cowardly townspeople and former comrades to defend against a killer he put in jail. The Duke felt that Cooper's portrayal and the storyline was much too cynically and "cowardly" and Rio Bravo is their response. Hawks and Wayne also remade this film later as El Dorado, with Robert Mitchum in the Dude part. Warner's has remastered the film and audio, packed on the extras, and added reprints of the press book and comic book from the time the film was first released. It's also available in a two disc, Special Edition, without the reprinted material and a few of the extras.

The Cowboys: Deluxe Edition
I saw this film, like I did with most of John Wayne films, with my Grandfather when I was younger. He loved it, but then again, he loves a lot of westerns. I remember seeing this and thinking it wasn't as great as some of the other films. After all, John Wayne was older in this and the bad guys were really mean. Then I watched again when I was much older and I have to say, it had an entirely different effect on me. I was awed by Wayne's performance and the power of the story. Mark Rydell's direction is spot on, and the emotional impact of this film probably resonates more when you are older and can sympathize with what the characters go through.
Warner's also put a lot of thought into the extras and added a commentary with the Rydell, which I am really looking forward to hearing. I won't go into a summary, because DVD Talk (home of Shelf Link resident, DVD Savant) has an excellent review of the film and the DVD. The only justice I can do, is direct you there, and direct you to the store to purchase it.

True Grit: Special Collector's Edition
This is another Wayne film from very late in his career, that I believe gets better with age.., that is the viewer's age. It's hard to connect with John Wayne's characters as they battle age, change in the west, and the feeling of irrelevance (The Shootist) when you are younger. You remember the lines and the shoot outs and the toughness from his earlier films. I think as you go back and revisit his films as you get older, and perhaps having viewed even more of them, you can have a greater appreciation for Wayne's acting and talent. It is unmistakable, but I think when you are younger you just love the fact that the Duke can take out the bad guys. True Grit is a classic, the film he won the Oscar for (although he deserved it for others as well). This film is so much better than I first remember. It has Wayne's comedic flair (if you don't think he had any, you didn't see McLintock!), his toughness and his wonderful portrayal of a flawed, cantankerous, yet tough hero. Paramount has included some excellent extras in the film and I will direct you to check out DVD Talk's excellent review of this DVD edition.

What's New
In this section we point you to the John Wayne films that are out this week, new to DVD.

The John Wayne Film Collection
The films in this set: Big Jim McLain
Without Reservations, Allegheny Uprising, Tycoon, Reunion in France, and Trouble Along the Way are hitting DVD for the first time in this collection. We covered most of the extras in last week's post. These films show John Wayne in some roles we may not be used to seeing. None of the films will be on many Top Ten John Wayne films, but they are interesting nonetheless. Perhaps Without Reservations is the hidden gem of the set, which pairs John Wayne with Claudette Colbert in a romantic comedy, and features cameos from other stars like Cary Grant, Louella Parsons and Jack Benny. Big Jim McClain is perhaps the most forgettable, putting John Wayne in contemporary Hawaii hunting commies. This is an interesting set and one that you should enjoy, especially if you would like to see Wayne in other roles.

What's Repackaged:
These are all the DVD's that are being re-released today, but have been (and in some cases are still) available in previous editions.

There are no extras or any new features to speak of on these DVD's , and as of this posting, we are not aware of any major remastering of film or audio. Basically, if you've got it, don't worry about it. If you don't - now is a good time to pick up a title you've been missing in the collection. We're not including any pictures of individual titles or summaries or links to most individual titles, for space considerations. So check this list against your own collection, to see what's out there:
Individual releases of the films from last year's John Wayne/John Ford Collection:
3 Godfathers
The Long Voyage Home
The Wings of Eagles
The Searchers
She Wore a Yellow Ribbon
They Were Expendable
Fort Apache

Other reissues of past releases:
The Green Berets
Operation Pacific
Flying Leathernecks
The Train Robbers
Cahill US Marshall
Back to Bataan
Tall in the Saddle
Blood Alley
The Sea Chase

Double feature discs of past releases:
In Harm’s Way/Donovan’s Reef
The Sons of Katie Elder/The Shootist
El Dorado/Hatari
How the West was Won

Individual Releases of last year's Triple Feature DVDs:
The Man From Monterrey
Ride Him Cowboy
Somewhere in Sonora
The Telegraph Trail
The Big Stampede
Haunted Gold

Also many of these films are collected in several new box sets. Again, nothing new- just repackaging, but it's a great way to get an instant John Wayne collection if you are eager to start:
The John Wayne Adventure Collection
The High and Mighty
In Harms Way
Island in the Sky
Donovan’s Reef

The John Wayne Western Collection
The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance
True Grit
Big Jake
The Shootist
Rio Lobo
The Sons of Katie Elder
El Dorado

And The John Wayne Century Collection, which basically includes all of the films from the Adventure and Western Collections

Whew! That was a lot of work, but I hope we've dispelled much of the confusion and overwhelming nature of all of the John Wayne releases this week. But don't think this is all for this week's roundup. We've got even more great classic film releases coming your way in part III, including a film that we've been looking forward to being released on DVD for a long time. A Shelf Favorite. Stay tuned...

Oh, I know it's a penny here and a penny there, but look at me. I worked myself up from nothing to a state of extreme poverty.

I've broke my back once, and my hip twice. And on my worst day I could still beat the hell out of you.


filmFANATIC said...

I just found this site from over at FARK- pretty cool- I'll be coming back.
I picked up Rio Bravo UCE and all I can say is wow. What a great film and DVD. Good roundup today- you put alot into separating everyhting out. I didn't realize that there were so many John Wayne stuff out. Hopefully they'll take a couple of more movies and give them the UCE treatment also.

Anonymous said...

Wish they would do special edition of Sands of Iwo Jima.

ed said...

I don't think WB owns the rights to Sands of Iwo Jima. The crappy DVD edition thats out now would be better than that.
Loophole or Flywheel may know>?

J.C. Loophole said...

Actually Paramount owns most of the Republic catalog. In a complicated situation, Lions Gate owns the home video/DVD rights to alot of Republic theatrical holdings.

dino martin peters said...

Hey pallies, many would say that "Rio Bravo" was Dino's best filmo performance ever...ever worthy of an oscar.

Wolf Flywheel said...

I agree dino. The incomparable Mr. Martin put up his best performances (in my opinion) alongside the Duke.

Anonymous said...

In the above round-up, you incorrectly identify DVD Savant as the author of The Cowboys review. Actually, I wrote that review, as well as the True Grit review.


Paul Mavis


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