Saturday, February 22, 2014

"Nothing is too good for the Man Who Shot Liberty Valance"

Last night I watched this 1962 movie on Blu ray.  I originally saw the movie as a kid at the Egyptian Theater in Coos Bay Oregon when it was first released. Now with 52 more years of experience I truly appreciate it.  In the intervening years I have seen it on TV and I own the VHS tape and the regular DVD.  However, blu ray made it come alive.  A lot of times blue ray movies are only a little better than the DVD version; but, this is a vast improvement for a black and white movie.  It has not been released in blu ray in the United States but it has in the United Kingdom in a format viewable in both countries. I was able to get the British import through Amazon and it is a welcome addition to my John Wayne/John Ford video library.

This was director John Ford's last great movie and has the usual John Ford "Stock Company " of actors.  John Wayne and Jimmy Stewart are both too old for their characters but this doesn't matter because this movie is about lost love and the coming of civilization to the American West. The story starts in 1910 when a United States Senator, Jimmy Stewart, and his wife (Vera Miles) return to the town of Shinbone somewhere in the American West for the funeral of the John Wayne character. The story then goes into flash back to when Jimmy Stewart is the new young lawyer in town and he and Wayne are both in love with Vera Miles. Lee Marvin plays the most villainous man this side of the "Picket Wire" river. Ford uses his usual broad humor much as Shakespeare did. "Ann Rutledge's Theme" used by Ford in Young Mr. Lincoln in 1939 is used again here to represent the lost love aspect of the movie.

Don't expect the grand scenery of Monument Valley. Much of the movie takes place at night and many scenes were filmed in a studio back lot . Blu ray does make it much less dark pictorially  than prior releases with a crisp clear picture.

The movie has been referred to "as an old man's film" and I agree considering my reaction in 1962 verses last night. Ford was an old man when he made it.  Many have critiqued the move as "imbued with cynicism, pessimism, and irony" and it has all of that but it also looks back to the past with nostalgia. As one character states near the end: "Sir this is the West, when legend becomes fact print the legend"