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

97 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.

  35. I finally viewed the new KL Blu of Bend of the River…everything negative that has already been said is true enough, but this is definitely a significant upgrade over my old DVD…and as I don't have another lifetime to wait or suffer the delusions of a better and new transfer coming anytime soon, I am happy enough with this new Blu…thank you Kino-Lorber!

    I enjoyed Toby Roan's commentary also…and was horrified to hear that director Boris Sagal died near the same filming locations used in Bend of the River, some 30 years later…Sagal accidentally walked into the spinning tail rotor of a helicopter while filming the TV miniseries World War Three…

  36. Flashgear

    I finally viewed the new KL Blu of Bend of the River…everything negative that has already been said is true enough, but this is definitely a significant upgrade over my old DVD…and as I don't have another lifetime to wait or suffer the delusions of a better and new transfer coming anytime soon, I am happy enough with this new Blu…thank you Kino-Lorber!

    I have the German disc which features the exact same master, and I came to the same conclusion – by no means perfect, but better than anything we have at the moment. It's a movie I really enjoy. I have more to gain by watching an imperfect copy than I do by avoiding it altogether on principal. While I understand that not everyone will feel the same way, that's where I'm coming down on this one.

  37. Josh Steinberg

    I have the German disc which features the exact same master, and I came to the same conclusion – by no means perfect, but better than anything we have at the moment. It's a movie I really enjoy. I have more to gain by watching an imperfect copy than I do by avoiding it altogether on principal. While I understand that not everyone will feel the same way, that's where I'm coming down on this one.

    What sometimes gets lost in these discussions is that even a bad Blu-ray will often be the best available version of a movie that we can watch in our home theaters. So when I do my little Anthony Mann western series with my kids I will also show the rather nasty looking Blu-ray of Bend of the River as it is as good a it gets at the moment and still better than my version of The Naked Spur.

  38. In theory that’s all true.

    But if you’re Kino (or Koch in Germany), you don’t have that choice. You have the choice of putting out what Universal offers or nothing at all. There is no “make them go back and create a better master” option.

    Given that binary choice, I’m glad to have some version of this wonderful film over having no version of it.

  39. Josh Steinberg

    In theory that’s all true.

    But if you’re Kino (or Koch in Germany), you don’t have that choice. You have the choice of putting out what Universal offers or nothing at all. There is no “make them go back and create a better master” option.

    Given that binary choice, I’m glad to have some version of this wonderful film over having no version of it.

    I agree! Furthermore, I don't think I have another 20 years to wait on better A/V presentations so I rather enjoy what I can get now than to have nothing to enjoy at all.

  40. Robert Crawford

    I understand, but I'm with Josh, that this title would just get ignored by the studio if turned down by all Licensees.

    With all due respect, I disagree. Someone would want to know why it was turned down.

  41. Robert Harris

    With all due respect, I disagree. Someone would want to know why it was turned down.

    With all due respect your disagreement is fine, but who would want to know why some film title from about 70 years ago was turned down? Video discs sales are down and will continue that downward spiral for the foreseeable future. I think titles getting turned down will be just another excuse the studios will use for not investing in these classic films. I think you have more faith in these corporate studio executives doing the right thing than I do.

  42. Robert Crawford

    With all due respect your disagreement is fine, but who would want to know why some film title from about 70 years ago was turned down? Video discs sales are down and will continue that downward spiral for the foreseeable future. I think titles getting turned down will be just another excuse the studios will use for not investing in these classic films. I think you have more faith in these corporate studio executives doing the right thing than I do.

    Unfortunately, movie buffs are between a rock and a hard place here. If a problematic transfer (like BOTR) gets released, everyone is furious that such a "classic" wasn't given the kid gloves treatment and we're left with a less than stellar transfer with an almost zero chance of going back and doing it right. Yet if it's not released with the explanation that the film elements aren't there, the impatient ones (Ryan's Daughter, Raintree County or The Alamo anyone?) scream, "Then release what you have. It's better than nothing!"

    There are two camps. 1) The then don't release it at all camp 2) the better than nothing camp. I belong to the second. Bottom line: Does the blu of BOTR look better than the DVD? If no, why buy it? If yes, why not buy it? I haven't bought it at this stage but I'll most likely get it at the next sale.

  43. PatrickDA

    I'd rather they wait on releasing "The Far Country" (a better film than "Bend of the River") than get something that looks like "BOTR".

    Apparently this is what everybody is doing right now.
    I would have to look up my HD recording from some time ago but ironically I remember that it was less problematic.

    So how long would you wait for a remaster of The Far Country if there was the chance to release something now that already looks a bit better than Bend of the River? I guess for people who are younger they would be willing to wait longer but at some point it gets tedious as we do not know how long it will take – 3 years, 5 years or even 10 years?

    You get the point I guess and then there is the undeniable fact that some of us are already quite old and may not be in a position to enjoy a new disc when it finally gets released 10 years from now (or whatever medium it will be). I guess almost everybody would be willing to wait a year or two for a really good disc but we all know that this is not going to happen with every title we would like to see on Blu-ray and for every catalog title that gets released in very good quality there will be others that will not get released at all in the next 10 years and by the end of those 10 years we will have been waiting to see them on Blu-ray for more than 20 years.

  44. For people like me who are still willing to watch DVDs, this is not much of an issue. I watched the DVD of Bend Of The River a few weeks ago and standard definition did not prevent me from enjoying the film. My big complaint about Raintree County is that it's not available even on DVD!

  45. Everyone is making valid points here, and I have the utmost respect and high esteem for RAH, as I believe we all do…in gratitude for his contributions here and in the realm of film restoration and preservation…speaking for myself. I am very conscious of my own mortality in having the time for viewing the lifetime of treasures in my home video collection…upon seeing RAH's review here on HTF, I did ponder cancelling my pre-order for Bend of the River, but I decided to see it for myself in the hope that my heartache wouldn't assume epic proportions…in the eye of this beholder, this film looks far better than I have ever seen it before, certainly an upgrade over the old DVD…I think it's stronger by far in definition in close-ups and middle ground, the color is mostly genuine and beautiful throughout…but the registration defect does become a recurring distraction for me in well lit middle and far distances, the registration halos are particularly irritating in middle ground objects backlit by blue sky, for instance…I'm glad this new KL Blu has come along now, while I still have the ability to enjoy it…I'm 63 now and had a recent health scare, I sometimes get a little discouraged when I assess the loads of my yet-to-be-watched collection (mostly loads of TV episodes)…

    Speaking of mortality, this film as we know it might never have been made if a 88mm flak burst or 20mm cannon round had taken Jimmy Stewart to eternity in WW2…during my convalescence from my recent illness, I suddenly realized that it was the 75th anniversary of the many desperate air battles he was in over Germany in the war…"Big Week" and the first maximum effort daylight raids on Berlin…

    February 20, 1944…Jimmy leads the entire 8th air force 2nd bomb wing (approx. 60 B-24s) on a bloody mission to Brunswick Germany…900 mile roundtrip and 7 hours in the stratosphere at -40…under constant attack by flak and fighters for hours at end…he witnesses the loss of several of the B-24 under his command, including the death of the youngest pilot in his own squadron…that night he writes a letter to the boy's mother…

    February 25, 1944…two days after his bomb group lost 13 out of 25 B-24 to an onslaught of German fighter attacks at Gotha, Jimmy leads another mission to Furth, Germany…once again under sustained attack for at least an hour before they even reach their target…aircraft on either side of his lead ship go down burning…

    Still badly shaken by his Big Week mission to Furth, Jimmy now leads the entire 2nd bomb division (154 bombers!) on a strike to Brunswick on March 15, 1944…again meeting heavy German attacks…his aircrew now notice his nerves getting the better of him…his ashen complexion, weight loss and a slight tremor in his voice while calling out desperate commands during the fury of yet another "12 O'clock High" mass attack by German fighters coming head on at a closing speed of 600 mph…he survives, but barely…

    Despite his obvious physical and psychological deterioration, Jimmy leads the entire 2nd bomb division in another attack to Berlin on March 22, 1944…an 11 hour mission at 30 thousand feet…on oxygen, wearing an armored electrically heated flying suit…after losing many of the original aircrew that he arrived with in Britain the previous November, and now being a nervous wreck on a skeletal frame (under 140 lbs on his 6'3" height), he is forcibly grounded by 8th Air Force commanding general Jimmy Doolittle…he is ordered to convalesce at an English manor "Flak" house (really, a hospital) in East Anglia, and takes leave to visit London…while he struggles to gain weight and recover his wits and morale…like so many anonymous and average Joes who rose time and time again in valiant and desperate combat, only to be broken, at least for a time, by being asked to bear the unbearable one time too many…James Stewart wrongly felt shame for having been broken by fear…Jimmy, as a famous Oscar winning actor, was mortified that he would be sought out by the press and made to be the face of valor and sacrifice in the air war…he feared that the many anonymous average guys would be forgotten for their own unspeakable suffering and sacrifice…and that if he became the famous face of the air war, he would perhaps be seen and resented as another Hollywood phony…this explains the thin details at the time and his life long reticence to rarely discuss his wartime experiences…

    As with many other guys, Jimmy found his strength yet again and returned to combat operations, flying more combat missions leading up to D-Day…he led a dangerous low altitude attack on a V-1 rocket site at Sirracourt, France on May 15…Beirne Lay jr., co-author of the bestselling book and basis for the film 12 O'clock High, was shot down on that mission, but survived and was hidden by French underground and evaded capture by the Germans…James Stewart wrongly blamed himself for Beirne Lay and his crew being shot down…his humility and sense of responsibility being paramount as always…of course, Lay didn't blame him,,,it was the murderous flak as always…the character of "Frank Savage" in the book 12 O'clock High is a composite of several men that Beirne Lay and co-author Sy Bartlet served with in WW2…but I think it's safe to assume that some elements of that character were drawn from the life of James Stewart himself…

    Anyway, I went off on a tangent there…associating mortality with the perishable and delicate nature of cinema itself…I'm glad to have KL's Blu of Bend of the River…looking forward to Thunder Bay and Night Passage from KL too…and ultimately, Winchester '73 from Criterion, and The Far Country from Arrow…I know it's a lesser film of Jimmy's, but I would hope his WW2 Columbia film The Mountain Road could find a home on HD…Fool's Parade as well…

  46. Flashgear

    Everyone is making valid points here, and I have the utmost respect and high esteem for RAH, as I believe we all do…in gratitude for his contributions here and in the realm of film restoration and preservation…speaking for myself. I am very conscious of my own mortality in having the time for viewing the lifetime of treasures in my home video collection…upon seeing RAH's review here on HTF, I did ponder cancelling my pre-order for Bend of the River, but I decided to see it for myself in the hope that my heartache wouldn't assume epic proportions…in the eye of this beholder, this film looks far better than I have ever seen it before, certainly an upgrade over the old DVD…I think it's stronger by far in definition in close-ups and middle ground, the color is mostly genuine and beautiful throughout…but the registration defect does become a recurring distraction for me in well lit middle and far distances, the registration halos are particularly irritating in middle ground objects backlit by blue sky, for instance…I'm glad this new KL Blu has come along now, while I still have the ability to enjoy it…I'm 63 now and had a recent health scare, I sometimes get a little discouraged when I assess the loads of my yet-to-be-watched collection (mostly loads of TV episodes)…

    Speaking of mortality, this film as we know it might never have been made if a 88mm flak burst or 20mm cannon round had taken Jimmy Stewart to eternity in WW2…during my convalescence from my recent illness, I suddenly realized that it was the 75th anniversary of the many desperate air battles he was in over Germany in the war…"Big Week" and the first maximum effort daylight raids on Berlin…

    February 20, 1944…Jimmy leads the entire 8th air force 2nd bomb wing (approx. 60 B-24s) on a bloody mission to Brunswick Germany…900 mile roundtrip and 7 hours in the stratosphere at -40…under constant attack by flak and fighters for hours at end…he witnesses the loss of several of the B-24 under his command, including the death of the youngest pilot in his own squadron…that night he writes a letter to the boy's mother…

    February 25, 1944…two days after his bomb group lost 13 out of 25 B-24 to an onslaught of German fighter attacks at Gotha, Jimmy leads another mission to Furth, Germany…once again under sustained attack for at least an hour before they even reach their target…aircraft on either side of his lead ship go down burning…

    Still badly shaken by his Big Week mission to Furth, Jimmy now leads the entire 2nd bomb division (154 bombers!) on a strike to Brunswick on March 15, 1944…again meeting heavy German attacks…his aircrew now notice his nerves getting the better of him…his ashen complexion, weight loss and a slight tremor in his voice while calling out desperate commands during the fury of yet another "12 O'clock High" mass attack by German fighters coming head on at a closing speed of 600 mph…he survives, but barely…

    Despite his obvious physical and psychological deterioration, Jimmy leads the entire 2nd bomb division in another attack to Berlin on March 22, 1944…an 11 hour mission at 30 thousand feet…on oxygen, wearing an armored electrically heated flying suit…after losing many of the original aircrew that he arrived with in Britain the previous November, and now being a nervous wreck on a skeletal frame (under 140 lbs on his 6'3" height), he is forcibly grounded by 8th Air Force commanding general Jimmy Doolittle…he is ordered to convalesce at an English manor "Flak" house (really, a hospital) in East Anglia, and takes leave to visit London…while he struggles to gain weight and recover his wits and morale…like so many anonymous and average Joes who rose time and time again in valiant and desperate combat, only to be broken, at least for a time, by being asked to bear the unbearable one time too many…James Stewart wrongly felt shame for having been broken by fear…Jimmy, as a famous Oscar winning actor, was mortified that he would be sought out by the press and made to be the face of valor and sacrifice in the air war…he feared that the many anonymous average guys would be forgotten for their own unspeakable suffering and sacrifice…and that if he became the famous face of the air war, he would perhaps be seen and resented as another Hollywood phony…this explains the thin details at the time and his life long reticence to rarely discuss his wartime experiences…

    As with many other guys, Jimmy found his strength yet again and returned to combat operations, flying more combat missions leading up to D-Day…he led a dangerous low altitude attack on a V-1 rocket site at Sirracourt, France on May 15…Beirne Lay jr., co-author of the bestselling book and basis for the film 12 O'clock High, was shot down on that mission, but survived and was hidden by French underground and evaded capture by the Germans…James Stewart wrongly blamed himself for Beirne Lay and his crew being shot down…his humility and sense of responsibility being paramount as always…of course, Lay didn't blame him,,,it was the murderous flak as always…the character of "Frank Savage" in the book 12 O'clock High is a composite of several men that Beirne Lay and co-author Sy Bartlet served with in WW2…but I think it's safe to assume that some elements of that character were drawn from the life of James Stewart himself…

    Anyway, I went off on a tangent there…associating mortality with the perishable and delicate nature of cinema itself…I'm glad to have KL's Blu of Bend of the River…looking forward to Thunder Bay and Night Passage from KL too…and ultimately, Winchester '73 from Criterion, and The Far Country from Arrow…I know it's a lesser film of Jimmy's, but I would hope his WW2 Columbia film The Mountain Road could find a home on HD…Fool's Parade as well…

    Great post and as I'm also becoming more aware of my mortality as I know I'm on the 16th hole of life.

  47. I believe a major part of the problem, may a lack of communication / cooperation, between the archival group, home video, streaming, theatrical, et al.

    Masters that prepared for certain needs, being repurposed for others, without full consultation.

    I’m not referring here just to Uni.

    Some entities are run in very strange – to me, unbelievable – ways, which make little sense.

  48. Robert Harris

    I believe a major part of the problem, may a lack of communication / cooperation, between the archival group, home video, streaming, theatrical, et al.

    Masters that prepared for certain needs, being repurposed for others, without full consultation.

    I’m not referring here just to Uni.

    Some entities are run in very strange – to me, unbelievable – ways, which make little sense.

    This!

  49. Robert Harris

    I believe a major part of the problem, may a lack of communication / cooperation, between the archival group, home video, streaming, theatrical, et al.

    Masters that prepared for certain needs, being repurposed for others, without full consultation.

    I’m not referring here just to Uni.

    Some entities are run in very strange – to me, unbelievable – ways, which make little sense.

    Agreed, one good example are the very old masters of the 4 remaining large format movies from Sony that have all made it to very bad Blu-rays in Europe which each one being a big disappointment.

    Seeing how Lawrence of Arabia turned out and then what has been released of Barabbas, Lord Jim, The Long Ships and Mackenna's Gold one can only wonder how Sony allowed them to be released in a quality that I would consider at most on par with Bend of the River if not worse.

    Obviously these 4 titles are not all masterpieces but at least the first two are quite interesting in their own right and deserve much better and the other two should at least be good looking (and sounding) entertainment.

    What I believe usually happens in these cases is that licensees get a list with everything that is marked as HD master (or better) and nobody at the studio seems to find the time to check how good these masters actually look. Still one also has to look to the licensee as in the end it is their (bad) judgement to release these movies looking like they do.

  50. If you're on the fence about this, not only does it look horrible, but the commentary is awful!!! I mean awful!!! He just lists the credits of the actors in the film and even some of the crew members. That's something I can look up on my own!! I want MORE from a commentary. Was there really a gold rush in Portland? Were any of the characters based on real people? How did the film fit in with Mann's career and his eight films with Stewart? I mean there's several hours worth of chit-chat to be had and this guy said nothing…"Jimmy Stewart was born in…his 57th film was…" etc. Oh, great…I just reminded myself he's doing the commentary for "Thunder Bay," so I've got that to look forward to. "Jimmy Stewart was born in…."

  51. PatrickDA

    If you're on the fence about this, not only does it look horrible, but the commentary is awful!!! I mean awful!!! He just lists the credits of the actors in the film and even some of the crew members. That's something I can look up on my own!! I want MORE from a commentary. Was there really a gold rush in Portland? Were any of the characters based on real people? How did the film fit in with Mann's career and his eight films with Stewart? I mean there's several hours worth of chit-chat to be had and this guy said nothing…"Jimmy Stewart was born in…his 57th film was…" etc. Oh, great…I just reminded myself he's doing the commentary for "Thunder Bay," so I've got that to look forward to. "Jimmy Stewart was born in…."

    That's too bad, indeed I was hoping for commentary about Tony Mann and the Mann/Stewart collaboration and about Jimmy Stewart changing his image with the movies he made with Mann and Hitchcock later in his career.

    By the way: I looked up my recording of The Far Country and it looks better than Bend of the River. It is not fantastic but it does not have the registration issues that make Bend of the River so problematic, details and textures are similar. No idea why The Far Country wasn't released on Blu-ray instead of Bend of the River.

  52. OliverK

    That's too bad, indeed I was hoping for commentary about Tony Mann and the Mann/Stewart collaboration and about Jimmy Stewart changing his image with the movies he made with Mann and Hitchcock later in his career.

    By the way: I looked up my recording of The Far Country and it looks better than Bend of the River. It is not fantastic but it does not have the registration issues that make Bend of the River so problematic, details and textures are similar. No idea why The Far Country wasn't released on Blu-ray instead of Bend of the River.

    Far Country was not Technicolor

  53. Robert Harris

    Far Country was not Technicolor

    Indeed, I should have mentioned that. Unless Universal is currently working on The Far Country it would have been the better choice for a Blu-ray release.

    I take it that Warner also did the math on The Naked Spur and this being another Technicolor production probably did not really help to bring it to the forefront of up and coming projects. Too bad as it is generally regarded as being one of the best Mann/Stewart collaborations.

  54. I'd rank "The Naked Spur" first, then "Winchester '73," next "The Man from Laramie," fourth "The Far Country," and fifth "Bend of the River."

    I love John McIntire as Mr. (Frank?) Gannon in "Far Country," one of my favorite western villains. "Now, get out of here, and take that with you!" – "I'm gonna like you, I'm gonna kill you, but I'm gonna like you."

  55. OliverK

    Indeed, I should have mentioned that. Unless Universal is currently working on The Far Country it would have been the better choice for a Blu-ray release.

    I take it that Warner also did the math on The Naked Spur and this being another Technicolor production probably did not really help to bring it to the forefront of up and coming projects. Too bad as it is generally regarded as being one of the best Mann/Stewart collaborations.

    Well Warner certainly wouldn’t release Naked Spur on Blu-ray looking anything like Bend of the River. For their Technicolor productions (e.g Summer Stock) they are able to get perfect registration by using digital tools to clean up existing IPs rather than going back to Onegs. In a recent podcast they mentioned that the only reason they aren’t able to bring out The Pirate right now is because the lab did an atrocious job creating IPs back in the day, and the only way they will be able to release The Pirate on Blu is a new recombine from the camera negatives.

  56. Mark-P

    In a recent podcast they mentioned that the only reason they aren’t able to bring out The Pirate right now is because the lab did an atrocious job creating IPs back in the day, and the only way they will be able to release The Pirate on Blu is a new recombine from the camera negatives.

    But wouldn't it look STUNNING if they would go to expense of doing that! It would be trauma-inducing Technicolor!

  57. Mark-P

    Well Warner certainly wouldn’t release Naked Spur on Blu-ray looking anything like Bend of the River. For their Technicolor productions (e.g Summer Stock) they are able to get perfect registration by using digital tools to clean up existing IPs rather than going back to Onegs. In a recent podcast they mentioned that the only reason they aren’t able to bring out The Pirate right now is because the lab did an atrocious job creating IPs back in the day, and the only way they will be able to release The Pirate on Blu is a new recombine from the camera negatives.

    No Warner would not release The Naked Spur in that shape instead they do not release it at all which results in it being available in a version that no doubt looks worse than the Blu-ray of Bend of the River.

    Going back to only the IP's is quite clever but obviously it has its limitations. Hopefully they will occasionally go all the way for selected titles.

  58. OliverK

    No Warner would not release The Naked Spur in that shape instead they do not release it at all which results in it being available in a version that no doubt looks worse than the Blu-ray of Bend of the River.

    Going back to only the IP's is quite clever but obviously it has its limitations. Hopefully they will occasionally go all the way for selected titles.

    What is the limitation of a high quality IP for a Blu-ray?

  59. I saw the new restoration of Winchester '73 at the Turner Classic Movies Film Festival a couple of weeks ago, and I can confirm it looks absolutely gorgeous. Sure hope we get a blu-ray soon.

    Thank you for the detailed description of James Stewart's courageous service in the Army Air Corps.

  60. Robert Harris

    What is the limitation of a high quality IP for a Blu-ray?

    Loss of resolution first and foremost. But an IP makes a lot of things easier so the benefits of a high quality IP are obvious.

    When I said I hope they will go all the way for selected titles I meant the titles where the quality of the IP is not considered to be good enough, like The Pirate, or titles where the added resolution will show.

  61. OliverK

    Loss of resolution first and foremost. But an IP makes a lot of things easier so the benefits of a high quality IP are obvious.

    When I said I hope they will go all the way for selected titles I meant the titles where the quality of the IP is not considered to be good enough, like The Pirate, or titles where the added resolution will show.

    Resolution only comes into play at 4k levels. At had, an IP is a fine source.

  62. Robert Harris

    Resolution only comes into play at 4k levels. At had, an IP is a fine source.

    I do not think that it is as much of a point at 2k but I believe it would be possible to see the (small) differences on bigger screens and at closer viewing distances. Under normal conditions not so much.

    Which is why I hope that Warner has a lot more well done IP's that they can work with – it certainly increases the chances of a movie being released through the Archive collection and the lower costs will allow for a much bigger number of movies being relased with a given budget.

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