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HTF REVIEW: "Bend of the River" (with screenshots)

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Ronald Epstein, Apr 30, 2003.

  1. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Founder

    Jul 3, 1997
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    Real Name:
    Ronald Epstein

    Bend of the River

    Studio: Universal
    Year: 1952
    Rated: NR
    Film Length: 92 minutes
    Aspect Ratio: Full Frame (1.33:1)
    Subtitles: English, French & Spanish

    Anthony Mann was a director who made films covering
    many genres. His career started with low-budget
    thrillers, progressed to Westerns, and ended with
    epics such as El Cid and The Fall of the
    Roman Empire
    . Of all the great films that Mann
    has directed, it is his contribution to the Westerns
    that remain his most celebrated works.

    During the 1950s, actor Jimmy Stewart found himself
    at the crossroads of a post-war film era. Stewart
    now matured, ventured away from the shy and
    timid innocents he played in the late 1930s and '40s
    and moved on to more subtle and complicated roles.
    He started appearing in several westerns directed by
    Anthony Mann, including Winchester '73 (1950),
    Bend of the River (1952), The Naked Spur (1953),
    and The Man from Laramie (1955). All of
    these Mann directed films were considered to be
    compact, powerful and beautifully crafted. They
    revealed a side of Stewart that many had not seen
    before -- a seemingly vulnerable character capable
    of startling toughness.


    In Bend of the River, Jimmy Stewart plays
    the part of Glyn McLyntock, a wagon train guide who
    hides a very dark secret about his past. As the
    film opens, Stewart is leading a group of farmers
    from Missouri to Oregon to start a new life. Along
    the way McLyntock saves a far-from-reformed horse
    thief named Emerson Cole (Arthur Kennedy) from
    from a lynching -- an act that McLyntock remembers
    all too well. The two form an alliance and help
    lead the settlers through territory full of raiding
    Indians and various crooks who forge various schemes
    of wickedness. The farmers go upriver and settle
    in for the long winter. When promised supplies
    fail to get to the newly built village, McLyntock
    and Wagon train party leader Jeremy Baile (Jay C.
    Flippen) race into Portland to see what is going on.


    Upon arriving in Portland, the company meets up
    with card playing sharpshooter Trey Wilson (Rock
    Hudson). A gold strike has turned Portland into
    a rowdy outpost and McLyntock soon finds himself in
    the middle of a scam operated by trader Tom Hendricks
    (Howard Petrie), owner of River Queen & Portland
    Palace Saloon who has reneged on his promise to ship
    goods to the settlers. With winter quickly
    approaching and the settlers facing starvation,
    McLyntock and Baile steal the provisions and scurry
    back to the settlement by river boat.

    To say what happens next would ruin the film
    for those yet to see it. Let me just say greed
    makes friends quickly turn into enemies, and it's
    up to McLyntock to single-handedly save a kidnapped
    wagon train.

    Bend of the River is part of 11 new titles
    being released under the Universal Western
    banner. These classic titles range
    from the late 30s through late 60s and feature
    such actors/actresses as Ronald Reagan, Clint
    Eastwood, James Stewart, Audie Murphy and Maureen

    I have been having a great time watching these
    western titles -- especially since this was never
    a favorite genre of mine -- until now. Of the
    three James Stewart titles I have reviewed thus
    far (including Winchester '73 and Destry
    Rides Again
    ) Bend of the River is by
    far my favorite. There's plenty of gun slingin'
    action, moments of edge-of-the-seat tension, and
    even a fight-to-the-death sequence that plunges
    Stewart into an icy river. Most of all, the film
    is just beautifully photographed by cinematographer
    Irving Glassberg and presented in glorious

    How is the transfer?

    This was a film I almost immediately turned off.
    For some reason, Universal chose to place a title
    card at the very beginning of the DVD that reads:
    This film has been modified from its original
    version. It has been formatted to fit your screen
    This made me immediately presume Universal had
    taken a widescreen release and cropped it to
    full-frame. Such an act would have made me toss
    this title into the garbage.

    Thanks to the more knowledgeable members of Home
    Theater Forum, I was informed that this film was
    shot in the academy ratio of 1.37:1. It's a real
    shame that this was never filmed widescreen, as
    the film's gorgeous prairie vistas would have
    greatly benefited from such a presentation.


    Nonetheless, I was amazed by how good the overall
    image is on this 51-year-old film. The quality of
    the print looks nearly pristine, with very little
    sign of film wear or blemish. Presented in
    Technicolor, the film's colors are very deep
    and rich despite the fact that the overall palette
    consists of more subdued earth-toned shades. The
    color is so good here that you can't help but
    stare at Stewart's piercing blue eyes in every
    frame he appears in. Flesh tones even look
    accurate. Skyshots exhibit an abundant amount
    of noise, but I have that found that to be normal
    in films of this age.

    As would be expected with a film of this age, the
    original 2.0 mono soundtrack exhibits limited
    frequency response and dynamic range. However,
    audio quality is quite good, never becoming
    distorted and with absolutely no hint of background

    Special Features


    The film's original theatrical trailer is
    included, and it's worth a look to see how bad
    this film could have looked if not been
    properly restored for this DVD presentation.

    Final Thoughts


    Many of you, like myself, who are discovering
    westerns for the very first time are going to want
    to add Bend of the River to your collection.
    It stands as an extremely well produced western
    that doesn't skimp on action.

    Oh, did I mention this can be bought for about
    $11 on-line?

    Release Date: May 6, 2003

    All screen captures have been further compressed.
    They are for illustrative purposes only and do not
    represent actual picture quality
  2. Simon_Lepine

    Simon_Lepine Supporting Actor

    Feb 19, 2003
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    Thanks Ron, been waiting for a while for this one.

    I love Anthony Mann's noir films and wanted to check out his westerns. Bend of the River is the one that comes up more often when I looked for recommendations, seems that you agree with them.
  3. Randy Korstick

    Randy Korstick Producer

    Feb 24, 2000
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    Yet another good review in your seemingly endless onslaught of reviews, but keep em coming [​IMG]
    Glad you liked this one. This one is my favorite Mann/Stewart Western. Can't wait for the DVD. My 2nd favorite is The Naked Spur. I hope that one will be coming to DVD soon. It features equally beautiful technicolor photography. This was released by MGM previously on Home Video but I believe Warners probably owns it now.
  4. John Hodson

    John Hodson Producer

    Apr 14, 2003
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    Bolton, Lancashire
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    Ron - excellent review! I've been looking forward to these James Stewart westerns - any ideas anyone whether Universal will turn this series into a box set like their Classic Monster Series?

    So many films, so little time...

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