PictureFox have worked wonders with this release. The transfer is simply beautiful. The colour palette is so rich and vibrant that you'd swear it was filmed yesterday. Look at the bright red credits that throb from the screen and interiors are supremely warm and enticing with a dazzling spruced-up sheen. The widescreen photography is ravishingly well captured with all the vistas looking so real that you could almost believe that your TV literally opened out on to the real thing. Just look at those majestic blue skies and the sheer clarity on the huge rocky gorge miles distant. All the background shots reveal a fabulous level of detail, actually - from the far off landscapes to the minutia of the shelves and walls of the sheriff's office. Many recent films lose their background definition upon their arrival on DVD, but this old movie really shows what can be done. Scenes in which we have multiple subjects in fore, mid and backgrounds are spectacularly well delivered with no aspect suffering - from the sweat on a close-up character's brow, past the scrub behind him and on to the mountains far away and even the clouds beyondthem. Stunning. Sets look real and weighty and with the detail offered up here, invite closer scrutiny. Even the shine on the horses' flanks is vividly reproduced.
King shot his night-time scenes through a blue filter and here they look astonishing. Depth is carefully retained and blacks add immeasurable atmospherics with lovely deep shadow play across the town and the jail. Edges are crisp and remarkably unbothered by excessive enhancement. Print damage has been almost entirely eradicated with no grain whatsoever. Some early scene-changes suffer a slight colour jiggle but this lasts for only a split-second and shouldn't hamper viewing pleasure. And the odd tiny little hair occasionally intrudes - how is it that with all the fantastic technology available today to restore movies to their original glory, they still fail to remove those flickering stray follicles? I'm just nit-picking. This is a scintillating transfer. See it and be amazed.
SoundAgain, for such an old film, a remarkable job has been done to recapture the original four-track magnetic soundtrack with a Dolby Digital 4.0 mix, which spreads the sound across the front three speakers with a little ambience from a unified rear. The audio mix is an all-out pumping powerhouse with Newman's heroic/ominous score benefiting the most, literally thumping out with an almost obscene level of bombast. Gunshots thunder out with a good degree of steerage and horses' hooves clatter aggressively around the room. The choir singing during the jailbreak is wonderfully reproduced, filling the room with ecclesiastical fervour. And for all this gloriously aggressive sound design, dialogue is always clear and distinct. But, having said that, the voices can often sound a little too amped-up for the film, sometimes blaring out of mouths that are clearly not shouting. A word of warning, too. Watch out for when the hostage girl starts screaming in the prospector's cabin - it is so suddenly loud and shrill that you will have to turn the sound down if you don't want the police to pay you an armed visit.
There is also a strange blip that occurs during a pivotal scene towards the end of the film when a certain character's voice abruptly drops into a mono-trough for a sentence or two. This is an unusual and curious little encoding error that may only exist on the check disc but if you do have it on the retail disc it will be hugely noticeable and disappointing in an otherwise enthusiastic and tremendous track.
ExtrasNone. A shame. The R1 release, at least, had the original theatrical trailer. This is just a check disc though, so it may yet feature on the final release.
VerdictThis is an immensely enjoyable movie that is well worth picking up. Peck fans can rejoice in his marvellously gritty and embittered performance and western fans can sit back and enjoy the movie that, quite possibly, started the vogue for more character-driven horse-operas that delved much deeper into the tortured psyche of life on the frontier. At times dark and surreal, at others twisted and morally debatable, The Bravados richly deserves reappraisal now with its R2 release. A good companion piece to The Gunfighter and, in my opinion, a far meatier slice of the Old West.
The disc may be desolate of extras but with a transfer this awesome - the film, itself, is the attraction. Well recommended.
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