Film Length: 130 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 16X9 Enhanced Widescreen (2.35:1)
He Loved... Hated... Killed.
I am having a great week with some of the upcoming
classic westerns being released by Paramount Home
Video. Over the next few weeks you'll be seeing
titles that include Gunfight at the O.K. Corrall
and Little Big Man (one of my all-time favorites).
Thanks to the recommendation of my friend Robert
Crawford, I asked Paramount to send me a copy of
Nevada Smith, a film I had never previously
known about. Once again I find myself in complete
awe of this newly discovered western that certainly
ranks up with the best efforts of its star, Steve
Based on Harold Robbins's book The Carpetbaggers,
this is the story of Max Sand (Steve McQueen), an
offspring of a white father and Indian mother who
finds his parents brutally killed by Tom Fitch
(Karl Malden), Jesse Coe(Martin Landau), and Bill
Bowdre (Arthur Kennedy). Bent on revenge, Max sets
out to find these men, though it certainly isn't
going to be as easy as he initially thinks.
Along the way he happens upon Jonas Cord (Brian
Keith), who becomes a mentor to Max, teaching him
how to shoot, drink, play cards and most of all, read
and write. It is these initial teachings that give
Max the confidence he needs to become an expert marksman.
Sand doggedly scours one town after the other in
search of the killers. How successful will he be?
I won't ruin the film for you, other to say that
along the way he gets himself thrown into a
Louisiana State prison where he finds himself
at the mercy of the Warden (Howard Da Siva of "1776")
who warns that escape from the swamp camp will
There are several aspects about Nevada Smith
that made this film a worthy watch. First, just
the mere fact that this film sports an outstanding
cast with the likes McQueen, Keith, Landau and
Malden (and don't miss the cameo of Struther
Martin) should be reason enough to love this film.
Next, Lucite Ballad's cinematography is outstanding --
especially the footage shot around Mammoth, Banner
Peak, and Mount Ritter in northern California.
Finally, you can't help but be entertained by an
all-around great western with great characters and
an excellent storyline.
How is the transfer?
I would rate Nevada Smith only as an average
to good-looking transfer, but realize I have never
seen what this film has looked like on any other
medium. I didn't find this transfer to look at crisp
as some of the other classic film efforts by Paramount.
Then again, this isn't the sort of film that would
make a good candidate for extensive restoration.
The print seems to have a noticeable share of
blemish scattered throughout. Some scenes are
downright littered with white speckling. There
also seems to be a pronounced amount of film grain
and/or noise present in the background, particularly
noticeable in skyline shots. Though colors are
are reasonably bright and accurate, there are
seconds to minutes worth of footage that look
discolored, such as a scene in the beginning of
the film where Sands crosses the desert. Night
scenes tend to be a bit too dark, losing surrounding
Once again, I must state that I am being careful
with my criticisms. I know how films have been
neglected over the years, and I would give Paramount
the benefit of doubt by saying this transfer most
likely looks far better than it probably did when
taken out of the vault.
The film's original mono soundtrack is adequate.
Frequency response is not very wide here, with
everything sounding a bit on the bright side.
As you turn up the volume towards reference
listening level you hear a good amount of background
hiss introduced. Not really anything more than
There is none....nada...zero....zilch!
I don't understand how Paramount could have at
least provided a trailer for this film. I try to
make the point to the studios that collectors look
at these classic DVD titles as historical value.
A title like this should at least be comprised of
the original promotional materials of its day.
For some of you, Nevada Smith may be the
Steve McQueen film you know most little about.
This is truly a great "classic" western that ranks
right up there with other McQueen greats like The
Great Escape, The Magnificent Seven and Papillon.
Nevada Smith gets my Highly Recommended
status based on the film alone. With a mostly
acceptable transfer, it's a shame that Paramount
made this release as bare-boned as they could.
Release Date: April 22, 2003
All screen captures have been further compressed.
They are for illustrative purposes only and do not
represent actual picture quality