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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Stagecoach, 1939 (2006 Universal Studios) Mature, grown up Western that introduced John Wayne and still entertains today, 12 Nov. 2010
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This review is from: Stagecoach (John Wayne) [DVD] [1939] (DVD)
This is an important film in the history of cinema - it was the first of a new generation of `adult' Westerns, which portrayed real characters with all their flaws and where the line between hero and villain started to get a little blurry, less black and white. It also introduced John Wayne to the world, with that iconic shot where he stands in the middle of the trail cocking his Winchester.

More than just historically important, this is a film that still entertains even today. It's a darned good romp mixed with a fascinating character study and some stunning photography. The entertainment value is probably the real reason it is still so well remembered and well loved today.

The story tells of a stagecoach crossing Indian territory to Lordsburg. Aboard is a motley set of passengers - a drunkard doctor and a lady of ill repute cast out of their previous town by a moral standards committee. The wife of a soldier travelling to join him, but who has a secret that could imperil everyone. A Southern gambler who is, above all, a Gentleman, a travelling salesman, a bank manager with a precious cargo and finally the Ringo kid, an outlaw escaped from jail who is out for revenge on his family's murderers.

Everyone on the coach has their own secrets, and are looking for some form of redemption. Some find it, some do not. Part of the joy of the film is the way in which the layers are peeled back as the characters, confined in a tight space, have to find some way of working together to get through alive to their destination. Ford manages to contrast the confined coach setting with the sweeping grandeur of Monument Valley perfectly. On top of this there are some thrilling action sequences - mainly the Indian chase and the final shootout between Ringo and the Plummer boys. There is also a great deal of suspense as the Indians are mainly a threat in the background, but do not come out into the open until quite late. Then there is the build up to the final showdown, which is just thrilling.

John Wayne dominates the film - physically towering above the rest of the cast, he has a screen presence that no-one could stand up to. There are some good attempts though, notably Thomas Mitchell in his Oscar winning turn as the drunkard Doctor.

A classic film that any lover of good, well told adventure stories will enjoy.

This 2006 release from universal is OK. The picture is a nice transfer, in a 4:3 aspect ratio. There are some flaws on the soundtrack, it quite often plays at just the wrong speed which is a little irritating. There are several sharps and flats where there shouldn't be, and this could have been easily sorted. It is a shame, as the soundtrack also won an Oscar, and is quite interesting. There is an interview with two of John Ford's regular collaborators, reminiscing about time on Ford/Wayne films, which is fairly disposable. 4 stars in all.
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Review Details

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Reviewer

Victor
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)   

Location: Hull, England

Top Reviewer Ranking: 161