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The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance [Blu-ray]  [Region Free]
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Behind the camera? John Ford, a director whose name is synonymous with westerns. Gathered in front of it? An ideal cast--James Stewart, John Wayne, Vera Miles and Lee Marvin. Now presented on Blu-ray disc, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance rides into town as a classic entry in Paramount’s long line of action-packed Westerns. Director Ford brings us to the lawless frontier village of Shinbone, a town plagued by a larger-than-life nemesis, Liberty Valance (Marvin). Stewart plays the bungling but charming big-city lawyer determined to rid Shinbone of Valance, and he finds that he has an unlikely ally in the form of a rugged local rancher (Wayne). The two men also share the same love interest (Miles). But when the final showdown becomes inevitable, one of the two will attempt to get the gunman… and the other one will wind up getting the gal.
The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance is a late film from the long career of director John Ford that tells of the civilising of an Old West town, Shinbone, through the sad memories of settlers looking back. Ford's nostalgia for the past is tempered by his stark approach, unusual for the visual poet of Stagecoach and The Searchers. The two heavyweights, John Wayne and James Stewart, are good together, with Wayne the embodiment of rugged individualism and Stewart the idealistic prophet of the civilisation that will eventually tame the Wild West. This may be the saddest Western ever made, closer to an elegy than an action movie, and as cleanly beautiful as its central symbol, the cactus rose. --Robert Horton --This text refers to the DVD edition.
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The film though is much more then what I have briefly described. It is the story of the advance of Law and order from the East (Ranse is a lawyer who looked to the law to solve his problems and would not turn to violence until one event pushed him to it) and how the West was changing moving from it's rough roots to becoming a modern, civilised place and in the process lost something. . This is encapsulated by John Wayne's character, Tom (John Wayne byw is not the star of this film, JamesStewart is, it is his story, John is a supporting player in the tale, and plays the role extremely well). At the start of the retelling he is a man who everyone knows and respects and it is thought that he and Hallie would marry. By the end of it though Tom dies aone and forgotten by most save those few who knew how truly special he was.
So after all that, why have I only rated the film 4 stars? The film itself is a 5 star film, but it is let down by it's Blu ray release where there are no extras on this disc at all. None. Now while I understand that the principal players on this film have passed on, there could have been some attempt to look for archived footage, or find film historians to speak about it
Never the less, this is one of John Ford's and John Wayne's Greatest films (perhaps the greatest, though The Searchers and The Shootist are tied up there) and I cannot recommend it enough.
This is a highly symbolical story about the barbary being beaten away by the civilisation, the crime being reduced by law and the chaos of wilderness being replaced by order. The symbol of barbary, crime, chaos and violence is a jubilant, agressive, vile and primitive bandit, called Liberty Valance (Lee Marvin). He is so horrible that almost strangely appealing, a force of nature which can fascinate - until we actually see his victims... He will be confronted by a young lawyer (James Stewart), who came to the Far West trying to establish a law practice, but who, in a lawless town, will end washing dishes.
Now, James Stewart was not a whimp (he actually ended the WWII as general of aviation - the only Hollywoodian actor who went as far in military) but in this movie he portrays the total opposite of Liberty Valance - he is civilised, nonviolent, polite, reserved (although well spoken), in fact he seems a little dull compared to the bandit. Until the day when he grabs that gun and (still wearing an apron!) walks to face Liberty Valance...
But the actor who is the reason for which this movie is such a masterpiece is the Duke himself - John Wayne. This is one of his most important, most complex and possibly the most tragic roles. His character represents what we have to loose when the heroic and barbaric times end. We gain civilisation, peace, law and order, but we lose also something - and although finally we get a fair deal, it is still painful. Even if you hate John Wayne, you will feel for his character in this movie - and you will be impressed by his acting.
The story is not linear - the tale of this one gunfight and its consequences is told twice, and before that we are going from one time to another. The plot is watertight - everything falls in place at the end with the precision of a Swiss clock mechanism. And the final punchline of this partly tragic but finally very funny film will simply blow you away!
This is a TREASURE of the world cinema - a classic to see and then see again.