A few words about…™ Bend of the River – in Blu-ray

4 Stars

Kino’s new Blu-ray of Anthony Mann’s 1952, 3-strip Technicolor, Bend of the River, takes on a bit of a beauty and the beast affair, when compared to Becky Sharp.

Presumably produced from a master delivered by Universal that may have been made for the DVD market, the film almost appears to have been shot in 3-D.

Universal has been doing such brilliant work the past few years, that it pains me to see an old master making its way to Blu-ray.

Registration errors abound, and the entire film has the appearance of having be recombined by some fly-by-night outfit.

On a large screen, it borders on being unwatchable.

The pity is that this is a good film. Not a great one, mind you, but a good one, deserving of better treatment.

Image – 2

Audio – 5

Pass / Fail – Fail

Upgrade from DVD – Absolutely not

RAH

Published by

Robert Harris

editor,member

58 Comments

  1. SAhmed

    That is so disappointing to read – I was hoping that we might finally be getting a decent release for this classic. Just have to stick with the dvd until further notice

    Regards

    This might be it, but you never know.

  2. I bought the German Blu-ray as I finally wanted another Tony Mann western on Blu and I will say that while detail is improved the added detail makes the registration errors rather more obvious.

    I agree with Robert that the German disc is still somehow watchable but mostly because the DVD is even worse (I have that one, too and made a few comparisons after watching the Blu-ray)

    Certainly this fine western deserves better but apparently nobody wants to pay for the necessary work.

  3. It sounds like the same old transfer that been on UK TV quite a bit in the past few years (& the same as the German release), it looked okay(ish) on a smaller screen, but I suppose on a larger screen these faults are exaggerated (& of course after a while, you're looking for them). A great fifties western, it really needs the Universal Deluxe treatment.

  4. Extremely disappointing, but hey – Uni hasn't exactly been leading the pack in quality for some time. The Glenn Miller Story from Shout! is a travesty, as was For Whom The Bell Tolls. No point to releasing mis-aligned Technicolor in 2K to Blu. It isn't watchable. Thanks for the heads up, Robert. Will definitely pass.

  5. PatrickDA

    Still buying it as I don't have the German release and Kino does have a commentary. Anthony Mann and blu-ray need to be supported, in my opinion!

    If there's an Anthony Mann commentary, then I'll support it way down the road during a sale. I bid 10 bucks.
    And yes, absolutely, Blu rays need to be supported; but they've got to support us in return.
    This review reflects a now very small and near single-digit percentage of BD's with low grades;
    so my first monies will be prioritized and earmarked for those discs that achieved something far better.
    "Becky Sharp" (KL), "Beat the Devil" (TT), "The Sea Hawk" (WAC), "In the Heat of the Night" (Criterion);
    and, based upon these scores, even Olive's so-so Signature of "Operation Petticoat" would now suffice.
    Yes these would be – off the top of my head – the first Blu rays to gain my next-in-line support.
    Support, IMHO, must always be a two-way street.

    NOTE (some hours later):
    Kino Lorber continues to have my unwavering support, as there are dozens of BD's still to be bought.
    As a matter of fact, I happen to watch "The Ox-Bow Incident", last night.
    So, in the end, we're really only talking about one goofy transfer.
    So carry on, collectors; for all we're asking here is for our waiter (KL) to send this entree back to the kitchen (Universal).

  6. I happened to watch this streaming a few weeks ago, and as the review says the picture quality overall is poor. And although it has several good parts to it, and as usual a strong performance from James Stewart, I don't think it's one of Mann's best films.

  7. I guess I may have to purchase the German one. I've been waiting for this and am majorly disappointed. It's my second favorite Stewart/Mann western, the first being Winchester '73.

  8. Bob_S.

    I guess I may have to purchase the German one. I've been waiting for this and am majorly disappointed. It's my second favorite Stewart/Mann western, the first being Winchester '73.

    Why purchase the German disc? This Kino title will be on sale for around $10 between now and early summer and it has an audio commentary.

  9. Sorry, for some reason I thought the German one was better than this U.S. one with R. Harris saying it was unwatchable. I guess I'll wait for the reviews from folks who purchase it. I have no desire to pay any amount for a blu that's unwatchable but then again I don't have a keen eye like Mr. Harris. I think my viewing experience lines up more with yours, Robert.

  10. This is really sad but unsurprising news. The Mann Westerns are still criminally undervalued and I'd argue that all five Stewart-Mann Westerns are among the most important ever made-even the seemingly lesser more typical feeling ones like Bend of the River and The Far Country. But then again I really appreciate Mann and even like lesser films like The Last Frontier in addition to great ones like Man of the West.

    Since the five fall between different studios and handling it appears the odd ones out are the middle films. Winchester '73 was done in 4K by Universal so it was said and Man From Laramie was well treated by Sony and released via Twilight Time/MOC. The Naked Spur has several issues including an apparent softness baked into the source that appears on the DVD which is only video release of the film there is. The print sometimes shown at Western festivals that I saw last year seems to be the same one used for the DVD. But hopefully WAC will tackle that.

    This leaves Bend of the River and The Far Country which Universal has apparently left to be preserved in these aging masters merely spiffed up to HD years ago. I would think the other foreign releases of other Stewart westerns and films of this period will be the same such as the ones for NIGHT PASSAGE.

    Bend of the River's master dates back to the Laserdisc double set with TFC. The transfer there was very good for the time, but is identical to the eventual DVD release complete with the color issues. This Blu-ray seems like something made for HD airing several years ago and is maybe slightly tweaked but little else has been addressed.
    The Far Country is a bit different since the LD was a nice looking 1.33 presentation of a print source, the first DVD was 1.33 but brighter and then was matted to 1.85 for the DVD reissue. I'm sure if it arrives on BD somewhere it will be the same scenario and thus dishonor the importance of these massively important Westerns.

  11. Apparently Universal is working on a Far Country restoration. That was scheduled for release in Germany at the same time as Bend of the River and keeps getting postponed. The website for the German distributor (Koch, I think) for Far Country said that it was going to be from a brand new 4K master than Universal was still working on.

    I’m hoping that’s still true. That Kino said they asked for Far Country and were told it wasn’t available for licensing at this time has me hoping that it is being worked on.

    It’s probably my favorite of the bunch.

  12. Yup, it was leaked that Arrow will be releasing The Far Country, & I'd think they'd only do that if it was a new master (great news!)

    I'd love a lovingly redone Bend Of The River (but shot in 3-strip Technicolor, it could be a big job – calling Martin Scorsese's Film Foundation), & will be buying the new Winchester '73 from whoever releases it. The only one I'm not that bothered about is The Naked Spur, I just find James Stewart a bit too intense & full of angst in that one.

  13. Randy Korstick

    Very Disappointing news on my favorite Mann Western.

    Sorry to hear that it is your favorite but then Mann aficionados have it very bad anyway as many of his movies look very disappointing on Blu-ray:

    Bend of The River
    The Last Frontier
    El Cid
    Fall of the Roman Empire
    A Dandy in Aspic

    There are number of others that look OK but certanly not great and so far to my knowledge only two of his color movies can be said to look good or very good on Blu-ray: The Man from Laramie and Strategic Air Command.

    A great shame as Mann was a very visual director with his movies often having truly remarkable cinematography that cannot really be appreciated with these substandard releases.

  14. Billy Batson

    Yup, it was leaked that Arrow will be releasing The Far Country, & I'd think they'd only do that if it was a new master (great news!)

    I had no idea – that’s great news. Hope it comes this year. I’ve been dying to see it again but have been holding off on rewatching the DVD with the promise of something better on the horizon.

  15. rcmeserve

    Another great Mann western, “Devil’s Doorway,” can only be seen on a Warner Archive MOD-DVD. It, too, deserves a blu-ray.

    Beautiful black and white photography. The lightning storm during the bar fight scene is fantastic. One of Robert Taylor's best performances. I hope WB puts it out on blu-ray sometime.

  16. PatrickDA

    Beautiful black and white photography. The lightning storm during the bar fight scene is fantastic. One of Robert Taylor's best performances. I hope WB puts it out on blu-ray sometime.

    This is a great western-noir and again it is hard to appreciate its magnificent cinematography on the subpar MOD-DVD.

  17. Was looking forward to Bend Of The River, but looks like I’ll keep my dvd. I just received a copy of Shenandoah its and Italian release It is a very good blu ray transfer.

  18. Bill Fisher

    Yet still no review of Universal's blu ray of FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS. would love to know what you think.

    Unfortunately, the blu-ray of For Whom got a 1 star for pq from blu-ray.com….

    https://www.blu-ray.com/movies/For-Whom-the-Bell-Tolls-Blu-ray/131957/#Review

    "Universal took the cheap route, and while extreme instances like the scene noted above have been toned down, Bell Tolls remains plagued by registration issues during its entire running time. The effect is visible not only in color fringing but also in the variable sharpness, detail and densities that can be observed throughout the film. Perhaps in an effort to conceal these shortcomings, the image has been noticeably darkened for Blu-ray, so that the many scenes in caves lit by firelight or outdoors at night have been markedly drained of color; indeed, some of the scenes shot day-for-night look almost black-and-white."

    This is a pity, since I really like this gloomy epic.

  19. Whether we’re talking abt a film or a home video presentation of a film, one person’s “good” is of course another person’s “awesome”. I suspect most people who buy/ see this presentation will think it looks awesome.

  20. Tom St Jones

    Whether we're talking abt a film or a home video presentation of a film, one person's "good" is of course another person's "awesome". I suspect most people who buy/ see this presentation will think it looks awesome.

    If you are talking about Bend of the River or For Whom The Bell Tolls you are sadly mistaken.

  21. OliverK

    If you are talking about Bend of the River or For Whom The Bell Tolls you are sadly mistaken.

    I think most people that are not as knowledgeable about film as people here and are viewing their discs on non-projection displays would think my German Blu-rays of both film titles look just fine video-wise.

  22. Robert Crawford

    I think most people that are not as knowledgeable about film as people here and are viewing their discs on non-projection displays would think my German Blu-rays of both film titles look just fine video-wise.

    Yes I agree that they would think it is fine as you say but awesome?

  23. OliverK

    Thanks, these may come in handy for people who already have the German disc.

    Yeah, I read that review last week and I will be picking up the Kino BD, but not until one of Kino's sales in which it's much cheaper than $19.99 at Amazon.

  24. Robert Crawford

    Perhaps some will think it looks awesome.:)

    OK, I'll give you some who sit very far away from a very small TV 🙂

    I am curious by the way: Why are you getting the Kino release?

  25. OliverK

    OK, I'll give you some who sit very far away from a very small TV 🙂

    I am curious by the way: Why are you getting the Kino release?

    You must not interact much with less discernible movie viewers. I know plenty of people that are still satisfied with video tape so this Blu-ray would look gorgeous to them on their relatively small displays in comparison to your projection setup. A lot of old timers that are big western fans, but not into home theater or film spec knowledge would love this Blu-ray release.

    My interest in the Kino release is due to me being a sucker for good audio commentaries. However, I'm only interested if I can get this Kino disc for less than $10.00.

  26. I realize you weren't suggesting that it was really shot in 3D (and it wasn't). I was a little kid in 1952 going to every western I could find. I remember seeing this one on the big screen and liking it a lot. Just to make sure, I checked IMDb and there is no mention of 3D. But I did find out that it gets a perfect 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes despite receiving poor reviews (?) when released on 2.13.1952. Sad that this blu-ray release is not up to par for the little kid in me.

  27. filmnoirguy

    I realize you weren't suggesting that it was really shot in 3D (and it wasn't). I was a little kid in 1952 going to every western I could find. I remember seeing this one on the big screen and liking it a lot. Just to make sure, I checked IMDb and there is no mention of 3D. But I did find out that it gets a perfect 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes despite receiving poor reviews (?) when released on 2.13.1952. Sad that this blu-ray release is not up to par for the little kid in me.

    I'm very surprised to learn that Bend Of The River got bad reviews when it first came out. I don't understand that at all.

  28. Robert Crawford

    You must not interact much with less discernible movie viewers. I know plenty of people that are still satisfied with video tape so this Blu-ray would look gorgeous to them on their relatively small displays in comparison to your projection setup. A lot of old timers that are big western fans, but not into home theater or film spec knowledge would love this Blu-ray release.

    You are of course right that it is a matter of perspective and viewing experience but when I expect people to pass judgement on a Blu-ray I automatically assume that they have seen Blu-rays before and if the number was not very small then I would think that they would have seen better than Bend of the River. But yes, you are right that I do not interact that much with people who think for example that DVD is good enough or that all they need is streaming 🙂

    Robert Crawford

    My interest in the Kino release is due to me being a sucker for good audio commentaries. However, I'm only interested if I can get this Kino disc for less than $10.00.

    Looking forward to hear how you like the commentary. As Bend of The River would be an import for me I would only be interested if the commentary goes into some depth about Tony Mann or the Mann/Stewart series of westerns.

  29. Oliver,

    I won't be buying this title until Kino has a sale in which it is drastically reduced in price. Kino is currently having a sale, but this title isn't part of that sale so perhaps later this summer with another sale.:)

  30. Robert Crawford

    Oliver,

    I won't be buying this title until Kino has a sale in which it is drastically reduced in price. Kino is currently having a sale, but this title isn't part of that sale so perhaps later this summer with another sale.:)

    No hurry 🙂

  31. Got this title yesterday and gave it a try. I had not read this thread. Well, this is absolutely the worst transfer on Blu-Ray that I have seen. Green edge fringes everywhere. Not-watchable. This is a shame as it is a fine movie. How could a reputable company release such a bad transfer.

  32. Roger Mathus

    Got this title yesterday and gave it a try. I had not read this thread. Well, this is absolutely the worst transfer on Blu-Ray that I have seen. Green edge fringes everywhere. Not-watchable. This is a shame as it is a fine movie. How could a reputable company release such a bad transfer.

    Roger,

    You still watching your movies on a projection screen?

  33. Roger Mathus

    Got this title yesterday and gave it a try. I had not read this thread. Well, this is absolutely the worst transfer on Blu-Ray that I have seen. Green edge fringes everywhere. Not-watchable. This is a shame as it is a fine movie. How could a reputable company release such a bad transfer.

    Blame Universal, not Kino!

  34. PatrickDA

    Blame Universal, not Kino!

    There could have been some kind of warning on the disc about the registration issues. Or Kino could have decided that this quality is below their standards and not release it at all. As it still is an improvement over the DVD there is a reason to release it I guess so that may be why Kino went forward with the release.

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