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DVD Reviews

HTF DVD REVIEW: Lonely Are The Brave - Recommended

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#1 of 1 OFFLINE   Kevin EK

Kevin EK


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  • Join Date: May 09 2003

Posted July 01 2009 - 06:30 PM


Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Anamorphic
Color/B&W: Black & White
English Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French
Rating: Unrated (Mild and Implied Violence)
Release Date: July 7, 2009
3 ½
Starring: Kirk Douglas, Gena Rowlands, Walter Matthau, Michael Kane with Carroll O’Connor and William Schallert
Written by: Dalton Trumbo
Based on the novel by Edward Abbey
Directed by: David Miller
Lonely Are The Brave is one of those films that has a lot of endearing qualities to it, but which has flown completely under the radar of most audiences since its original release in 1962. It’s clearly a personal film for Kirk Douglas, who dominates the screen (along with a scene-stealing horse) as an independent-minded cowboy who is completely at odds with the modern world. The film makes this statement right off the bat with the juxtaposition of Douglas waking by his horse on the range, and the jet aircraft flying overhead. The plot that follows is simple: Douglas’ character, Jack Burns, tries in vain to get a buddy out of prison only to get in hot water himself and wind up on the run.   But the point here isn’t the story – it’s the constant conflict between Burns’ independent “no fences” creed and the rules of the modern world to which he does not belong. Add to this some really interesting character performances from Gena Rowlands and Walter Matthau in early pre-star roles and a knockout brawl between Douglas and Bill Raisch, the one-armed man who would go on to become the running villain of The Fugitive. And if you watch close, you’ll see a young Bill Bixby in an unbilled cameo as an airman in a helicopter, and a pre-Archie Bunker Carroll O’Connor as a truck driver hauling “privies” in a tangential story that eventually intersects with the main character’s path. Mix in an early score by Jerry Goldsmith that both suggests traditional Western elements and includes spare compositions from which many modern films have borrowed, and some beautiful black and white cinematography by Philip Lathrop, and you have all the ingredients of something close to a classic. And this isn’t quite a classic – there are some slow patches, and some tangents that don’t seem to go anywhere – but it’s close. Kirk Douglas is on the record saying that this is his favourite film of his career, and Steven Spielberg is on the record as a big fan. (Both of them attest to this in the materials on this DVD.) For fans of Kirk Douglas (and Walter Matthau), I would say this is a no-brainer for immediate purchase. For fans of Westerns and horse dramas, I recommend this at the least for a rental, and then for the purchase that will likely follow.
This DVD release of Lonely Are The Brave, part of Universal’s “Backlot Series,” is the first time for this film in this format. (It had been released in the past on tape and on laserdisc.) Universal’s presentation here includes a nice new anamorphic transfer, a 2.0 mono soundtrack in English, and two featurettes totalling about 30 minutes, with testimonials by Spielberg (as mentioned above) and Michael Douglas, along with interviews with Kirk Douglas and Gena Rowlands. As I said before, this is a no-brainer for purchase by fans, and I am happy to recommend it.
Lonely Are The Brave is presented in an anamorphic 2.35:1 transfer that shows off the complex shadings of the Philip Lathrop’s black and white photography. In addition to a fair amount of detail (such as the bruising done to Douglas’ face in his various fights), the transfer really brings out one moment of wordless beauty at a late point in the film – the sight of cloud shadows moving across the hills. For that shot alone, I’m glad I saw this DVD.

Lonely Are The Brave is presented in a Dolby Digital 2.0 mono mix in English. Unless I’m mistaken, this is the original mono mix from the film’s release, and it presents the dialogue and music in a clear and direct fashion. I confess needing to turn the subtitles on from time to time, but I chalk that up to my own ignorance of the lingo in the script.
Lonely Are The Brave comes with two featurettes, totalling about 30 minutes, that provide some great insights and in-depth material about the film. Considering that Universal could have simply put the film on DVD by itself and not taken the time to create these featurettes, it’s a nice touch and it’s greatly appreciated.
  • Lonely Are The Brave: A Tribute - (19:15 total, Anamorphic) – This featurette consists of several interviews, all intercut with each other and with some clips from the film. But the interviews are spellbinding. Steven Spielberg weighs in with his appreciation for the film, and discusses his request that at least footage from it be made available again for an award presentation he had arranged for Douglas. (Spielberg acknowledges that this request is what likely led to the new transfer, this DVD and these featurettes.) Gena Rowlands discusses her impressions of Douglas and the rest of the cast, particularly Walter Matthau, who she pegged as a star as soon as she saw him. Michael Douglas discusses the importance of this film to his father, and of the inspiration it provided for him. Most importantly, Kirk Douglas discusses the film in depth, including everything from the selection of Dalton Trumbo to write the script to how he played his relationship with Rowlands. It can be a little difficult to understand him at times, but it is absolutely worth the effort, given that he’s presenting a perspective of over 60 years in the business. He also, admirably, admits that the film was effectively stolen by Whisky the horse!
  • The Music of Lonely Are The Brave - (9:46, Anamorphic) -  Robert Townson (of soundtrack specialists Varese Sarabande) guides the viewer through a fairly in-depth examination of Jerry Goldsmith’s music for this film. Townson’s discussion, intercut with clips of the music in their scenes from the film, is thorough to the point of identifying which instruments are being isolated and when. Townson even includes the unused music cue for the film’s concluding scene, and presents clips from that scene with the cue re-included. Soundtrack aficionados (especially fans of Jerry Goldsmith) will appreciate this featurette.
Subtitles are available in English, French and Spanish for the film itself, as well as for the special features.   A standard chapter menu is included for quick reference.  
Lonely Are The Brave certainly deserves to have a new DVD release, and the attention of many more eyes than have seen it in the past. For this occasion, Universal has provided a nice new anamorphic transfer, and some brief but crucial featurettes that add to the experience. As I’ve said, fans of Kirk Douglas will probably already have this pre-ordered.   I should add that fans of Walter Matthau should put this on their list if they haven’t already done so. And anyone else is recommended to at least rent this title and see it for themselves.
Kevin Koster
July 1, 2009.

Edited by Kevin EK - 7/2/2009 at 06:41 am GMT
Edited by Kevin EK - 7/2/2009 at 06:52 am GMT

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