on 21 December 2008
I recently purchased the region 1 s/e that is shown in the above graphics and thought some one should give a review of the special features.They consist of a commentary by author,the life and times of john ford,Scott eyman,which is very informative and enjoyable,a new 84min documentary on ford/wayne parternership,which is excellent and a new 30min retrospective on the making of the movie,which unfortunately is narrated by scott eyman and therefore covers most of the same ground of the commentary.I hope this will help prospective buyers make up their minds about which edition to buy.I posted this because in so many movies the reviews seldom review the actual edition shown and it is hard to know which to buy.
on 4 May 2015
Please note that the following review is for the Criterion US import Blu ray release. As is the case with all Criterion BDs this is region A locked meaning that you WILL need a multi region Blu ray player to view this. Unlike a handful of other Criterion titles the region coding cannot be bypassed on certain Panasonic models by pressing top menu on the mismatched region screen.
Iconic and genre defining, John Ford's legendary 1939 western Stagecoach is also fondly remembered as the first collaboration between Ford and his regular star player John Wayne beginning a partnership that would produce well over thirty movies including such favorites as The Searchers, Rio Grande and She Wore A Yellow Ribbon. Stagecoach was also Ford's first use of the infamous Monument Valley which spans the borders of Utah and Arizona, establishing possibly the most recognisable western landscape ever committed to celluloid which along with the Saguaro cactus became synonymous with the genre and immortalised for decades to come.
As there are countless reviews outlining the synopsis of Stagecoach I will avoid any lengthy breakdowns of what is a fairly standard western storyline concerning a colourful group of travellers who despite warnings of the ever present threat of Apache interference led by the ruthless war chief Geronimo all have their own personal reasons for making the treacherous journey from Tonto Arizona to Lordsburg New Mexico. Suffices to say Stagecoach is not your average shoot em-up cowboys and indians oater and is much more of a character driven piece especially as the opinions heat up within the tight confines of the stage leading the movie to far more complex themes involving class, tolerance and acceptance as well as solidifying ideals that would become favourite clichés of the western. Of course none of this would work if the screenplay and performances were below par but thankfully this isn't the case. The script is full of wit and intelligence never once feeling blighted by dated dialogue exchanges, the cast are totally believable and if the characters seem ever so slightly stereotypical then they are but what you have to remember is this was 1939 and since then Stagecoach has been copied and plagurised to the point where it no longer feels original but 75 years ago this was still fresh and new and the movie where it all began. Unquestionably the biggest star of Stagecoach was the least well known at the time having mostly starred in B movies and serials but from the moment Ford's camera zooms into a close up of a young, fresh faced John Wayne as The Ringo Kid, wielding a Winchester repeater rifle you know your witnessing the birth of a star in the making.
Another big ace card for Stagecoach is the visuals and despite being a film from the late 30s the cinematography is simply wonderful especially of the wide open vistas in and around Monument Valley. The feeling of space and long distance depth is immense despite the confines of the tight Academy Ratio with the huge skies reaching down to the endless horizons with composistions that would go on to define how the western would be photographed. But it isn't all pretty scenery that makes the look of Stagecoach so successful and thrilling. Cinematographer Bert Glennon utilises some incredibly inventive camera angles from the superbly shot river crossing through to the low slung camera angles that make the viewer believe the Apache horses are literally passing overhead whilst not forgetting the white knuckle chase of the finalé featuring some truly death defying stunt work by the award winning Yakima Canutt.
US boutique label Criterion present John Ford's legendary black & white masterpiece in an AVC encoded MPEG 4 1080p transfer, framed at the correct Academy Ratio of 1.37:1. According to the accompanying booklet the original negative for Stagecoach had been considered lost for decades. For this Blu ray release Criterion evaluated a number of different sources before deciding upon a 1942 nitrate duplicate to use as a basis for this transfer which featured strong detail and an accurate greyscale. They also admitted that the source was far from perfect with huge amounts of print damage especially around reel changes and action segments and although the restoration experts spent hundreds of hours removing damage inevitably some still remains as it couldn't have been removed without damaging the filmic texture and creating a processed look hated by true lovers of cinema.
Well considering what Criterion had to work with I am extremely pleased with how this has transferred to HD and this is by far the best I have ever seen Stagecoach look. The opening credits do look very dark and impenetrable but as soon as these were over the image tightened up considerably. First and foremost detail was wonderful from close ups of faces and textures on clothing through to intricacies on various buildings, dusty roads and the stagecoach itself. The magnificent panoramic shots of Monument Valley really make you appreciate how good this transfer is and what an improvement it is over standard definition with a fantastic feeling of depth that seems to stretch forever and the image flowed well in motion especially during the fast paced action sequences. As to be expected from a 75+ year old production there are some inconsistencies with some scenes looking far softer than others and contrast can vary but on the whole blacks are reasonably robust as are the greys and shadow detail can be revealing in the nighttime segments as well as the low lit interiors despite a little fading. As already mentioned this transfer does have the problem of print damage and indeed this can be very noticeable with scratches, hairs, dirt spots and vertical lines prevalent throughout but because removing all of these would have resulted in an over manipulated and digitised appearance I would much rather take these age related marks over a DNR smeared mess. Thankfully the thick natural grain structure is completely intact creating a wonderfully warm, inviting and filmic image which is one of the strongest points to this transfer. Could this look better? Quite possibly but Criterion have got to be commended with what they have achieved with the elements available and unless better preserved sources are unearthed this is more than acceptable just don't expect a restoration along the lines of Criterion's fantastic 3:10 to Yuma Blu ray.
Staying authentic to the source Criterion have presented Stagecoach with its original monaural soundtrack delivered in an uncompressed 1.0 LPCM rendering. As with the visuals Criterion have tried to present the best they possibly could and taken the soundtrack from various elements. The resulting mix is far from perfect with light background hiss ever present as well as the occasional slight imperfection. That said this is crisp and clear with well prioritised dialogue and a lively feel to the foley effects and music score. There are no real noticable cracks or pops and no distortion issues. This is hardly dynamic and as to expected lacks weight and low end but comes across as you would expect a 1939 picture to sound.
This is where this Criterion Blu ray really comes into its own with a completely exhaustive selection of very well produced special features beginning with a feature length audio commentary with western film historian Jim Kitses and a 70+ minute interview with director John Ford filmed in 1968 and presented in HD. Also included is a 55 minute full length 1917 silent western by John Ford entitled Bucking Broadway presented in HD, a video interview with writer and director Peter Bogdanovich, a selection of John Ford's home movies running around 7 minutes again presented in HD, an interview with stunt coordinator Vic Armstrong who shows his appreciation for Stagecoach stuntman Yakima Canutt and a short 10 minute featurette True West with details on how Monument Valley was brought to the attention of the producers. As is always the case with Criterion the insert booklet is of exceptional quality as is the packaging making this feel a very special and worthy release.
Stagecoach was John Ford's first western in over a decade and despite the studio's initial unwillingness for the director to make a western this movie became a defining work in film history reinvigorating the genre and introducing us to the pairing of Ford and Wayne as well as the beautiful location of Monument Valley. For sure this is dated now and modern audiences may well struggle with the style and execution with what is a picture approaching its 76th birthday but without a doubt this has a timeless quality that is nothing but entertaining and a film that should be on the must see list of any self respecting movie fanatic. Criterion's lovingly produced Blu ray is a joy to behold with a gorgeous and unmolested true to source picture transfer and the supplementary features are nothing short of exceptional. If you are Blu ray multi region enabled this American import comes highly recommended.
on 10 September 2000
The classic western, Sfagecoach, launched John Wayne as a major screen star and was the first of 10 epic films Wayne and director, John Ford made together.The first of a new sophisticated type of western, it re-established the genre as a box office draw. The spectacular Monument Valley is the backdrop as the drama of the stagecoach journey unfolds. A party of misfits; a drunken doctor,woman of ill-repute,a card shark, a whiskey drummer and an ailing cavalry officer's wife are enroute to Lordsburg,across Apache territory. Geronimo has jumped the reservation and is on the warpath. John Waynes entrance to the film is one of his most memorable scenes, and the swinging of the winchester" so effctive, was improvised by him. The Ringo Kid, Wayne, has broken out of jail to avenge the murders of his brother and father. He hijacks the stage only to find the marshall riding shot gun. The simple plot is enhanced by the class conflict amongst the passengers and the thrilling action scenes directed by Ford. The long expected attack by the Apaches, provides the first extensive Indian chase in western history. Yakima Canutt delivered the daring stunts.As Wayne later said, no such chase could ever have happened as the Indians would have shot the lead horses and that would have been that.Holywood never let truth get in the wy of a good scene The cavalry save the day and Ringo gets his just deserves. As the Ringo Kid ,Wayne begins to develop the character which became his own. The "diamond in the Rough" the tough, loner exterior with the heart of gold. A man who did not judge others by their reputation but by their deeds and words. A true gentleman when others fail the test. He is gentle and protective towards women but not pushy, usually tongue and reticent. John Wayne received only $3000 for the part although he was the leading male.However the career move from B to A movies, which it meant, was more important than the money. His good looks and athletic physique proved to be a winner with the college audiences and his film career never looked back as he grew to be the ideal of the all American hero. A truly great western, it received 7 Oscar nominations but only 2 awards, Best supporting actor for Thomas Mitchell as the doc and Best score. A must for all Wayne/western fans.
on 7 November 2006
One of the great Westerns is done no justice by this dreadful Universal Pictures 2006 DVD release. This is such an important film, featuring one of cinema's most popular stars, that it deserves a proper restoration. Watch the astonishing Warner special editions of Casablanca and The Adventures Of Robin Hood to see what can be done with films from this era.
on 15 September 2006
A group of seven strangers set off on a stagecoach to Lordsburg, New Mexico, along the way they pick up fugitive The Ringo Kid (John Wayne) whom has just escaped prison and is now tracking the people responsible for killing his own brother. Of course the story is made all that more interesting when they are informed Geronimo and his group of Apaches is on the loose in the area; but they go on anyway.
Stagecoach has one of the most unique storyline of any Western, it primarily dealing with the relationship of those on the journey. Contrasting personalities cause confrontations almost instantly, but it's the lingering fear of the Apaches inevitable attack that gives this film its greatest twist. The Apache attack on the Stagecoach is nothing short of superb, the cinematography, so unique at that time made this movie stand out from the rest, and still stands up today as an amazing action set piece. Back in 1939 danger was not a factor for stuntmen, which simply creates an authentic action scene rarely seen today.
Although I have already commented on the cinematography it definitely deserves another mention. Filmed on location in Monument Valley, Utah, one of John Fords many trademarks, the scenery is so stunning it deserves a second watch to take it all in.
Although John Wayne had starred in over 80 movies, it was his role in Stagecoach that catapulted him to movie stardom. He plays his role effortlessly as the "nice guy" he plays in most films, and you can never say he "overplays" a character. The rest of the cast are great in their various personas, but it's Claire Trevor who stands out as Dallas, a woman left bitter after being run out of town by the local females for her questionable behaviour.
At the helm was one of the greatest directors of Old Hollywood, John Ford. This set the bar for not just all Westerns but all movies to follow. Characterisation and relationships between characters was rarely explored in as much detail before this movie was made. Ford has taken stereotypical characters and brought them to life by giving them believable personalities and revealing them for the people they are underneath; whether that is a hypocrite or just a misunderstood "lady of the night" in the case of Dallas. (Nominated for seven academy awards and winning to of them (Best Supporting Actor and Best Music Scoring) this movie was seen as revolutionary for its time. Orson Welles famously watched this movie over 40 times while creating Citizen Kane.
The first thing you probably noticed about the DVD is the box, yes; I agree it does look hideous, but fortunately that's not the box I received and believe me the correct box is a lot more pleasing to eye, however that is not really important. What is important is the extra features, basically there is none, but thinking about, it would be almost impossible to find any thing extras about such an old film. Like most films from the era it was shot in Full Screen 4:3, which you cannot really complain about considering the age of this movie. I have also read many complaints about the quality and treatment of this masterpiece, but to be honest I had no problem with and it certainly does not spoil the enjoyment of this movie.
In simple words this movie is a masterpiece of Old Hollywood, this movie should be adored by none Western lovers and Western lovers alike, of course to class this movie as a Western is slightly false as many genres are represented here; Western, Drama, Comedy, Romance and Action.
Please don't think that the one star is for the film. I love the film, it's a fantastic western with a great cast, a classic. No my one star review is for the DVD from Pegasus Entertainment, It is terrible. The picture quality is fuzzy, grainy and out of focus. The sound is really low and has be turned up quite loud to hear anything. Not only that but the menu screen looks like it was made by a student after a drunk weekend. Even the cover image on the box has an 'older' John Wayne from The Searchers, not the young man he was in Stage Coach. Please avoid this DVD at all costs.
on 13 July 2016
This is a film I haven't seen - yet, although I have just ordered this particular DVD. I don't think i'll get round to watching it until i get a proper DVD. Because this film is pretty old (1939) I looked around and there are a few different DVD versions of this film for sale. Most of them are from third rate studios because i guess it's out of copyright (?) but the reason for ordering this version was because it is released by Universal Studios. But oh my word what a dreadful transfer! Considering it's a 2006 DVD release you'd have thought they'd bother restoring it but no, this is a really bad print of a classic and one you should avoid should you want to watch it.
on 2 May 2016
I can't understand what it is about this movie that has people spouting about how great a western it is. Sure, it is one of John Wayne's early entries into the movie business. His earlier movies had even less to write home about. But, after "Stagecoach", he became progressively better and better at making movies and having the viewer really enjoy them. With the entry of colour into the movie business, his movies not only got better, but some were akin to actually being somewhat spectacular. But, Stagecoach does have pride and place in my library.
on 1 January 2016
95 minutes long, sound - stereo, 4:3 screen format but still managed to fill my screen, picture slightly jolty. Some damage to the picture.
A Band of misfits are set up to undertake a journey together. The characters are great and so is the dialogue, the direction, our rag bag bunch include a convict a drunk doctor, a sheriff, a priest and a whore. John Wayne is the tough hero, the Indians are savage and war like. There's some really good splashes of music which work well during the wagon chase scene and the final climax pretty much defines this genera.
Don't expect any dvd extras in this version.
on 27 July 2016
It's John Wayne in "Stagecoach" - what else can I say that hasn't already been said? Just one of the best westerns ever made and, believe me, I've seen a lot of westerns over the years! Good story with humour, plenty of action, horses and stunning scenery. I was brought up on John Wayne westerns and I never tire of watching them. Buy it, watch it, make up your own mind; I'm sure you won't be disappointed.