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Blu-ray Reviews

Big Jake Blu-ray



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#1 of 13 OFFLINE   Matt Hough

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Posted May 27 2011 - 09:25 AM

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Big Jake (Blu-ray)
Directed by George Sherman

Studio: CBS/Paramount
Year: 1971


Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1   1080p   VC-1 codec
Running Time: 109 minutes
Rating: PG-13
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, 2.0 English; 1.0 French, German, Spanish, others
Subtitles: SDH, German, Spanish, French, others


Region: no designation
MSRP: $ 24.99



Release Date: May 31, 2011

Review Date: May 27, 2011



The Film

3.5/5


In the last decade of his career, John Wayne’s step may have slowed a little, but he still possessed a sense of humor and could show it in films that mixed a serious story arc with more playful subplots along the way to the big finish. George Sherman’s Big Jake isn’t as much fun as some of his earlier westerns either in terms of humor or action, but it’s still an easygoing, mostly fun film that doesn’t overdo the shenanigans at the expense of its story. It’s a family affair, too, with his sons operating both before the camera and behind the scenes of its making.


When his grandson (Ethan Wayne) is abducted by ransom-demanding kidnappers led by the nefarious John Fain (Richard Boone), estranged husband and father Jacob McCandles (John Wayne) agrees to transport the million dollar ransom money with the aid of his trusty dog and Indian friend Sam Sharpnose (Bruce Cabot) in an attempt to reclaim the boy whom he’s never met. A posse is organized to try to bushwhack the kidnappers so that the money won’t need to be paid, and among its members are McCandles' sons James (Patrick Wayne) and Michael (Christopher Mitchum), but they’re ambushed by the bad guys though the two McCandles sons luckily escape the massacre. So, teamed up now with their father with whom they forge an uneasy alliance, the quartet of men and the dog take on all comers as they attempt to do the impossible: survive long enough to get the kidnapped boy back without the kidnappers killing him or them in the process.


By setting the story in 1909, screenwriters Harry Julian Fink and R.M. Fink can have some fun with the posse setting off in three model-Ts and a motorcycle, all believing these new modes of transportation which can outlast and outrun a horse are invincible. (They soon learn differently when bullets meet their tires, and they’re left stranded in the desert.) John Wayne’s differing relationships with each of his movie sons adds some variety to the story since Michael shows respect and deference (and impresses him with his skill as a sharpshooter) while James is disrespectful and sarcastic until each proves his worth to the other. The film also proved to be the last pairing of Wayne with lovely co-star Maureen O’Hara who has some effective cameo scenes early in the film and then is never seen again. What a shame more couldn’t have been done with their last on-screen pairing. Director George Sherman isn’t a cinematic innovator with the camera, but he gets the job done in fine fashion staging an especially well-crafted hotel ambush for the bad guys that plays very nicely with surprises and some tension without turning into a gore-soaked spectacle. The final shootout does stretch credulity a bit as everyone receives wounds that are being laughed off in the final freeze frame. One wonders if perhaps there weren't later scenes that were cut for time.


John Wayne’s advancing age didn’t prevent him from dominating every scene he’s a part of, and his ease before the camera and his low-key performance style continue to stand him in good stead. Richard Boone’s nasty villain John Fain doesn’t have to be a mustache-twirling bad guy to get his wicked nature across. He also shares a wonderfully droll scene with Wayne halfway through the movie as the two men trade barbs and size one another up in one of those monumental meetings of great actors that are always such a pleasure to watch. Patrick Wayne continues to display a great deal of screen charisma as the cocky James; he never had quite the star career that his looks and acting talent should have brought him. Christopher Mitchum had an impressive acting stint in Wayne’s Rio Lobo. Here he doesn’t quite equal that even though his role is larger. Maureen O’Hara remains lovely and talented even in her few early scenes as the determined family matriarch. In other supporting roles, Bobby Vinton, Glenn Corbett, Jim Davis, John Agar, and Harry Carey Jr. are all recognizable faces and carry off their roles without a hitch.



Video Quality

4.5/5


The original Panavision aspect ratio of 2.35:1 is presented at 1080p resolution using the VC-1 codec. For almost the entire film, image clarity and sharpness are truly first rate. Only a couple of momentary shots in the film’s second half seem out of focus and atypically soft. Color saturation levels are very good, and flesh tones, sometimes a trifle exaggerated in depth, are generally pleasing. Black levels vary from pretty good to very good. The image overall is very clean, and the sterling transfer does not betray the movie’s age at all. The film has been divided into 11 chapters.



Audio Quality

3.5/5


The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix really does not possess much surround presence. Elmer Bernstein’s jaunty score (which will certainly bring to mind his classic music for The Magnificent Seven while not quite matching its majesty or magic) gets the only real surround presence in the mix. Sound effects are mostly restricted to the front channels with dialogue well recorded and attached to the center channel.



Special Features

0/5


There are no bonus features of any kind on the disc.



In Conclusion

3.5/5 (not an average)


Big Jake is another in the entertaining series of John Wayne westerns which, even though made during the last few years of his career, continue to prove enjoyable and worth many revisits. The Blu-ray looks and sounds as good as one could hope from material of this vintage though the lack of any bonus material is a decided letdown.




Matt Hough

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#2 of 13 OFFLINE   jim_falconer

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Posted May 29 2011 - 12:28 AM

Thanks for the review Matt.  Have this one on order, and am looking forward to the day it arrives.



#3 of 13 OFFLINE   Ken_McAlinden

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Posted June 10 2011 - 05:51 AM

This was one of the gaps in my "John Wayne Viewography", which I filled in by watching the BD last night.  There is some really bad acting in this film with performances that feature awkward dialog and mannerisms by various members of the supporting cast, but none of it matters thanks to Wayne and  Boone (okay, and that semi-feral Collie), who make this a really entertaining movie.  Matt's assessment of the A/V is right-on.  The Finks had a facility for one-liners and call-back moments that served them in good stead when they went on to write "Dirty Harry" shortly after this film.


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#4 of 13 OFFLINE   Scott Calvert

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Posted June 10 2011 - 06:38 AM



Originally Posted by Ken_McAlinden 

This was one of the gaps in my "John Wayne Viewography", which I filled in by watching the BD last night.  There is some really bad acting in this film with performances that feature awkward dialog and mannerisms by various members of the supporting cast, but none of it matters thanks to Wayne and  Boone (okay, and that semi-feral Collie), who make this a really entertaining movie.  Matt's assessment of the A/V is right-on.  The Finks had a facility for one-liners and call-back moments that served them in good stead when they went on to write "Dirty Harry" shortly after this film.


I agree with this. Some of the supporting acting in this is really, really bad. Definitely lower-tier John Wayne but still fun. 3 to 3.5 sounds about right.




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Posted June 10 2011 - 07:42 AM

The video quality of this film is very good.  Sharpness is excellent.  I actually had a 35mm IB Tech/Scope of this film back in the 1990s, and always thought the film print had rather mediocre blacks during the night scenes in the latter half of the film.  The Blu-ray is much better in this regard.  Bring on more Duke films in hi-def!



#6 of 13 OFFLINE   ahollis

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Posted June 10 2011 - 08:34 AM

I just really enjoy BIG JAKE and consider it one of the fun Wayne films.  I totally agree with the supporting characters acting on the bad side, but O'Hara, Wayne's and Boone's acting is always fun to watch.  I am not sure there is a better pairing of stars with chemistry than O'Hara's and Wayne, unless it is Powell and Loy.  While Chris Mitchum was in this film and Rio Lobo, I remember reading in an interview that he and Wayne crossed paths during this film and not in a good way,  I think it had something to do with drugs and his attitude on the set (could have been politics).  Mitchum was sorry it happened since it appeared he was going to be part of the Wayne stock company, but Wayne never spoke to him again after this film.

"Get a director and a writer and leave them alone. That`s how the best pictures get made" - William "Wild Bill" Wellman


#7 of 13 OFFLINE   Robert Crawford

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Posted June 11 2011 - 03:04 PM

I watched this BRD today too.  It was very good while this film had some good moments, I never liked the one sequence when the Rangers were ambushed.  Mitchum on that motorcycle kind of annoyed me during that part of the film.







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#8 of 13 OFFLINE   Douglas Monce

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Posted June 11 2011 - 06:13 PM

Does anyone else have this disc asking you to choose a language when you first put it in? This and Rio Lobo. Doug
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#9 of 13 OFFLINE   Matt Hough

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Posted June 12 2011 - 12:25 AM



Originally Posted by Douglas Monce 

Does anyone else have this disc asking you to choose a language when you first put it in? This and Rio Lobo.

Doug



Yes, all three CBS/Paramount films that I reviewed (the two you mentioned and A Man Called Horse) asked me to make that selection before proceeding.




#10 of 13 OFFLINE   Robert Crawford

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Posted June 12 2011 - 02:40 AM



Originally Posted by MattH. 





Yes, all three CBS/Paramount films that I reviewed (the two you mentioned and A Man Called Horse) asked me to make that selection before proceeding.




Right, it's because of the source where these BRDs were derived from.







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#11 of 13 OFFLINE   Robert Crawford

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Posted June 12 2011 - 02:48 AM

I watched Rio Lobo this morning and that BRD was even better than Big Jake video-wise.  It's far from being one of Wayne's better westerns, but it's entertaining.  I actually viewed this film for the first time in a movie theater about 40 years ago.  Sherry Lansing was sure a hottie, before she became a studio executive.


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#12 of 13 OFFLINE   Douglas Monce

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Posted June 12 2011 - 07:38 AM

I watched Rio Lobo this morning and that BRD was even better than Big Jake video-wise.  It's far from being one of Wayne's better westerns, but it's entertaining.  I actually viewed this film for the first time in a movie theater about 40 years ago.  Sherry Lansing was sure a hottie, before she became a studio executive.

Yeah, and there are surely some bad actors in Rio Lobo. But anytime you get Jack Elam (who my dad used to call "Old Beady Eyes") and John Wayne on the screen together, you know your in for a good time. Doug
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#13 of 13 OFFLINE   moovtune

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Posted June 13 2011 - 04:08 AM

The "collie" is actually a Belgian Sheepdog ... the only film I know of that has one. Although there must have been more than one used in Big Jake because he keeps changing from a tan Tervuren to a black Groenendael.