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on 9 April 2015
Howard Hawks' masterful 1948 cattle drive epic 'Red River' stampedes its way onto a UK Blu ray courtesy of Eureka Entertainment as part of their much lauded Masters of Cinema collection. For whatever reason Eureka have only made the longer 133 minute pre release edit available on this disc despite Howard Hawks himself proclaiming to prefer the shorter 127 minute cut. Including both versions would have been preferable.

Synopsis:
In a quest to fullfill his dreams of being a cattle rancher Tom Dunson (John Wayne) ignores his wagon master who's train they had joined en route to California and heads off to Texas with his right hand man Groot Nadine (Walter Brennan) with one bull and two cows leaving his sweetheart Fen (Coleen Gray) in the protection of the wagon train on the promise that once the ranch is set up he will send for her. Only a night into their journey a distant plume of smoke indicates that the wagon train has been attcked by indians. When the same Indian scouts catch up with Dunsan and Goot the pair fight them off only to prove Dunsan's worst fears.......his girl has been killed indicated by one of the slain indians wearing her bracelet, the same bracelet Dunsan had given her which had been left to him by his late mother. The two continue their journey and eventually reach the Red River, the border between Texas and Oklahoma where they meet up with a delirious and fiesty young boy Matt Garth who has survived an indian attack that killed his family and whose sole possessions are a cow and a small pistol. Admiring his pluck and courage Dunsan takes the boy under his wing promising that if he works hard he will make him a partner in his planned ranch and add his initial to the cattle brand.
Fast forward fourteen years and Dunsan has achieved his ambition and has now the largest cattle herd in the area. But thanks to the Civil War, the high price of beef and the lack of cattle markets in Texas he is basically bankrupt despite his huge animal stock. So with his still loyal friend Nadine and his unofficially adopted son Matt(Montgomery Clift) who has grown into a strapping cow hand with a draw as quick as his father's, Dunsan plans a cattle drive of 9000 strong to Missouri where he is guaranteed a fair price for his beef stock. Taking with them a group of experienced cowboys each being offered $200 for the monumentous drive the journey starts out promising but problems begin after a raging stampede that leaves one cowhand trampled, hundreds of cattle killed and their foodstocks destroyed. Tempers soon begin to rise as all the men including Matt begin to doubt the now agressive and tyrannical Dunsan who appears to be selfishly obsessed with driving the cattle his way despite suggestions of a safer, easier and shorter passage to an alternative destination of Abilene Kansas where there is rumoured to be a railroad. When two deserters from the group are caught and returned Dunsan threatens to hang them prompting Matt to take charge of the group with all men siding with him to overthrow his father. Assuring he will lead them to Abilene where they can collect their well earnt paychecks, Matt decides to leave his proud and now vengeful father behind provoking Dunsan to threaten his adopted son with death when he finally meets up with him again.
Clocking in at well over two hours, Red River could be thought of as the original epic western, spanning decades and with themes that go far deeper than your average oater of the period. Often decribed as the western equivalent to Mutiny on the Bounty, this claim is immediately true with Dunsan being the Captain Bligh to Matt's Fletcher Christian and the cowboys the crew of The Bounty. Add to that elements of a classic Greek tragedy, a career changing performance from John Wayne, fast paced set pieces, a tight script and majestically epic cinematography whether it location or set bound and you have all the hallmarks that have made Red River an indisputable classic of American cinema.

Picture:
Its rough, its dark and its grainy but that doesent stop Eureka's HD transfer of Red River looking absolutely wonderful. Presented with an AVC encoded 1080p transfer framed at the correct aspect ratio of 1.34:1 this is a spectacularly solid interpretation of a 67 year old picture. The moody black & white photography benefits immensely with strong texturing and revealing levels of detail. The bright daytime scenes look fantastic from intricate close ups of trail worn faces and clothing through to dusty roads and livestock and depth is readily apparent. The same too can he said about the famous wide open vistas which appear clear and well defined and like "Shane" another western classic shot in the Academy Ratio give an enormous feeling of space despite the restrictions of the tight framing. Contrast can be slightly dark but is pleasing with a natural grey scale and deep inky blacks showcasing good shadow detail, perfect for the atmospheric studio shot night passages as well as the fast paced twilight stampede. The immensely thick grain field has been left intact and untampered with and although this often threatens to take over the image and on occasions looks extremely noisy especially on the huge Amerocan West skies I am sure this is all natural and organic making me kind of glad Eureka didn't try and soften it which would have resulted in less of those glorious filmic textures. As to be expected for a film of Red Rivers vintage there are some age related anomalies in the form of scratches, dirt specks and virtical lines not to mention some rather odd fading that affects dark objects set against a bright foreground. Fortunately none of these indiscrepancies really derail the image or the impact of this spectacular movie and if anything are inkeeping with the age of the production. Could it look better? Most probably but with a consistently high bitrate and no visable compression issues I am more than happy with Red Rivers transition to the world of high definition.

Audio:
Eureka have utilised Red Rivers original monaural soundtrack and have presented it in a single channel LPCM 1.0 mix. Obviously stemming from a dated source this sounds surprisingly robust and clear. The music gets a decent sonic upheaval in lossless sounding potent and boisterous with dynamic range befitting the age of the production. Dialogue is clear and precise with no apparent distortion or clipping and the foley effects carry some weight from the stampeding cattle through to gunshots. The very nature of this mix means it is straight down the middle front and centre and the recording level does seem slightly lower than other Blu ray soundtracks but with no pops or cracks and only a slight amount of background hiss this is more than acceptable.

Extras:
For a movie as influential as Red River this Masters of Cinema release does indeed feel a little light in the extras department. The most interesting supplement is a scholarly but fairly informal chat between filmmaker Dan Sallit and film critic Jaime N Christley. Shot exclusively for Eureka, this runs for around 45 minutes with the two men discussing Howard Hawks and what made Red River such a unique classic. The piece is presented in widescreen (1.78:1) and in full HD 1080p.
Next up is an audio only segment featuring the Lux Radio adaption of Red River broadcast in 1949 which runs for 59 minutes and features the voices of John Wayne, Walter Brennan and Joanne Dru. The broadcast plays back over the static menu screen and is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0.
Also included is the option to watch the film with an isolated music and sound effects track again presented in LPCM 1.0 the same as the main feature and as with most Masters of Cinema releases a well produced glossy booklet can also be found in the case.

Conclusion:
Beautifully made and exquisitely shot Howard Hawks' Red River is a true undeniable classic that has stood the test of time to become a highly influential genre favourite that any true lover of film should find the time to watch at least once even if they have no interest in any of the stars or westerns in general. Eureka's UK Blu ray release presents this black & white masterpiece in a superb high definition transfer which expertly showcases the timeless photography and wonderful performances on offer. The extras on this disc are pretty slim pickings and the packaging is a tad bland but the glossy booklet features plenty of information and photographs and as I picked this up for £6.99 I really cannot fault this release although it would have been advantageous to see the shorter, 127 minute director approved cut. Incidentally for the true fan of Red River the US based boutique label Criterion have released their own delux double disc Blu ray featuring both cuts of the movie, a slightly better and more thoroughly restored picture transfer and an exhaustive selection of special features. Very tempting for sure but as this luxurious import Blu ray release is region A locked and retails the wrong side of £25 I think it will have to remain a luxury that is tantalisingly out of reach.
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on 6 November 2013
'Red River' is a Western film, released in 1948, and like all great films it appeals to people who wouldn't normally like films of that genre. In fact, next to John Ford's legendary 'The Searchers', this may well be one of the best examples of a Western film around.

In the brief prologue, we see Tom Dunson (John Wayne, in one of his most iconic roles) bid an emotional farewell to the woman he loves, and head to Texas with his companion Nadine Groot (Walter Brennan) where he aims to build the cattle ranch he'd been dreaming of whilst he was fighting in the Civil War. As they approach the river, they come across Matt Garth (Montgomery Clift), a young, bright man who has managed to survive an attack by the Indians.

We next meet Dunson fourteen years later, by which time he owns more cattle than anyone else in the West, but he's starting to run out of money. He decides to take 9000 cattle with him to Missouri, where cattle fetch a very high price. With a group of cowboys hired to help protect him and the cattle he heads off, but before long the men start asking questions of his leadership...

The film is directed by Howard Hawks, and was the first Western he had made, after building his reputation on films such as 'Scarface' (1932) and 'His Girl Friday' (1940). Because he hadn't become as synonymous with Westerns as John Ford, he was never really considered as serious a filmmaker as Ford, and for a long time 'Red River' was undeservedly overlooked. In reality, the film looks absolutely amazing, with sweeping landscapes - easily rivaling the very best of Ford's films. The stampede, one of the film's pivotal moments, is superbly shot and must have been an influence on 'The Lion King', almost 50 years later.

'Red River' is also notable as one of John Wayne's best films. Some of the subtle acting going on, especially in the scenes when he can see that he's losing the trust of his men, is fantastic. Even John Ford himself was impressed, famously stating after watching the film that "I didn't know the big sonofabitch could act!". It also features Montgomery Clift's first performance, before he went on to earn numerous Academy Award nominations.

The film is released by Eureka's Masters of Cinema label (surprisingly the first Western they've released), a label well renowned for the high standards of their DVD and Blu-ray packages. One of the big problems with the old 2000 DVD release was that the picture quality was very poor. That's been fully addressed with this release, with lots of detail revealed for the first time, and a healthy amount of grain on display. It really shows off Hawks' fantastic shots. The soundtrack is the original mono sound, and it's always clear and easy to understand the dialogue.

As for extras, there's a relaxed 45-minute conversation between Dan Sallitt and Jaime Christley. It's informative, and they show shots from the film as they discuss them. There's also a 59-minute Lux Radio Theatre adaptation of 'Red River' from 1949, featuring Wayne and Brennan reprising their roles. Last but not least is one of Masters of Cinema's trademark booklets, with 56 pages of contemporary writing about Hawks and the film's original release.

When originally released, there were two different versions of 'Red River' in cinemas. The longer, 133-minute version is here. The only slight regret with this release is that it doesn't include the shorter 127-minute version as well. But this is only a minor criticism. This is likely to be the definitive version of 'Red River' for many years to come, and I really hope that its popularity gets Masters of Cinema thinking about releasing some more classic Westerns.
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on 19 November 2013
This is the best copy of Red River I have ever seen.The copy is far superior to the standard DVD I have.I have got just about all the John Wayne westerns and this is a great classic.The Blu-Ray is worth the upgrade.

Ken Barrett
Mooroolbark
Vic Australia
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Tom Dunson is a self made cattle baron, he will do what ever it takes to protect the life he has made for himself. The constant fall in the value of livestock means that Tom, and his adopted son Matthew, must drive the gathered herd thru the perilous Chisholm Trail, and then hope to get good value for the beef. With their assembled group of hands they head off North, but many problems will come their way, not least, a fallout due to Dunson's tyrannical ways, meaning there could well be mutiny on the range.

Without a shadow of doubt, Red River is one of the greatest Westerns ever made, boasting incredible performances from the cast, directed with sumptuous skill by Howard Hawks and photographed as good as any film in the genre. Based on the novel, The Chisholm Trail written by Borden Chase (also co writing duties for the film), Red River is a sweeping spectacle that doesn't have a frame that's wasted. Hawks (this his first Western) frames his wonderfully vivid characters in lush expansive landscapes, fleshing them out amongst the constant stream of drama and action. Tho Chase would be annoyed at the changes Hawks made to the story, he surely would have marvelled at the finished product, with Harlan's photography in and around Arizona's locales capturing a cowboys terrain expertly and Dimitri Tiomkin's score stirring the blood and pumping the viewer with Cowboy adrenaline.

If anyone doubts John Wayne as an actor of note then they need look no further than his performance here as Dunson. Tough and durable in essence the character is, but Wayne manages to fuse those traits with a believable earthy determination that layers the character perfectly. With Wayne all the way, matching him stride for stride, is Montgomery Clift as Matthew Garth, sensitive without being overly so, it's the perfect foil to Wayne's machismo showing. Walter Brennan and John Ireland also shine bright in support, while a special mention has to go to a wonderful turn from Joanne Dru as Tess Millay; Howard Hawks' CV shows a ream of strong female characters, and here Dru firmly puts herself in amongst the best of them; check out her first appearance alongside Clift, it's precious.

Red River made a fortune upon its release, it was revered by the critics back then, and it's still being revered today. Rightly so, because it is quite simply magic cinema, a case where everything comes together perfectly, it's in short, a film that even none Western fans should be able to marvel at as entertainment, or at the very least give credit to the Tech accomplishments on offer. 10/10
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TOP 50 REVIEWERon 24 March 2015
It has been said that this is a Western for people who don't like Westerns - as well as being one of the greatest for those that do - and it would indeed be hard not to be swept along by this epic road movie before roads were part of the US landscape. Into the story of how 9000 cattle were driven from Texas to Abilene, Kansas, there to be sold to a beef merchant, Howard Hawks has woven a tale of a group of men, of two women left behind who continue to affect the action in the most fundamental ways, of a surrogate father-son relationship. It all gels fantastically, bringing in episodes including a stampede, attack by Indians, desertion, shootings, mutiny, falling in love - it's all in there. John Wayne is very well cast as Tom Dunson, a man who spent 14 years building his cattle stock only to discover no one will buy beef in Texas following the American Civil War. His adopted son Matt, whom he took under his wing as a teenager, has come back from fighting for the Southern cause, and with Groot, his commonsensical right-hand man, they hire a number of other local men, including Cherry Valance, the best shot this side of San Diego, it seems. The banter between the two younger men is fairly electric and hints at certain ambiguities, starting with the famous scene where they compare guns. Given that both actors are very good-looking (Montgomery Clift and John Ireland), this is very effective. When Joanne Dru appears, and immediately gets an arrow through her shoulder (which she takes in her stride), who is also quite a looker, you feel all the archetypes are somehow in place, and we could be in some kind of myth.

The heart of the film, though, is the rapport between Wayne and Clift. It has touches of Abraham and Isaac, I felt, with the proud, unbending father sure of his rightness and lacking all sense of proportion. But it can very plausibly be given a Freudian reading also, suggesting that it can be read at different levels. At all events, it makes it a rollicking yarn where the depths are stirred. All along the cattle go forward like the Red River itself, the swirls of dust being like so much psychological fallout from these incredibly charged and vivid interactions. In addition it has some fantastic scenery, even shot in 4:3, and the music is very effective, both energised and plaintive as needed, and very American in feel.
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on 9 January 2014
Howard Hawks film is one of the classics in spite of the corny ending. This Blu-ray in the masters of cinema collection comes with a nice 56 page booklet and a couple of good extras on the disc: the radio adaptation with Wayne and Brennan and a lengthy conversation about the film with a couple of film critics. Trouble is the picture quality is only marginally better than the DVD version I already have, so unless you want the extras I wouldn't bother upgrading.
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on 5 February 2003
Just a scene access and various subtitles as bonus features of the RED RIVER MGM DVD presentation. Meager. Furthermore, the copy chosen is not of the quality one could have expected from an eminent Hollywood studio. Shameful. Howard Hawks's RED RIVER is on my list of the ten best westerns ever made.
Against the legendary John Wayne, Montgomery Clift plays the character of the Duke's adopted son. His low-keyed performance is, in my opinion, unique at that pre-Marlon Brando time. From his first appearance as a young boy on, Howard Hawks characterizes him as -a man with a gun- and gives to this manly attribute a symbolic role throughout the entire movie. Hence, the relation Montgomery Clift-John Ireland can be read at a level invisible for the blind monks of the Hays Code.
A recurrent theme appearing in the Hawksian filmography is the theme of the Strong Woman. So let's admire the character of Joanne Dru who is not disturbed at all by the arrow stuck in her shoulder and who, later in the movie, is the only character who's got the guts to face John Wayne, the granite Father.
RED RIVER is a movie that must absolutely have a place in your library. It's a movie that has influenced a lot Steven Spielberg and company , it's a milestone in Movie History. It's a masterpiece.
A DVD zone reference.
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on 1 May 2008
The importance and quality of this movie is beyond doubt. But the transfer of this dvd is rather poor. There are mistakes as in an old film-copy, and the resolution especially with bright landscapes ist rather low. The sound is so faint I had to turn the tv on maximum volume.
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on 7 August 2015
They say it's a classic and so there are good and bad guys and a certain trust in pioneers and cowboys. Yet it's actually a more complex film, where peope are often weak, there is not always need for action and gripping rhythm, so you get a lot of tension based in dialogue, suspended scenes (the fantastic night scene where cowboys confront one another, and some ambiguity in the characters that makes this film more than just a well done classic. Western by Hawks is a place for men, simple men made of basic instincts, and not always transparent motifs.
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on 6 December 2013
I agree with other opinions about this great film however I need to add a comment about the "video conversation".
"The Masters Of Cinema Series" made an extra which consisted of 2 men {Don Sallit & Jaime N. Christley}
seated in front of an unlit fireplace with a camera focused on them both,
I found this to be soooooo boring and adds very little to the film.
To add commentary to a film, I found this is usually done with the film in motion, not the way these 2 men perform
with a seemingly endless talkfest which goes on and on and on in no particular direction, and with no way for the viewer
to escape until it ends, perhaps it was their way of getting 5 hours of fame {it seemed like that long anyway}.
However the other extra from the 'Lux Radio Theatre' from March 7 1949, with John Wayne... Walter Brennan...Joanne Dru
reprising their roles was a welcome addition.
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