- Format: NTSC
- Language: English
- Region: Region 1 (US and Canada DVD formats.)
- Number of discs: 2
- Studio: The Criterion Collection
- Average Customer Review: 100 customer reviews
- ASIN: B00JPUUSK8
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 165,811 in DVD & Blu-ray (See Top 100 in DVD & Blu-ray)
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Criterion Collection: Red River [DVD]  [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
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Any short list of the all-time greatest Westerns is bound to include this 1948 Howard Hawks classic about an epic cattle drive. Red River features one of John Wayne's greatest performances. Like his Ethan Edwards in John Ford's 1956 masterpiece The Searchers, the Duke plays an isolated and unsympathetic man who is possessed by bitterness. Wayne is Texas rancher Tom Dunson, who adopts a young boy orphaned in an Indian massacre. That boy, Matthew Garth (played as an adult by Montgomery Clift in his screen debut), becomes Dunson's assistant and heir apparent--until Dunson's temper gets out of control during a long cattle drive and Matt intervenes to stop him. From that moment on, Dunson swears he will kill Matt. Red River has everything a great Western ought to have: a sweeping sense of history, spectacular landscapes, stampedes, gunfights, Indian attacks, and, of course, Walter Brennan as Dunson's crusty old cook and comic sidekick, Nadine Groot. As a special bonus, the film also features the legendary Harry Carey (upon whom Wayne would base some of his gestures in The Searchers) and his son Harry Carey Jr, who became a fixture in Ford and Hawks' Westerns. Red River is essential for anyone who loves Westerns, or movies in general. This one's a real beaut. --Jim Emerson, Amazon.com
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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