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HTF REVIEW: "Bend of the River" (with screenshots) (1 Viewer)

Ronald Epstein

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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
Collection
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
O'Hara.

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
Technicolor.


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
hiss.


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
 

Simon_Lepine

Supporting Actor
Joined
Feb 19, 2003
Messages
601
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.
 

Randy Korstick

Senior HTF Member
Joined
Feb 24, 2000
Messages
5,339
Ron
Yet another good review in your seemingly endless onslaught of reviews, but keep em coming :)
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.
 

John Hodson

Senior HTF Member
Joined
Apr 14, 2003
Messages
4,617
Location
Bolton, Lancashire
Real Name
John
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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