Broken Lance Blu-ray Review

4 Stars

Broken Lance Blu-ray Review

A Cinemascope western with something on its mind other than cowboys and Indians (though they certainly are present in the scenario), Edward Dmytryk’s Broken Lance is a thoughtful, interesting family drama with a startling cast of excellent actors, gorgeous locations, and a story that mixes sibling and father-son rivalries with considerations of racial prejudice and property rights which take it somewhat off the well-worn path of gunslingers and cattle drives that many westerns of the era were dealing with. Twilight Time’s new release of this 1954 hit (among the twenty biggest grossers of its year) looks beautiful and sounds fresh as can be.

Cover Art

Studio: Fox

Distributed By: Twilight Time

Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC

Aspect Ratio: 2.55:1

Audio: English 2.0 DTS-HDMA, English 5.0 DTS-HDMA

Subtitles: English SDH

Rating: Not Rated

Run Time: 1 Hr. 36 Min.

Package Includes: Blu-ray

clear keep case

Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)

Region: All

Release Date: 11/10/2015

MSRP: $29.95

 

The Production Rating: 4/5

Released from prison after a three-year hitch, Joe Devereaux (Robert Wagner) returns to his hometown to find that his three half-brothers (Richard Widmark, Hugh O’Brian, Earl Holliman) are now running their sprawling cattle ranch from the comforts of town. He recalls the circumstances which sent him to prison: when cattle baron Matt Devereaux (Spencer Tracy) discovers a nearby copper mine is polluting a stream where he waters his cattle, he becomes furious and leads a raid on the mining operation which results in several injuries. The police have a warrant to arrest whoever was responsible for the attack, so to spare his father the agony and humiliation of a stay behind bars, Joe claims responsibility and goes to prison. In his absence, his father has had a stroke and later died, and his siblings now want Joe to clear out of the territory, afraid that he might have returned to exact revenge on them.

 

The Oscar-winning original story by Philip Yordan was based on Fox’s previous film noir House of Strangers, and its adaptation into the western genre fits quite snugly and will remind fans not only of parts of Shakespeare’s King Lear but also the later smash television series Bonanza. While the flashback structure of Richard Murphy’s screenplay works well, it’s quite a long time into the movie before we finally learn the reason for Joe’s three-year prison sentence or the story behind the bitterness and mistrust between the three older brothers and Joe. The script also touches on racial prejudices inherent at the time concerning mixed race marriages between Caucasians and Native Americans and the second class citizenship often afforded their offspring without making that the central element of the story. Director Edward Dmytryk working in Cinemascope for the first time does a strikingly good job filling the wide frame not only with gorgeous visuals of the various outdoor locations (some at the Fox ranch in California, others in Arizona) such as a race between sweethearts Joe and Barbara (Jean Peters) down a creek bed covered by arching trees that give it a cathedral look and feel but also stretching his large cast across the screen for maximum effect (Cinemascope allows us to see each of the four sons of Spencer Tracy’s domineering Matt reacting personally to his sometimes unreasonable demands and edicts). He also stages the action scenes including the face-off with the miners and the climactic fight to the death between older and younger brothers with economy and dispatch without sacrificing excitement or surprise.

 

Spencer Tracy makes a memorable cattle baron, having built his huge operation up from nothing and demanding to be able to run it his way even if his ideas of frontier justice don’t jibe any longer with more modernized laws. We understand somewhat the injured pride of his older sons who have been denied love and tenderness and instead have been used as pack mules and hired help though the script doesn’t allow especially the sons played by Hugh O’Brian and Earl Holliman much of a voice in expressing their frustrations. Richard Widmark, on the other hand, while like his brothers not sharing much in the way of physical likenesses to one another, has a superb scene late in the film where he finally gets to make his case with Tracy quite emphatically. The final fight scene has never quite rung true (an attack with little proof for its necessity), but he acts it to high heaven. Robert Wagner as the youngest son with something to prove is very good in the film, one of his Fox contract pictures where he’s not used as just a pretty face but for his acting chops. As his mother, Katy Jurado earned an Oscar nomination for her quiet, controlled performance, but Jean Peters as the love interest who defies her father’s (E.G. Marshall – excellent) wishes about dating a boy of Joe’s racial heritage does well with a character who could have used a few more emotional shades. Eduard Franz does an excellent job as Matt’s loyal Indian friend Two Moons.

Video Rating: 4.5/5  3D Rating: NA

The original Cinemascope theatrical aspect ratio of 2.55:1 is faithfully rendered in this 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. Sharpness is excellent throughout the transfer, and with Eastmancolor printed by Technicolor in the credits, hues are surprisingly robust and impressive even if occasionally skin tones go a bit brownish on Jean Peters (one expects the leathery skin tones on the gentlemen). Black levels are very good, and contrast has been consistently applied to make for a very arresting image. The image is also spotlessly clean throughout. The movie has been divided into 24 chapters.

Audio Rating: 4/5

The disc offers both DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 stereo and 5.0 surround tracks. The 2.0 track gives a greater sense of the directionalized dialogue than the 5.0 track (though one can certainly sense it there, too), but both offer admirable fidelity for elements of this era. While one may be able to discern a tiny bit of attenuated hiss in a quiet scene or two later in the movie, most of the tracks are artifact-free even if the 5.0 mix is much stronger across the front channels than in the rears. Dialogue is always easy to understand and has been mixed discreetly with Leigh Harline’s lovely score and the numerous atmospheric effects that are typical of the western genre.

Special Features Rating: 3.5/5

Audio Commentary: film historian and producer Nick Redman welcomes co-star Earl Holliman to talk about his memories of the film and to spend a majority of the track reminiscing about his life and lengthy career. While it may not be the most memorable of the star commentaries on recent Twilight Time discs, it’s certainly worth a listen.

 

Isolated Score Track: Leigh Harline’s score is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 stereo.

 

Movietone Newsreel (0:52, SD): highlights of the Oscar presentations for 1954 pictures spotlighting Fox films which came home winners.

 

Theatrical Trailers (2:39, 2:29, SD)

 

Six-Page Booklet: contains some wonderful color stills from the movie, a black and white original movie poster on the back cover, and film historian Julie Kirgo’s enthusiastic appraisal of the film.

Overall Rating: 4/5

Another wonderful Fox Cinemascope feature enters the Twilight Time Hall of Fame as Broken Lance takes its worthy place among other memorable Scope movies of the era being offered by the boutique label. There are only 3,000 copies of this Blu-ray available. Those interested should go to www.screenarchives.com to see if product is still in stock. Information about the movie can also be found via their website at www.twilighttimemovies.com or via Facebook at www.facebook.com/twilighttimemovies.

Reviewed By: Matt Hough

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Matt Hough

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23 Comments

  1. Well, sorry to be the opposition on this, but I completely loathe this Fox colorization (for that is what it is, IMO), which, regardless of what some members might say to defend it, simply does not represent any theatrical experience I have had with Fox films from that era. STOP TEALING YOUR GODDAMN BLU-RAYS!

  2. This is a mid-ranking western for me and looking at the screen caps on DVDBeaver it does look dark compared to the (good) DVD. The recent TT sale presents a dilemma for me and I am not sure at the moment whether to jump or not. I doubt it will sell quickly.

  3. Keith Cobby

    This is a mid-ranking western for me and looking at the screen caps on DVDBeaver it does look dark compared to the (good) DVD. The recent TT sale presents a dilemma for me and I am not sure at the moment whether to jump or not. I doubt it will sell quickly.

    For the record, Broken Lance is not included in the Twilight Time sale.

  4. Dick

    Well, sorry to be the opposition on this, but I completely loathe this Fox colorization (for that is what it is, IMO), which, regardless of what some members might say to defend it, simply does not represent any theatrical experience I have had with Fox films from that era. STOP TEALING YOUR GODDAMN BLU-RAYS!

    I agree with you… Its obviously ver much on the teal side. Way too much. To the point that black is not even black anymore. Do you or ANYBODY ELSE have any idea why they do this? Why are Fox´s BDs so blue? Some of them,at least… Its painful, because I really doubt they looked like this theatrically. It they did looked so blue, that would be another story. I just want some reasonable explanation of why are Fox´s BDs so much on the teal side?

  5. It's about time Fox fessed up with regards to color timing these discs. The color is off – again – and badly. I cannot indulge a studio that won't even go back to original records and spend the time to research these releases for color timing and tinting issues. There is something VERY WRONG about what's been happening to their hi-def Cinemascope releases of late. I cannot watch The River of No Return, The Blue Max, The Best of Everything, Desk Set, Wild River, The Black Swan, The Inn of the Sixth Happiness, The King and I, or Broken Lance without recalling some of the live screenings of these deep catalog titles I have seen over the years on film. Fair and true enough – not all film prints exhibited the same consistency in color timing. Some were way off. But prints by DeLuxe and/or Technicolor were capable of – and did – reproduce all the colors of the rainbow with varying degrees of success and NO teal bias. All you have to do is look at the whites of people's eyes, now tinted robin egg blue, to know the color is off.

    This is NOT color by DeLuxe but someone's gargantuan misfire that Fox has yet to own up to. Want a reason? Likely, Fox commissioned a spate of remasters for which they paid handsomely, but did not check the final product before green-lighting the mass production of discs. Now that the money's been spent on deep catalog releases that have no hope of ever being reconsidered for a complete re-do (too expensive) the studio is merely hoping to dump what they've done on the market and have fans look the other way as they continue to profess this is what the movies 'should look like'. Don't be fooled. The color on these discs is WRONG – period. Anyone who suggests otherwise needs a stronger prescription!

  6. Robert Crawford

    Where's your proof?

    Very good question. I understand that some people will have their own opinion about correct color. What I don't understand is this idea that Shawn Belston and his colleagues are a gang of slap-dash amateurs.

  7. I'm watching it today and let me tell you I will be chiming in about what I see. But first of all, no Fox disc has been "tealed" – you may think there's too much BLUE but BLUE is not teal – teal is its own hue and these discs have none of that hue. That's first. But everyone knows I am on record as very much liking all the Fox transfers which DO represent the dye transfer prints I've owned, and I believe that all this conjecture about Mr. Belston not knowing what he's doing is offensive – Mr. Belston has the original timing notes. No one on this or any other board does – what the boards have are people who somehow think past transfers off fading negatives somehow represent what these films looked like when new, because that is what's in their memories, that's what the new caps are being compared to. I'll be back in a bit with my thoughts and will call it as I see it.

    Oh, and how can skin tones go brownish on Miss Peters, if it's been "tealed" to death? Not possible.

    But let me start with the obvious question: Who complaining of teal has actually seen the transfer.

  8. Robin9

    Very good question. I understand that some people will have their own opinion about correct color. What I don't understand is this idea that Shawn Belston and his colleagues are a gang of slap-dash amateurs.

    And that they continue to release Blu-rays with incorrect color over the period of several years now.

  9. Okay, two-thirds of the way through is enough for me to offer my opinion. Teal? Really, are people just that enamored of that sorry catchphrase that they use it when it's completely incorrect to do so? Apparently. There is no teal in this transfer. Period. Not an ounce, not a lick, not a jot. Is there blue? Of course. Was there always blue? Of course. Does it look like there's too much blue? No. Is the color representative of what the dye transfer prints looked like? Yes. Are there entire sequences with no blue at all? Yes. Funny that. In scenes where the color blue appears are all the other colors washed in blue because it's so pumped up? Never. Ever. There's a wonderful scene with Mr. Wagner and Miss Peters outside the house. The back of the set is awash in blue. The two actors have no blue on them at all in the two-shot. What does that tell you? It tells me that the cameraman lit the back of the set with heavy blue gels but not the front light. There are browns, greens and yellows aplenty. In the interior scenes, browns and yellows dominate. In the exterior day scenes the skies are blue as they should be (except when they're overcast in several shots, where they are white – can't have white skies if you're pumping the blue), but all the other colors are as they should be – earth tones, costumes have reds, greens, and browns, all perfectly rendered. I would honestly like to know how many people who are on the teal bandwagon in this thread have seen the transfer or are basing their comments on screen caps.

    If anyone from Fox is reading this – you have my thanks and please do not change anything you're doing – these films look fantastic and finally actually have the blue they should, that was so sorely lacking in the previous transfers from IPs or internegatives that had faded. Great picture, great transfer. My two.

  10. Know what I did for fun? I took out another Twilight Time western, this one from Sony – The Man from Laramie. Now, I think we all know that no one, not one person anywhere, has used the "teal" phrase about that transfer. Why? The Columbia logo is so blue it almost seared my eyeballs and yes that's what it should look like. The BLUE skies look just like the blue skies in Broken Lance – real, real blue. There is plenty of blue elsewhere, too, along with all the other colors on view – just like Broken Lance.

  11. I'm watching this now, and I think it looks quite lovely. An impressive upgrade from SD with an equally impressive sonic upgrade; the soundtrack is fantastic. Tracy, Widmark and Jurado; what's not to like? Excellent job Fox/TT.

  12. Broken Lance has become one of my favorite Westerns of the 1950s. For me, Broken Lance has rewatch value, and this is a solid package from Twilight Time featuring Kirgo's booklet essay, audio commentary, plus very good picture quality and stereo sound.

  13. haineshisway

    […]But let me start with the obvious question: Who complaining of teal has actually seen the transfer.

    Yikes, even here, on the "Broken Arrow" discussions, our collective threads are awash with more allegations of teal than I can even count.
    I love this question from haineshisway: "Who complaining of teal has actually seen the transfer"?" And for that, I would also like to throw into the mix an additional question; and the question is not one of sarcasm, dismissal nor disrespect; as I would also be interested in learning as to just how many of the individuals who belong to "The Teal Club" know if they have any levels of color-blindness? In all sincerity, this is a diagnostic question that I have often pondered and am curious if this could be a factoring point.

    BTW, "Broken Arrow" is a beauty of a transfer and, amazingly, is still available from Twilight Time.

  14. At the risk of being labeled a teal-totaler, I think this blu-ray is beautiful. I do find it a bit dark but I can fix that. The only blu-ray that raelly bugs me with a teal leaning is The King And I. The Blue Max, Inn Of The Sixth Happiness and River Of No Return have been said to have a teal bias but, at least on my screen, they look very nice. I watch Broken Lance on a regular basis. It is one of my very favorite films.

  15. JimMiller

    ….I watch Broken Lance on a regular basis. It is one of my very favorite films.

    How many times would you guess you've seen it?++

    It may be corny, but I find the ending moving.

    One of my other favorite scenes is toward the beginning, at the ruined house next to the painting, when the wind and the mysterious music starts the long flashback that lasts most of the movie.

  16. Funny that no one responded to one question in my long post of four years ago – not one. And are we going to be told now, as I was on another recent thread, that it's some lab that Mr. Belston farmed this out to? Because if he was farming out to that lab four YEARS ago, something is clearly wrong if he is still doing so and accepting these "horrid" transfers. But the reality is, if you're seeing accurate reds, yellows, greens, and skin tones, then it hasn't been "tealed/blued" to death – not possible.

  17. benbess

    How many times would you guess you've seen it?++

    It may be corny, but I find the ending moving.

    One of my other favorite scenes is toward the beginning, at the ruined house next to the painting, when the wind and the mysterious music starts the long flashback that lasts most of the movie.

    At least ten times and, yes, I LOVE that beginning! I have movies I return to time after time (A Matter Of Life And Death, is one) as I just like the emotions they stir in me.

  18. According to wikipedia, Broken Lance was a box office success relative to its production budget….

    “Budget $1,685,000
    Box office $3.8 million (US rentals)”

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