Customer Review

14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Masters of Cinema Blu-ray # 68: Red River, 6 Nov 2013
This review is from: Red River (The Masters of Cinema) [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)
'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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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 12 Feb 2014 20:45:55 GMT
Shazzerman says:
Good review. One thing: I'm pretty certain Montgomery Clift never won an Oscar.

In reply to an earlier post on 12 Feb 2014 21:43:31 GMT
T Everson says:
You're quite right of course, he received a number of nominations. Must have written that in one of my less lucid moments...
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T Everson

Location: Shropshire, England

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